Today’s guest post comes from Hannah Starkey of Thought and Musing. Hannah is an Australian (which means I could be fascinated by listening to her accent for hours) living in Tonga (which means she has a far better grasp on geography than I do), and her post here is a tender reminder that real-life connection matters more than you might think in this virtual age. –Tamára
Until this morning, I had no idea where my dad was.
“At sea” was all I knew. Literally, at sea. Somewhere floating around in a ship on the ocean. Fridays are laundry day. Thursdays, tuna salad for lunch.
I had cunningly managed to decipher through clues and time differences where I suspected he was, but even then, I was forbidden from typing this presumed location into Facebook chat. I settled for imagining him to be somewhere between Athens and Helsinki. He was in neither.
This morning, it turns out he was in Bahrain, which I had to Google and discovered is not part of Afghanistan as I previously thought. And since operational security has been temporarily relaxed, my lost dad appeared in my Facebook feed. Outside a mosque in the Middle East, clad in his well-worn Akubra hat. I typed my reminder to buy my souvenir in tears. Please buy me some sparkly shoes, I sobbed.
It’s a new obsession, hunting for my dad’s location– an updated version of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” At home we go weeks without catching up yet we live only 20 minutes apart. Each doing our own thing. My dad no longer holds my hand when I cross the road. I’m ‘effin 25 years old. I’m a married lady.
My little brother has become an adult in the time I’ve been in Tonga. “I haven’t emailed because nothing has happened,” he said. “Nothing” involves not being little anymore. He finished university and is interviewing for his first full-time job and even moved out of home, albeit temporarily due to house sitting. He now empties the dishwasher.
My little sister and I have been email-dreaming of her future wedding. And as she somewhat rudely pointed out to me, she’s 19. Will I stop calling her my little sis?
I’ve fallen of the edge of the map. I feel disconnected from family on this tropical island which should be impossible. There is the immediacy of Facebook and Skype and blogs and email and online chat, I’m told. It will be like you never even left.
But I did leave. I’m the outsider viewing their lives through the firmly closed window. I’m disconnected in the Facebook age.
“Your call cannot be placed to this service. Please check the number and try again.”
It should be no surprise that my house is a black spot for Tongan telecommunications. There is something poetic in getting more reception from a whale-watching boat than in my lounge room. I’m not sure what that poem is, though. It would be sad. Perhaps haiku.
This is the year of leaving and being left behind.
Hannah Starkey is a social worker and blogger, who lives with her husband and puppy in Tonga. Originally from Australia, Hannah has come to appreciate what “island time” truly means. When she is not relaxing on a beach or wearing large woven mats to royal funerals, she is teaching basic social work skills with Tongan NGOs and working out what being a missionary involves.
Visit Hannah at her blog, Thought and Musing!