Home never seemed so far away

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

One of the strangest aspects about being abroad for an extended period of time is the disconnect that has developed between me and events back in the states. Like a fading pulse, it has become increasingly difficult to get a feel for what's going on back home. The reasons, of which there are many (geographical, cultural, emotional, etc.), have all conspired to make me feel even farther away from home than I actually am. This distance is especially pronounced in regards to current events.

I developed an interest in current events back in high school (thank you, Mr. Keith Kight), but it was not until college that I became a full-fledged news junkie (or "nerd," depending on your vocabulary).

However, as one might guess, Antofagasta, Chile, is not a great place for one with such an addiction. Though there are plenty of newspapers around, they focus nearly exclusively on local and national news and tend toward the sensational. I've looked for American newspapers and magazines, but the only ones I've found are weeks old and overpriced. The family I live with doesn't have cable television, so no hope for CNN International, either. The one option that I have been able to take advantage of is the Internet, but even that is generally limited by my willingness to tolerate slow connections and smoky Internet cafés.

Most of the rest of my group feel similarly news-deprived, so we share information and resources when we can. Even by pooling our resources, though, we feel hopelessly behind and terribly far away. Every new bit of news brings the same reaction -- mild disbelief, followed by a weak shake of the head and a slow exhalation of breath. Has Florida really been hit by FOUR hurricanes? Have the presidential campaigns really gotten that nasty? And are we really just a month away from the elections? Has it really been that many soldiers, hostages and civilians who have died in Iraq?

One stateside development that has been very bittersweet has been the success of my team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Thanks to my gift of Cardinals baseball hats, my two host brothers are now also big fans. They know I check the scores daily, so they always ask if the Cards won, though they have never seen a baseball game in their life and probably wouldn't know a baseball glove from an oven mitt.

Though I am extremely happy that the Cards have done as well as they have, I have to admit some amount of bitterness that they chose the ONE fall when I'm thousands of miles from a baseball stadium to make their run at the World Series. However, if they happen to make it, I already have a seat reserved in front of a TV at a friend's house.

But I'm not sure what celebrating a Cards victory would be like with no one to celebrate it with. Good news or bad, events and their ramifications just don't quite sink in as deep when you are this far from home.

Justin Cox is a graduate of Scott City High School and Washington University in St. Louis.

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