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    September 27

  • 12:12 PM

VIEW FROM SHANGHAI – Confessions of a Neanderthal

marciadottin, marciadottin@nationnews.com

Added 15 October 2010

I have steadfastly resisted the temptation to buy a BlackBerry. I have not yet succumbed to the urgings of friends  relatives to join Facebook, and I’m not on Twitter either. I have no deep desire to be constantly connected. I have no difficulty keeping me company. And now for my final confession. During my layover in London, I had to seek technical assistance from my young cousin Khadija, who’s at university there. She unlocked the CDB-issued BlackBerry on loan to me for this assignment.  It seems that I wasn’t paying close attention when my colleague from IT, André Foster, gave me a crash course.  I guess that’s why Khadija is the Barbados Scholar and I’m not.  However, this state of affairs is no indication that I am dismissive of the many benefits which advances in technology have brought to our lives. A few years ago, an extended assignment several thousand miles away from home would have presented some challenges which no longer exist.  For instance, my CDB colleague Anne, who preceded me to Shanghai, held meetings with her staff back at the office via Skype. But while I applaud the death of distance, I lament the end of civility. For example, business meetings in which the CrackBerry intrudes. There are the furtive texters who pretend to be according the speaker the courtesy of their attention.  Others, conditioned like Pavlov’s dog, can’t resist the sound of the raucous ringtone at their hip. Is this the expected call that will mean a cure for cancer? Or peace in the Middle East? Then there are the people in line at the bank who approach the teller with cellphone shrugged between ear and shoulder, and without missing a beat of their conversation, initiate their transaction without so much as a “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”.      Now in my own defence, let me state that I do own a laptop and a cellphone, and send text messages (even though it takes a real effort to type “u” instead of “you”).  I do shop and bank online, and I’ve had a Skype account for some time now.  I’m also on LinkedIn and UNYK.  I appreciate the fact that even though it took me just over 18 hours of flying time and an overnight stay in London to reach Shanghai, thanks to the reach of technology, I’m not as far away from home as I’d thought I’d be. From my temporary home in Shanghai, I can pay utility bills from service providers back home in Barbados.  I’ve been using the BlackBerry to make calls, and to send and receive text and email messages.  From my laptop, I can use Skype to talk with and see my friends and relatives half a world away, and file these reports. I can also browse the websites of newspapers in Barbados and listen to broadcasts from radio stations to keep up with the very interesting developments at home. Which just goes to show that no one is entirely beyond redemption, not even a Neanderthal woman like me. lSharon Marshall is Information Officer of the Caribbean Development Bank. 

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