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Mulled Wine and the Internet

Joe H

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As I type this a team on the Amazing Race is asking a cab driver if he has the internet. They need it to find directions for their next hotel or their airline connection or perhaps to reserve another cab in the next city they'll go to. In whatever country that might be.

The Amazing Race wasn't always like this. For series of episodes-for years-contestants depended on interpersonal skills, on life experiences to find their way around the world. They couldn't flag cabs for lengthy drives, they couldn't log on in Kabul or even, Baiersbronn. They had to drive or take a bus or a train and ask locals for directions and reservations. They had to discover a feeling, perhaps an affection for the country and its people to move through it and survive to the next round.

But not today. They take cabs almost everywhere they go. Sometimes very long, very expensive rides. They log on everywhere, too. Little about communicating, little about actually relating to and understanding a bit of the local culture. The Amazing Race has changed.

As have many things in life.

We just came back from Munich...and Garmisch. From Christmas Market in the chilly wind and snow driven Marienplatz to ice fog surrounding the train station in Partenkirchen there's not a webpage on earth that could capture what we experienced. A taste of warm, mulled wine with hundreds of people thronging around us on a cold blistered night with snowy mush at our feet. We sat in the Allianz along with 70,000 others watching Bayern play St. Pauli, a team from the red light district of Hamburg whose fans persistently wave their skull and crossbones scarves above their heads throughout the game. With wind howling through the stadium and those around us huddled in blankets and mufflers we found a warmth and friendship that a webpage just doesn't express. A woman from Koln next to us was at her first "fussball game" also. She and my wife found a bond in a truly unexpected setting.

We lost our way around Munich one night. Almost lost our way in the idyllic mountain village of Garmisch. But in both we talked to locals, we found our way. We didn't have a navigation system and didn't care about internet access. It was more, much more about asking a friendly German how we might find our way back to the subway. And, once there, which direction was the Marienplatz?

Sorry, but I am reacting negatively to the Amazing Race this year. I don't care if a cab driver in Long Beach has internet access. I don't really care about a cab driver to bail me out (which contestants on the Amazing Race now depend on-once they didn't or couldn't). Even though I type this on a lap top and you-who read this-might see this on a screen. What is happening around us is everything. There is a world out here to be discovered and explored. A computer should have nothing to do with it.

A life's education is learning and surviving within a new culture; not reading about it on a screen.

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