Evidently I am celebrating an anniversary today.
Thus far, most of the writing I’ve done here has discussed the two-week trip that my cousin Keith and I took to Turkey and Greece. As it so happens, I just logged into Facebook a moment ago, and was immediately reminded that four years ago today, I had posted an album of some photos taken along a black sand beach in Santorini, Greece. That was, in fact, the last full day of our adventure before we would fly back to Athens for the night and begin the long journey back home the next morning.
In an obvious nod to the modern era of technology and social media, the two were quite interconnected from the beginning. I previously wrote about the quick overnight trip to Vancouver, Canada that I took with my parents, which had been the only time I’d ever set foot outside U.S. soil prior to this trip. However, it is, to this day, still the only occasion on which my parents have left the country, which left them understandably concerned about my safety and well-being in taking a trip of this magnitude. Thus, with phone contact from halfway around the world potentially costing a fortune, I chose to employ Facebook as my method of staying in touch.
Throughout each day of the trip, I snapped plenty of photos and jotted down interesting notes and observations as we explored. Each night, once we had returned to our room to turn in for the day, I then selected a group of my favorite pictures taken, and posted them to Facebook along with a brief summary of that day’s events. That way, in order for my parents to know how our trip was going and see what we had been up to, all they would need to do was check Facebook that day. As an added bonus, it was also a means of broadcasting such things to any other friends and family that would be interested, rather than attempting to sum up an entire two-week trip with photos and stories the next time I talked to any of them in person.
Just as importantly for me, however, is that the Facebook posts served as a journal for documenting many of those same observations I had made during the trip. For me, the iPod notepad has been a staple method of jotting down notes on the go ever since I first bought one. Some, like grocery lists, are meant to be temporary, while others may refer to projects I’m working on at any given time or references that I’d like to have on me, such as a long running list of karaoke stage names I use, and are thus meant to remain on the iPod for much longer periods of time.
Unfortunately, when syncing an iPod to the iTunes program on a computer, notepad notes are not among the items that are automatically backed up in the process. And as fate would have it, last year I inadvertently dropped my iPod down a flight of stairs, damaging it beyond any hopes of salvaging its existing data. If it could even be repaired at all, it would essentially have to be reset to the condition in which it was originally purchased. Since I regularly sync my iPod with iTunes, this isn’t a huge problem overall…except for those precious notepad notes.
All of the pictures I took during the trip, as well as the hundreds taken on Keith’s superior digital camera, are saved on my laptop and backed up on an external hard drive. Outside of some natural disaster completely destroying my residence and everything in it, I can feel reasonably assured that I will not lose such precious data. Had I been able to back up the notepad notes when syncing my iPod, I would feel the same about those. Thus it is reassuring to know that I had posted most of those same observations on my Facebook journal, where they can be retrieved from a more reliable source than my memory.
In fact, as an indication of just how unreliable one’s memories can be, I went back and reread the daily posts from this trip and found that I had apparently mixed up two of the events. Previously, I wrote about our dining experiences during the trip and discussed our encounters with American fast food restaurant staples abroad, noting that a McDonald’s in Istanbul offered a “shrimp burger” while a Burger King in Athens offered what was more or less a downsized version of the typical American menu. Turns out, the Burger King we went to was actually in Istanbul, while my McDonald’s shrimp burger was eaten in Athens. Clearly, it is helpful to have a written or photographic record in the moment rather than trying to recall it a few years later.
During our time in Istanbul, we had visited the Suleyman and Rustem Pasha Mosques, both of which were designed by the same architect during the 16th century. As it turned out, though, this architect’s name had repeatedly popped up while we visited other parts of Istanbul, and even came up again during our time in Greece. It seemed as though half of Istanbul was designed by this man, to the point that it became a running joke between Keith and me, as we started attributing many other creations to him in jest. The Hagia Sophia, which had been built about 1000 years before he was born? Surely he must have designed that somehow in a previous life. The one solitary escalator we encountered at a metro stop? Definitely must have been his work as well.
Thing is, I couldn’t quite remember this architect’s name at first. I had jotted it down on one of those notepad notes on my iPod, but apparently hadn’t included it in any of my Facebook posts, which made it more challenging to recall. Eventually, I did remember the name “Sinan,” and I confirmed it to be correct via Wikipedia. But that little nugget of information was one that I almost surely could’ve recovered with just a bit of basic research on the Internet.
On the other hand, Keith and I had another running joke throughout the trip that might’ve been lost forever had it not been documented within my final observations post on Facebook. There were several random terms that appeared either in street graffiti or in museum descriptions that we thought would make hilarious or great band names, a list that would include the following: “Severe Style,” “Alabastron,” “Gutter Lion,” “Beetroots,” “Apples of Dischord,” “Skeleton Jamboree,” and “Gorgon Head.” Suffice to say, street graffiti in Istanbul and Athens can be far more creative and entertaining than what I’ve seen in America–do you really think someone here would randomly spray paint the words “skeleton jamboree” somewhere?
So you can see how a social media site like Facebook could really come in handy for documenting such a journey, and I’ve used it similarly on trips I’ve taken since then. Most notably, my parents and I spent a week in Washington, D.C. last year, and I would once again post the best photos of the day along with a brief commentary on the day’s events.
Perhaps this indeed reveals the true purpose of this very blog. Not all of life’s thoughts and observations can be shared in a tidy post on Facebook, and those which are simply left to memory can become convoluted over time. This diary can therefore serve as the perfect vehicle for topics that deserve lengthier discussion or storytelling. Thus far, it has been centered mostly around one particular vacation that I took exactly four years ago, which just goes to show the kind of lasting impact this trip has had on me in a number of ways. I’ve quickly realized just how much there is to be written about it, and about other topics I’ve yet to tackle here in any capacity. We’re just getting started.