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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Truths of Existence

As I click on the little Firefox icon at the bottom of my screen and see the letters G O O G L E form bright and colorful on my screen, I release a sigh of relief. For several weeks now, I have been without a reliable internet connection. AT&T didn't cut the cable, nor did my laptop take its last breath ... no, none of that... I was simply traveling in Turkey. I had my computer with me (of course), and I paid good money for a wireless connection everywhere I went, but money can't buy everything. Not a reliable wireless connection. Not in Turkey.

I was sweating a lot while I was there. Maybe it was the hot weather. Maybe the slight sunburn. Or maybe it was the error message I had to watch on the screen time and time again... the half-written emails that disappeared in thin air. If I didn't learn anything else on my journey, I learned this: To love and honor the shiny colorful letters spelling the magic word "G O O G L E".

Most of the time the letters never appeared. I am not an impatient person. I happily wait 18 months to hear back from a journal. But at that point I slowly realized that I had to claim defeat and make do with whatever desktops I could find at the local cafes. So, I packed away my laptop, paid good money, clicked on the little Explorer icon and waited for the beautiful letters to make their magic appearance.

There. G O O G L E. What an awe-inspiring sight! Type "Gmail". Login. Password. Glance at inbox. Open email. Click reply. Write. Next email. Write. Next. And then ... Bazoonga! Error message.

I looked around. A woman in business attire got up from her chair, opened her handbag, took out a nail file and filed her nails while she casually glanced at her screen. "What's wrong with the internet?", I asked, trying not to sound too desperate. "It's down", she said nonchalantly. "Right", I nodded, "It seems to happen to me constantly. Is this normal?" "In Turkey the internet is not very good. It comes and goes. We are used to it", she chuckled. "Good God", I cried, "How do you guys ever get any work done?". She sent me a skeptic look. "You get used to it. You work for 15 minutes. Then you take a break. Then you work for 15 minutes again". I nodded knowingly and thought about what I would have done, had I been born in Turkey. Not a philosopher, not an academic, not a writer. Maybe a truck driver. At least the trucks seemed to work.

Back in the hotel I was restless. No computer. No internet. At least the TV was working. I could watch Eurovision. Or I could use my iPhone. $19.97/minute in roaming charges. Maybe it was worth it, all things considered. If only the money wasn't going to AT&T. I ended up reading Mehmet Bastiyali's "Truths of Existence" instead, a Turkish interpretation of the Koran, translated into English. "Every person should occasionally be able to shake himself free of the pressures of daily life to think about the questions of who he is, how and why he was created ...", it said. I thought about his wise words for a moment. Then I grabbed my iPhone.