Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Snail Mail

How's this for slow? I was reading that the French postal service just delivered a postcard that was mailed September 29th 1910. It only took 96 years to get delivered to the recipient's daughter-in-law since the recipient had died in 1978.
Think about it, when the card (a picture of the Sémois valley in Belgium) was mailed the Titanic was not even completed, much less sunk. It was mailed four years before the First World War and 29 years before the start of the Second. The airplane was in its infancy and men walking on the moon was just a story by Jules Verne. Email? Forget it. There were telegrams, the telephone (if you didn't mind the neighbours and the operator listening in) and the Postal Service.
Gives a whole new dimension to the term "Snail-mail"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Been absent...

Finally got my cast off last Monday... it feels so good to be free of the weight and the hassle. Makes you appreciate having two hands, there are so many things in our world that can only work well with two hands.
I haven't written in a while since last week I was in Washington with my students. We went to see old uncle George. ;o) Mind you, I did see him in a big cavalcade riding down Constitution Avenue, with a huge police escort. There were police cars blocking traffic at each intersection, a motorcycle escort to make sure the way was clear, a bunch of big black SUV's with men armed with automatic weapons hanging out the windows. It was like watching an emperor driving by. I found the situation ironic in the land that professes that everyone is equal. Here in Canada the Prime Minister walks his children to school and then walks off to his office. I know that the need for security is different, but it is ironic none the less.
I must say however that Americans really know how to do a capital city. As the students said, "It's like walking in ancient Rome". The museums are really magnificent and they are all free. The Aerospace museum, the Museum of Natural History , the National Gallery, the Museum Of American History etc. We also saw the National Archives with the original Declaration of Independance and the US Constitution, and the Library of Congress and finally all the memorials. We also visited Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. (If you only visit one museum, visit that one. It isn't an easy museum to visit, my students came away from there somber and quiet, and for 14 year olds that's saying a lot, but I can guarantee that that it will touch you.) We were also impressed by the cleanliness of the streets and the flowers everywhere. You can see that they take care of the city. The people were also nice and very patient since the student's English was sometimes mangled. (They are French speaking and English is their second language) There was even an employee of the metro system that lent a student his cell phone to call his mom after seeing him trying to use a pay phone. We warned him that we came from Montreal and it was a long distance call but he said that it was OK. That was really generous of him and we greatly appreciated it. That is one of the nicest things about travelling, meeting nice people. :o)
There was really only one point that bugged me and that was the "over the top" security. At the Capitol there was a group of students with their teacher talking to a someone that worked there. They seemed to be trying to arrange a visit (something that is pretty much impossible since 9/11). On the top of the steps overlooking them were two soldiers? security? armed with automatic weapons and one of them had his weapon aimed at the group. Not casually pointing but deliberately aimed. That is frightening. Where they expecting the group of high school students to storm the Capitol and take the senate hostage. That's almost paranoid. God knows that after 9/11 they had to beef up security, but there is a point where it become a bit much. Thank goodness my students didn't notice. I am really glad to live in a country where that type of paranoia is not needed, and I hope that one day the American people will also be able to live without that kind of security.