Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Technology Cleanse

On October 28th I lost my iPhone. Initially I thought I had been pickpocketed, but upon reflection (that whole retrace-your-steps-thing that our parents teach us when we are young) I am 95% sure that I simply dropped my phone in the dark while walking home after dinner with a friend in Zaisan. 

It was the first day that I used my brand new, and Handmade in Mongolia, leather purse. I was only just learning the pockets and placement of things. I remember getting off the bus, crossing the busy street, and while walking across the small concrete park in front of the Performing Arts building, I checked the time on my phone. Then I lifted the flap to place the phone back inside the purse. When I arrived home 10-15 minutes later, the phone was nowhere to be found. It would have been nearly impossible for the phone to be stolen--I was never in a crowd, no one bumped into me or was within arms reach of me, and my purse was carried across my body and in front of me where I was holding a small bag of groceries. Yes, I have no one to blame but my own carelessness.

This loss meant that I was forced into a "technology cleanse." It required time to analyze my options and make a decision about how to replace the phone, and then the necessary time to get it done. It's difficult to get verified products here in Mongolia. I opted to work through a friend that works with Apple and could hook me up with a good discount (Thanks again!!). Once ordered, then the phone had to arrive to my stateside support team, and from there to be shipped to me Mongolia.

It departed the U.S. on November 16th. On November 26th it showed as having arrived in Ulaanbaatar by way of Turkey. However, when Z went to the Post Office to inquire, they said that is was still in Turkey. I began to become suspicious. It was December 7th at this point and I didn't understand how my package could be MIA for nearly two weeks. 

One cannot survive long in this modern world without a phone of some sort. I initially went two full days without any phone and I experienced a strange mix of fear and freedom. Zorig acquired for me a "primitive phone"--an old Nokia--to get me through until my new smart phone would arrive. It certainly did the job, I could make calls and I could send and receive texts. Though, texting the old-school way is work. One of my friends actually replied to a text asking, "are you okay? are you upset or something? Your messages are so short." I simply reminded her that I didn't have a swype keyboard, or even a full keyboard for that matter. 

As much as I missed being connected in all the ways a smart phone allows us to be, I also realized that I let go of those compulsions to SEE if someone was connecting with me. I simply didn't look at my phone as much or use it as much. Instead of texting a co-worker, I walked downstairs to their classroom. Or, I actually called them and spoke to them. Yes, there was something lovely about the freedom that came with only having a primitive phone. 

My cityscape will be white for months.
Update: On Friday, December 11th, Zorig went to the Central Post Office again to inquire. This time, they had something. My box had apparently gotten wet while in transit. I don't mean damp, I mean wet to the point where the cardboard came apart from itself at the bottom of the box. Also, some of the shipping information had been lost. 

When I met him at the post office after work to sign for my "package," the PO worker lifted a huge sealed sack up onto the counter. I told Z, "there must be someone else's stuff mixed up with mine. My box was not this big." But once I signed and they cut open the zip-tie on the bag, I'll be darned if not every single item shipped to me was inside that fallen-apart-box-inside-the-bag. My moccasins, new t-shirts for Z, my supply of disposable face masks for the winter, my mail (including a Kohls credit card), AND my new iphone, case, and cover. The moccasins and my mail were yet damp, but dried out in no time at home. I was astonished. Happily astonished.

On the walk home from the Central Post office we stopped in at Mobicom, our phone provider here, and activated my new phone. She's a beauty. I missed having the ability to access FB Messenger more than anything else. I think I used to have 3-4 screens of apps; now I have less than two. I can't hardly remember what I used or liked to have. Funny how just 6-7 weeks can have a person forgetting so much of what had been a daily use. What's the lesson there? I suppose I didn't really need those apps in my life. 

As I readjust to life with a smartphone once again, Im also paranoid of losing it again OR having it stolen from me. Vigilance and awareness are key. I have yet to feel unsafe in UB--and I walked home from the Central Library at 1 am on Saturday after the ASU Christmas party wrapped up. There were a surprising number of people out and about. I never felt threatened or afraid. But then, thievery is a passive crime--and from what I've heard, you often do not know it's happened until after the fact. There is something spooky about that. And so I'm leary and afraid of being it's victim. 

But, there were lessons learned in this episode of my adjustment. Don't check your phone so much. Keep the ringer off and do not pull it out on the bus. Seal it away in an internal pocket. Don't be so obsessively compulsive to check it for contact or messages--they can wait. Yes, it's far more important to Just Be. Be aware of your surroundings. Be engaged with the people in your space. Move smartly. Make intentional choices. 

I have 3 days of work left. There are 9 days until Christmas. I don't know how to do Christmas here--so stay tuned for a post on what it feels like to be spending this Christian holiday in a land that is predominately Buddhist. 

1 comment:

  1. It's so good to read about your life! Your comment,..."they can wait," reminds me of a trailer before movies about putting phones away so everyone can enjoy the movie. I am continually dismayed to see how many people are more connected to their phones than to the folks around them! Great lesson for all of us.