8/08/2010
My American friends

At the risk of sounding painfully innocent, isn't it fun to think that technology has enabled us to be friends, more or less, with people on the other side of the world?

Well, yes, there was that thing called snail mail. You could be sending letters to someone in Paris! (Isn't that romantic?) You'd just do a little digging, give a little effort, and you could be sending correspondence with someone who definitely knows a lot more about the French Revolution than you do. And then there's personally knowing someone who's on the other side of the world. Here's an obligatory shoutout to Anna, my elementary classmate who flew to Rancho Cucamonga and went off my radar for almost a decade.

But that's beside the point. Isn't it fun to think that technology has enabled us to be friends, more or less, with people on the other side of the world? Those darned social networking sites have made it easy. Gone are the days when you'll struggle to find an address to send letters too. It's just a couple of clicks and, when you're deemed interesting enough - that is the new currency, admit it - then you can be exchanging several lines per second about how different life is in opposite ends of the planet.

I never imagined I'll be chatting with people studying in Las Vegas (hello, Raisa) or stationed in a Navy base in Japan (hello, Rae). Well, I never expected those conversations to last, either. That is the problem with distance. That, and being deemed uninteresting. more or less.

But they're not exactly different from me. They're fellow Filipinos - there are variations, I'll dare say, which should explain why they're where they are - and while the perspectives are interesting, it doesn't really have that much of a kick. You know, the idea that they walked the same grounds you walked once subtracts from the things you've yet to discover. I mean, you watch the local news and remember someone mention that it happened right in front of their house! And then there's that foolish invitation for coffee...

Anyway, those childhood dreams of conversing with foreigners just for the hell of - we all found the idea cool, admit it - it were eventually realized.

Jeany found me on Last.fm. Why exactly, I don't know. I accepted her invite, she sent me a message, and I sent her a message. It proved cumbersome, so we exchanged email addresses, and when that proved cumbersome we started chatting. She's a New Yorker just my age, living in a flat literally overlooking Times Square, working as part of a local radio station's promotion team.

Oh, yes, you saw that coming, right? When that came out the conversations really began. She'd tell me about how crappy New York radio is, and how much better the Los Angeles ones are. And then she'll realize that I, some guy in Manila, knows more about American radio than she, someone who's actually worked in a radio station (well, three) does. "You're such a geek," she'd tell me, and I'll just agree with her, because I'm also surprised.

Or, we'd talk about how much things cost in New York, and how much the difference is with stuff bought in Manila. Thankfully, I still know enough basic artihmetic to do those conversions. Unfortunately, I can't say we have classy neighborhood stores - she'll describe a patch of Times Square and I'll think of Singapore more than Manila. And then she'd tell me to take a flight to New York, and I'll tell her that tickets are expensive, and that getting a US visa is tedious. I don't think she ever got that. Then again, she's a product of the world: she's of Korean descent, and she's flown everywhere. She promises she'll go here one day, but I guess it depends on whether her new job at Apple is treating her well.

And then there's Kira, who I met on Twitter. She's one of the many American David Cook fans who Valerie (inevitably) knew. I don't remember exactly how she crossed paths - she must've replied to my tweet or something - and the next thing I knew, we were already talking about other things.

She's also just my age - well, a little older, but judging from the many things she's up to, it feels like I'm talking to someone that's three years older. She does some designing. She writes her own songs. If you're in Dallas and you're out and about, you've probably seen her perform. Or, if you're Ryan Seacrest and you're out and about, you've probably seen her audition. I'll read her tweets about these artists or musical theater, and I'll cringe a little.

But I'm comfortable enough to tweet ridiculous stuff, like "I'll pee in my pants when I finally see Kira in person." That'd lead to a conversation about adult diapers, which'd lead to her taking a photo of a pack that she saw in her nearby supermarket. Or, we'd discuss vampires and I'll insist that, unlike Edward Cullen, I don't sparkle. More often than not, I'll be tweeting her at four in the afternoon - our afternoon - asking her to get to sleep, because it's two in the morning. Turns out she is the vampire.

The whole real-time thing has made things interesting. Of course, it helps that both Jeany and Kira stay up really late, which overlaps nicely with my idle time at work. Only once did I stay up late - a Skype video call with Jeany, which ended at roughly four in the morning. Or maybe five. Still, the idea of people making sense of each other from one side of the world to the other is pretty cool. If I'm seven years old I'd probably be really giddy. "I'm talking to Americans!" I'd yell.

But that's not really the point now. Besides, the two girls have something in common: they'd rather be in London.

My first conversations with Jeany involved British radio personalities: we have a shared love of Adam and Joe, we both fought (relatively) to save 6 Music, and both think stations there are much better than American ones. (In fact, before we even met, I already heard her somewhere: she was calling a British radio station, talking about that Times Square flat.) The difference, again, is that I know more than she does - and she's had work experience for a couple of radio stations there! She'd obsess about working for the BBC and I'll just agree with her.

And Kira? When she found out I'm also an Anglophile - really, it's just the radio stations and everything else I find out - she got pretty giddy. And then, when she got this bag with the Union Jack decorated in front - with studs - she proudly showed it off to me. I bet, if she had the means, she'll take her first foreign trip to London. By then, they'll both make me, a person who just loved the idea of talking to people from across the world for the hell of it, really jealous.

And your responses...

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