Beaver Island; A Place Forgotten in Time
Beaver Island is a remote island from Michigan. Muggs Bass is one of the people who live on it, and she like many other people from the area does not have access to technology. She does not have a computer, and she does not have a cellular phone. She is a 70-year old grandmother, and according to her, you can not miss something you do not have. Technology does not attract her, but she makes an exception once every month when she goes to her island’s rural health center in order to connect with other people via a video conference. The people she connects with, and the other one who are in the same room with her, have something in common: they have been affected by cancer.
Some of them still have it; while some of them (Bass included) have managed to survive it. She would have never believed that she would be able to communicate with other people who are located thousands of miles away via a TV screen. Some say that this is the main reason why the island is less remote, and they believe that thanks to technology, the island will be more accessible in the future. The island is home for 650 people, and it is believed that thanks to the evolution of technology more people will be willing to come in the area, if it will be able to offer jobs. Joe Moore is a retired teacher, and he is one of the very few people who know how to operate a computer. He believes that technology might change things in the future. He admits that not all people embrace it, and that there are times when it is not running as they would like it to run, but he says that they try to make it work.
Life seems to slow down in the area, and it is clear that things are very different from a town. People are not in a rush here, and it might seem impossible to live if you are used with the fast pacing which a city has. Beaver Island is located near the northwest tip of the state’s Lower Peninsula. Beaver Island is close to the well known Mackinac Island, which is covered in sand dunes, and hardwood forests. The main reason for that is the fact that it is much more difficult to access Beaver Island than it is to access Mackinac Island. The ferry service runs from April to December. Of course, one could reach the area by plane, as long as the weather permits it. However, during the winter, the access to the island is completely shut down, the only exception being when the U.S. Coast Guard gets there in case of an emergency.
High speed internet became available in the island last spring, and it was more than just a caprice. Many people felt that it made a huge difference, as they were finally able to communicate with the ones they love, and to feel just like all the other people. They were no longer isolated, only from a physical point of view from the other places. The internet gave them the possibility of communicating, shopping online, playing games, or watching movies. The outside work has become more available for them through this simple change. The change was done sooner in the schools, as the teachers knew that it would be very important for them to have computer skills by the time they will go to college. The students were encouraged to take lessons about the use of the computer, and how to download certain applications which would be useful for them.
Connie Boyle is one of the teachers who developed the technology program, and one of the main reason why she was behind it, is that her daughter studies on the island as well. She moved from Chicago, and she knows that the technology is extremely important, so she wanted to make sure that her daughter and the other students will be prepared for it. Their daughter is now a freshman at Michigan State University, and she said that she knows everything from her computer class, as she already did it while she was in high school on the island.
Things have changed a lot since Muggs Bass was in school. When she was a student, she could only learn from the books, as they did not have internet or any other similar sources back then. Her grand-grand parents came from Ireland, like many of the first people who settled on the island. When she was a child she attended the school which was located right besides her house. Things were really different back then, as people did not like to travel too much. For example she had no idea that she had some cousins on the island until her school merged with the one from the main town of the island. She did not go to the main town of the island prior to that point, with one exception when she had to go to the doctor.
She left the island for the first time when she was 12, as she visited an aunt in Detroit. She said that she did not like it there, because it was too crowded, and to noisy. Her family did not have a television until she was a teenager. All they had was a radio, but she did not mind that. She remembers that she used to listen to boxing matches together with her father. It was a very small world, but she liked it like that. Everything changed when she graduated from high school, as she had to move from the island in order to find a job. She met her husband in Illinois, where the two settled and had a family.
However, this type of life is not for everybody, especially for the ones who come from the big cities. Many of them get bored too quick and decide to leave the island after a few days. The island does not have too many things. It has a grocery store, some restaurants, some gas stations, and that’s about it. It does not have a cinema, or a club, or any other things which are very popular in the big cities. The island does not have a permanent doctor, but there is one who comes to the island twice a month. In case one gets sick, the Coast Guard comes and takes that person to a hospital. The medical technology improved as well, as they recently added an X-ray machine, and they also added the video conference which is very helpful for the people who suffer from cancer.
Mugg Bass moved back to the island 12 years ago, and she had no idea that she will develop a serious health problem. One year after she moved back to the island she went for a mammogram and the doctors discovered that she had a cancerous tissue in her breast. The doctors removed her breast, and everything was fine for 10 years, until she went to the doctor as she had a cough she could not stop. They found out that the cancer has spread to the bones, so for the last period of time she goes to the health station every six weeks in order to stop the disease from spreading, and in order to make her bones stronger. The conferences are very touching, as each of the patients talks about his/her struggle with cancer. Some have been lucky to win, but most of them are still affected by it.
They know that the chances of winning are small, but nevertheless they do not give up, and they promise each other that they will fight until they can no longer fight. She said that the group has helped her a lot, and she believes that each person from it feels the same way. They have the possibility of talking about what they feel, about their emotions, and about their struggles. The other people from the island use the technology in order to get together with their families. Joe and Phyllis Moore “attended” the first birthday of their youngest granddaughter through Skype. Of course, the feeling was different, but at least they were happy that they could see her, even though they could not be near her from a physical point of view.
The people from the island need to work numerous jobs, and Joe is no exception. He handles the computers, and he is also a doctor, and the manager of a website which posts pictures from the island. There are many young people who live on the island, and all of them are thankful for the technology, as they say that things are much better with it. However, they are realistic, and they know that they will have to move, because they will not be able to make a living on the island. Brontae Cole, a 17-year-old high school senior, and she want to go to college in order to become a homicide detective. She says that there are no cops on the island, because there aren’t too much illegalities going on.
However, it seems that there are people who find the island to be a paradise. These people are usually the ones from the crowded cities who come to the island on their holydays, and who have simply fallen in love with it. One reason for that is the improvement of technology. Many people, who want to live on the island, work online, which means that they can do their job regardless of the place. The problem with the internet is slowly starting to get fixed, but not the main problem is related to the mobile phones. The mobile phones have reception only in a certain area from the island, and the reception is often interrupted.
There are many people who feel nostalgic, and who say that the island was better prior to the introduction of the technology. They are bothered by the people who keep on talking on their mobile phones, and who stand on their computers. They say that the island is much more beautiful, and they do not understand why anyone would prefer to stare into a computer screen instead of admiring the natural beauties of the island. Children go to the library in order to stay online, but Phyllis Moore makes sure that she kicks them away after 30 minutes of using them, if the weather is nice outside. She tells them to go and play outside in the sun, instead of chatting on the internet. Most of the elder from the island stated that they would never leave the place, as they feel that it is their home. They feel the best when they are around each other, even when there are times when they can not get along.11