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Teaching with Google Classroom

Sample Google Classroom page

I believe the technological innovations of recent times that have most positively impacted the way I teach are Google Classroom and Google Docs.

Let me explain Google Classroom. In my previous position at the Higher Colleges of Technology, I became familiar with two so-called online Learning Management Systems (LMSs): Blackboard Vista and Canvas. For Blackboard I used HCT’s institutional subscription and for Canvas I used the free version. Both of these LMSs are packed with features and allow instructors to create online class sites where syllabi and materials can be posted and assignments where students can upload completed assignments. They also have chat functions that allow students and instructors to make comments as well as ask and answer questions.

In contrast, Google Classroom has the advantage of being free and simpler to use. At the top of a Google Classroom page there are four tabs: Stream, Classwork, People, and Grades. To enroll students one merely needs to go to People and enter the email addresses of the students. They will then receive an email invitiation, which once accepted allows them to access the classroom. The People page allows the instructor to send emails to individual students or the entire class as well.

The Stream page shows a list of activities on the site such as “Patrick Berting posted a new assignment.” The Stream page is also a form of chat where students can enter comments, ask and answer questions and upload materials.

A particularly useful feature in the Classwork page is that lesson materials and assignments can be uploaded then scheduled to become visible to students only on a particular day and time. This is useful as a way to keep students focused on what the instructor wants them to be focusing on rather than starting assignments before they have been properly explained.

The Assignments function allows instructors to request students to either submit a document such as a report or a completed list of questions or write/copy paste as in an email.

Using the Quiz Assignment function, the instructor opens a blank quiz in Google Forms where they can create questions in different formats, e.g. multiple choice, checkboxes, drop-down, short answer, and paragraph. The instructor can add images and even shuffle the order of questions.

By using Google Classroom I have even helped the environment by going paperless. There is now no more need to wastefully issue photocopies of materials to students. Another advantage is that this LMS allows students to keep track of their materials and assignments much more easily than they would with paper copies which are easy to misplace or lose. This of course helps students review ahead of assessments. Furthermore, during the Covid19 pandemic it was easy to use Google Classroom while teaching online with Zoom. By using Googe Classroom instructors add value to their lessons by teaching students to use a new learning app.

I believe there is no turning back and that, eventually, the use of this kind of technology will be an expected part of a teacher’s skill set. If you are a teacher and want to keep apace with technology I highly recommend Google Classroom. Do you have a gmail account? If so, it’s simply a matter of opening the Google Classroom app and getting started. (I will explain Google Docs in a future post.)

English Language / Business Communications Instructor

Featured

Coast to Coast with My Little Pony

A true story by Patrick Berting

In Canada, in the 1980s, the most popular car was the Pony which was manufactured by a new car company, Hyundai. The main reason for the popularity of the Pony was its low price and good value. As a result, it was a favorite among students and people with low incomes. As for me, the car that I drove when I was a student was a 1977 Honda Civic. Someone accidentally destroyed the engine by driving it without oil, and my parents said I could have the car as long as I was prepared to get it a new engine, which is what I did.

Then ten years later, after teaching in Japan and South Korea I had returned to Canada with a Korean bride. In 1996 I had enrolled in a college in Vermont, in the eastern United States, for their Masters in Teaching program. I knew that life there without a car would be difficult, but I didn’t have much money. Therefore, when I saw a Hyundai Pony advertised in a local Sidney, British Columbia newspaper, the price was right and I bought it for only $900 cash. The Pony was a 13-year-old four-door hatchback with faded blue paint. It had a manual transmission and good all-season tires. It wasn’t fast but it seemed good enough.

At the end of August, my wife and I were living in Sidney. We loaded our clothes, camping equipment, and other belongings and began our 5,000 kilometer trip to the east coast. We drove along the Trans Canada Highway and when we reached the Rocky Mountains we had to go very slowly because our car was loaded with so much and the engine was small. My wife innocently asked, “Can’t we go faster?” but I replied that we were going as fast as we could. That was a bit of a shock to her. We only stayed in hotels when the weather was rainy; otherwise, we slept in our tent at campsites. At a campsite in Taber, Alberta the grass was lush and there were rabbits that were almost tame and came up to us expecting food. Driving along the highway we stayed in the right-hand lane, but sometimes a big 18-wheeler truck would come up fast behind us. In those cases, I would pull over to let them pass and often the drivers would give an appreciative honk of their horn.

The Pony was doing well until we reached Manitoba where the manual transmission started malfunctioning. Consequently, we had no choice but to stop in Winnipeg for a few days to get the transmission fixed. Unfortunately, we were charged a lot more than we expected and were furious, especially as we were about to go almost a year without any income; however, the staff would not reduce the price and we had no choice but to pay. I noted that the interior of the car repair shop had posters about honesty and trust which I realized were just empty words. Feeling you’ve been ripped off and can’t do anything about it is terrible. At least the transmission worked properly after that. Those days we were covering an average of about 700 kilometers per day. Once we had the Pony back we continued our journey.

In northern Ontario, we spent the night at a campsite near Sudbury. As we had a lot of distance to cover we were in the habit of leaving early, on this occasion at 5:30 AM, and while we were exiting the campsite the muffler got caught on a piece of wood on the road and became loose,  making an enormous roar that must have woken up everyone in the campsite. We quickly reattached the muffler the best we could and kept moving. At a gas station, one of the employees helped us by getting some wire and tying the muffler in place. At one point an OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) officer saw us and must have thought we looked suspicious, perhaps because of our old car, and pulled us over. He then questioned us and even searched the car. He eventually stopped searching not finding any drugs, weapons, or contraband, and let us go. We could have complained about it but kept our mouths shut and focused on completing our trip.  We bypassed Toronto but took the time to spend a day in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. We enjoyed seeing the Houses of Parliament and the National War Museum. Upon reaching Montreal, we stayed with some retired family friends, June and John, for a few days. It is not my style to be a free-loader off anyone so I volunteered to mow their lawn, and they were surprised and thankful for that. After a few days, we crossed the border and entered the state of Vermont, and reached the town of Brattleboro where the School for International Training (SIT) is located.

The weather in Vermont was nice and warm for a month, then it seemed to get cold very quickly and this meant equipping the Pony with a larger replacement battery and a new anti-freeze hose for the radiator. This was at the suggestion of a kind local mechanic, who proved to me that not all mechanics are crooks. I also had to equip the Pony with an electric battery blanket and engine block heater to allow me to start the car in those freezing temperatures – back in Vancouver we never needed such things. The Pony really proved its worth when the snow fell and it drove though the snowy roads without any difficulty. Meanwhile, Dave, an American friend who had an expensive vintage BMW with summer tires found his vehicle was useless in those conditions, I, on the other hand, has all-season tires that were great in the snow. Consequently, he had to depend on me for a ride to and from the college. My wife and I were very proud of our cheap but reliable old Pony at that time.

We continued to drive the Pony for the whole ten months that we spent in Vermont and even used it for a couple of trips to Boston, (including Harvard University), Upstate New York and Massachusetts, including the UMass campus, a cross-country skiing weekend, and a drive in a snowstorm where we could hardly see the lanes.

In June 1997, when I had finished that very intensive period of study at SIT it was time to return to British Columbia. We drove north through New York State and crossed back into Canada with great relief. The most direct way home was to retrace our route along the Trans Canada Highway, so that it was we proceeded to do; however, when we reached the city of Sault Ste. Marie at the eastern end of Lake Superior, we learned that there had been flooding near the town of Wawa and that the Trans Canada Highway was impassable. As we were not prepared to wait until the highway was passable again we decided to re-enter the United States and drive through Wisconsin along the southern shore of Lake Superior. In that state, we spent the night at a campsite where our tent got soaked due to the rain, but we were still smiling about unexpectedly seeing a new part of North America. Next, we crossed into Manitoba and stopped at a local greasy spoon diner in Emerson where the staff made us feel welcome, which proved to us that Manitoba’s provincial slogan, “Friendly Manitoba”, was indeed accurate.

We continued across the Prairies as fast as our little Pony would take us and finally reached the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Calgary. Then, once again we subjected the Pony to the brutal climbs followed by deep descents of the Rockies but the Korean vehicle plowed on. The last step of the adventure was to take the ferry from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and drive the final few kilometers to our destination in the seaside town of Sidney.

All in all, the almost one-year-long adventure was a success: I completed my Master’s degree in an intensive and demanding program, we had seen many parts of North America that we had never seen and are probably not likely to see again, and finally, our little old Hyundai Pony had added maybe 12,000 kilometers to the odometer and was still running. I often thought that Hyundai would be pleased to hear this story about the durability of one of their legendary vehicles. I sold the Pony a year later.

My Superhero: My Father

Sometimes a boy’s greatest superhero hero is his father, and this was the case with me. Being the father of three boys was something Bryan Berting was proud of and something that gave him great pleasure. Terence, Robin, and I always looked forward to the bedtime stories he used to tell, such as how he had been in the Canadian Army in World War 2, had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Alexandria, Egypt on a freighter at age 18, had climbed the Matterhorn, and had been on the boxing team at the University of Toronto.

COACHING AND VOLUNTEERING

When we boys were little he signed us up for soccer, drove us to games, and sometimes got a little too excited and embarrassed us when he screamed “kick!”, “run!” and “shoot!” Despite being born in Croydon, England, and attending a boarding school there his knowledge of soccer was not great, but he studied the Canadian Soccer Association’s guidelines and became a coach and referee. In the summers we boys were members of the Surrey Sealions Swim Club, and Dad did his part by becoming a race official. He enjoyed wearing his white trousers and shirt and firing the starting gun. Later he became a Boy Scout troop leader and shared his knowledge of outdoor skills like building campfires fires and tying knots. He took his three sons and the other scouts on a number of camping trips. The other parents realized how much their sons enjoyed the activities he organized, and therefore rewarded him with various gifts of appreciation.

Sometimes Dad used to amaze us. An example is his diving skills: he used to be able to do double flips from a springboard. He also used to have funny dives where he would strike a ridiculous pose and squirt water from his mouth while he sailed through the air. He could ski and play tennis well.

LANGUAGES

Another situation where he impressed us was when he spoke French. A few times we saw him strike up conversations with random French speakers he encountered. He had learned French as a boy when he attended a boarding school in France in the 1930s. He was a great mimic and was able to say things in Spanish, German, and Russian that he had picked up on his travels. He had somehow picked up the rhythm and intonation of those languages. Dad’s language ability was a great example for his sons, and all of us became keen on languages, starting with French and going on to others.

My father was a completely self-made man. After he left high school in Ohio and joined the Canadian Army he didn’t get financial support from anyone. My grandparents were not well-off. Everything he had he earned himself.

LAND SURVEYING CAREER

Dad’s first exposure to land surveying was when he was still a teenager in the Canadian Army. He knew there was a risk as one of his cousins who was an officer in the Royal Marines was killed on D-Day. He had hoped to become a fighter pilot but there were enough of them so he was assigned to the technical training corps. The outdoor nature of land surveying appealed to him and he liked the fact that it combined mathematics (trigonometry), property law, astronomy, and even plant identification, therefore he chose to pursue it as a career, studying engineering at the University of Toronto before articling and passing the difficult BC land surveyor (BCLS) qualification exams.

In my opinion, he could have been a wonderful university professor in the humanities because of his knowledge of history, literature, and languages, but he chose the more “macho” land surveying/engineering profession. He was well-read and knew all about international issues. As a teenager, I benefitted from his small but high-quality book collection. There were books by Churchill, Bertrand Russell, Dostoyevsky, and Shakespeare, to name just a few. I knew he remembered what he had read.

VACATIONS

My father took my mother to Germany and Switzerland for a vacation before they got married. He also drove a sports car through Spain with a friend and visited my mother’s family in South Africa. My parents loved to travel and took us boys on various summer vacations to places like the Oregon coast, Montana where we had relatives, or Shuswap Lake, BC. In 1973 we went on a three-week trip to England where we rented a Volkswagen van we used to go to Stonehenge, old castles like at Dover, and visit relatives in Berkshire. We even took the ferry to Calais and spent a couple of days in Paris. Then, in 1979, we went on a family vacation to Hawaii where a highlight was surfing.

As a teenager, I was annoyed when one of my friends teased me by calling my parents Puritans. He said that because my dad was a bit old-fashioned, never swore, was not interested in pop music, drank moderately, didn’t take drugs, was loyal to my mother, and usually controlled his temper. Calling him a Puritan was unfair because he was quite open-minded and not at all religious. Like my mother, Nerine Anne Berting, he had had religion forced on him and did not want to subject his sons to the same unpleasant experience. When he worked on a survey project in Iran he was happy to spend time with the Iranian workers (who were Muslim), unlike some of his colleagues who disapproved of white men fraternizing with the locals. On that trip, he brought home all kinds of Iranian souvenirs which later decorated the house when I was a boy.

In the army, my father qualified as a marksman, and later he hunted. At home, he had a rifle and a shotgun but they were damaged in a fire and he never replaced them. After marrying my mother he gave up hunting because my mother was against killing animals. He also said he felt bad about shooting them and didn’t regret giving it up.

CITY OF BURNABY LAND SURVEYOR

Dad was too honest and concerned with doing things thoroughly to be a successful business owner, so the wisest career decision he ever made was to become the municipal land surveyor for the City of Burnaby, BC in 1968. There, as a government employee, he could focus on accuracy and became involved in various interesting Engineering Department projects. He even attended and spoke at a number of conferences in other cities about surveying and mapping projects. He was an excellent draftsman. One incident that amuses me is that at one time his subordinates in the survey department posted pictures from Playboy magazine on the office walls and he ordered that they be taken down. I believe my father was right to object to them because it was not a private business such as a mechanic’s workshop, where pictures like that are common, but a government office where they would be seen as offensive and inappropriate. In today’s “woke” culture pictures like that would probably get him in big trouble. In true diplomatic style, Dad made a concession by allowing a few “nice” pictures that would not tarnish the reputation of the department.

Dad was articulate and demonstrated his good writing skills by writing regular articles for the BC land surveyors’ social publication, the Link, in the 1980s. In one of the articles, he wrote about how different things were when he did his surveyor’s training in the 1950s where the theodolite (transit) and chain were the main tools compared to decades later when everything was coordinates, laser distance measuring, and computers. In the 1980s he took courses in computing for land surveying and he learned a lot, but it was hard for him to learn the new methods.

A SOLID MARRIAGE

My father and my mother had a very solid relationship. I recall them having a few disagreements, but in general, they were a happy loving couple and could serve as an example of how to have a successful marriage. When Dad developed Parkinson’s disease and passed away at only 70 in 1997, my mother was devastated, although she went on to reach 82.

Bryan and Nerine Anne Berting

I think about my father every day and realize how much he influenced me. My brothers and I were fortunate to have him. When I became a teenager I was able to see him in a more balanced light and he stopped being a superhero — just a wonderful person. At his funeral there were many people in attendance, especially land surveyors, which shows how highly he was regarded.

Taken Too Soon

On January 2, 2022 there was a storm that hit the municipality of West Vancouver particularly hard and knocked down various trees. In a freak accident one of these trees landed on the home of a couple and fatally crushed them. The story was big news in the media here, but it took me a few weeks to realize that the woman who died was a WordPress contact, Caroline Helbig, who wrote a blog called Writes of Passage.

The themes of her blog were hiking and travel and she was one of the most widely traveled people I’ve known. Caroline gave me a few encouraging comments about some of my posts and I reciprocated. Her last post was a jolly one about Christmas Attractions in Vancouver, written just a week before she died.

Link to Writes of Passage blog

http://writesofpassage.me/2022/01/13/sad-new-to-share/

CTV News story about the accident

https://beta.ctvnews.ca/local/british-columbia/2022/2/1/1_5763181.amp.html

North Shore News article about the accident

https://www.nsnews.com/local-news/tributes-paid-to-west-vancouver-couple-killed-in-tragic-tree-fall-4916801

Mike & Caroline

In honor of Caroline and Mike I plan to go back to Writes of Passage for ideas about hikes to do and places to visit.

Caroline and Mike left behind a son who in his 20s. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to lose both one’s parents at once.

I encourage everyone to have a look at the Writes of Passage blog. The photography is impressive. Through Caroline’s writing she can live on, in a way.

A giant tree stump in North Vancouver

The Ukraine Blues

The war in Ukraine makes me think of how so many young men on either side have been compelled to fight: the Ukrainians to defend their homeland with valor and tenacity, and the Russians, in many cases conscripts who are forced to fight.

Ukraine Photo by u0410u043bu0435u0441u044c u0423u0441u0446u0456u043du0430u045e on Pexels.com

I have seen a lot of horrific images of Ukrainian civilian targets such as schools, malls, and hospitals that have been destroyed. Women and children piled in mass graves. I have also seen Russian helicopters blasted from the sky and Russian tanks “cooking up” after hits from anti-tank weapons. One of the worst images I have seen was a video clip of a dying Russian soldier writhing around in pain with bullet holes in his abdomen and a bloody leg.

Of course, I blame Vladimir Putin for all of this. Could the NATO countries have done more to help prepare the Ukrainians? Perhaps. It might have been possible to reassure the Russians that there were no plans for Ukrainian membership in NATO, and thus deter Putin. However, it seems that Putin had his mind set on an invasion and that all the diplomacy beforehand was just a charade.

Like a lot of people, I worry that one wrong move could escalate this into World War III. It was really shocking to hear Putin making a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. But that was a foolish thing to say because, as a retired General McCaffrey of the US said on CNN, that would just invite a guaranteed retaliation by the USA. The UK and France also have nukes. This would be the implementation of the dreaded MAD (mutually assured destruction). Commentators have said that the threat of nuclear war is the most dangerous since the Cuban Missile Crisis over 50 years ago. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail and some kind of ceasefire is negotiated soon.

Finally, in honor of all the Ukrainian and Russian young men being forced into this nightmare war, I am posting the lyrics to the rock song “Red Army Blues” by the Scottish group The Waterboys. It is about a Russian soldier who gets sent to the Siberian Gulag in spite of fighting bravely. At that time Russians and Ukrainians were on the same side.

Red Army Blues

When I left my home and my family

my mother said to me

“Son, it’s not how many Germans you kill that counts

it’s how many people you set free”

So I packed my bags

brushed my cap

Walked out into the world

seventeen years old

Never kissed a girl

Took the train to Voronezh

that was as far as it would go

Changed my sacks for a uniform

bit my lip against the snow

I prayed for mother Russia

in the summer of ’43

And as we drove the Germans back

I really believed

That God was listening to me

We howled into Berlin

tore the smoking buildings down

Raised the red flag high

burnt the Reichstag brown

I saw my first American

and he looked a lot like me

He had the same kinda farmer’s face

said he’d come from some place called Hazzard, Tennessee

Then the war was over

my discharge papers came

Me and twenty hundred others

went to Stettiner for the train

Kiev! said the commissar

from there your own way home

But I never got to Kiev

we never came by home

The train went north to the Taiga

we were stripped and marched in file

Up the great Siberian road

for miles and miles and miles and miles

Dressed in stripes and tatters

in a gulag left to die

All because Comrade Stalin was scared that

we’d become too westernized!

Used to love my country

used to be so young

Used to believe that life was

the best song ever sung

I would have died for my country in 1945

But now only one thing remains

but now only one thing remains

But now only one thing remains

but now only one thing remains

The brute will to survive!

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Michael Scott

Red Army Blues lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

From the Waterboys’ 1984 album A Pagan Place.

A British perspective:

http://yorkpoliticsreview.uk/2022/03/13/ukraine-and-the-western-response/

Some historical background:

http://selfawarepatterns.com/2022/03/20/some-history-possibly-related-to-russias-invasion-of-ukraine/

The Voyage of the Alrisha

Sometimes one meets seemingly average people who it turns out have done remarkable things. A case in point is Burnaby, British Columbia couple Eugene and Joanne Kozier (both born in 1936) who built a sailboat that they used to sail around the Pacific Ocean for three years in the early 1980s.

Their trip was preceded by building two boats, the first which was 26 feet long and made of plywood and the second which was 32 feet long and made of fiberglass. They learned to sail with the Kitsilano Yacht Club in Vancouver, and honed their skills sailing these boats in the waters around Vancouver Island and the BC coast.  Then in 1976, Eugene joined the Victoria to Maui Race as a crew member on a friend’s boat, which implanted the idea of sailing around the Pacific in a boat of his own. He and Joanne had the fiberglass hull and deck of a 42-foot boat made for them, then they built the rest of the boat themselves. They put the cockpit in the aft (rear) which allowed for a large cabin. They decided to name the boat the Alrisha, after Eugene’s birth star.

HAWAII

Eugene took a leave of absence from his job in the BC forestry industry, Joanne quit her job as a laboratory technologist, and the couple began their odyssey in July 1980. Their first destination was Hawaii, which was a route Eugene felt confident sailing due to his experience in the Victoria to Maui race. On this stretch they almost had a catastrophe when Eugene noticed a huge log directly in their path and violently steered the boat to the side, barely missing the log. Hitting the log would have meant serious damage, possibly even sinking the boat.

The couple had a close friend in Hawaii, an old classmate of Eugene’s who had also sailed there from BC. He recommended that Eugene and Joanne buy a short wave radio there, which they did. The radio proved to be an excellent investment. They spent three months in Hawaii, sleeping aboard their boat every night. Their favorite place in the archipelago was the island of Molokai which had quiet, beautiful beaches.

TAHITI

Their next stop was Papeete, Tahiti, in French Polynesia, which took 19 days to reach from Hawaii. They recalled the Sunday market there where they bought baguettes and croissants. They feel very fortunate to have been there before it became a destination for cruise ships, and there were just a few tourist boats like theirs in the harbor. There they felt they had “gone to Heaven.” They also spent a month at the Bora Bora Yacht Club where they enjoyed the restaurant and took showers. While in French Polynesia they survived Cyclone Fran with 100 kilometer per hour winds, heavy rain, and huge waves. It was the worst cyclone in 12 years in the area. “It was quite exciting and an experience we won’t forget,” says Eugene. He also says many of the older native Polynesians did not speak French or English but were very friendly giving them fruit such as bananas, mangoes, and papayas.

FIJI

After that, the voyagers visited the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Fiji, where they spent two months visiting various islands belonging to the island nation.  Joanne says Fiji was “by far the most interesting place” they visited. She said the native Fijians were “the most beautiful people” they saw – very healthy, well-built, with “magnificent curly hair.” In one village they were invited to join the men to drink kava, the national drink of Fiji. The kava cup was passed with a traditional ceremony of prayers and hand clapping. Joanne says kava is supposed to make one feel euphoric but that it “made my tongue numb.” They waited for the winds to shift in order for them to be able to sail to New Zealand.

NEW ZEALAND

In New Zealand they could avoid the hurricane season and spent six months traveling around in a Holden station wagon that they bought. They slept in their “Golden Holden” at campsites. On the South Island, the Holden had some mechanical issues that they had to deal with and a generous sheepherding family let them stay in a spare cabin on their property for a number of days until they had fixed the station wagon.  Eugene was impressed by the sheep farms and pine forests, saying it was a lot like BC. At a port in New Zealand a boating supplier encouraged the couple to buy an electronic satellite navigation (GPS) device. It was a huge asset because it allowed them to determine their exact location in any weather, unlike using a sextant which required seeing the stars and horizon, something that only could be done in good weather.

THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

Their next stop was the Solomon Islands which were for Eugene “the highlight of our cruise.” When they anchored in a bay there the Alrisha was surrounded by up to 30 dugout canoes with natives “wanting to trade some fruit, vegetables or shells, etc. or just to see this magnificent ship.” The natives were proud to show them their villages. While naked children walked around, bare-breasted and tattooed women cooked on open fires on the ground. Eugene says “they are the most laid-back people you could imagine.” In one home they saw a shelf that contained the skulls of the villagers’ ancestors, and another shelf that had a stack of thigh bones. Eugene had caught a large swordfish which he offered to the natives. Some natives paddled out to take the fish and were shocked by how large it was as they were used to small fish that they caught from the beach. The fish was enough to feed the entire village, which made them very popular guests. In the Solomons they were taken to see artifacts in the jungle from World War 2 such as a tank and artillery pieces.

VANUATU

The Alrisha stopped off in New Caledonia and then Vanuatu. In Vanuatu they attended a native wedding at which the groom paid his father-in-law the bride price by clubbing eight large pigs to death and slaughtering three bulls. This was followed by the cash payment of a year’s local salary, equivalent to $600 Canadian.  The young men wore necklaces of beads, shells, and flying fox teeth. Eugene even met a man wearing a necklace made of his ancestors’ teeth.

North of the Solomon Islands they visited the island of Pohnape and spent time exploring the amazing basalt stone ruins known as Nan Madol which consisted of temples, tombs, bathhouses, and so on. The place is known as the Venice of Micronesia. Archaeologists speculate that the massive basalt pieces were quarried on another part of the island and brought to the site by raft.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nan_Madol

GUAM

In Guam Eugene and Joanne noted that much of the island was occupied by the US military and off-limits to the public. They anchored at the Mariannas Yacht  Club where the members “made us very welcome.” In the capital of Guam there were US-style strip malls alongside a freeway which made them miss “the pleasant South Pacific towns, with their parks outdoor restaurants, and slower pace.”

Solomon Islands Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com

JAPAN

By May 1983 the Alrisha had reached Kagoshima, Japan. At the Yacht Club there the members gave them gifts and several Japanese invited them to their homes and took them on drives. When they left Kagoshima and visited a small fishing village four officials came up to them to check their papers. They said Eugene and Joanne were not allowed to go ashore because the small port was “not a customs port.” This disappointed them because it meant that they were limited to going ashore at large commercial ports where they had to report to customs, immigration, and the police and fill out extensive forms.

When the Alrisha reached Hakata they found they had to replace their engine’s water pump. Fortunately, the harbormaster was kind and acted as their interpreter and guide, roles they felt he enjoyed immensely. They liked the island of Kyushu which was rural and “not as fast-paced” as the rest of Japan. They moored the Alrisha in Fukuoka and bought rail passes which they used to travel around Japan for three weeks. They particularly enjoyed Kyoto, the traditional capital of Japan with its temples and gardens. They also visited Tokyo where the subway system was almost overwhelming, but they didn’t stay there long. They even spent a few days on the northern island of Hokkaido. Sapporo, Joanne says was “like any prosperous American city,” except for the business signs in Japanese.

Joanne said that Japan was wonderful but that by that time she and Eugene had become “cruised out” and that they looked forward to making the final leg across the North Pacific back to Vancouver. This Japan to Vancouver leg took 42 days – their longest.

EUROPE, MEXICO, AND HAWAII AGAIN

Eugene and Joanne returned to their jobs and worked for three years, but then the itch to travel took over and they flew to Germany. They bought a Volkswagen van direct from the factory and spent a year visiting 22 countries. (This adventure is worth a separate blog post!) They shipped the VW van to Canada and used it for many years.

They went back to their jobs in Burnaby, BC until September 1991 when they took the Alrisha on her final long voyage, which lasted two years. The Koziers sailed south to San Francisco, San Diego, the Sea of Cortez, near Baja California, then to Puerto Vallarta. They said that, unlike the South Pacific where they encountered sailors from all over, in Mexico they mainly met young Americans. Due to the direction of the wind, sailing directly north back to Canada would have been extremely difficult, therefore they took a common route to Vancouver which was via Hawaii. After a few months in Hawaii they sailed north to the 49th parallel, then east to Vancouver.

Joanne and Eugene didn’t do any more long voyages after that, but continued to take the Alrisha on short local cruises, near Vancouver for a few years. They sold the Alrisha in 1999, and by that time the boat had clocked 38,000 nautical miles, not including local trips. At that time they took up gardening and now devote their free time to keeping their large yard in Burnaby looking well-maintained.

A Psychic who Brought Hope and Comfort

Bringing hope and comfort to the suffering is the life work of internationally-known psychic James Wilkie who recently moved from Vancouver to a quiet corner of Newton. Here he is finding the peace and tranquility he has been seeking since the death of his friend Charles Moore, floral designer, artist, and sculptor.

Wilkie, a charming Scot with startlingly expressive eyes, a delightful sense of humor and, above all, an endearing modesty, even humbleness, spent 20 years of his life in Canada in the hard school of nursing the elderly and terminally ill, while giving psychic readings and consultations in his spare time. He recently gave up hospital work to devote himself to his profession as psychic consultant.

Photo by Javon Swaby on Pexels.com

Wilkie was born in Fife, Scotland. He became aware of his “second sight” at the age of five when he began having psychic visions of his spirit guide, an ancient Egyptian called Rama.

The young boy was “discovered” by the late Jean Thomson of Kirkealdy, a highly gifted woman, who trained him and helped him develop his psychic gift. He telepathizes with Rama who gives him insight into people’s difficulties with life.

Wilkie’s uncanny powers as a psychic have been authenticated by leading universities and investigative bodies including the Cayce Foundation, The Metaphysical Foundation, and The Henry Belk Foundation. He has lectured far and wide, astounding audiences with his phenomenal insight. In 1971, for instance, he personally advised astronaut Ed Mitchell before his venture into space, and lectured Mitchell’s team.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was predicted by Wilkie in a television interview in Toronto long before the event. He was also the first psychic to interpret on television the celebrated quartz crystal skull discovered in Mexico about 10 years ago.

A follower of the teachings of Christ, Wilkie firmly believes there will be world peace only when the people of all creeds learn to tolerate one another’s religions.

He authored the widely acclaimed book “The Gift Within”, and has been written up in books such as “The Unexplained” by Alan Spragnett (formerly Region Editor of the Toronto Star), and “Psychic Mysteries of Canada” by A.R. Owen (director of New Horizons Research Foundation).

In his quest to alleviate suffering, Wilkie has worked with psychiatrists trying to uncover drug problems, and he has used his psychic gift to detect disease.

On the lighter side, he is also a talented comedian, musician, and decorator.

(Written by Anne Berting and first published by Peace Arch News, Feb 20, 1980. This was one of the articles that my mother was most proud of and reflects her own interest in psychics. I have not verified any of the claims or people and institutions mentioned in the article.)

http://jameswilkiepsychic.org/The_Gift_Within_W_E.htm

A Shift at a Recycling Plant (Side Gig Apps Continued)

Recycling. Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com for illustative purposes.

I continued my experimentation with side gig apps and recently joined Instawork. I downloaded the app and immediately noticed some differences between it and the local Vancouver-based apps – GigHound and Grizzly Force – that I have used.

First, as it is based in the USA it has far more users than the local Canadian apps. I noticed that it offers shifts (or gigs) in most American and Canadian cities. Another difference is that the app offers more features such as training videos, contacts, messages, sharing one’s profile online, recommendations by colleagues and supervisors and even quizzes that allow one to test one’s knowledge of things such as event setup and takedown. In another part of the app workers can upload pictures of themselves wearing the clothing that is required forcertain gigs, such as black slacks, belt and shirt for bistro workers or reflective vest and hard hat for warehouse workers. I suppose that having millions of users generates the capital which allow Instawork to pay for developers to create the advanced features on the app.

At the time of writing I had only worked one shift with Instawork: 8 hours at a recycling plant in Richmond, B.C. Have you ever wondered what happens to the paper products you put in the recycling bin? Now I have first-hand experience. Trucks take the paper to a recycling plant where it is loaded onto conveyor belts about 2 meters wide and about 15 meters long. My task, along with another half-dozen workers, on the 3 pm to 11 pm shift was to remove contaminants from the paper products that passed in front of us on a conveyor belt. These contaminants included things such as plastic bottles and disposable plates, tin cans, chunks of concrete, as well as random objects like a bathroom scale and broken umbrella.

I found the work rather boring compared to my shifts at the air cargo company and the cosmetics plant because it was extremely repetitive. It was noisy which made it difficult to talk to others. I had to stand in one spot, pick out the contaminants and throw them into designated chutes. I suspect that everyone working as a sorter got sore legs, as I and others did exercises like squatting and stretching in an attempt to relieve the stiffness in our limbs. In keeping with government regulations all workers wore face masks, which was actually helpful to avoid breathing dust.

We had an unpaid 30 minute break in the middle of the shift where we sat at tables with plexiglas dividers as per pandemic regulations. I got a few curious looks from my co-workers who were all in their early 20s and from places like India, Somalia, Nigeria and Mexico. In fact, on my shift there were no other caucasian Canadians, let alone 59 year olds like me. About a quarter of the workers were women. Unlike at my other gigs I didn’t find anyone to have a converstion with.

By the way, in order to get paid it was necessary to receive a 4-digit code from the supervisor and enter it at the start of the shift and a different code to enter at the end of the shift. In addition, workers were required to switch on location tracking on their smart phones to confirm to Instawork and the recycling plant that workers were indeed on site.

At the end of my shift, I signed out on the Instawork app and immediately received a message congratuating me for completing my first shift. I was informed that my earnings would be deposited into my bank account by a certain date. I felt that the Instawork recycling plant gig is an excellent option for anyone who is physcially capable of standing for 8 hours and is looking to supplement their income without having to commit to a full time job. A bonus was that working at a recycling plant is a way for someone to do something for the environment, albeit in a small way.

Memorial Service: Nerine Anne Berting

Date: November 14, 2020

It is my privilege to be here with you today, to assist in the sharing and celebration of Anne’s life.  Anne was born on August 13th, 1937, and made her transition on September 23rd, 2020, at the age of 83.  Ann was predeceased by her father, Thomas, and her mother, Dysa, her twin sister, Barbara, and her younger sister, Elspeth.

Bryan and Nerine at their wedding in Victoria, BC, 1961

We are here to remember Anne, to share stories of her life, and to support each other as we feel all kinds of feelings. While it is hard to not to do so, it is good to not be surprised by the transition we call death, but to keep our awareness of it with us always, so that we make the greatest use of our time and energy in this life.  Further, we will consider with reverence, love, and respect, the ongoing nature of life, and delve somewhat into its mystery.

It is my privilege to share with you, through the assistance of Anne’s sons, Terry, Patrick, and Robin, to let you know what I have come to know about who Anne was, what was important to her, and the impact she had on others.

Anne was born Nerine Anne Hodgson, in Cape Town, South Africa. She was born a twin sister with Barbara, and later had another sister, Elspeth. Her father was a businessman, and her mother was a stay-at-home mother. Growing up, Anne attended an all-girls Catholic school.

At the young age of 19, Anne and her twin sister, Barbara, traveled to Europe, England. In Norway, they visited relatives. Between the ages of 19 and 23 Anne made several trips across the country, based out of London, England; a group of traveling friends and companions formed. She met her husband-to-be, Bryan, in England, at the age of 23. During her years of travel, Anne did some work with the World Citizens Group; doing so had a lasting impression on Anne. After leaving South Africa and the family and security there, her eyes were opened to a world view through the World Citizens group; as well, her love of writing, which she had always had, blossomed as she began to do some informal writing.  This is also where her interest in world organizations such as Amnesty International began, which she did more with, later on, writing letters to political leaders, speaking against capital punishment, and also writing letters to prisoners on death row. For Anne this really wasn’t a ‘big deal;’ for her it was the right thing to do.

Moving from England to Canada, Anne and Bryan married in 1961, when she was 24. Bryan worked as a Land Surveyor and had worked in the oil patch, enjoying a good career. They then moved up North, to Fort St. John, living there for four years, having their first boy, Patrick; then their second boy, Terence, in Dawson Creek. Anne got a job as a reporter for the Alaska Highway News. Their third boy, Robin, was born when they returned to the Victoria area and Pender Island.  With raising children, Anne’s work tended to be sporadic. Things were not as easy on Pender Island, for the family; money was low, and their home was more of a cabin. It was definitely a struggle.

In 1968, Bryan landed a very good and well-paying job as a city surveyor for Burnaby; a wonderful gain for their lives. They then moved to the lower mainland, and Anne focused on raising her boys.

Anne took on the odd part-time temporary office work such as when it was needed, as well as some writing, for the Columbian Newspaper, and as publicity officer for Surrey Musical Productions.  An exciting volunteer opportunity for Anne came through her already fine-tuned shorthand and other office skills; she was accepted as a minutes-taker for the Vancouver Commonwealth Conference.  She was thrilled with this opportunity, yet her main focus in those years, though, was raising her boys, until they were into their teens. Once they reached this stage of life, Anne felt better about focusing on her love of journalism, which she did in a Douglas College program.

In South Africa, when Anne was young, girls were not encouraged to think and act independently but Anne had it in her to be independent, and not only independent – but curious and adventurous. Her life upon leaving South Africa, was one big adventure! She was excited about the world, hitchhiking around Europe in her younger years, stopping in France and Norway to work.  Anne was not afraid to try new things, including traveling to places where English was not the spoken language, including foreign foods she had never tried.

Something very important to Anne was being shown respect – whether it was her children, others, or her bosses.  Anne was sweet, nice, and polite, but when she was not being treated with respect, an explosion would come. Regardless of the results, Anne was not a pushover; she would always stand up for herself. Coming from Britain to Canada, Anne experienced some discrimination, with her different style of speaking and ways. It wasn’t something she tolerated well, and understandably.

And yet, Anne was also an idealist, believing in the good side of human nature, and devoted a portion of her time in marches and demonstrations against nuclear weapons. Loving and caring about nature, Anne was also an environmentalist in her local communities. One visibly rewarding way she did this was through her ten years of volunteering with the Stoney Creek environmental group and Burnaby Lake Nature House, where she had many roles. One, in particular, was helping to reintroduce salmon to Stoney Creek, where salmon had been absent for decades. One year she won an award for her part in this successful project. After this, there was an annual event begun, called the “Salmon Send-off”, where people came to place small salmon into the now healthy creek, to receive the mature salmon upon their return from spawning. Over those years Anne also both her office and administration skills to help out, and she used her writing skills to write a paragraph about each of the various birds that lived in that habitat. Anne made many wonderful friends, through her volunteering, one being Christine, who I believe may be here this morning.

Anne was truly, you could say, an agent of her own destiny, ever honoring her own power to make choices in and for her own life, and she raised her three boys the same way – to make their own choices, and to think outside the box, and she stood by them through every choice they made. Anne was a great listener and conversationalist; making her easy to talk to about anything. She was never one to impose her thoughts or beliefs on her boys or anyone.

Anne and Bryan created a publishing company called “Aurora Publishing” the published books of memoirs for clients.  With Anne being very good with words, and her accomplished writing skills, she was able to assist their author clients by editing their manuscripts, and assisting them to stay on track with the gist and focus of their story. One of Anne’s favorite books they published was one titled “An Angel on My Shoulder” a book about the author’s experiences of possibly dying six times in his life (including during the Vietnam War), but with the angel on his shoulder, he was spared each time.

Another strength of Anne’s is that she was willing to dive in and deal with technology issues – always giving it an honest effort toward resolving problems something many don’t have patience for… I, for one!  In the desktop publishing business, Anne needed to learn a lot about the computer, which was both challenging and helpful at the same time. She hung in and learned a lot; she had great determination and persistence.

After Bryan passed away, and Anne’s daily, focused care and attention of him ended, Anne began to travel again, taking multiple trips to Spain and South Korea to visit two of her three sons who had chosen to live abroad, and her wonderful grandchildren there. There was also a defining trip Anne took with Robin and Terry, in 1981, where the three of them went to South Africa to visit family. It was Anne’s first return there after leaving at the age of 19. After visiting with family, she, Terry, and Robin continued their way up what was called the ‘Garden Route’ to Durban, South Africa. Along the way, they met up with a couple who invited them to visit and stay at their place. It was a place that was located well off of the main road. They arrived there at 9 pm, only to find that the invite for some reason had fallen through, so now Anne and the boys had to find their own way back to the main highway, in an area, they didn’t know, in the dark, driving on the opposite side of the road Anne was used to driving!  She hung in, and of course, they made it back.

While being a volunteer caregiver at Saanich Peninsula Hospital that Bryan had been in, Anne met some individuals who served to add to life in a whole new way… in both an energy-related and a spiritual way.  The energy work was a form of healing called, Reiki, which Anne got certified in being able to do – for herself and others; in particular, she used this healing technique in her hospital volunteering. I understand that Anne also had a strong belief in faith healers. Around this time, she also became a student of a spiritual teaching titled, “A Course in Miracles,” a teaching that helps you to shift your perception from fear to love, and thereby live greater love and peace. 

Anne lived a life filled with her passions – and had good health for the majority of her years; she had a very strong bond with her husband and boys; she had good friends, abundant education she was able to invest in and grow through. Her life was full of her interests, and doing truly wonderful, exciting, important and joyful life-giving things in her life. After retiring, in her 70s, she traveled on various occasions, to have time with two of her three boys who had chosen to live abroad, and to have time with her three grandchildren.

Throughout her life, Anne never lost her passion for education and becoming qualified; whether it was journalism, undergrad courses in English Literature and Desktop Publishing, she was always educating herself and moving forward in this way, and it served her well.

The legacy Anne leaves is a full and rich one, through her desire for, and her taking action in seeing as much of the world as she could, her faith in the good in humanity and in knowing this, meeting people, and always looking to find things they had in common, establishing easy connections. Anne was always respectful of all people never judging them; she knew that everyone had their story.  Also part of Anne’s legacy is her commitment to her husband and children – a role model the boys value very much and strive for as much as possible in their own marriages.

Anne’s passion for journalism partly inspired Patrick to study journalism also; in fact, as fate would have it, at the same college and with the same journalism teacher!  She leaves, for all her boys, the example of idealism in justice and decency, the example of your positivity and perseverance even in adverse circumstances. Anne was never one to be a victim; she always saw the big picture; any inconveniences were minor in comparison to living the big picture, for Anne.

What will be missed most about her is that you could talk to her about anything; you were “free to spill the beans” as Robin shared with me.  Also important was that she was always with and for you, no matter what. And that Anne was a mother dedicated to her kids, and staying the course, always being positive, no matter what.

(Adapted from a service written by Rev. Wendy)

Side Gigs and Temp Work Apps

Photo by Tiger Lily on Pexels.com (generic photo for illustrative purposes)

Almost everyone in Vancouver complains about the rising cost of living, particularly the cost of housing, either to buy or rent, and the cost of groceries and basic supplies such as stationery has gone up noticeably. As a consequence, there was a lot of talk about “side gigs”, which of course refers to part-time second jobs. The types of side gigs I have heard of most often are being an Uber or Lyft driver or food delivery person, but neither of those appeals to me, although I have heard that people can make a decent amount of money doing those jobs. For me, as an English teacher, private tutoring is an option, but that seemed like an unreliable job, and it would not give me a mental break from teaching which can be emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

In my case, I felt that since during the winter I would not be doing my beloved outdoor activities like cycling, running, and hiking, I could devote one day to a side gig that would allow me to boost my income for a while until the weather warmed up and I could enjoy my weekends fully. However, I had no idea how to find a suitable side gig. Then by chance, I spotted an advertisement for GigHound when I was scrolling through Instagram.

GigHound is a temporary job-finding app that is far superior to the temporary employment agencies that people used to rely on in the pre-digital era. I downloaded the app onto my iPhone and provided the required personal information, which then allowed me to look through work shifts available with different warehouses and factories. One of the features that appealed to me was that GigHound would deposit my pay for the shift I worked directly into my bank account the next day.

GigHound had a few requirements for its temp workers such as having steel-toed boots, work gloves, and a reflective safety vest, which I went out and bought. In addition, workers had to agree not to use their cell phones while on the job, including listening to music on earphones.

The first job that I did was for a Canadian cosmetics brand as a production line worker. The first day was very stressful because I had to find the factory in pitch darkness before the job started at 7 AM. I ended up walking about a kilometer in the rain on the side of the road in a busy industrial area in south Vancouver. It didn’t help that there weren’t even sidewalks. When I finally reached the factory I had to ask around until I found out where the gifts department where I would be working was.

Entering that building I was immediately reassured by the sight of relaxed-looking workers sitting around drinking coffee and chatting in a spacious and nicely furnished staff lounge. I asked other workers for the supervisor that I had to report to for instructions.  I had to show my record of vaccination against Covid19 and wear a mask. The staff was a mix of mainly new Canadians from India, China, the Philippines, with some white Canadians like me, and others. Everyone was friendly. At starting time all the workers had to do warm-up exercises by following a fitness instructor on a large-screen TV. Later I realized that the warm-up was useful for preventing workers from injuring themselves. The factory doors opened and the workers filed in and listened to the supervisor’s orders for the day, such as the composition of work teams and the daily production targets.

I was relieved that I wasn’t the only first-timer there. I was assigned to work on a production line that involved inserting up to ten different bottles of lotion and bars of scented soap and bath salts into Christmas gift boxes. I really had to concentrate to make sure that I kept up with the flow of boxes that came along the conveyor belt. A few times I missed an item and another worker farther down the line gave it back to me to add the missing item.

I found that the time went by quickly on the production line and that I could handle the work, however, then the team leader took me off the line and asked me to help out with typical warehouse work such as loading the filled gift boxes onto pallets and stacking up used cardboard boxes. A few times I struggled because I had never used some of the equipment such as box cutters,  masking tape dispensers or hand jack trolleys. I ended up only doing two shifts at the cosmetics factory and felt that the advantages of that gig were that the workplace was clean and dry, and there were not many safety risks.

The type of work that I ended up doing the most for GigHound was working at the airport for an air cargo company helping them deal with the Christmas rush of shipments that were more than the regular staff could handle. After signing in and showing my vaccination record they told me to enter the warehouse where someone would tell me what to do. I did that and stood around for a little while watching expertly driven forklifts move around quickly carrying large containers called “Gaylords” (which they pronounce as “Gaylos”) as well as large metal “cans” from cargo airplanes. The cans were about eight feet high and 15 feet long, and curved at the back to be able to fit into the cargo area of the airplanes.

I saw some other workers and joined them. I just copied what they were doing which was removing packages from the cans and restacking them into Gaylords which were on pallets. The pallets were then taken by forklifts and loaded onto trucks for delivery. That first day was exhausting and I felt that I had had a good workout. At times I was sweating profusely even though the warehouse was cold due to large open doors that let in the cold winter air.

The work was brutal because it involved lots of bending and twisting. Sometimes I had to get on my knees or crouch to load the packages. There was a lot to learn such as how to create Gaylords from flat stacks of cardboard boxes, how to open and close the different containers and cans. One time a regular worker complained about the way I was doing things so I said, “Hey man, I’m not stupid. This is my first day. How many years have you been doing this?” He said “Twenty” and after that, he treated me normally. At this stage in my life I refuse to be bullied by anyone.

I think I looked very out of place in this job because of my age, 59, and the fact that people could tell immediately that I was not your usual blue-collar worker. I was amused that some of my colleagues even called me “Sir,” to which I said, “Just call me Patrick.” One guy said I reminded him of his college professor – which is exactly my normal profession! There were at least 15 other temporary workers who also got the job through GigHound. Most were young Sikh immigrants from India wearing turbans, Africans, Filipinos, and a few white Canadians. Interestingly, about a quarter of the workers were women.

The job sometimes involved standing around waiting for airplanes to land with containers, so most workers sat with their compatriots and chatted in their language, the Sikhs speaking Punjabi, the Tanzanians speaking Swahili, the Nigerians speaking their local language, and so on. I thought the time would go slowly if I didn’t find someone to talk to and eventually teamed up with anyone who seemed friendly. I met a 20-year-old Mexican student who humored me by letting me practice my beginner Spanish with him. I was very impressed by his advanced English and positive attitude. He is a full-time student of Engineering and is also working as a waiter. He is the kind of immigrant that will be an asset to Canada. I spoke to a Sikh fellow who said that he is studying management and also works as a framer in construction. He said sometimes he only gets two hours of sleep. In general, I felt that these immigrants were prepared to sacrifice a lot to achieve their goals. Of course, it helps that they are young and have plenty of energy! I was amused when I found out from a Sikh guy that he was only 19 years old, 40 years younger than me, and even a couple of years younger than my own daughter!

One of the best parts of the job was that it was possible to have a conversation while working, even though the supervisors sometimes told us to stop talking and work harder. There were some Sikh guys who seemed rather cold, but once we got talking and they realized that I am not prejudiced they opened up and told me about their lives in Canada. One even asked me what I thought about the Sikhs and I said they were very industrious and hard workers. I said I knew they were the warrior caste in India. One was very happy when I correctly guessed his hometown of Amritsar which is the home of the Sikhs’ main temple. It is also the site of an infamous massacre perpetrated by the British Indian army in 1920. One of the Indians even taught me the Sikh greeting which is “Sat Sri Akaal”, meaning “Truth is Eternal.”

One of the things I liked best about the airport job was that all the workers were respectful and called each other “boss” or “brother.” I never heard these new immigrants using the kind of foul and abusive language that is typically used by Canadian blue-collar workers in jobs like construction.

From this experience, I have learned that it is possible to supplement one’s income if one is prepared to work hard. Apps like GigHound make it easy to find temporary employment that is suitable for unskilled workers. As you can tell from this account I enjoyed getting to know the other gig workers who are mostly immigrants and who will be an asset to my country.

Thoughts on Auschwitz

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am fascinated by subjects such as archaeology as well as the history of all civilizations. One aspect of 20th Century history that intrigues me is the various genocides that took place including ones perpetrated by Lenin and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, and others. I have a strong interest in understanding the logic behind the events and also want to ensure that the suffering of the victims is never forgotten. While the Holocaust or Final Solution may not rank as the worst in terms of numbers of victims, I do consider it the evilest due to the way it was so cold-bloodedly and efficiently carried out.

I recently watched a video https://youtu.be/S6Fk2v0zQFU that addressed the issue of why the allies allowed Auschwitz to function right until it was overrun by the Red Army.

First of all, in the early stages of The Second World War, while the British and Americans had received reports about the mass killings of Jews and others on an industrial scale, it took a long time for them to believe they were true. It did not make sense to them that the Germans were spending vast amounts of resources on such an enterprise when these resources, e.g. railways, would have been invaluable to the war effort. Furthermore, many could not believe that the Germans, a cultured people, were capable of such brutality.

According to the documentary video, eventually, a report about the mass killings reached Churchill’s desk leading him to want something to be done to shut down Auschwitz and other death camps. He left the task of carrying out his wishes with Allied war planners.

Apparently, the military planners had two approaches to ending the genocide. One was to bomb the camps and related infrastructure, while the other was to stop the genocide by simply defeating the Germans as quickly as possible.

Sadly, in the end, it was the second option that prevailed and Auschwitz was only shut down when Soviet ground forces pushed the Germans put out.

From the video I learned a number of tragic facts such as that British reconnaissance aircraft took pictures of German war production facilities next to Auschwitz but that the photo analysts were so focused on the military factory that they overlooked the existence of the massive concentration camp. If the analysts had identified the death camp with gas chambers and crematoria war planners would have known much earlier that the rumors were true and that genocide was indeed taking place.

One factor that made bombing Auschwitz difficult was the Germans had located it in eastern Poland, which was extremely far from British and American airbases.

Another issue was that the war planners did not want to inadvertently kill the occupants of the camps due to the inaccuracy of bombing by air in those days. The planners wanted to target the railway lines, gas chambers, and crematoria but could not guarantee the bombs would strike where they were meant to.

In the video “Auschwitz Untold” it is heartbreaking to hear death camp survivors say they would gladly have died in a bombing raid if it meant that the camp would have been shut down.

In many ways bombing would have been futile anyway because the Germans had become incredibly efficient at repairing damaged railway lines, etc., and could get them functioning again within a few hours, with the help of slave labor.

In “Auschwitz Untold“ one speaker argues that even if mounting an air campaign to interrupt the Final Solution would have had a low chance of success, the allies had a moral imperative to try.

In hindsight, we see that the Allies could and should have done more to try to disrupt the conduct of the Holocaust, but there were logical strategic reasons for why this did not happen. The Allied military planners did not want to deflect valuable resources, such as bombers and aircrew, away from winning the war on the ground as quickly as possible.

Railway into Auschwitz

In closing, what I take away from the video is the answer to my question of why Auschwitz was not shut down by the allies: to do so by bombing was felt to have been prohibitively difficult and that winning the war was the overriding focus.

When I see the oppression taking place against innocent people around the world I am not at all confident that we shall see an end to further instances of genocide. World leaders and the United Nations must make it a priority.