BUILDING BRIDGES: Newspapers are a gateway into a community

Columnist Taslim Jaffer says travel for her involves diving deeper than tourist attractions

On my last morning in stunning Diani Beach, just south of Mombasa, Kenya, I shoved my few belongings into my backpack and made my way down the tiled, stone stairs of my aunt’s and uncle’s home.

On the first floor, my eyes travelled beyond the living room where the large glass doors revealed a swimming pool in the foreground and the Indian Ocean just beyond.

I heard some low talking in the kitchen to my right but what caught my eye next prompted me to forego the chitchat and settle at the dining table instead: that day’s The Standard, the oldest Kenyan newspaper and one of the largest in the country. It is one of my simple pleasures to open a newspaper on my travels (and at home) and immerse myself in the happenings of those around me.

While munching on pili pili mogo chips, I read about the health benefits of edible insects (I decided I prefer the crunch of deep-fried cassava to that of termites) and a columnist’s take on the joys and frustrations of eavesdropping. The latter had me laughing out loud; as a chronic eavesdropper, I could completely relate. Flipping a couple pages, I read about some unspeakable tragedies that tore at my heart. Murder. Suicide. Child victims. It was difficult to reconcile those stories with the beauty I had seen on my travels. But those stories are there, no matter where you visit or live.

When you hold a newspaper in your hand, you hold the dark and the light of a community. You hold its sadness and joy, its triumphs and struggles. Do you truly want to understand your environment? Read the stories, opinions, obituaries and announcements.

So, why do I do this when I travel? I guess for me to feel like I have truly been somewhere, I need to dive a little deeper than tourist attractions. One of the benefits of travel is the opportunity it offers to build bridges. When I was reading The Standard there were a few things I couldn’t initially relate to, like the insects. However, I have enjoyed escargot; while snails are not insects, they are a non-traditional food for me, and one I’ve ordered off a menu many times since braving my first bite. Then how do I know beetles aren’t tasty? More importantly, who am I to judge someone who gets their protein from bugs?

In the Kenyan newspaper, I read about a little girl who had survived an attack by a hyena. “Whoa, I’ve never read a headline like that before!” I told my dad, who had joined me at the table. But, a week-and-a-half later, while in Victoria, I read in the Times Colonist about a four-year-old boy mauled by a cougar. And I recalled other headlines in my region about human encounters with wildlife and realized, while details might be different, other threads are the same. Of significance was that it didn’t matter to me whether the story was about a girl in the Rift Valley or a boy in Lake Cowichan, what mattered most was that both children were OK.

I once had a serviceman come to my door for an appointment and hand me the newspaper that I hadn’t yet collected off my porch. “Here’s your recycling!” he quipped.

“Oh, I’ll read every page first,” I replied. I should have told him I usually start with my favourite section, the obituaries.

While at home or abroad, newspapers are a gateway into the community around you. Thank you for taking the time to read this one, and I encourage you to do the same on your travels!

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Young balance-bikers race through Surrey’s Civic Plaza at Strider Cup

The course has several obstacles including ‘Mount Scary’ and the ‘Noodle Monster’

White Rock Beer For The Pier to go on sale early this week

Restaurants, bars and liquor stores from Vancouver to Chilliwack will sell new brew

45-year-old ID’ed as victim of South Surrey stabbing

Delphin Paul Prestbakmo died at the scene, near 18 Avenue and 152 Street

‘Potentially life-threatening’ injuries in overnight Surrey crash

Police had Highway 10 between 180th and 186th streets closed for several hours

Support granted for NatureKids

Program provides opportunities for youth and families to learn about and enjoy the outdoors

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Maple Ridge’s first retail cannabis store opens Monday

Spiritleaf is just the second private pot shop in the Fraser Valley

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read

l -->