The Borders of our Lives

If travel is about meeting people from other cultures, then staying right here in Winnipeg gives me plenty of the positive perks of travel. I love my opportunity to do EAL tutoring. It gives me a chance to travel while staying home. Immigrants from all over the world come to this cold city of Winnipeg for a better way of life. I know, sometimes that’s hard to appreciate.

Besides using Zoom, I’ve adapted to the forced isolation of the pandemic, with a walk and talk. Back in the old days, we’d meet in a café. Now a former South Korean student and I get to meander on local trails. It feels much more like we’re friends, comparing our different cultures and experiences, than in a student/teacher relationship. In fact, that is what we are . . . friends. 

The other day I asked my online student how her remaining family felt about the unrest back in her home country of Ukraine. Russian troops have amassed at the Ukrainian/Russian border (albeit for practice) and a British warship is now heading to the Black Sea and the jailed, anti-Putin crusader, Alexei Nalvalny, is close to death. My Ukrainian student, here in Canada, hears more about events in Russia and Ukraine than her mother does, only two or three hours away from the Russian border. She says her mother is too busy just trying to survive, day to day, to pay attention or worry about troop movements on her country’s border or about dying activists. This caused me to reflect on my mom’s own history and recollections from the Second World War.

I used to question my mother’s ignorance. How could she not know that Nazi Germany was an aggressive state? How could she not pay attention to the build-up of the Wehrmacht? How could she not question the newspapers or the propaganda that spewed out of the radio? How could she not see what was coming? Was she deceived or did she not want to see? How was her news manipulated? Read more about that here.

It makes me realize that even today we need to question what we glean from radios, TV (is that still a thing?), newspapers and the ubiquitous social media. Can we see our world, today in 2021, for what it really is? I am white, educated, retired and vaccinated.  I have a vehicle and a single-family dwelling. Through these lenses of privilege, I view the rest of the world. Can I really see it? What threatens the borders of my life? Or perhaps I’m too busy spending, consuming and entertaining myself to even notice? I hope not. I seriously hope not.

Map: Ukrainian border with Russia by Aleksandr Grigoryev

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