Posted Dec 2, 2010 in Travel | 0 Comments

Cable or Satellite? Try Neither.

In August, I visited a town in northwest Vietnam called Sapa.  Situated in a breathtaking mountainous region, Sapa is famous for its neighboring hilltribes. “Buy from me” you hear as women from various ethnic minorities crowd around the bus, or stick their faces in restaurant windows, smiling broadly.  Their bright clothes fit serenely against the foggy landscape.  Incredibly friendly, the women do all they can to make conversation – what’s your name?  where are you from? – because maybe you will buy something, eventually.

It’s no surprise then that I met Yin and Chi, two H’mong women from Hau Thao village. After a short conversation, they invited me to their village. I accepted. The next day, we trekked 3.5 hours through stunning landscape and slippery mud.

We arrived at Chi’s home – a thatched hillside hut with dirt floors.  There was no door, just an opening to a covered “patio”.  Sunlight barely peaked through the rafters.  I sat awkwardly on a small wooden bench while Chi cooked over an open flame.

I kept staring at a black box to my left – a small television perfectly fitted into the wall.  They don’t have a door, but they have television?

As if on cue, Yin turned it on. Kids began arriving to the house, and soon we were maybe 15 people crammed into this small hut. A soap opera appeared with crystal clarity. Satellite television! This was the first time in weeks that I watched TV – and how ironic, sitting in a thatched hut atop a dirt floor. As I sought quiet, they sought noise.

Five years ago, I canceled my cable subscription and returned to rabbit ears. This was a tough move for a girl who spent the better part of her teen years addicted to MTV and a myriad of dramas. I finally realized that I had spent so much of my life in TV Land that I did not have a real life. Rabbit ears limited my choices and saved me the exorbitant subscription fee. In March, I ditched the television entirely. Now, I just watch movies and shows online, and far less often than before. Ah, the good life.

I know others who have dumped their TVs too in favour of more spending money, time outdoors, reading, or socializing. We are a small, but, perhaps, growing minority. Part of this is thanks to new technologies that allow us to “tune in” in different ways. A recent Time magazine headline read: “Who needs cable when you can stream movies and shows from the web onto your TV?”

Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and Canadian Press depict a growing phenomenon called “cord-cutting.” Americans are canceling their subscriptions in record numbers, and Canadians are spending more time online. Time Warner lost 155,000 subscribers last quarter, more than double the number from the year before. This is a big deal in the US, a country that boasts 4.5 hours per day per household watching television.

Perhaps it’s for the best – studies have linked excessive television watching with everything from depression to ADHD.  I know I am happier since ditching the “tube.” I started cooking, practicing yoga, backpacking, and spending more time with friends, among other things.

Now, if only I could turn off the computer…

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