I was reading an article in the Economist today about ultraviolet light-collecting solar cells which use some sort of nanotube technology and, incredibly, creates a totally transparent surface. The next article was about self-driving cars which use LIDAR which is like sonar, except with light (I guess the technology hasn't been around long enough for the acronym to transmute into a lowercase word). As I was sitting on the roof, getting a nice January sunburn, I noticed an all-too-familiar smell.
It only took 7 months here but Krista and I have finally secured a Sharqiya tutor. On the walk to the house (ldar '3ndi), I noticed a tidy pile of burning trash on the corner across from our door. And what's the word for that, I asked. Oh, zubiya, she said. There is a single word that means "burning pile of trash".
I read a novella today by George Saunders. The story takes place in a dystopian near-future United States, in which water contamination has led to millions of mildly-mutant humans known as Flaweds. These people are treated as slaves by the Normals. The main character in the story (a Flawed who has talons instead of nails on his toes) starts out as an employee at a sort of theme park that imitates royal life in the middle ages for its wealthy visitors. The entire story is in a cryptic, corporate-lese mixed with hokey idioms and excessively Capitalistic proper nouns.
And now here I am on the internet.
All of these things (and Krista studying GRE vocabulary), got me thinking about the word anachronism. "A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists". Thanks internet. I also found a mildly made-up word: anatopism. Which is to space what anachronism is to time. While reading about breaking frontiers in nanotechnology and alternative energy, I got a strong whiff of poison from a nearby zubiya. I'm reading about cars that drive themselves and drastically cut down on traffic accidents in a place where people laugh at you when you wear a helmet.
Time itself exists on a different spectrum here. (Time, in my opinion, ontologically relevant only in so far as it is experienced ...thanks philosophy degree). People are capable of sitting for hours, literally doing nothing but staring into space. I am expected to be able to sit down for a cup of tea with anybody at any time of day, and not leave. There are no commitments.
I feel like I am an anachronism. And, perhaps, an anatopism. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that I have easy, although painfully partial, access to that other world thanks to this here internet. I can read op-eds about USA stuff, and hear about friends in jobs that start at an exact time of day. I can take online classes on topics like game theory and world history. I can watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report.
But I wear a hat to bed most nights because there's no heat. I can practically work when I feel like it. I can buy veggies and fruits, some of which are called names that only exist in this one town, by the kilo. I have time to make pasta from scratch (still bragging about this one). If I wanted to, I could wear the same clothes for a week or two and nobody would care-- they'd understand -- it can be tough to do laundry in the winter.
I wonder if peace corps volunteers 30 years ago felt like they were visitors from another space-time. Probably at first, but after 9 or 10 months?
So far, I have no plans to cut myself off.