Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Six Alternatives to Television


Six Alternatives to Television


Jakarta – Television watching is the stinking ashtray on the dining room table. Though most profess to believe it is detrimental to our well-being, we refuse to turn our TVs off.

True, there are benefits to having a television. After all, it provides us with the cultural images that bind us to our communities. The Challenger exploding, O.J.’s white Bronco chase, the subsequent L.A. riots and the more-recent toppling of the Saddam statue are all events that I have, at least, virtually experienced.

Also, of course, there are sports to consider. Without television most of us would never be part of a World Cup or even, more importantly, the scrumptious shirtless-Beckham post-match interview. For many, sports are the main reason to have a television.

But, all of that notwithstanding, once we have made the decision to live a telly-free life, we need to think about how to fill the void. After much thought and research at sites such as www.squidoo.com/notv, www.thesimpledollar.com, www.whitedot.org plus other publications, I have assembled a selection of half-a-dozen activities that I myself start today as my own television-less existence commences.

Read it. Most of us have those books that we have always wanted to read. Ulysses and Under the Volcano head my list. I have started and quit both on numerous occasions and now that I have shut my box, I will open the first again and, this time, finish it.

Connect it. Sit down with your family. Have focused conversations and learn about one another. Go out, meet your neighbors, join clubs. The Living in Indonesia website at www.expat.or.id/ has a list of clubs that can help you connect with people who have the same interests as you do. Go nuts and use your free evenings to start dating your spouse or partner again.

Play it. The classic games of Monopoly and Uno never, in my opinion, go out of style. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my family and I playing Risk, Monopoly, Spoons, and Uno.

Chess is a game I came to appreciate once I moved to Indonesia. This is a wonderful place to hone your game. Most drivers and security guards are willing to school you free of charge.

For card enthusiasts, the websites at www.pagat.com and www.cardgamerules.homestead.com are stocked with rules of games you have probably long forgotten how to play along with many you most likely have never heard of.

Learn it. Many universities now offer online degree and certificate programs. These can make productive use of your newly-found surplus time and hopefully even help you secure that next promotion.

Closer to home, many schools and institutions in Jakarta offer evening and weekend classes that will help you learn that skill you have always wanted to pick up. Mandarin, oil painting, creative writing and pasta making classes are just a sampling of what is available here.

Move it. Use that evening television time to go for walks. Sure, the Big Smoke is not exactly foot-friendly, but deep within the city’s neighborhoods and winding gangs, the roads are less-heavily mechanized and full of interesting sights and people. Walking is also a great way to spend time with your family and a fine way to meet your neighbors. In addition to walking, this evening time would also be nice for starting any fitness plan you are interested in.

Box and Eat it. Start a picnic day. Be creative and get the whole family involved. Each week, another person can select the picnic’s menu and setting. An eating blanket can be spread anywhere, from your master bedroom’s balcony to the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

As I reread the above six thoughts, I realized that they all possess a common thread. They are about paying more attention to those two things that matter most: you and the people around you.

That, to me, is not a bad trade off.

Good luck,


This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

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