Don't Google, Go Through
When I had to remove a splinter from my daughter's finger for the first time, I googled it. When I needed to know what day of the week Memorial Day fell on last year, I googled it. When I craved a recipe for Chicken Parmesan? I googled it. We live in a Google society. The revolutionary search engine serves as the primary source of info for the public--young and old and around the world. So much so that most elementary school kids would have a hard time telling you what an encyclopedia is. And it's true, for the most part, you really can find ANYTHING on Google. How many people populate Taiwan? Google it. (It's 23.55 million) The national flower for Australia? Google it. (It's the Golden Wattle) The national dish of Bengladesh? Google it. (It's ilish Macher Dhakai Paturi, a dish that involves fish being wrapped in a banana leaf with mustard seed paste and eggplant and then being baked, steamed or fried.) As much as you can find out about a country or a culture, the one thing, I've found that's impossible to find on Google, is the intricacies about a a culture. Those little tidbits handed down through the generations (customs, sayings, values, viewpoints) that make the people in a particular culture special; those are the things Google can't reveal. I recently wrote a short fiction story with a main character from Haiti. I know nothing about Haiti (well, only what I've found on Google). I decided I wanted the story to be authentic, so I sent it to a couple of friends from Haiti to read. They both said the exact same thing--"This is great, but your character wouldn't stay at a hotel when visiting New York City. It will seem more authentic if you refer to him staying with an older cousin, aunt or uncle. Haitians usually stay with family or friends when visiting America." This was not a fact I could have Googled. If you really--and I mean really--want to learn something, you have to put yourself in the middle of it (think: on the job training). You have to experience it or have a conversation with someone else who has. Textbooks (and Google) can only tell you a tiny portion of the plot. Living through it gives you dialogue, setting and plot twist.