Posted by: Marco | July 16, 2010

Communication – Letters vs Skype

After my grandmother graduated from McGill University, she steamed to what was then Rhodesia, in Africa, to visit a friend. While there she met a young Englishman named Edward Noel Baillon. They fell in love and married. Her only means of communication with her mom and dad back in Montreal were letters sent by boat. It took months, quite literally, to get an answer to a question. What patience they had. Today, in the age of cell phones, MSN, and Skype, instant messaging is expected; anything less is irksome.

We will be taking advantage of today’s technologies. In preparation for this trip, we have purchased an armload of techno gadgets and gizmos that will keep us in touch with friends and family across the ocean and around the world.

Tools of the travelling trade

We have:

  • a wonderful new Nikon D90 camera that will help us chronicle our adventures. I’ll be posting photos to Flickr, with a link from this blog.
  • a shiny new Sony netbook on which we will Skype, blog, and do homework.
  • a new Apple iPod Nano (with video and radio) so we can listen to our favourite music and CBC podcasts of The Current, Q, Vinyl Tap, etc.
  • a Franklin language translator, to help us navigate menus in foreign lands. Shannon and I are adventurous eaters, but brains and organ meats aren’t high on our must-eat list. These may be best avoided with some careful translation.
  • a Sony eReader. Anique is an AVID reader (we’re talking several books a week!). There is no way we could carry enough books to keep her satisfied. Enter the eReader. She has promised to share…
  • battery-less flashlights. The kids have LED flashlights that are powered by squeezing the handle. They are very bright and hold their charge a long time. These are the perfect antidote for the constant irritation of dead batteries and midnight bathroom adventures.
  • a cell phone. Well, we don’t have a cell phone, yet. One of our first tasks, once in Paris, is to buy a cell phone so we can talk to folks back home. Anique will be pleased…she finds us so backwards for not owning a cell phone.

All this fancy gadgetry, which didn’t exist even a few years ago, will make our world smaller and help bridge the distance between us and the ones we love. We will be able to share our adventures as they happen, unlike my grandmother who relied on the Royal Mail.

We still have all the letters that my grandmother wrote to her mother from Africa, all those years ago. Will the evidence of our adventures be around 80 years from now, for Anique and Owen’s grandchildren to read? I have my doubts.

Carpe annum,



  1. I used to pen-pal when I was young. I loved writing in rainbow colors and coloring artistic patterns on the envelopes. Now you can buy them already decorated! I loved taking walks to the post office (a twenty minute walk from my house) to mail a letter or to see if I’d gotten one. I loved the anticipation! There was definitely something magical about snail-mail for me, but look at the options today! Now that’s kind of magic in a different way, like the teleportation of letters. Letters that you can attach any info from your computer to. And they travel in an instant, practically at no cost. As far as efficiency goes, it’s amazing! I feel like I’m living in the future. I may not be flying the kids to Mars Public school everyday on our hovercraft but I can sort of teleport this letter to you, at close to the speed of light. I’m a little nostalgic for the old days, but I am adjusting.
    Have fun with your new gizmos.

  2. Have fun M. Baillon! Hope you enjoy your trip.


  3. Interesting. Been trying to learn a new language for a while so this is extremely relevant! Thank you.

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