Friday, May 13, 2011


Refusing to learn new things or seek broader horizons appears in many forms at any age. This attitude is a weakness of character and in many cases is just plain stupid and dangerous. For ex-patriots, refusing to learn to use cell phones, computers, the internet and PDA devices is akin to forced isolation; especially here in Panama. Communication is extremely important. After my heart attack my brother, Bill and I video chat several times a week. That way he can see me and determine for himself if I’m okay. There’s a myriad of IP phone systems available and they are an inexpensive method to reach loved ones around the world. But – you have to be willing to embrace today’s technology.

The unwillingness to learn Spanish is another example of willful ignorance. I know a gringo that has lived in Panama for fifteen years yet refuses to learn the language; expecting others; bilinguals, to handle his affairs. He’s a joke in the community. If you live in a Latin country and don’t make an attempt to adapt to language and culture, it’s a major insult to your host country and you will be held in contempt for your willful ignorance!

Living abroad in a non-English speaking country without a Kindle or some other electronic reading device is also a form of willful ignorance. I’ve heard all the excuses: “I like the feel of a book.” “The written word needs to be on paper.” “How can one appreciate a book on a gizmo?” If you are guilty of remarks like those, shame on you! E-books are not just a passing notion or fad. This is a major paradigm shift in the book industry. Kazillions of trees are being saved! There are over a million books available to me on my Kindle. I can download over three thousand and hold them in the unit that weighs the same as my cell phone. The battery charge holds for three to four weeks and in a pinch, I can use the unit to check my e-mails or surf the web. I’m able to change the size of the font so in some cases I can read without my glasses. E-books are inexpensive. Most sell for less than a Starbuck’s latte and a lot of the older books are free. I can buy my books from anywhere; from a bohio on the beach, horseback in the mountains, or lying in my hammock.

Advancing years is not an excuse for willful ignorance. My mother learned to use a computer when she was in her eighties and stayed in touch with my brother and me by e-mail right up until a couple of years before she passed at age 99.

The world is changing and it’s changing rapidly. Welcome aboard but leave your willful ignorance behind.

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