One of the great gifts of travel is that (at least for us) it takes us out of the daily routines of following the news. Having days filled with outdoor activities has kept us off our phones, and we didn’t turn on a tv for over a month. Yet we couldn’t help taking moments here and there to catch up on the war in Ukraine.
On our final day in Chile we decided to figure out the subway system to visit a museum dedicated to the Pinochet years (closed when we got there because the president was visiting on International Women’s Day and speaking to hundreds of school girls) and to visit a local artisans market. While waiting for trains to arrive, I couldn’t get out of my head the thousands of folks in Ukraine who are now living in subway stations while we enjoyed the adventures of Chile and finding our way around a foreign city. It is only by accident of birth and education that we were in Santiago and not in Mariupol. A sobering thought – and how strange the world is to have us living a dream on one side of the world while the other side is experiencing such tragedy.
As someone who has taught classes about war for twenty years – and focused not on the military history but on the human costs of war – events of the last two weeks have been disturbing on many levels. On the one hand (at least in a general sense) the response of the west has been encouraging and the determination of the Ukrainian people inspiring. My classes always have begun with students reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger (worth a read!), and one of the things we always take away from that is the long term importance of the motivation of combatants – which often leads to different outcomes. In this case, the signs of Ukrainian resistance points to long term optimism, but the toll will be catastrophic.
Our final day in Chile was also International Women’s Day, and we were able to experience the demonstrations and solidarity of women in Chile. Yet that solidarity and strength was of course contrasted by the hundreds of thousands of women (and children) turned into refugees from the war – or having to live in fear in a war zone. Some readers of this will know that my mother was a Holocaust refugee having fled Berlin for Holland after Kristallnacht and surviving the war in a state of semi-hiding and fear. That experience reverberated throughout her life and certainly had an impact on mine. And the contrast between the power and energy of Chilean women with the terror of war couldn’t be more stark.
So – again – this day and these last five weeks have given us so much to be grateful for and so much to think about. Next stop – Santa Fe and on up the spine of the Rockies.
Stay safe, everyone ❤️.