Saturday, 26 May 2012

Meet my little niece, Anahì

 After The Maldives and the unexpected return trip to France for Keanu's funeral, I was unfortunately pretty broke so I asked my brother Morgan if I could come and stay at his place the time for me to get back to work, back on my feet financially and I also wanted to spend more time with the family and see my baby niece again. Morgan, his partner Virginie and their daughter Anahì live in Vientiane, Laos, where I also spent time last year, so I hopped on a flight to Sri Lanka from Male, stayed a night (sadly, I really want to experience it properly but I'll leave it for another time), flew to Bangkok in the morning and then straight on to the overnight train to Laos - where it was great to meet and hang out with random fellow travelers over drinks in the bar car. Back in backpacker land!

It was really great to hang out with my little niece who changed so much over the past year, she's 2 1/2 years old and lots of talking going on now. She's also in her 'Terrible Two' phase, saying no a lot and I turned out to be the aim of a lot of it. She would take quite a few opportunities to remind me of the things that I wasn't allowed to do according to her: "Willem, you no! You can't go to the nursery school!" or "Willem you can't go to the restaurant with us, no!" All the while waggling her finger at me and looking all serious. I'd just smile and tell her that's ok, I'm working on my computer and wasn't thinking of going to the nursery school anyways.

There were a couple of things in particular that I thought were amazing. One, I had her play with my iPod Touch and she loved taking videos - actually what she really really loved was watching herself afterwards. Over and over again, of course. It might partly given she's at the phase developing self-awareness - She knows she's her and she's Anahì but still talking about herself at the 3rd person; there is no "I" just yet. It might also be partly because she's a girl and enjoys looking at herself (Did I just say that? Must've been someone else) which she'd maybe take after my sister Saskia who looooves her own reflection. Anyways it's really fascinating to see a kid at that particular stage of development - I don't have children as you may know so it's not something I experience very often.

The second point was with of all this digital technology and in particular photos everywhere, how does it have an influence on the development of memory for children (and everyone else, actually)? So for example, I'd be working on my laptop and Anahì comes to me:
"You working..?"
"Yes" *smiling*
"Writing email?"
"Well, yeah I guess that's what it can be summed up to..."
"Photos..?" *cutey begging voice*
So I'd stop working for a bit and we'd go through photos on my laptop, Facebook mostly. I don't know about you, but I don't remember a single thing from when I was her age. I certainly couldn't name and identify on photos pretty much every single member of close family, extended family and close family friends like she could, every time, without fail. Even people she'd only met once. I think it's incredible. At her age, I also didn't have near as many photos all over the place to look at, so I'm wondering if all our digital content is having a particular impact on memories, perhaps re-enforcing them given we have so many more mementos of past moments than we had before. Or is it the opposite and we'll be forgetting more because there is not need to remember, like with phone numbers?
This is my bro Morgan. Just to prove how much life goes on and on, down and up, and again; the day after Keanu's funeral he learned his partner Virginie is pregnant - so massive congrats, he's going to be a daddy again! Life is mental. They are also moving back to France and he's planning a very exciting new business, starting up a food truck - I've started helping on the plan, more on that some other time.

He had another excellent story  happen while I was there. He teaches at a nursery school and tutors a few kids from the French school (where Virginie teaches).  Anyways, he was with this 9 year old and going over his history lesson. A sentence said that very little precise information about the Gauls was found because it was undecipherable, so most of the records of their culture come from the Romans. The kid didn't understand and asks Morgan about what the word "undecipherable" means. Morgan explains, but the kids looks even more confused. He says "But I don't understand how we wouldn't find their records, why don't they just look it up on Wikipedia or something?" Morgan explained how the Internet was really not old, that wasn't even around when he was a kid so it certainly wasn't when the Romans were. The kid just couldn't believe it, or fathom it, it's taken a stretch of imagination on his part to think about a world without the Internet.

We kind of know intellectually that whole new generations are born with this tech around and it's natural to them but really when you have kind of experience you only get the faintest glimpse of how it actually is for them and it's pretty crazy to try and comprehend. On top of that, I think the education system and curriculums need to change and adapt fast, or else may well have a lot more confused kids like that!

All in all I spent 6 weeks in Vientiane. No sightseeing, just working and enjoying the family, reading, tropical heat and all that. The experience of freelancing, working remotely and not having work when you need it is pretty damn tough, it takes a lot to keep going - certainly a lot of confidence verging on considerable stubbornness and belief that it's possible. And then I also had a moment with my bro and Anahì, sitting on steps looking at the Mekong, enjoying the sunshine while sipping on a banana and mango fruit shake. And those magical moments make it all a worthwhile hundreds of time over. Thanks again for everything bro, love you!

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