Blowing Bubbles

It’s been a week since we’ve been back.

There are things that I miss and things I don’t.

It’s great to be able to speak the native language, for one.

Iced drinks are awesome.

And most importantly, it’s great to have my independence back, to not have to follow a group schedule, and to be able to go where I want and when I want.

But what the things I do miss, not just about Poland, but about the entire experience, far surpasses the above in importance.

I miss the people, of course; students and faculty alike.

It’s like we were in this bubble, but not a typical bubble.

Our bubble was not clean and conventional; it was not mundane and boringly safe.

Inside this bubble were people who were constantly learning. This bubble was risky, often uncomfortable, and often scary.

But in this bubble was so much change, so much wisdom, and simply, so much thought.

There was no facebook, text messages, TV, or youtube videos.

I miss the discussions we were having, knowing that everything everybody was saying was quote-worthy and ridiculously profound.

Everything we did felt so important.

I gained so much perspective in our seven and a half days in Poland, and it’s hard to hold on to that perspective.

I came back changed and it was shocking, almost, to discover that the world I was returning to was not.

Silly squabbles friends were having just seemed so trivial. I wanted them to know that it didn’t matter.

But I find myself putting importance on them after only a week.

The entire experience was almost like church camp; we bond, we change, and then we come back and it’s hard to keep perspective and remember all we learned.

So, fellow ambassadors, let’s continue to remind one another what really matters. We all have our little bubbles, but for once I’m asking you to invade mine. We can all make sure we don’t lose the amazing perspective we gained, and, as Russell pointed out at one point, not make the trip a failure.

-Eva

  

Published in: on March 31, 2008 at 1:03 pm  Comments (1)  

10 Days…….

So much can happen in 10 days. One thing that I am sure rarely happens in 10 days is becoming best friends with a group of strangers in a different country. I never thought that I would feel the way I feel right now after coming back from Poland. While in Poland I became better friends with some of the students that I was already friends with here in Canyon. I became friends with some students that I had never talked to before in class or anywhere else.

In the process of ten days you learn a lot from these people. You learn their habits, their way of laughing, their fears, and their dreams. You also learn a lot of things that you wish you didn’t know about them. I believe that this is what made us grow closer together. In the end I was glad to be around with these students and teachers.

Together we made a lot of new memories, memories that we will never forget. Most of the memories are in our hearts, and a lot of them have been captured in pictures so that one day in the distant future we can look back upon our memories and laugh and maybe shed a tear or two.

Right now I am sitting in my room back in Canyon all alone. My roommate is asleep, so technically I am not alone. What makes me feel so alone is that I woke up this morning and Brant wasn’t here doing something funny. Monica and Adriana weren’t waiting for me to walk to the Rynek together. Neither Lindsey nor Caitlin were laughing to the point it became our background theme if we had a movie or T.V. show.  Oh yeah, today is Easter Sunday, which makes this day worse. For the first Easter in my entire life I am not with my family. It is depressing actually.

10 Days can dynamically change someone’s life for the better. I am thankful to God and that he allowed me to meet these amazing people and travel with them to Europe. I am thankful for all the memories we made, all the pictures that will remain with us forever, and all the laughs we had while in Poland.

-DAVID MERAZ

Published in: on March 27, 2008 at 12:58 am  Leave a Comment  

It Started With Fear

We were standing in the main building, waiting for our tour guide, and I was distractedly looking at the posters and pictures on the wall, absent mindedly talking to someone, happened to casually glance out the window.

And there it was.

“Arbeit Macht Frei.”

Work makes free.

The entrance to Auschwitz.

I looked at the sign, read the words so many must have read with hope as they were led to their deaths.

Did you know that the victims of Auschwitz actually paid for their residence?

They were told they were going to find a better place, so tickets were sold to Jews and other non-Aryans. They bought tickets to their executions.

I couldn’t look at the sign.

Our tour guide arrived and led us directly to it.

I had to keep my eyes focused on the ground because I could not look at the gate. Finally we made our way through, and what struck me first about the former camp was how beautiful it is. It looks like a typical summer camp, with green trees and brick buildings.

Except that it is encompassed entirely by barbed wire.

People around me snapped pictures, many of them nonchalantly so, as if they were taking pictures of a park or an ordinary museum.

We finally made our way into one of the buildings. It was strange how the entire camp has been made into a museum. It wasn’t all barbed wire.

We saw pictures, documents, evidence of crimes. How people can say the holocaust doesn’t exist astounds me.

What I remember most is the building that held personal belongings of the victims.

We walked in, and people were taking pictures, which is forbidden inside the buildings, running around, acting like petulant children at a funeral. Complete disrespect.

We saw what we had heard of.

We saw prayer shawls which had been confiscated, piles and piles of eye glasses.

We saw the shoes.

We saw the heaps of hair, shorn from victims’ heads, the types of nets and cloth which the hair was made out of, sold to civilians.

The suitcases personalized with names and dates.

We saw cookware. Cookware. Pots and pans, potato peelers and cheese graters. I mean everything. They took everything. Nothing was spared.

We turned a corner, and in this room, in this display, were crutches. Prosthetic limbs. Prosthetic hands. Leg braces. And it hit me with such a force because I knew what immediately happened to those who had utilized these. The disabled were worthless because they could not work. Seeing this…I could not breathe.

We saw more pictures. Pictures of emaciated faces with numbers instead of names. After that building I was exhausted. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. We walked by the death wall, where people were so often shot and executed. It now serves as a memorial site. We stood by the gallows. We went into dark basements and prisons. All of this I was numb through.

As we were walking it began to rain. It was freezing outside. The tour had been going on for about two or three hours. We were all tired, hungry, and cold.

Wes was walking beside me, and we both expressed how guilty we felt for feeling cold in March, in scarves and hats and gloves and coats.

They had nothing.

And then we went into the one gas chamber and crematorium which wasn’t destroyed. It struck me how tiny it was.

There were several groups in there, and we were all cramped together.

I looked up and could see the pseudo shower heads, which in actuality is where the gas was released, and I began to feel suffocated. I just wanted out.

Later Cristin pointed out the numerous fingernail scratchings on the walls.

Finally we left. I was disturbed to see so many people, so many tourists, walking in and out freely. For us it was a museum, and for so many it was a horrible, horrible, prison, only escapable by death.

After lunch we met with a survivor. He actually wasn’t even Jewish. He was simply a Polish young man who was a part of the resistance in the beginning of the war. He was arrested in 1939 and survived Auschwitz for five years. He told us of a young couple who became known as the “Romeo and Juliet” of Auschwitz, a couple who managed to fall in love in the middle of hell, and even escaped. Tragically, they were eventually discovered and executed. When I asked him what he owed his survival to, he simply said “Luck, luck, luck.” Someone asked him how old he was when he was arrested, and he said “There are so many beautiful women in the room, I don’t want to reveal my age.” Seeing him be able to laugh gave us all hope. He was also the former director of the museum, and he told us that it was difficult living near the former camp, but that the world needed to be educated about it, and the best educators are the ones who lived through it. He said that, walking around, it often seemed unreal, like it never happened.

That night we sat around and discussed our thoughts on the day for about two or three hours. And we prepared for the next day: Birkenau.

Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II was a completely different experience than Auschwitz I. Auschwitz I was full of tourists and museums, almost like people had forgotten what it once was, a parking lot filled with cars and buses, book stores and cafes littered about.

Birkenau was silent. We drove up, and no one else was there. It began to snow, and then we saw the tracks. The train tracks which carried one purpose and ended inside the camp. Birkenau was enormous in comparison to Auschwitz. It seemed to stretch for acres. The barbed wire fence seemed endlessly long and endlessly foreboding. We climbed the watch tower at the entrance, stood where they stood. Saw the entire camp.

We walked through the wooden barracks, the places meant for horse stables used as housing. We saw the remains of the destroyed gas chambers. We stood on the platform used for selection.

Through all of this none of us spoke. How could we speak?

Many people took pictures. I couldn’t. It was too hard. But I know that you have to put that aside because it’s important that people see it. It’s important to see the evidence. But I knew other people were taking more than enough pictures for the group. Someone later said that they didn’t want to, but that someone else said that even if it is hard, you have to, because it’s art. And I didn’t say anything then, but I just can’t agree with that. It’s not art. It’s death and it’s a cemetery and it’s cruel, cruel evidence of what humanity is capable of but it is not art. Art is beautiful in spite of truth and there is no beauty in Birkenau.

The entire day, everyone was numb. No one cried. We were all so void and empty. Tired of trying to understand. The wind was blowing. It had been snowing. I couldn’t feel my legs, and it was March. March. How cold must it have been in December, in January, without coats?

We were cold, inside and out. We were numb, inside and out.

In the last place we visited I broke.

We were in a room with pictures of victims.

But they weren’t pictures we had already seen. They weren’t photos of dead eyes, of worn faces with shaved heads, skeletons in striped uniforms.

They were pictures from before the war, from family photo albums and the like.

These were not pictures of victims, these were pictures of people.

There were couples, healthy and in love. Family vacations and bathing suits. Young girls posing for the camera, like a senior picture in high school. Friends. Families. One of a young woman in her wedding dress, looking exactly at the camera and toasting. Walls and walls of these people. Children. Kids playing in the yard. And I saw these people, and I saw them, finally, saw them not as these numbers in uniforms, but as people, and I understood how easily that could be me. I look at this picture of me and my friends smiling and hugging, this picture perched on my microwave, and I imagine it on the wall with the rest. They weren’t shaved heads in uniforms. They weren’t Jews, they weren’t Gypsies. They were people.

And we learned about the spread of neo-Nazism across Europe and America and I just think how? How can some people see only race or ethnicity and not personality and character and feelings and hearts and minds and souls and blood?

And you know what is even worse? We hear of the holocaust and we think “How could people do that?”

But if you replace the Jewish, Gypsies, the disabled, any victim of the holocaust with a homosexual, a Mexican, a black person, and you get the exact same mentality today. There’s so much hate for such ridiculous reasons. There are people today who think the holocaust was horrible just because they don’t have anything against the Jewish, but do it to a Muslim and they wouldn’t feel the same way. They would be completely fine with another holocaust.

I see it everywhere now.

Every train track to me is a part of the tracks of Birkenau. When I’m cold I think of the cold I have never had to endure. It’s everywhere.

Reading about the holocaust has always saddened me. But I forgot about it for awhile. In speech it became unmentionably taboo to do a “holocaust piece.” The holocaust became a part of history, one I tired to forget.

But seeing it, seeing the face of the crimes, it overwhelmed me.

It started with fear, and it ended with anger. Anger at the perpetrators. Anger at the bystanders. I know that “none of us know what we would do in that situation.” But if any of us would stand by and do nothing, then we deserve just as much reprimand and just as much guilt as those who signed the documents and murdered the victims themselves. You can say that you don’t know what you would do, but that does not absolve the fact that you did nothing.

It also ended with gratitude. I will never, ever understand how this could happen. But my life is so abundant right now. I come back and hear about friends’ squabbles and quarrels, and it all seems so meaningless. It doesn’t matter. I am so incredibly humbled and thankful not only for what I have, but for what I have not had to endure. All of it is so incomprehensible to me. But if nothing else, remembering the Holocaust again made me remember all that is great in my life.

It sounds trite, maybe, but please do the same. Just remember, and remind yourselves, remind each other, what’s really important. Not race, not ethnicity, not religion, not sexual preference. None of these are deserving of hate. To hate for these reasons is to say that Hitler was just, that the Nazi regime was good.

So, to quote American History X, “Hate is Baggage.”

Keep that in mind.
-Eva

  

           

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

            Wow! I cannot believe how fast these past 9 days have gone by!  When we finally arrived in Krakow last week of Thursday, I remember thinking, “One whole week until our last day here…gosh this is going to be forever until we leave.”  Now it seems like yesterday we were just settling into our dorms.  What really amazes me is how close we all came together within these past days in Poland.  We have all been through so much.  We’ve been through times of excitement, nervousness, fear, emotions, laughter, and so much more.  What makes this special is that we shared all this together all as one.  Everyone is very sad about leaving Poland because of the wonderful memories we have made here, but this experience is not even close to becoming over.  This ending has only begun our journey to change our communities and even most importantly, the world.

-Ricky Mariscal

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I can’t say that I have ever blogged from 30,000 feet.  I also can’t say that for once in my life, I am left speech less.  We are on the way home from the trip of a lifetime.  I have made new friends, experienced new emotions, and tasted new things. 

We have decided that we are now apart of an “Army of Resistance!”  And I can’t wait to be apart of this new resistance.  Just to give you a taste of what we are thinking…  we have made a plan to resists against ‘standing idly by.’  We are going to act, to dream, to have passion, and to listen.  We are going to stand up, to fight, to choose love over hate.  We are going to resist the things of the world that bring up powers of Night and begin to be beacons of light.  We are going to be catalysts.  We are going to create change… a positive ripple effect as we have called it.

Going to Auschwitz Monday and Tuesday was a real eye opener for me.  I don’t really know what words to say that can describe that I went through.  But things I thought…

“How am I going to make this trip personal?… What am I going to feel?… Hair… Pots and Pans… shoes….”… and it was at that point that I began to see it all on a personal level.  I was seeing my friends going out for girls night, family cooking with those pots and pans.  I was thinking about playing with each others shoes.  I was seeing dear loved ones with these items left behind…. And then realizing that if I were to be living the Holocaust, that I would be losing all of those people that I held to close to my heart.  I’d be losing friends, families, teachers, pastors.  

It was just a scary realization of what they went through. It was heartbreaking.  And it was personal.  It was no longer someone else’s words.  It was now my story.  It was now my heartache.  It was now the baton in my hands.  Its now my job to be an intellectual activist. 

The world is going to try and fight me.  But the world is only one.  We are 23. 23 friends, close enough to be family.  23 passionate beings with a desire to spark change.

See you soon [hopefully with a dr. pepper in hand],

-ALMiller

  

It was this time last year that I was stressing out about where to go for college.  I was worrying about scholarships and degree programs.  I remember that fear.  I was so afraid to face all of the changes that came with leaving the family I loved and heading to a strange place to get my degree.  I questioned my abilities and I wondered how I’d really do.  I dreamed, yes, occasionally, of achieving extraordinary things while there, but I was also afraid to dream.  Sometimes dreams just stay dreams. 

Not this time.  This time, I believe through God’s guidance, I achieved at least one of my dreams.  I went to POLAND!!!  We are just now on the long flight back. 

So many things happened on this trip, I don’t know where I want to begin with this blog.  I feel like I had the experience of a lifetime.  I learned so much that my mind is constantly running with a train of thoughts, both about what we were shown and taught while there and about my own introspective musings as a result of those things.  I was blown away by the group that’s sitting next to me now, on this transatlantic flight.  As I’ve gotten to know each of these people, I’ve been amazed at what I saw.  I know that each and every one of us has to ability to make dreams reality.  I suppose that was one of my greatest discoveries on this trip.  I learned that if we put our minds to it, we can each spark a positive change in this world.  The thing I feel we can all do now, though, is not just dream big.  We can seize those dreams.  We’ve shown that we can work for them.  We can support each other as we fight for what we believe in and as we struggle to make our dreams reality. 

So now I’m not afraid to dream.  In fact, I’m relishing it.  I want to learn, and I never want to stop.  I want to fight for what I believe in, to support those around me, to have compassion and love, to put others before myself, and to encourage others to do the same.  When I get back to WTAMU, the school I love with all my heart, I want to ignite this fire within others as well.  I believe that all of us can unite to enact change.  It may just involve simple things, like befriending someone who has no one to talk to in class, or it may involve fighting the horrific injustice that is occurring to people, just like us, in Sudan and around the world.

Everyone can dream.  What many people often forget, though, is that dreams will always stay just that, dreams, unless we fight to make them reality.  We can all enact change.  We can all fight for good in this world.  It all starts with one person and a single act, and it grows with the support and efforts of those around us.

Wow… I’m so excited to see what we can do when we get back to WT!

~Janelle Gross

  

I’m not sure what time it is, where we are, or how long it is until we get to Chicago. What I am sure of is that I’m anxious to get home. Being on this trip has been one of the most amazing opportunities of my life. I love Europe, I loved Krakow, Auschwitz was an extremely emotional experience, and Zakopane was beautiful. All the same, there really is no place like home. Now, even though I am a bit homesick, this trip has been wonderful! I had some of the best times I’ve ever had in Poland. The first Friday night we were there, the faculty was gracious enough to trust us to go out with some local Polish (English-speaking) students. We headed to a club that was a 10-minute walk away and proceeded to talk and dance until 9:45 pm – when we had to leave for curfew. Unfortunately, this is usually the time that clubs actually get started, and the students were all extremely interesting, so I know I was sad to leave. In the conversations I had that night (there were several) I was asked about the Presidential race and who I thought would be our next president. I heard the name “Chuck Norris” every time I mentioned that we were from Texas (something that puzzled me at first, but then I remembered – of course, Walker Texas Ranger). I asked someone how they felt about the EU potentially becoming a new “United States of Europe”. And of course, I danced to some hip-hop music that was released when I was in middle school! The following Monday we trekked out to Osweciem to visit Auschwitz. That was a trip that I will never forget. The first day was not what I expected. I always picture Auschwitz-Birkenau when I picture the Holocaust. I didn’t really know much about Auschwitz I. What was so strange was that everything was still standing. The tall red brick buildings housed several different exhibits concerning those who perished. One of the displays that affected me the most was a room that displayed a huge case full of human hair found after the liberation. The fact that it was real made everything else come to life. But the part that really affected me the most was the crematorium. Apparently, this was the only crematorium that survived the liberation, only due to the fact that the German forces had converted into a bomb shelter. Walking into the undressing room and then the small, haunting gas chamber gave me a feeling of such sadness and anger that I sobbed for those lost for the next twenty minutes. Because that day had been so emotionally exhausting, visiting Aushwitz-Birkenau the second day was a very different experience. We were the first to drive up at 8:30 that morning, and it started snowing as we turned the corner. There we were faced with the “Gate of Death”. An image that will forever be linked to the tragedies that occurred there. Walking up into the tower, then through old barracks, then past the destroyed crematoriums, and seeing the red brick chimneys of hundreds of destroyed barracks, I somehow felt very empty inside. I was also almost emotionally detached – feeling like because of the day before, I didn’t think I could cry again. The night before I had just finished the book “I was Dr. Mengele’s Assistant” in which the author related his experiences as a physician working in a crematorium inside Birkenau. Being able to read a first-hand experience about a place and then walk right past it is an extremely surreal feeling. I could picture what had happened there and how that place was enshrouded in evil and death. After it was all over, I wanted to leave that place and find happiness again. Even cracking a smile there had been difficult. It was so cold that most of our teeth were chattering and limbs shaking. Although I know that I will not be able to describe how it felt to be there adequately to anyone else, I know that with my words and pictures I will surely try my best. Luckily not every day was depressing.  A lot of our time was spent in the Rynek Market Square, with horse-pulled carriages, soft snow falling, music playing, street performers, market stalls open, and people milling about. It was a beautiful, beautiful place that has its very own place in my heart. I loved being there and walking from shop to shop, finding good deals (especially since the currency exchange was in our favor!). I loved people-watching, and hearing all the Polish-speaking citizens enjoy this market they had so close to their homes. This trip was amazing and I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world. It has inspired me to travel abroad and see more of this wonderful world. I am motivated to learn more of my own history and be aware of my surroundings. I am very grateful for the life I lead and wouldn’t change a thing. Again, although my time spent there was great, I am glad to be heading home to my loved ones. It will be nice to have a day to just sit and reflect. My plan is to sleep all day Saturday, and then get some work done on Sunday. I can’t wait to be there!! J

                        -Katie Gustainis

  

Right now I am sitting next to Adriana and Allison on a plane from Germany to Chicago! I am super excited about going back to Canyon; I thought I would never say that in my life. I must admit, that I already miss Poland. As far as loving Poland, I absolutely love it! I cannot wait to go back someday. Oh yeah, the time right now is 1 in the afternoon in Chicago, but we have been up since 3AM Poland time, which means that in all we’ve been up for too many hours. Oh yeah, we are actually over the Atlantic Ocean right now. I never thought I would be writing in the air in the middle of the ocean!

Yesterday was our last day in Poland; it was one to remember always. We toured Jagiellonian University and then had free time to do whatever we wanted. At 5 in the afternoon we had our last supper in Poland. The food was interesting but very good. We also had cake in honor of Heather and Marisela’s birthday. After we ate we went back to the rooms and had our final meeting. It was so sad, a lot of people were crying. I couldn’t believe that our ten days had passed so quickly. Everyone had something inspiring to say about the trip. I told the group that Monica and I had been talking and wished that we all remain friends after our trip ended. I think most everyone agreed with us. The coolest part of yesterday was the amazing blizzard that hit Krakow in the afternoon right before we met to head to the restaurant. I absolutely wanted to see some snow before we came back to the states. Yesterday overall was a good end to our trip.

Days before we had visited the Tatra Mountains and walked around the small village shopping, eating, and just relaxing. Some of us went up the mountain to witness the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life. It was so pretty and so relaxing.

We visited Auschwitz a few days ago, on Monday and on Tuesday. I really wish I could describe what I saw and felt in a short blog, but I know that I am going to need more time and space to even come close to share my feelings with others. I know that I am so ready to begin my duty as a WT Ambassador and help change our school and people who would like to make a difference in the world just like I do.

Like I said at the meeting, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible. I would also like to thank all the amazing people I had the chance to hang out with in the last week and a half. I cannot wait to hang out with them in Canyon now. Monica and I both agreed that most of us will remain friends until the end of our lives, I really hope so.

-DAVID MERAZ

Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

MARCH 18

We have spent the past two days at the concentration camp of Auschwitz.  A person can only prepare for something so intense and saddening to an extent.  I thought I had prepared.  I read books, participated in discussions, and carried Elie Wiesel’s words in my heart in attempts to prepare for what was to come.  When we arrived and were given the tour of the camp, I finally realized that to experience it in person and to finally be able to put a face to the atrocities that happened there, is so overwhelming and shocking there is really almost no way to describe it.  It is the feeling that you feel deep down inside that is different.  When I go home and share all of my pictures and adventures with my friends and family, I don’t think I will ever be able to describe what I saw and what I felt and how special it was.  It really made the experience all the more real and I truly feel a change in myself.  All the Readership Ambassadors now share something so profound and I think that that is the key that makes us strong and will eventually lead us to be great leaders who will speak up for the voices lost in the camp.  Elie Wiesel said that the key to change is voice.  When we come back to speak of our experience, I only hope I can spark inspiration and resistance in my listeners as Elie Wiesel did in me. 

-Kelsey Wilson

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Humanity. Seeing the sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau made me begin to contemplate the existence of humanity.   Walking through the exhibits we saw simple things in life: hair, glasses, pots and pans, suitcases, pictures, all this and more took on a greater meaning in my life. These items of everyday life that we all take for face value meant so much to the people imprisoned in the concentration camps.  Every day items were taken away from those entering the camps; their humanity was lost.

Seeing these two sites made the Holocaust all too real.  The words of Elie Wiesel’s book Night jumped from the pages and were brought to life.   We were able to see the nightmare that he and many others faced on a daily basis. Excerpts from Night came rushing through my head as we walked around Birkenau.

Seeing these camps, the items, and hearing the stories of survival and death placed everything in my life into perspective.  It made me appreciate the simple things in life even more.  I have a new appreciation for everything and everyone in my life.  Seeing the camps where so many lives were changed made me want to take action in my own life to make a change. 

Growth has occurred. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re headed to the mountain town of Zakopane today.   I’m excited to reflect even more and take in the beauty that nature has created. 

As I wind down this blog, I would like to encourage you to take action against injustice in your own life.  Do not “stand idly by.”

-Wes

  

These days here in Poland have been amazing, not only are we getting to experience the culture of this city that is Krakow, but also the everyday view of life here. Meals aren’t the overly elaborated contraption that some tourist order to “experience” polish food but actually we are getting the fare that any polish person might have any given day and that is an experience of its own.

The places we have gone and visited have so much meaning not only to this country but to the world that it is sometimes hard to comprehend the past realities that have gone on in such beautiful places. From city to city it seams that there are stories as long and old as time that could fill hundreds of books and already do. Poland is not just about Auschwitz and those concentration camps, it’s not just about the holocaust and the destruction of lives, Poland is about a historic country as old as any in Europe and with tales of conquest and defeats. Poland is a country of people who live in a changing country with problems and joys that Americans have no notion of, but here this group is to soak up as much of this as we can to bring back to our own university in the hopes of betterment.

Beyond that our little group has gone from loosely knitted to almost inseparable in some cases, and it is all because of the fact that here we are force to depend on each other for support and comfort now that we are not in our comfort zones anymore. Through these days that we share we have learned about our moods, thoughts and changing minds. In one way or another we have all been change and we continue to change even when we ourselves don’t see it you can be sure that others in our group do and will remember.

—Marisela Rodriguez


So far I’ve had a wonderful time here in Poland.  Krakow seems to be a great city; Krakow is nothing I expected.  Watching the city and going to the salt mines has reminded me that the world out side of the U.S. runs.  I knew it did, but I never thought about it.  Does that make sense?   I love Krakow, it reminds me of Mexico.  Seriously, it does.  It smells like Mexico and it reminds me of the city of Chiuhuahua.  The food has also been great; I thought I was going to taste very weird food, but it was nothing too unusual.  Besides I am not very picky when it comes to food, as long as it’s not bitter its fine with me.  The trip to Auschwitz was an experience I will never forget; going there is life changing.  It was a trip I was dreading to go to, but I’m glad I did.   I feel that all of us are responsible for making a change for the good in the world.  I thank Elie Wiesel for the experience, and God for letting me live.   I am glad I am here.

Diana Hernandez

  

WOW! I think that word can be used to describe this entire trip. All the things I have saw here (good or bad) brought the word wow to my mind. This trip has really helped me realize that I not only need to remember the things that have happened in the Holocaust but just things from the past in general. Our past makes us who we are. Our past makes us stronger. I am so fortunate to have been given this opportunity because I have seen so many amazing things like the Cathedral, beautiful architecture, a Castle, and if I may consider it amazing; Auschwitz. I hope that from this experience my words will encourage others to do great things and most importantly to go and see the world because there is more to it than just the things in the U.S. I know for a fact that this will not be my last time to travel outside of America since I have had this experience. With that I will end with a quote that has stuck with me this entire trip “ …I do not pray for freedom of falling because we all fall, but freedom from a loss of faith.”

Love, Angela Baker

                         Poland we are finally here!

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  

MARCH 17 

Blog 3/17/08

Allan Kahn

            So I wish that I could describe just how I have felt the last two days, but I fear that there exists no words to describe it. In order to understand, you have to experience it. No amount of reading, or researching, or talking can prepare you for just how heart wrenching this part of the trip is.  However, before I begin with today, I must start with yesterday, because for me, one experience feeds off the other. Yesterday, I got to participate in the March of the Living, an annual event in Krakow where the community, including dignitaries from other countries, commemorates the liquidation of the ghetto in Krakow. We met in the courtyard of the old ghetto, where now a series of metal chair statues stand, to remind us of those who are no longer with us. I got to talk to people who had escaped from the ghetto, and those who had survived the concentration camp. I heard both miraculous tales of self-preservation, as well as horrible stories of atrocities that were committed in the name of an ideal. One man I spoke to was in the youth resistance movement in Krakow, and escaped from the ghetto with his father by crawling through the sewers for a few days to get to the forest outside of the city. Just before the procession began, a few polish speakers told of their lives during this time, and one of the rabbis from the city recited the Kaddish, or mourner’s prayer. I admit freely that I cried here, for I have never heard this prayer recited with such reverence for the dead, with such compassion and sorrow for those who are no longer with us, and I could not help but feel as though my heart were breaking also. After the prayer was recited, we marched through what was once the ghetto of Krakow, and we passed by the only two segments of the wall that remained, and it was there that it struck me how much the world has already moved on, after almost less than a generation. Already we see how the city, the society and life in general have assimilated the horrors that occurred, and turned it into part of everyday life now. At the end of the march, we reached Plazow, the concentration camp where most of the Jews from the city were sent. The one thing that struck me the most, as we walked up the hill, was spoken aloud by one of the polish students that were with me in the march. He said “it is a shame that all that now stands is trees and grass.” The concentration camp was built over the site of three Jewish cemeteries, and the tombstones were used to pave the square that the prisoners had to gather in. I would think that the earth would respect such an act of sacrilege, and would scar herself just as we scar our society with such actions. At the site of the former camp there now stands two memorials, one small one constructed roughly out of stone with two plaques commemorating what happened, and one that is larger than life, that has  a few words carved on one side, and the bodies of man carved on the other. This statue stands at least 60 feet tall, and it is a sight that will never leave my eyes, just as the rest of this trip will never leave my memory, no matter how hard I try nor how much I may with it.

            Today, we visited Auschwitz I, the site of the original segments of the concentration camp. I wish that I had known how hard it was going to hit me. From the second I walked into the first exhibit, I had tears in my eyes, I felt as though my soul was going to tear my body in two. Throughout the entire day, I felt as though I was seeing was unreal, as though everything that was around me could not have existed, could not have happened. I cried more than I have ever cried before, and my emotional side is not one that I like to show people very often. It is a side of me that reminds me of just how human I am, rather that the great being that I attempt to be most of the time. There is one image already has burned itself into my mind, and it is one that I will never be able to forget, no matter how long I try, or how long I live. The sight of the hair. The collected hair from countless men women and children, all heaped into a pile behind a glass sheet, representing the lives of so many thousands lost, so many thousands killed. I thank God above for every soul he sent with me for support, for just as I attempt to lift them up, they were there in the moments that I needed them the most. There are no other people that I would want to be here with. I know that this group will take this trip back to the states, and that we will make an improvement to the world. We will. There is no doubt about it in my mind, for there is no other path of action. We have all changed already, and now that change will show in what we do.

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Today was a beautiful day.  (blog for 3/16!!!!!!!!)

In life, I believe that we are allowed glimpses of Heaven; glimpses of the here-ness of the Kingdom of God that is at hand. For me, today was one of those days. I cannot tell if it was naturally a beautiful day of if it just resonated from my heart.

We went on a tour of Krakow and walked to Wawel Castle and Cathedral. I finally started to feel the European-ness of the city. There were street musicians (traditional and contemporary), painters, lovers young and old holding hands, and nuns and priests walking to and fro church holding their palm branches for Palm Sunday. At Wawel people were singing and dancing in circle, alive in worship and celebration of Christ. I realize that for the people here nothing is merely tradition, it all comes from the heart. I hope to have this one day.

Yes, today was a beautiful day.

-Brant

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CRISTIN’S BLOG!!!! 03/16/2008

Sooo…..there are a wee bit of differences between Poland and America. For the “fun” part of my blog I was going to type out a list of things that are different:

1)      No ice! Seriously!!! I mean, come on! I have never missed Sonic ice as much as I do now!

2)      You know that brown paper towel we have in public restrooms? That’s the toilet paper over here! While I think Poland has great culture and we don’t need to change most of what they do, we DO need to bring over some Charmin and have a sit down talk about toilet paper. I mean, if you want to toilet paper someone’s house go ahead and use the harsh stuff….Oops, I mean, NEVER toilet paper someone’s house.

3)      The Polish students and people I have met all know at least one other language, mainly English. They have taken languages since they were in grade school. We should do that. Why? It really does expand your mind, like music, and I believe makes you more valuable.

4)      The ground level is called the ground level or level 0, not level 1. So at the university we are on level 2 BUT we have to climb up three flights of stairs. They, the Polish country, are teasing us with our stair levels!

5)      Did I mention no ice?! I love ice.

6)      I lived in Ruth Cross for a couple of months so I know what dorm life is like. I now live in an apartment and wake up thanking God every morning for that. The dorms we are staying in our nice. First off they are wood floors. This means that there is not nasty carpet that a million other people have lived on and that the college has not shampooed. (Note, they say they do buuut….welll….let’s just say I’ve shampooed that carpet before and from what came up, it has not been shampooed before.) Also, the windows open! I know the university says they don’t want things thrown out or someone jumping out but it’s so nice to be able to open up a window and smell fresh air. If someone wants to jump out of a window they’ll find a window, a closed window won’t stop them. I think this is evidence by the knowledge that Jones Hall boys still throw crap out of the dorms.

7)      The bathrooms, public, have toilet brush cleaners and usually some kind of cleaner for the user to “freshen up” the bathroom. How many problems would that solve, hmm?

8)      Texas=Chuck Norris. Okay, to us it might not but to the Polish college students we went out with it does! They don’t first qualify Texas with our President, oh no. Chuck Norris. He’s a hero worldwide.

9)      When talking to the students they mentioned taking trips as teenagers. These trips were out of the country and did not include adult supervision. Did they probably do some things they shouldn’t have? Most likely. But were they responsible enough to come back home and not get arrested? Yes. Our parents would never, most anyhow, gives us the opportunity to do that alone as teenagers. Given we are assumed, and sometimes rightfully so, to be irresponsible. But how much would we take on if we were given the reins of responsibility beyond our home? You might say we’re being given that now but we’re already out of the house and young adults.

In a lot of our minds, our=students, Poland and World War II go hand in hand. Well, surprisingly, they don’t! Poland is so much more than Auschwitz. Poland is so much more than WWII. Poland is history, Poland is controversy, Poland is way too many kebab restaurants, Poland is…almost everything. How horrible is it that we reduce this beautiful country to a war? I’m not only blaming our education system but us as students. We don’t research beyond they facts we’re given (well, usually). We don’t ask about a hidden story beneath what is given to us. We’re content with learning little. I could write and write and write about this…and I will. But for now others need the computer.

Cristin

 March 16 

First I would like to say that this whole experience has been more than amazing!  It is extremely hard to explain my emotions and thoughts.  Not only that, but the buildings are unbelievable.

            Today, we went to the Castle and the Cathedral.  Wow, where should I start?  Well, the tour guide was very informative and fed us a lot of information, which is going to be hard to “regurgitate” back to everyone at home.  When we finally got to the Castle and Cathedral, we first toured the castle, took some more pictures, and had about a 30 minute break.  After that, we met up again and did a tour of the Cathedral!  This is one of the things I have been waiting for!  Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures, but it was the most beautiful church I have been in.  There were pure gold, original built walls, paintings, crypts, artifacts, and much more.  This Cathedral had me so emotional it is so hard to put into words.  I held back tears throughout that whole tour.  There were rooms for specific people to pray to or just to have them by your side.  Also, there was a place to light candles for loved ones, which I did.  I am extremely worried about my grandpa and my aunt so I lit one for them.  While we were touring, I was hoping we would get the chance to pray in this Cathedral because we haven’t had too much time to ourselves; however, there is nothing wrong with that!  I would rather be sight seeing than in our rooms.  After the Castle and Cathedral, the faculty had a tour of their own and they let us out to roam Poland on our own!  It wasn’t the first time on this trip, so we knew our way around better.  Now, we are back at the dorm getting ready for tomorrow’s trip to Auschwitz. 

            I want everyone to know that I’m thinking about them and I love them very much.  I can’t wait to share the stories with everyone, and give out the souvenirs! 

Xoxo

*Desiree’ Escoto*

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            Dzien Dobry!!  Good day, everybody!  It is now day four of our ten day journey in the “Footsteps of Elie Wiesel.”  Already, we have seen so many amazing things in so short a space of time. 

            So far, we have visited Market Square, Cloth-Hall, St. Mary’s Church, Kazimierz Jewish District, The Fortification Wall, the Rynek, Wawel Castle, and the Salt Mines.  We have also attended the Philharmonic Symphony where we enjoyed some amazing Polish music. 

            Although it has been fun so far, it has also been nonstop since we arrived.  I’m sure every one of us is tired, but there’s so much more to see that stopping is not an option!  The country is so beautiful and old, and there’s graffiti everywhere!  I love it!

            My favorite place so far has been the Salt Mines.  There is an entire chapel, hand sculpted, completely made out of salt, miles underground that took 70 years to complete!  Three men built this entire chapel, one after the other, all in their spare time.  There were carvings in the walls of the Last Supper, Doubting Thomas, and the Killing of Innocents that were absolutely amazing.  The intricacy and time put into every inch of this chapel just astounded me.  You definitely have to see it to believe it!

            Today, we visited Wawel Castle.  We didn’t get to go inside, because of renovations, but we did get to go up into the bell tower and down into the royal tombs.  We also got to go into the cathedral there.  The Poles have so many old stories from times long past, and legends that explain everything, and yet nothing at the same time.  So detailed and imaginative that you want to believe it’s true, and not just a legend.

            Every single thing that I’ve seen so far has been so beautiful and amazing that it makes me sad to think about going home in six days, but I must.  I have to go back to share all the things that I have seen and learned, and let the people of Canyon and WT know that there’s more to Poland than just the Holocaust.  There’s more than just concentration camps and ghettos.  There’s a history and a culture here so rich and vibrant in its own unique way.

            So, until next time my faithful readers (even though this is my first blog), I’ll be thinking of you.  Please pray for us as we visit Auschwitz/Birkenau tomorrow because I know that it is going to be a very emotional two days for all of us. 

            Good night, and be safe.

-Allison Tindall

“Thou shall not stand idly by.”

            -Elie Wiesel

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Before this trip began, I was both excited and nervous to go.  I could hardly believe that this incredible opportunity had dropped into my life and that I was going to Poland!  However, I’d never been overseas before, and I was a little nervous about what it was going to be like.  I was afraid, I guess, of getting robbed, or getting lost, or feeling completely out of place.  The night before we left, I was so nervous about going that I felt sick to my stomach!  Now, though, that we’ve been here about four days, I know with all my heart that I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!

Already, it feels like we’ve done and seen so many things.  I know, though, that it would take several lifetimes to truly learn everything about Krakow and Poland.

On Friday, we went out with some Polish students.  It was so neat talking to them and I was truly impressed by how much English they knew.  They kept apologizing for their poor English, but all I was thinking was, “I wish I could speak any other language (other than my native tongue) as well as they speak English!”  It made me really think about how self-focused America is.  We really don’t put as much emphasis on learning more about other cultures and languages.  The more I think about it, the more determined I am becoming to learn another language and to encourage others to do so as well.

Today, we went to see the Wawel Castle and Cathedral.  It was incredibly beautiful.  I am just blown away by how much effort was put into every detail of everything.  I also loved hearing more about the history of that place.  I also think it’s incredible listening to all of the stories and legends about everything.  It seems like they have a legend linked to everything… even the pigeons in the market square!  I’m definitely going to be writing those down so I can tell them to people back in the States! 

I’m a little afraid to go to Auschwitz tomorrow.  Actually, I’m kind of terrified.  I mean, I really want to go (I feel, in a way, that I need to go), but I was just thinking today about everything I’ve ever read about that place.  How are any of us going to handle seeing what’s there?  How could anyone ever be prepared to see such a place?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  Please keep us all in your prayers.

Well, I feel like I have a thousand more things to talk about, but there’s just not enough time!

-Janelle

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Honestly, I have no idea what to say.  These past days of touring Krakow, Poland have been amazing.  I can go on and on about the people, food, customs, and culture…but now, I cannot talk about that.  We are all at this time, trying to prepare ourselves for the most emotional two days of our whole lives.  I have been though a lot of tough and stressful times in my life.  At this point, I have NEVER been so scared in my entire life.  My heart is pounding, my body is shivering, and my eyes are wide open.  I cannot manage to calm myself.  We had a long talk tonight about our thoughts of the Holocaust, and everyone is just as scared as I am.  If not, more.

            Now because I practically cannot think right now, I will end with what we talked about tonight.

            A trip to Poland is exciting.  The amount of opportunities, independence, and knowledge from a trip abroad are endless.  Going to walk the grounds of the most horrific and traumatic event in all of history is something no one would ever want to do.  No one wants to remember.  No one wants to even know what is going on today.  Instead, we think about what shoes to buy, what to do on a weekend, or whether to eat fast food or at a restaurant.  Tomorrow, we are all going in as 20 students making sure no one “stands idly by,” and together experience a life changing experience.  We will come back home from this experience not only as changed students, but as Russell Lowery-Hart says, “Intellectual activists.”

-Ricky Mariscal

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 Wow. So this has been pretty crazy, like an emotional rollercoaster.  I’ve been having so much fun with everyone on this trip. We’ve become like a family.  However, I miss my own family so much.  While we were at the cathedral yesterday I couldn’t stop crying.  Part of the reason was because that was something that I would have like to experience with my family. It would have meant so much if they could have been there.  Maybe one day we can come back together.

I cannot wait to get in my own car and drive somewhere! We have been walking like crazy! I’m so exhausted.  We haven’t had much sleep and have been on “high mode” since day one…it’s wearing me out, but I love it!

            So now we are on the bus to Auschwitz. I’m terrified. I’m nervous about it all. I’m more nervous about missing something important.  You know what I mean.  Like what if I miss some detail that I’m supposed to take back home with me.  It’s all so overwhelming. There is so much more I want to say but I’m getting bus sick, so I’ll have to write later.

-Monica Dozal

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I can’t fully explain to you the exact thoughts that are going through my head right now. This whole trip has been so amazing so far and I am incredibly blessed to be able to participate in it.

Ever since high school, I have been taught about the Holocaust and everything that happened during that time. As we are now about to approach Auschwitz all I can think about is that everything I learned will now be put into a reality. It is all about to become real and will no longer only remain in my imagination. I am about to see the place were so much innocent blood was shed and so much hatred was scattered. I am absolutely terrified and nervous and intrigued all at the same time.

One thing that I have tried to keep in mind is that I need to simply take what I get from this experience and use it to spread something good whenever I get back home. We shouldn’t let it haunt us the way that it has already haunted so many others. Instead, we need to realize what took place and make sure that it never ever happens again. I believe we can all use this to make a huge difference and impact on the world.

Once again, I can’t believe that I have been given this wonderful chance to see this place. I never once imagined that I would be able to visit. I don’t even know what at all to expect. What I do know, is that while I’m there I want to absorb anything and everything that I possibly can. I don’t want to miss a single thing and I’m really looking forward to this. I have a strong feeling that something inside of us all is about to change. I know we are going to go back with a new perspective on life and a new hope for the future.

-Adriana Contreras

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Wow! We have been in Poland now for five days! I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would be so pretty. I love everything about Poland so far. I love Europe; it is one of my favorite places on earth.

            The best part about the trip so far has been being able to spend so much time with people that I would have probably never talked to back in Canyon had it not been for the trip. I have learned so much about these wonderful people in the last few months and days and I am very thankful for it. We have made so many memories that will never be forgotten. I guess what I am trying to say is, that I now more than ever believe that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In this case, we shouldn’t judge a person. I would just like to say to everyone, that this trip wouldn’t be the same if “_________” (fill in anyone/everyone’s name) weren’t here. Everyone has said something or done something that has given this trip some humor and hope for mankind.

            Anyway, as I have said before many times to many people, “Videos, pictures, books, or any interview cannot prepare us for what we are about to see in less than an hour.” I am on a bus right now going to Auschwitz. Last night we were asked what we thought we were going to expect, most of the people said they didn’t quite know what to expect. I cannot say that I am necessarily scared to be going. Some part of me knows that I am meant to go to Auschwitz and learn so much that when I go back home I will be able to tell people what I saw and hopefully impact their lives just like I know my life is going to be changed very soon. I know that it is going to be hard, and that some of us are probably going to cry, but I am so ready for this. God has put all together for a reason. We are each others shoulder to lean on and we are going to be there for each other till the end. The end isn’t anywhere near, in fact, our journey is about to begin in a few minutes.

            I cannot wait to go back to Canyon and be able to actually write all my thoughts down on real paper and on a real computer to be able to share with everyone else. What I am trying to say is that I am sorry for any grammatical errors and probably a lot of misspelled words because we are sharing one laptop among all of us and time is limited on it.

-DAVID MERAZ

Now we have been almost five days in another country. It is really exciting and I would not have it any other way. We have learned so much these past couple of days.  All the history makes me appreciate Poland even more. We have been to so many fun, new, and historic places.  I have had so much fun on this trip so far. At first I was so homesick that I wanted to cry.  Now I have gotten used to a typical day in this cool country. Right now it is very quiet.

We are now going to the place that I think is the most important out of the whole trip. Auschwitz. As I think back I remember yesterday, I was trying to sleep and I kept waking up very fast as if I was scared or something.  I did not think much about it, but now I think that it was God maybe preparing me a little bit for what was in store for me today. I am not sure what to expect but I know it will be a life-changing experience. It will make everything that I have heard about so much more real. Rather than just hearing it or seeing it in a textbook, I will actually be there right where it happened. I am sure that I will cry a lot. But I am not too worried about that.  I have made good bonds with the others on this trip and I know they will be there to support me when I need them.

This is all my thoughts at the moment, I am sure I will have o much more in a couple of hours. I miss home, but I am glad that I am here…….

-HEATHER MAGALLANES

This trip has been unreal.  Everything that I have seen and experienced, I cannot describe because it is something one has to see on their own to actually appreciate and understand. As I write we are traveling to the concentration camp which is the highlight and main theme of this trip.  We all sat down as a group last night to talk about our

I can’t believe Monday is already gone!  We only have a couple of days left and I am really sad.  This has been the most wonderful six days, it is unreal.  Everything I see seems so fake.  As I walked through the Market Square the first day, I felt like I was looking at a postcard.  Everything I have experienced up to now as been absolutely perfect and ten times more than my greatest expectations.  I really cannot put into words all the emotions and thoughts that are running through my head as we visit all the sites.

Personally, I have had so many realizations about who I am, where I am, and where I want to go with my life.  The culture and the demeanor of the people really have given me a base to compare my life. The history is so rich and everyone is so passionate about being Polish that it gives me a new light to make a change in my view as well as my responsibility of being an American.

Alyson Cantu


March 15

Pinch me! I’m dreaming!!! O wait, guess what, Poland is real! I’m seriously here! This experience has been soo amazing! The driving is crazy, the pace is fast, the food is “plentiful” (we get like 4 courses for every meal!), and the culture is way different than in America. We have done soo many things that I just can’t write about them all, but for those of you back home keeping up this blog (which probably mostly means my parents and the parents and family of those here in Poland soo… HI MOM AND DAD!), don’t worry because there will be TONS and TONS of pictures for you to look at and stories for you to hear when we get back. You will feel like you were here with us. Know this, we are definitely having the time of ours lives and are learning so much here thousands of miles away from home (with no ice and no real junk food). I will remember this trip for the rest of my life! I’m so blessed to be able to be on this trip. Until next time…

-Caitlin

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I am halfway around the world from America right now! I think the hardest thing about being so far away from home is not being able to use my cell phone. I know that sounds ridiculous but technology is such a part of our culture that life without my cell phone and facebook is extremely weird. In fact, I convince myself that I feel my phone vibrating at least five times daily and I don’t even have it with me! Even though this is a large adjustment, I know that we are all better for this dramatic separation from our everyday world. We have only been here for three days and already I feel like I’ve known these kids for my entire life. It’s hard for all of us to be so far from home and removed out of our comfort zones, but we’re going through it together. We learn together, laugh together, and I know by the end of this trip we will all have cried together. Each person contributes something different to the group and I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to know them all on a deeper level.

As Caitlin said earlier, the other most dramatic change is the absence of ice in our beverages. I am a big Sonic small ice fan and I don’t believe I could ever become accustomed to warm water. I know that this is just another part of the experience though and I’m going to “drink it all in” for the short time we’re here. However, upon our arrival to the United States, I am stopping at the first Sonic I see to buy a Route 44 cherry limeaid. YUM! In all seriousness though, I miss ice.

I’ve noticed that the people here all seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Whether they are driving or walking, everyone is trying to go as fast as possible. They also don’t smile very much, at least not at us, but we are making an effort to blend in. This is almost impossible to do however, especially when you consider the size of group, our leisurely walking style, and the fact that we’re all holding cameras and speaking English.

Overall, this has been an amazing experience so far and we still have a week to go! I know that every person on this trip is going to return changed in someway or another. I cannot wait to take these new friendships back to WT, along with the lessons I’ve learned here. We miss everyone back home but we’re having a blast! Enjoy your ice.

— Lindsey Steele

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One wonders what they are going to think, feel, and experience when leavings ones home.  And I was definitely not quite prepared for this.  I have begun to see a little insight into the life behind the barbed wires, I have begun to feel as an outsider, and I have experienced a new taste of life. 

When we left the museum yesterday, we were all enthralled in a moment of reverence.  And it was weird to walk out of this moment… this emotional flow that was meant to prepare us for the days to come… and as we walk out, into the gift shop/drink bar, the atmosphere changes to one of sorrow to one similar to the life of a Starbucks. Which got me thinking…  “This must be what life was like during the time of the concentration camps.  It’s a perfect parallel.”   You see, we were on the other side of the wall, having our moments of deep sorrow.  Those trapped behind the barbed wire fences of the concentration camps were as well.  Then there is the life outside, unaware.  You have death, sorrow, and sadness surrounded by family Christmas, girls night out, and laughter.  It’s two worlds unknown by the other. 

Feeling like an outsider was a new experience for me.  It’s hard to throw myself into the life and culture here when I only know 3 Polish words, of which I can never seem to remember or say the right one at the right time.  I am pretty sure that I said hello when I meant excuse me, and said thanks when I was trying to greet a few people today.

But also, being a part of this culture, I have tried my best to jump into this 4 course, mass walking, ice-less life.   It’s fun to look and see how we are different.  And yes, I miss American luxuries (such as ice, and longer time to cross in a cross walk), but I also know that this is only going to be for 10 short days, so I am trying to soak in as much Poland as I can. 

And for my friends in Houston- Guess What?!  Poland has even crazier drivers.  I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  And they don’t have parking lots!  But don’t be alarmed when someone begins to drive up onto the side walk… they are not trying to run you down… they are just parking their car in the street. 

Also- while talking with some of the Polish students at the University, I mentioned that I was from Houston… and the response I get?  “OHHH!, Like NASA?!  Houston, we have a problem?!”  Made me laugh.  “…No, Texas isn’t like Walker Texas Ranger…” [which I think disappointed him… Sorry Kuba]

Later days. Drive safe, drink a drink with some ice, and enjoy the afternoon while I go to bed. 

-Amanda

   

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pinch me! I’m dreaming!!! O wait, guess what, Poland is real! I’m seriously here! This experience has been soo amazing! The driving is crazy, the pace is fast, the food is “plentiful” (we get like 4 courses for every meal!), and the culture is way different than in America. We have done soo many things that I just can’t write about them all, but for those of you back home keeping up this blog (which probably mostly means my parents and the parents and family of those here in Poland soo… HI MOM AND DAD!), don’t worry because there will be TONS and TONS of pictures for you to look at and stories for you to hear when we get back. You will feel like you were here with us. Know this, we are definitely having the time of ours lives and are learning so much here billions of miles away from home (with no ice and no real junk food). I will remember this trip for the rest of my life! I’m so blessed to be able to be on this trip. Until next time… -Caitlin

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Europe is most definitely wonderful!!!!! After spending a few days here, I am in love. So far, we’ve been able to go through the Galicia Jewish Museum, Remuh Synagogue, Salt Mines, and several other places that have names I cannot pronounce or spell… Each of them has its own story and character and has contributed a lot to our trip. The Remuh Synagogue made me realize how much the Jewish faith is something that was lost during World War II. The fact that Hebrew is not featured on very many public buildings in Krakow just emphasizes how much the culture was erased. In the Salt Mines today, I found out more about Poland than I had ever known! We had a 3-hour tour that was very long, but extremely informative. Our tour guide was perky, fun, and very interesting. Last night we were lucky enough to go out with some local Polish sociology majors who spoke English. It was nice to meet someone foreign that I could actually communicate with. We hung out at a local club and danced and just socialized. I found out that apparently the only connection that Europeans make to Texas is the infamous Chuck Norris… Thank you Walker Texas Ranger  Haha.. All in all, it’s been a crazy, exhausting, informative, entertaining, and most of all fun trip. Oh! Today we saw the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra and they were wonderful!!!! This is really just a collection of random thoughts, but I just want everyone to know that this trip has been an amazing opportunity and I am so thankful to be here. I love and miss everyone!!! Yay Poland! 😀

Katie Gustainis

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

So we’re here.
In one of my first blogs I stated that I was still in shock, and that this entire saga wouldn’t sink in until we were actually in Poland.
Well, we are sitting in Krakow, and the shock is gone but disbelief remains…along with awe, appreciation, wonder, excitement, and utter, utter humility.
We are twenty college freshmen from the armpit of Texas, most of us only boasting away trips to Mexico (which, as we all know, doesn’t count), and not only are we in Europe, but we are entrusted with this experience as more than just a reward for insight, but as a responsibility and a monument.
We are going to Auschwitz.
In two days, we will be seeing the face, hands, and neck of tragedy and inhumanity.
And we have already seen…amazing things.
We have learned that Poland is more than a mausoleum of history, it is a thriving city filled with exciting people who aren’t so unlike us.
We have seen amazing sites, heard wonderful stories of triumph and loss and … words not yet created.
What sticks out most in my mind as of now is the experience at the museum we visited yesterday.
We were not just told stories of tragedy and of death, but we learned the names of young Jewish men and women who resisted the violence and the cruelty and fought back, who did not act as sheep to slaughter, but brave, unbelievably brave humans who refused to lose their dignity along with their lives.
And what sticks out more is the knowledge that neo-Nazism continues to rebirth and spread across Europe ad other parts of the world.
How stupid can this generation be?
One holocaust wasn’t enough, now ignorant and cruel minds need another to distract from the boredom?
I’m not sure what I can do, physically, to “not stand idly by,” but knowledge is the first step. So know this; Americans have very big mouths. And for once, it will work toward good, because our mouths will not cease to tell of what we have learned, and our lips will work with hands to stop a senseless, childish, unbelievable, absolutely inhumane genocide from occurring again.
It’s time to stop being shocked and start moving forward with the lessons of the past in the rear view mirror.
-Eva

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography is fun!

sooo… i think i’m a little late getting this posted, but as long as its posted it should still count. (hehe) I have always had a sort of facination with photography and we had a professor come and speak with us about photography techniques to use while in Poland. I was amazed at how much there was to learn! Even the littlest change in an angle could make the picture come out completely different. I am so excited about capuring the life of Poland on film. The people, the culture, the artwork, the history. All of it excites me! I will be able to look back at these pictures years from now and truly bring back the memories and feelings that prompted me to take the pictures in the first place. Wow… I’m really going to do this, capture Poland on FILM!!!CC

Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 8:32 am  Comments (4)