When was last time I wrote a letter? A real letter. A letter written on a piece of white paper, with a pen or a pencil. Actually I do not remember. A friend write us here in Hanoi and we got the letter yesterday via Lausanne – Helsinki – Hong Kong – Hanoi. I am sure that emails do the same. Once the ‘send’ button is clicked they also travel around the world, passing through or over countries, continents, oceans at a speed that we can’t comprehend. However it is a journey that we cannot retrace as it goes through local, national, and international server providers and cables.
With a letter it is simpler. The one we got, went through 4 countries, most of the time by plane. For some short stages by van or truck.
Living in Hanoi it is very important for me to have email and especially Skype. I feel closer to relatives and friends back home they are just a ‘click’ away on the phone button and with a web cam we can actually see them rather then just hearing their voice. I could not imagine to be abroad for long time without having this tool to help to bridge the gap.
However, yesterday letter gave me a different feeling. The friend who wrote it took time for it. Sat at a table, the white paper in front of her, the pen in her hand. Her baby on the carpet on the floor playing and waiting for his mother to get back to him and entertain him.
The good thing with the letter is that it takes time to write, can be left for some days or weeks and re-started again at a different point in time. Letters are able to link time with a line that is not as immediate and based on ‘now’ as emails do, but is more as flow. You write letters having people in mind and figuring out what they are doing. You read them figuring the writer, the desk, the room. The mountain landscape out of the window where he or she is writing.
I would not like to go back to a time where letters and telephone were the only way to communicate. I need Skype and email. But I need also to remind myself about the different way you actually communicate with different means and what they are good for. Skype makes you see and talk abotu the latest. A little buit as going home the week end and telling what has happened in the work. Letters are personal and work that way: having specific people in mind. All the rest is useful but has also limitations. As in the case with this blog I will now send to the ‘blosgsphere’, a world made by unidentified readers who may or may not encounter this message surfing the internet.