Thursday, April 28, 2011
Technology - Frightful or Fearless?
We experienced the awful terror that technology can sometimes make you aware of, just this past week. Our daughter Bethany is doing a semester abroad in the UK. I guess in Europe, colleges give month long spring breaks, because both Bethany and her OBU roommate, Hanna, (who is doing her semester abroad in Spain) have been traveling all over Europe during their spring breaks - the whole month of April.
As neither of them planned to carry a laptop around with them amongst their minimal luggage - we decided we would pay a little extra this month on our cell phone plan so that Bethany could send us 50 international texts during this billing cycle. It's been great, knowing that she arrived in Rome and found her hostel all by herself - knowing when Hanna finally arrived and met up with her - knowing when she's getting on a train to head to some other exotic, European city. For a parent - they've been extremely comforting and reassuring texts...well worth the extra $10 it's costing us this month.
Ah, but what to do when all of a sudden, you receive this text - 6 PM our time and about midnight her time:
"Hey mom, Hanna and I have a big problem. We went to the hostel we booked in Paris and it had cancelled our reservation. We are now in a baaaad part of Paris without a place to stay...We are near Porte de Chappelle St. I dunno if you can do anything but could you at least pray?"
Kind of sounding like the beginnings of a parents' worst nightmare...especially if you've heard of the movie, "Taken."
Then the phone rang. It was Bethany (yes, that will be an expensive charge on the phone bill - but would any parent mind at this point?) She explained that they had found a hotel in that terrible part of town - but it was booked full. And that street she had mentioned in the text? She said she wanted us to know that street name, in case something bad happened to them, at least I would know where they last were so I could give that info to the police or something.
And although 30 years ago a parent would have remained blissfully ignorant of her traveling daughter's predicament...here is where frightful technology can turn into fearless technology. Sure, we prayed just like she asked...but we got busy as well. Nate and I immediately got on two different laptops, searching Google maps and hostels and hotels in the vicinity. A lot of it was in French and did us absolutely no good. But it was reassuring to have a map right in front of me, looking at the very street where she was feeling scared and hopeless, knowing that I was doing my best to help. We sent several texts back and forth with a few addresses of hotels we thought we had found that might be near them. As it turned out, however, Bethany and Hanna solved the problem on their own by getting the hotel owner to tell them where they could find a place to stay, since his place was all booked up. That next place he suggested did have a room - and even though it was a "crappy room that is way too expensive" (Bethany's description) they stayed there since that owner couldn't speak English, and since it was nearing the middle of the night.
Thus - did technology really help us out? Probably not. Am I glad she has a cell phone and international texting, so she could dump her problem on us and scare us witless? Absolutely. Even though it was a frightful half hour...it was nice to know that even though my 21 yr. old is halfway around the world and handling life abroad very well on her own...she still needs us. She still looks to us when she's in dire straights and doesn't know what to do. She still knows that mom and dad are here for her...even if "here" is 4,000 miles away from where she is staying. THAT is why I love technology...for those of us waiting back home, it's made the big, wide world that our children love exploring much more easily accessible and "small"...what mother wouldn't love that?