One definitions of the Peace Corps experience is living without certain comforts of home. The large, luxury, endless choices of American consumerism is part of your former life and you are forced to live without certain amenities that are part of routine life.
Coming to Niger, I prepared myself for a life without. Not only am I living on a volunteer’s salary, I am in a country that has limited access to water and electricity. I understood televisions, organic grocery stores and TwitPics from my BlackBerry would no longer be part of my daily habit. To be honest, before I left, I was ready for a life more scaled back.
There are some things, though, that I didn’t expect to notice their absence. Last year, I went to maybe four movies in the theatre, but now I can’t stop yearning for a cheesy romantic comedy, a dark and cool room and a large, overpriced, bucket of fattening buttered popcorn and chocolate.
Life, also, seems to operate differently when you don’t have the ability to Google your quivering curiosity at any given moment. Want to know if Beyonce is pregnant? The sequence of a haiku? Where to find blue soap? Well, here, you’ll have to wait until you’re near a computer with working Internet to ask the multicolored knowledge genie.
I’ll admit that I was a bit of an Internet junkie in my previous life — email, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and whatever online social fad was popular that week. I enjoyed being connected to all friends, potential friends and interesting strangers with little effort. Still, I was ready to adjust an existence that was centered on a login in name and profile picture.
The online persona is only one aspect of the Internet’s wonders, and I forgot, or became mundanely accustomed to, the ways it supplements our daily lives. Like Google.
Within seconds, Google will help me find a new restaurant to try, the name of that actor in that movie I saw that one time, when I can take the GRE in Niger or flight prices to Ghana. We used to use books, references, the phone, a person in the know or a combination of methods to find a single piece of information that takes Google .13 seconds to retrieve.
As the double-o search engine started to dominate the Internet, it’s also dominated the way we find information. It’s our initial reaction to hit the “search” button anytime we have a question that’s beyond our grasp. And with machines attached to our palms with Internet connectivity, Google is accessible every day, every hour. Google has become the answer to every question.
My mind still operates on Google life. When I don’t quite understand a piece of culture, I tell myself I’ll Google it later. Or when I hear a name I don’t recognize but others do, I make a mental note to Google it.
In the world where Google rules, I’d look up those things right away. In Niger, however, usually a great time elapses between when I need Google and when I can use it, so I forget my searching needs, or they are no longer needs. So, I go on without this information, knowing that if I really need it to know, I’ll find it out eventually.
Without Google, I am forced to find things a natural way, by trial and error. Like living without other amenities, a Googleless life will help me learn to do things differently and appreciate what I do have, even as small funny named website with a new creative image every major holiday.