Saturday, January 21, 2012
A Moment Without Facebook
For those of you who haven't heard of Anao, it's north of Hanom, almost on the edge of Anderson. In order to get there you hike for about 20 mins through some jungle and then get to the cliff's edge where a trail will take you down several hundred feet to the rocky limestone shore. There are some pretty cool features once you reach the limestone shore for those who love natural beauty. There is a massive rock that some people call "the pinnacle" that sticks conspciously out of the rest of the fairly flat limestone.
When I took my History of Guam and World History 2 students to Anao last week, we explored to the north and found a pretty neat cove. There was a large rock, well over twenty feet high that stuck out past the shore, and was connected by a narrow land bridge. Several of my students and I climbed up it to take pictures.
I recommend visiting Anao, it is one of those locations on Guam where one can go and reflect on life, without what life has become nowadays getting in the way. There is no noise of cars, although there are sometimes helicopters flying overhead. There is no reception down there for phones or tablets, just the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks.
For most of my students getting down there to that point is a strange, almost scary experience. The modern world, especially for those who enjoy as much of the comfort of the First World as possible, it is easy to feel like you are in charge of everything. Facebook is basically like being the God of your social life. You can know the intimate details of people, the stupid and boring things they are doing from day to day. With the inclusion of Four Square, it can even feel like you are omnipotent and know where all your friends are. The internet in general can give you this feeling of dominance and superiority. The answer to any question is just Google away. Communication appears to happen so fast, you'd never lose touch with anyone.
The advertising of the world we live in today is great. In times past, the advertising of the world was largely religious. You have this life because God gave it to you, so enjoy it! Nowadays, mankind seems to have created a world which is truly "the best of all possible worlds." With so much comfort, ease and prosperity at our fingertips! It is no wonder that first world countries like the United States are so pathetic and incapable of doing anything. They can obliterate a small country like Iraq or Afghanistan. They can use their power to oppress or exploit those smaller, but they have no ability to fix themselves or take any real leadership in changing the world. President Obama tried to invoke the specter of this in order to get Americans to support an "overhaul" of its health care system, but one of the rules of the world is that the more you consider your life to be the best, the more you will resist any attempts to improve it or change it.
When students who are born and breed in this world, where they cannot spend 30 seconds without looking at their phones or checking their Facebook updates, I find it fun to take them to a place divorced from that. For many of my students their relationship to the natural world is very simple. It is there primarily as an object of knowledge, and nothing more. It is there because they know it is there. They may even know some of the banal ways in which you are supposed to talk about it. So for example, during hikes, some students will say things like, "oh wow, how beautiful" or "wow, I'm so glad I got to see this and get out in nature!"
But within a few minutes, the platitudes dry up, and students often times don't know what else they are supposed to do or say. There is no Facebook on the cliffs. There is not Twitter in the jungle. There is no email to check. There are no texts to tell me what to think or feel or how to react to the world. It is a humbling and reflective experience for some, for others it is a bit frightening. All the things that made you feel like you were in charge, had a secure place in the world are gone and you are left with a completely different sense of being. One in which you are not the center of attention. One in which likes are not automatically collected for you and you are sent a note everyday reminding you when peoples' birthdays are. In this new world you have a space, but it is usually not one that your days of scrolling pages on the internet have prepared you for. It is still your world, but you have to relate to it differently.
Often times when we reach the halfway point of a hike, as we did at Anao, students look around, breathe the air, feel accomplished in how they conquered their aches and pains in order to get to this point, and then start to worry about what they are supposed to do next. Students always ask me once we reach the halfway point, "are we gonna start heading back?" They act eager to know what to do next, but you can tell it is an unease about not knowing what to do with so much nature and so little of the worldiness that they are used to that is irritating them.
At Anao I gave my students and their friends and family, 35 in all who had shown up, the option of turning back or staying down on the rocks for a while and exploring. Within a few minutes 27 of them were trekking back up the hill, back to civilization. Although I understand that people had places to go, people to see, jobs, lives, cellphone service and laptops waiting for them, it was disappointing. They had hiked for an hour and a half to get to that point, why not stay longer and explore? The fact that you don't hike much or don't get out much is even more so of a reason to stay longer, since the chances of you hiking like this again are slim.
Eight students remained behind, and they were a mix of those who wouldn't be hiking anytime soon and wanted to see as much as they could before they left, and those who hike regularly and simply like to explore. We found the land bridge together and even took a picture while standing on it.
All in all, despite the disappointment it was a good day. Check out the photos below: