We approach the Russian Border traveling from Kirkenes, Norway by boat. In order to come right to the borderline, we go past the place on shore where we will have a light lunch of sandwiches and tea upon our return down river. As we go past the place, we can see the souvenir salesmen waving enthusiastically to us, knowing they will have us in their clutches during that stopover on the way back.
Maybe a mile further on, we pull up to a dock in the middle of nowhere. I can see watch towers, two of them, one nearer to us on the right-hand bank, and one further down the left-hand side. Our helpful guide and his assistant offer us their hands as we hop ashore.
Once we are all disembarked, we wait for our guide to tell us how to proceed. Finally, he signals us to follow him. It is a short walk along the shore.
“Do you see these two bright yellow poles?” he says, pointing to them as they seem to appear out of nowhere.
We all nod and mumble yeses. The large poles stand about six feet tall and are maybe twenty feet apart.
“Directly in the exact middle of those two bright yellow poles is the borderline between Norway on this side, and Russia on that side. For those of you who want to have pictures of yourselves standing at the border, you should understand that these two bright yellow poles are here to caution to be careful not to cross that imaginary line down the middle. The bright yellow pole here,” he points to the closest one, “is there to caution you to have your picture taken by it, and not beyond it. Please do not try to go any closer to the borderline than that pole. I know it is tempting to try to go right to where you think the line might be, but I beg you not to do that.”
He points first to the tower across the river. “That tower there is ours.” Then he points to the one on our side of the river. “This one here is Russia’s. The borderline, which, again, you cannot see but are warned by these two bright yellow poles is there, is monitored by those two towers.”
Looking around the group, he makes eye contact with each of us. “If,” he continues, “you should cross that invisible line, I can assure you that you will be most unpleasantly surprised by a very quick visit from the Russians up there who will see you do that.”
We glance at each other with some trepidation. I picture myself being hauled away and shipped off to the Gulag, or worse yet, being shot before I can have my tea and sandwiches, and perhaps buy a souvenir.
“Should you think I am kidding,” our guide continues, “I am not. Recently a woman with a group here apparently thought it would be a good idea not to take the advice of her guide. She thought it would be fun to have her picture taken standing by that pole,” he points to the far one, “so she asked her friend to take a photo of her, and crossed over the borderline to stand by that pole.”
Small gasps can be heard, and you know for sure we’re all dying to hear what happened.
“Within in minutes, the guards arrived, and this woman, very unfortunately, was taken off and held by the Russians for several hours. When they final released her, she had missed her ship at Kirkenes, and had to take a taxi to the next port of call. The cost of that ride was more than one thousand dollars US.”
Ooos and Ahhhs, gasps and nods, and all other manner of expressions, both verbal and gesticulatory ensue.
I have my photo taken standing on this side of Norway’s yellow pole, as do all the rest of us hyperaware and most leery folk.
The worry about falling into Russian hands abates as we settle into our little boats. We push off from the shore and, all of a sudden, we hear shouting and laughing from the opposite bank. A group of twenyish-aged kids are walking along, talking and laughing, approaching the two bright yellow poles on their side of the river.
Oblivious it would appear to what the bright yellow poles signify, the first youth to reach it grabs it and swings around it. They all laugh, and the first person moves toward the Russian pole while the next one gaily swings around the Norwegian pole.
Our guide as well as we can see where this is headed. He idles the engine and yells out to them, in English, “Watch out! Stop where you are! Don’t go any farther! Turn around!” He gestures quite forcefully for them to do an about-face.
The youngsters all look over at us and wave. The first one is dangerously close to the middle now. Our guide shouts out again, this time in Norwegian. But they just keep going.
“Idiots,” says our guide, and then we motor on off back down the river to our sandwiches and tea and souvenirs.
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Aloha #WriterThursday. Today’s #WritingPrompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece somewhere I can read it. I would love to see what you come up with : )