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.


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.




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.


 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! 


*Desiree’ Escoto*


            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


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!



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


 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


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


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.


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…….


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…



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


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. 



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

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