Sunday, November 07, 2004

Cold Turkey

It won't surprise anyone to learn that I'm a Net-addict. I switch on my laptop as I'm making tea in the morning and set it to download my email while I'm chopping the vegetables and fruits for the parrots. Usually I take a break to drink my tea and scan my email for anything particularly important or interesting before feeding the birds, and then I take my time over my reading while the dog food boils. Email has made an enormous difference to my life since we got the internet in Egypt.

My family lives in New York, Illinois, Oregon, California, the UK, Australia, and Sudan. Letter writing was so time consuming that it tended to never get done. Now I can do a multi-mailing and let the aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters (plus the various offspring thereof) know what is happening in my life in one fell swoop. And I even get news back sometimes...especially when one of the kids is in need of something, right?

The usual magazines that I used to get in Canada, like Scientific American, National Geographic, and so on are on line now, so reading is easier. And with the menagerie, a constant source of veterinary information is necessary, which is available through a veterinary email list and Merck's online manual. I correspond with riders all over the world, some of whom have actually made it to Egypt to visit over the years, and some of whom I have managed to visit on trips abroad.

I moved to Egypt as a member of a family of four that was joining a larger extended family here. We were unusual in that extended family in that we had our own pursuits, like sailing the 10 metre cruising boat my husband brought over from France the year before we arrived or running on Fridays with the Alexandria Hash House Harriers. I extended my world with friendships with other women living in Alexandria, with writing the American Women's Association newsletter for a couple of years, with our project of a guide for families moving to Alexandria from abroad. But when you are restricted to the contacts that you make physically, your world is by definition rather small. And as ex-pat friends moved on to other postings, it was far too easy to lose contact with them.

Email was a miracle to me. The world expanded enormously. I learned from endurance riders in Europe and the US how to attempt to manage a 120 km horse race in the spring of 2000, just before my husband's death. No one else locally had the slightest idea so it was a bit of the blind leading the blind, but in this case the leader at least had people whispering instructions in her ear. When Diaa died I was utterly overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy from my email riding friends, both endurance and ordinary. All of a sudden I realised that I wasn't alone in the world. Even though I'd lost the center of the family universe, I had friends all over the world who were checking in on me, encouraging me in my struggles to understand and deal with the insane economics of our situation, and telling me to get out there and see my horses to stay grounded.

I've been able to get advice for myself and neighbours about unusual veterinary problems from my contacts with vets in Europe and the US. X-rays can be scanned and sent abroad to get second opinions. Equipment and medications can be ordered online to be carried back by travelers. How did I ever survive without email?

Well, for the past couple of days, I've been finding out. I use the Apple server for my email and the Apple server got sick sometime on Friday. It's Sunday morning and I haven't had any email for - GASP! - almost two days. I've been haunting the .Mac boards with other suffering email addicts to find out why, when, and how we will be restored. Not much news coming back except that I will have email sometime this afternoon, inshallah. On the other hand, the other posters on the board are complaining from Tasmania, the UK, all over the US, and other unnamed points. Hopefully, Apple will get things sorted out and I really will get my email today.

Even without the immediate contact of email, the windows that were opened with the internet stay open. My father was one of the people who helped to set up sections of the internet back in the early 70's. When he retired, he moved to Vancouver BC for a couple of years to enjoy the salmon fishing and to help to connect Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the universities in Washington state just south of the border. He told me about the project and I thought that it was interesting, but at the time I'd never even imagined a personal computer and I never thought that it would have such an impact on my life. Well, Dad, you did a great job and I hope that you're enjoying watching us all wander the universe that you helped to create.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I completely understand your addiction to e-mail and the internet. I feel as if my world has shut down if I don't check my e-mail in a day. The wealth of knowledge that exist right there at my fingertips is unbelievable. I am a child of the technology era so to speak so I vaguely remember what times were like pre-computers and pre-internet.

I work in a lab at a major university in the States and get journal table of contents in my e-mail (eTOCs as they are affectionately called.) The wonder of the .pdf has made literature searches simple and boy do I get irritated if I have to go over to the library (in an attached building) and GASP! photocopy an article.

This maybe a little sad but it is a product of the world we live in today.

Always love reading your blog :o)