Long Journey Ahead

At the parent-teacher conference, Klaras teacher told me that Klara gave a little presentation on borscht in class because it’s her favorite food. Then the teacher showed me Klara’s drawings, in which every human and animal holds the Ukrainian flag.

After that, the teacher asked me how long ago I came to the US from… Russia.

11 thoughts on “Long Journey Ahead

  1. Well…. Americans really are bad at geography. Most of us recognize the Canadian flag, when pressed. Beyond that it’s pretty iffy. I’d bet a quarter most Americans wouldn’t even recognize the Mexican flag, and they’re our immediate neighbors.

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    1. And many Americans of a certain age are still living in the bad old days of the cold war, when Ukraine was part of the USSR, and Americans who were too lazy to say “USSR” or “Soviet Union” used “Russia” as a synonym. This was one of my pet peeves for many years until the Soviet Union finally broke up. But old habits die hard, and many Americans continue to refer to the old constituent republics of the USSR as “Russia.” Sigh…

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    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people don’t even know local geography. Isn’t everything between New York and California Texas?

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      1. You know, we drilled on the various states, when I was in school– I can still take a blank map of the US and fill in all the state names. Due to a childhood obsession with numismatics, I know the names and locations of more countries than most Americans. I thought this was OK until I acquired a couple of century-old elementary geography texts to try and get a feel for how to teach it to my kids.

        Compared to these… I am a complete geography dunce. I mean, on a good day I can name all the Great Lakes correctly, but… these books teach all the major rivers (and watersheds!) and what states border them, the major natural resources and crops of each state/region, regional climate/topographical variations, important trade routes, which states were included in which treaties/purchases/territorial wars, and when they were added to the US, both as territories and as official states, etc. And similar (if less comprehensive) rote effort went into the countries and major rivers of Europe, Africa, Asia, South America… And they didn’t bother doing this as “fun” multimedia unit studies or anything. They were taught as lists of facts to be recited on command, just like the times tables.

        Most kids who made it to fifth grade knew this stuff automatically, by rote, in 1920– not just what states are adjacent to the Mississippi river, but what countries are on the Danube, the Volga, the Nile… (I’m not sure I had ever heard of the Danube before adulthood!) some of the importance of the Yangtze and the Amazon, what chunks of Africa had been colonized by which European powers…

        But I, who did elementary school in the 80s– I’m hot stuff because I know all the state capitals and I can find Switzerland on a map. Sigh.

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  2. A Belgian scientist dude I know, who you’d think would know better, didn’t think he was being an insufferable douche when the said that anything east of Germany is just Russia to him. All those people with different cultures and languages don’t exist. It’s all some amorphous USSR blob.
    While Americans may not be great at geography, it’s not just that. There is this erasure effect that’s prevalent in the West, and is basically the same as how my Belgian acquaintance views most of Central and Eastern Europe. It all used to be the Eastern Block, even countries that weren’t but happen to be in the general geographic area, and it’s all Russia now. That’s exactly what Russia thinks, too. The West and Russia appear to see infuriatingly, dangerously eye-to-eye.

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    1. The way I heard it from an American acquaintance is that “anything east of Germany is Russia, and anything south of the US is Mexico.” This is not about geographical ignorance that can be remedied, but about the feeling of superiority that, sadly, is not easily fixed.

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    2. “Belgian… said that anything east of Germany is just Russia to him”

      Western European condescenscion towards former iron curtain countries remains strong and one of the reasons that constant warnings that russia was not to be trusted (esp from the Baltic States and Poland) were ignored in favor of empowering putain….
      And the invasion hasn’t even really put a dent in that…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is why I keep saying that the war today is not a result of anything that happened recently. Thirty years of mishandling the results of the USSR’s collapse. Thirty years of thinking that 7 decades of socialism can be undone within days with no scars and no aftereffects. This is wishful thinking that borders on delusional. There’s been nothing but wilful blindness on the part of the West since 1989. Now there’s a completely unhinged Russian population of 140 million, and nobody knows what to do at this point.

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  3. Oh, come on, you’re also from Canada, you’ve watched Rick Mercer’s CBC show no doubt.

    “Talking To Americans” was this hilarious bit he’d do where he’d focus in on the finest American geography and politics knowledge.

    Congratulating Canadians on their national igloo, condemning the actions of Prime Minister Poutine, getting Americans to agree to dropping bombs on Prime Minister Poutine’s political rival, rearranging the map so that Australia’s marked “USA” and then watching Americans go along with it, you’ve had to have seen at least some of that.

    But I totally get your point.

    “How long have you been here in the US?”

    “Off and on since I was born here.”

    It’s fun doing UK geography with Americans, BTW.

    They’ve heard of London, they’ve even heard of Manchester a lot of them.

    They just have no idea where to find them.

    “I’ve been to Stansted, is that London?”

    Oh I could cause such a fight with my answer. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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