Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keeping in touch!

There was a time that we all lived in a village - three generations of a family would often live in the same street and sometimes in the same house! Technology and globalisation have changed not only the way we work and live but also family life. I am so grateful for the fact that I can have regular physical contact with my family here but also that I communicate regularly with my family in the UK.  When we first came to South Africa we had to rely on the post to keep in touch - international phone calls were very expensive and only for emergencies or desperate homesickness - which counted as an emergency! If there was a faulty public telephone within an hour's drive,  word went around the immigrant community and there would be a long queue of people trying hard not to look suspicious or that they were engaged in criminal activity lest Telkom be alerted to the fact that we were phoning 'home' for the price of a local call!
Skype has changed all that and in recent years I can be in touch with family every day for free and Skype has enabled me to travel around my sisters home on her laptop to see her latest décor projects and to give (and receive)wardrobe advice. Skype also kept me in touch (and sane) when my grandies went to live in Pretoria for a while. There are many, many Skype parents and grandparents in society who so look forward to virtual conversations - communicating in this way is changing peoples lives. Through writing this blog, I discovered the term 'Skype Granny' not only refers to a techno granny but also to a whole team of retired people who are reading to and assisting with education in 3rd world countries - you can read about it here.

It must be more than a bit bewildering for a young child to be placed in front of the computer and be expected to have a l-o-n-g conversation with an adult. I can remember the strain of keeping a conversation going with Jessica and Craig - who was only a baby at the time and the only way to get any of his attention was to Skype at feeding time.   Kids at the best of times struggle to sit still for 5 minutes and this artificial situation does put a strain on all concerned and it doesn't come anywhere close to a snuggle with a fairy story. A friend of mine had a particularly disappointing Skype experience this week.
After having a Skype conversation with her adult daughter, the grandparents were  handed over to her 5 year old grandson who chatted for a wee while (Aye they are in Scotland) and then announced that he was handing them over to the dogs. "No"! they shouted, "Please don't!" - to no avail. They were carried on the ipad protesting to where the dogs were, which happened to be under the table. Finding themselves under the table with the dogs was more than a little disappointing when they wanted to find out how their grandson was getting on a school! To add insult to injury, the dogs clearly didn't want to Skype either and promptly got up and left their under-the-table sanctuary, leaving two unhappy grandparents with a view of the underside of a table top and no one listening to their shouts for help.
 
Sometimes you have no alternative but to hang up!

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