Thursday, February 7


"Afternoon stories"
Amiak, AK
July 2007

It used to be that when people packed their bags and left everything behind to go to a far away land, that land was usually exactly that: far away. Sometimes even very far away, like a different planet. It used to be that the only means of communication was the postal service, and letters could take years to reach their destination, if they ever did. With time and the increased generalized use of the telephone, we started being able to speak directly with our loved ones that were far away. It could take hours to get an international conference set up and when you finally had it, it could drop any minute. But it was good. anyhow, it used to be that if you were away from your people, you were away, and the distance was palpable.

Nowadays, with all the technological inventions that have become part of our daily lives, those insurmountable distances have ceased to exist. And the great culprit is, no doubt about it, the Internet.

For starters, if it weren't for the Internet, I would've never met David. If it weren't for the Internet, he would've never known about this job in Alaska. And if it weren't for the Internet, I would've never agreed to leave my life in Seattle and move to Aniak.

Moving to a small village near the tundra in Southwest rural Alaska was not in my plans for the future. A small village where 527 of the 13.000 people of the Kuskokwim watershed live. This area is about half the size of Spain and it's really easy to feel isolated and alone. A village where there is no cellphones. A town where there is only one radio station that I have found so far, KYUK from Bethel, which sounds kind of surreal in my ears because of the mix of music from my teenage years (Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin...) with long and slow talks in Yup'ik, language that I don't understand. A village to which we have not brought a TV because it's been a long time since we've had one. A village that is far, far away. Not from Siberia, though, it's actually pretty close from Siberia, just a couple hours by small plane probably. But far away from all the people I love, from everything that is familiar, and from all my favorite places on the planet.

Thankfully, this small village got satellite Internet connection 3 months before we arrived. And suddenly this village doesn't seem so far away. From that village, lost in the middle of one of the largest extensions of wilderness left on the planet, I open windows to other worlds every day. My friends drop by to chat in the mornings, grandpa shows up to enjoy Naím's smile for a while, grandma comes over to sing a few songs to him, I say hi to people here and there when I run into them in the ciber-street, I find pieces of people's lives that I enjoy reading...

And even though it's true that the senses of touch, taste, and smell are not a part of the experience of being with those that are far away and close at the same time, sight and sound are. So, even if the experience is incomplete, the company is very real and the feeling of loneliness and distance become less intense. Thanks for being there.

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