It’s been a great spring break off in the mountains of Nepal, complete with total detachment from all things related to teaching and technology. While I admit to occasionally borrowing my husband’s phone to check my email, I wrote none, and only once used the internet to check if there was a yoga studio I could find easily in the tranquil lakeside town of Pokhara (which, as it turned out, wasn’t nearly as effective as taking a walk along the lake and keeping my eyes open).
Nepal was noticeably more connected than Myanmar with the internet. Their 3G ads were everywhere, and one particularly striking poster showed a man in a dress shirt sitting on some rocks with his laptop overlooking a beautiful Himalayan vista. Something about that seemed a bit incongruous to me, and yet in the context of this course, perhaps it is something that would make total sense. I neglected to take a picture of the bulletin board myself, and as I am being a responsible digital citizen, I will simply point you to a a blog article on Outside online that has a photo of both the billboard and a reflection.
Is the billboard’s promoting the idea that now you can get up into the mountains without having to leave your work behind? Or is it the idea that you can stay connected with friends even if you are high in the himalayas? Or is it trying to scare me with the idea that since email is everywhere then even on holidays in the Himalaya I will be expected to stay connected?
Obviously for me, going to the Himalayas is a time to disconnect with the virtual world, and reconnect with the physical world in a beautiful setting. Yet as I looked at current maps of the treks, I noticed a new symbol on them, indicating internet access. Mobile signals worked just about every place we went. Access seems to be everywhere these days. From a safety perspective, this is great, yet I am old-fashioned, and I don’t want to access or be accessible when I’m out in the mountains. Is this a generational gap thing? How do the current crop of teenagers and twenty-somethings cope with going out in the mountains. Is it essential criteria to find a teahouse with internet access? Or do they enjoy the chance to be out of touch for a while, just as I do? I believe that there is something to learn from being out of touch for a little while, and so as much as I want to make the most of the technological revolution, I also want to make sure that I and my students appreciate the mountain view before our eyes, and don’t get lost in the computer/phone/device screen beckoning below.