Monday, November 9, 2009

20 and 1 years ago today

Twenty years ago today my parents called me and my sister into the living room to watch as Germans from East and West of the Berlin Wall reunited joyously for the first time in 28 years. The Berlin Wall had come down and with it came the beginning of the end of Communism and what had once been the USSR’s vast empire. As far as elementary school-aged children went, I was a news junkie. I watched the news in the morning as we got ready for our days at school and work and I watched the local news every night after dinner. I distinctly remember watching this particular broadcast and I knew, without being told, that this was a huge event.

Taken from a google image search

I was 9 years old when the wall came down and based on what they taught us at school, I knew about 8 things about the USSR: 1) Berlin and Germany were split in half, 2) people had to line up for food and/or sometimes just bread, 3) everyone is the USSR drove the same model of car, 4) the government told when your family was going to take your holiday, your parents couldn’t decide that for themselves, 5) you couldn’t leave the USSR unless the government gave you permission to and it was very very hard to get permission 6) Pawel S. in my grade 2 class was from Poland and could only speak Polish and Russian because they (the government) wouldn’t teach the children English, 7) Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev had a lot of meetings, those two were always on the news and lastly, 8) Mikhail Baryshnikov, the premier ballet dancer in Russia and the world throughout the 1970s and 1980s, had defected from the USSR, which meant he could never go home to visit his parents again and I remember this making me feel very sad for him. This is what I learnt/retained from the elementary school teachings on communism. Fast forward 18 years to when I began working in Brussels and one of my counterparts was from Latvia and only a few years older than me. I took the opportunity to confirm whether the information I had been given as a child was Western propaganda or actuality – standing in line for bread, laundry detergent, red meat and chicken were all part of his daily life as a child. And yes, his parents only took vacations when the government told them they could. Fascinating. I could throw my poli-sci degrees into this post and write a few long paragraphs on what it meant then and in the intervening 20 years but I won’t because you can go to the BBC or The Times or The Guardian for more in-depth analysis by people who were actually there and lived it.

Taken from The Guardian's website

Switching gears…

1 year ago today my little monkey-butt, Moose, was born! My, how he’s grown! We’ve bought him a pile of new toys, which he will have in tatters before bedtime tonight. We’ve wised up and will very rarely buy him toys at the pet store because while he’s only an 11 lbs dog, he can chew through anything! Dollar store or bust! So Happy 1st Birthday to our Moose!!! Sniff, you’re growing up so fast!!!

This is Moose on his first night home with us, he was 12 weeks old, he hated us (seriously, you should have seen the comtempt in his eyes) and had walked himself into his cage and passed out from a day of nerves and new places.

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