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How Far We Travel

May 10, 2006

A package came in our mail today. The manilla envelope is a bit worn and there are heavy black crossouts on the front, not from – as my mind immediately jumps to – Army censors, but because it is being reused. The return address is a series of letters and numbers that mean nothing to me, except for the top line: PFC Max Steiner. Max, Maximum, Maxi-pad. One of my GW partners-in-crime and good friend who decided at the end of freshman year that he was enlisting. It happened, as these things do, too fast. Suddenly, we were helping him clean out the sedimented layers of his dorm room and waving to him as he and his friend from home got in the SuperShuttle to the airport. He visited us after basic training, and we'd been getting various phone calls every couple of weeks or so.

Max's story is not one I can accurately tell, even with the DVD he sent us that his batallion commander made. We all hovered around my computer to watch it, and even laughed when we saw someone – Max, of course – trying to break down a door and falling down instead. I'll resist the constant urge to try to make some extra-meaning out of that DVD, and out of the letter he sent along with it. I dare not try to make Max's time in Iraq something that it isn't for him.

Instead, as I start the summer before I leave for Egypt, and then hopefully England, and when my roommate comments that she can't imagine how far the package has traveled – from Iraq and somehow through GW Mail Services to our dorm room – I think how easy it has become for us all to travel – not just by airplane or boat, but through these little pieces of ourselves that we send in the mail, or through the electrons of the internet. How quickly we can arrive in someone's mailbox in pictures, videos, in the handwriting of Max's jokes on a piece of notebook paper, in the fact that the padding of the envelope is pages from Stars and Stripes, Mid-east Edition.

We travel so much everyday, without physically leaving where we are. The screensaver on my computer calls up images of the past two years – some not very far from where I sit now, some hundreds of miles away, all sometime in the past. Minor acts of time-and-space travel. Yet they seem so common and everyday to us. Traveling makes the world smaller, because we take those places back with us, first in our memories – but those fade. We rely on the implements of modern techonology (this digital camera, that phone, the computer I'm typing on) to make the everyday travel possible.

This is why I wanted to start this blog. Sure, I also want to communicate with family, remind my college friends that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth – and that I'm going to miss sitting in front of stupid TV shows making fun of it with them. It is a fine balance, between recording and living, and this is one of the ways I can help do that.

So Ahlan wa (hello and) cheerio (goodbye). Here is another small act of everyday travel.

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