The other day, my grandmother called to thank me for some photos of Jack I'd sent to her. I figured my mom, who speaks to her more frequently than I do, had already told my grandma what post we'd been assigned to, but she hadn't. That meant I had the pleasure of trying to explain to an 88-year-old woman how the whole process works. Let me tell you, just spelling the word "Yekaterinburg" was taxing.
Unfortunately, my grandma doesn't use the Internet. At all. I'm not sure she's ever even tried. She can't read my blog; she can't even look Yekaterinburg up online. I try to imagine what life must be like when you're completely disconnected from the digital world. She has a cell phone that she rarely uses. I think there's a TV in her house, but I doubt it gets watched very often. She spends her time gardening, cleaning her already immaculate house, and occasionally going out to eat with her partner, Orin. I think that's pretty much it.
On the one hand, it sounds kind of nice. No feeling like you absolutely must check your email every fifteen minutes (every three when you're waiting to hear back from agents). No feeling like you need to update your Facebook status (I've kind of gotten over that one), or write a new blog post, or check your blogroll eight times a day to make sure you haven't missed a writing contest.
On the other hand, I simply cannot imagine what the Foreign Service experience would be like without the Internet. As you know, one of my main requirements for our post was decent Internet. I need to be able to email my friends and family members, to write (and research), to Skype, to be CONNECTED at all times. Sure, those aren't really needs - they're wants, in all honesty. I could technically survive without them. But the thought is too horrible to contemplate. Have you ever forgotten your phone at home for a day? I swear it causes withdrawals.
Thirty years ago, Foreign Service spouses didn't have access to any of those things. I don't even know if they were able to research their post, beyond looking something up in a book (the horror!). Imagine what it must have been like to only be able to communicate with your family through letters or the occasional phone call, to not be able to order whatever you needed off the Internet, to not even see a photo of a loved one for two or three years at a time. Now that, my friends, is hard core.
I know this lifestyle is going to be difficult. I know there will be times when I'll be lonely, or angry, or bored out of my mind. But it's reassuring to know that I won't be completely off the grid wherever I go. I think I can hack it, as long as I can stay connected to the people I love. Even if it is through a computer screen.