It is no mystery, or certainly should not be if you are reading this, that technology is changing the ways we live, the world is becoming smaller every day, etc. etc. etc. This phonomenon has been around since the beginning of travel, I imagine. In a more tangible example, my great-grandfather came to Tanzania (Tanganyika at the time) in 1898 and things were very different, of course. He was a self fashioned trader, illiterate, but nonetheless very successful. He had set up his trade center and lived in Marangu, just below the thick jungle on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro. From there he took goods from the interior (ivory and skins) to the coast, where he would sell and trade them for goods to bring back to the interior, such as cloths, beads, copper wire etc. Yes, he was part of what we now call the beginning of the end.
Nonno Guiglio used to write to his wife, who was safely esconced in Massa Lombarda near Bologna, whenever he could find his friend the Greek hotel owner at the coast. He would dictate a letter to the Hotel man, insert a money order, and a few short months later Nonina would recieve the news. I don’t know if he was charged a scribing fee or not. One year Nonno was involved in a terrible ambush, his caravan having stumbled into a pair of warring tribes. His business partner and most of his men were slaughtered. He escaped by disappearing deep into the bush and laying low for a time. News trickled back to the coast (and to the Italian “cunsul”) that Mongardi had met the same grizzly end that his men had met.
Meanwhile, Nonno Giuglio made his way back to Marangu and started work on getting the business going again. It took him a couple of years before he was able to get back to the coast at a time when the Greek Hotelier was there as well. And so it two long years before Nonno Guiglio managed to write a letter home. In Massa, Nonina had learned from the colonial office that he her husband been killed in an ambush, and had been in mourning for two years. We’re talking wo years of old school Italian mourning. The real thing.
In long ago 2003 I was in the bush, huddled in my tent with a determined rain drumming against the canvas right beside my head. I was listening and thinking about long ago Africa, when there came a soft chirping sound from my pocket. I took out my phone, and was able to speak to my future wife. Right then. Clear as a bell. She was on a public phone (remember them?) on Christopher Street, in a similar rainstorm. It was like magic.