Evelyn Hannon: Aging Disgracefully


Grandma Uses Social Media to Get Help in India

On the trail of my lost pashmina

A great many of my 'grandmother' friends shun social media. They all own computers. They all know how to search for things and they all know how to send an email.

Let me clarify that last statement.

They all know how to send an email but most wouldn't dream of emailing a stranger.

Social media? Forget it! Some fear the 'imagined' loss of privacy, others conveniently label it 'for kids' and therefore don't need to learn about it. I think they're wrong. Dead wrong. They have no idea of the added fun you can have with that little piece of electronic equipment. Or, the help you can get from around the world.

Let me tell you the story of my pashmina that was in my bag that Air Canada recently lost. I call it SixPlus Degrees of Separation on the Internet.

One Degree — In 2008, I circled the globe on the MV Explorer with a student program called, Semester At Sea. I was their embedded blogger reporting to my readers the adventures we were having as we sailed from nation to nation. We stopped in 14 cities in 108 days and my computer was my work lifeline as well as a connection to the people I hoped to meet in each of those cities. Approaching the port of Chennai, India, I used the HERmail.net program to connect with women living in that city. A lovely woman called Winnifred answered my request for someone to take me shopping for Indian fashions.

Two Degrees — Winnifred and her Indian neighbour picked me up at the Chennai port with a car and driver. Really! We drove to the Spenser Plaza where they became 'my girlfriends.' They helped me pick out clothes and then pronounced 'yes' or 'no' to each item when I modelled for them. One of the shops we visited sold gorgeous pashminas. These two experienced shoppers were instrumental in making sure the colorful wrap I picked out was really hand-embroidered and then haggled with the shopkeeper for the absolute best price. That poor man couldn't breathe when they were done with him. And, oh, how I loved that extra special shawl.

Three Degrees — Part of the Semester At Sea program allowed for a student living in the upcoming port to come on board the ship to teach our students about young culture in that port. That's how I met Kanishka, an Indian student who lives in Chennai and was the interport mentor. He was one of my favorites during our semester at sea and we've kept in touch via Facebook ever since.

Four Degrees — When Air Canada lost my bag on a flight from Santiago, Chile to Toronto, Canada my favorite pashmina was in that bag. I created a Facebook page called, Air Canada Give Journeywoman Back Her Bag. Over 500 people LIKED that page and became involved with my search. My bag was never found but it was now common knowledge that the bag was missing.

Five Degrees — In making my insurance claim for the contents of my lost bag I learned that in order to be reimbursed for any article you must have the original bill or present a bill for a replacement of that article. In the case of my pashmina, The bill for my 2008 purchase was long gone. I couldn't go back to India and I didn't remember the name of the shop I bought it in so I had to consider it a full loss.

Six Degrees — The Travel Goddess intervenes. In the midst of spring cleaning I discovered the business card for the Crafts Bazaar, the shop in Chennai where I bought the gorgeous black wrap with the brightly embroidered flowers. And, their email address was on it!  With my heart racing in anticipation, I sent them an email and ... the email was returned with the dreaded 'message unable to be delivered.' But I had a telephone number. Should I call India?

Six Plus Degrees — Then I remembered Kanishka in Chennai and via Facebook I told him my tale of woe and asked for his help. His immediate reply was, "Sure, Evelyn, their phone number has changed, too but I will find you the details.'

Now I wait. I may not be successful in locating that same pashmina but, if it hadn't been for the internet, I wouldn't have been hired to blog from that ship. I wouldn't have had a wonderful day of shopping with Winnifred and her neighbour, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of knowing Kannishka, a friend in India willing to go the extra mile for me.

So, I've come full circle I will never stop trying to convince my granny pals that they are missing out on a whole lot of wonderful online relationships. And, if my online Indian connection works and I locate another pashmina I promise to blog about that, too.