Expression

Hello friends, it’s been a minute.

 

Since CR I have danced a lot, studied a lot, laughed a lot, and connected with my familia a lot.  CR has pushed me to make my life into one big adventure, and there’s no other 15 people I would rather adventure with.

This semester has been one whimsical blur, and we have all been finding that balance between dedicating ourselves to our majors/previous obligations and dedicating ourselves to each other.  The CRecade is a busy, over-achieving bunch!  It is always such a joy to run into each other while we sprint to classes, get some #caffeine in the library, or do that stressed-but-thriving smile when we see each other from across the bluu.  Fort Worth may not be Cinque Terre, but the familia is just as determined, spontaneous, and fun-lovin’ as we were 6 months ago.

About an hour ago, Lauren and I were working on our Pecha Kuchas together (our presentations are tomorrow, and somehow I am procrastinating a presentation for CR by writing a blog post for CR??).  We sat going through pictures from Rome together, and let me tell you, we were senti at the tabes.  It has been close to impossible to get all 16 of us in one place because of our insane schedules, so seeing the times where we ate, walked (or heel-clicked in Team Charlie’s case), and snagged Zzz’s together every day and night was a blast from the past.

One thing that struck me as we were flipping through Dr. P’s pictures on the blog (high quality stuff, he has a great camera) was the power of expression.  We have a Snapchat group called CRunk, and I was zooming in on faces that had stellar expressions and sending them into the group.  What started as laughing at everyone else’s unfortunate facial expressions soon became me turning into the nostalgic mess that I usually become when I lack adequate amounts of sleep (I blame Abby and Kyle for my sleep deprivation—we got 3 hours of sleep on Friday so that we could watch the sunrise together…no regrets though).

Facial expressions are wonderful.  My favorite expressions are the ones caught completely by surprise.  So many of us have learned to guard how we truly feel, but when you experience the things that we did on CR, some unguarded joy, introspection, connection, and fascination pop up, and Dr. P was always there to catch it.  On CR I learned the importance of truly expressing myself, and I also learned that preferred forms of expression are not the same for everyone.

Our ways of expressing ourselves are just as unique as we are.  Expression can range from facial expressions, to the way we carry ourselves, to our passion revealing our emotions.  Indigo sings with the voice of an angel (and literally brought me to tears in the Villa Aurora) and she can imitate anything and everything; Nishu whips up some fire beats and his laugh is almost as good as mine 😉; Lauren’s entire body radiates her joy, and she has the unique gift of making you feel valued and encouraged when you’re feeling down in the dumps (and her occasional “OH” is just plain amusing); Brooke can bounce between absolute goofiness and profound convo in a flash; Olivia pulls the funniest lines out of nowhere and makes you feel like the most appreciated and known person ever; Ryal can share his knowledge of the history of Florence (he actually enjoys reading nonfiction?!) and wiggle his eyebrows, which is just as cool as he is; Kyle’s eyes show his intense thoughtfulness, and he can go from deep theological talks to quoting Monty Python with me; Abby does a sick English accent and she can talk politics and cookies for dayz—that girl has opinions on everything and she can actually share them clearly!!; OC goes between saying the best quotes in the quote book to inspiring all of us with her writing—her animated stories draw the attention of the whole room; Jake says the darndest things, and they either make you crack up or question your whole life.  Just seeing him makes me laugh and think about quoting vines while we gallivanted across Berlin; Emma has the most reassuring advice and we can talk about everything from poop to the sweet, sweet Gospel; Jacob can hype up Catholicism and lip sync High School Musical like no other; Audrey’s honesty and insightfulness are revealed through her soothing voice, and she is one of the funniest people I know (and she is our A1 scribe with the quote book); Marat has the most calming presence, and his ability to see everyone’s perspective is so neat.  You could have a 3 hour convo with this dude and you would’ve thought it’s only been 15 minutes; and Taylor hands-down has the best facial expressions of anyone on planet earth and just the way she talks makes me happy.

We all express ourselves in different ways, and I am constantly shocked and thankful for everyone’s individuality and how much we have all come to own our quirks.  We’re all going to see each other’s presentational expression in tomorrow night’s Pecha Kuchas (don’t be mad if I mispronounce it please), and I can’t wait to see everyone and hear their insights once again.

 

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s just going to get better and better.

Peace & Blessings,

Brittany

24/31 hours

June 8 11:00 pm was vastly different than June 9 11:00 pm.  June 8, we were walking from our last meal all together (the last supper you might say) and June 9 I sat in my bed sleep deprived and missing my familia.  I’ll give you a rundown of those 24 hours (31 if you count the time change).

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At roughly 11:00 that last night, Ryal was giving Marat a piggyback ride to Giulitti’s and all of us were sentimental (#senti) and reminiscing on our time together.  Our last Giulitti’s did not disappoint and we soon found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain.  In classic CR fashion we took endless amounts of pictures then ended up sitting in silence, having yet another deep conversation, singing Stand By Me, busting out dance moves, and laughing at stupid jokes/Monty Python quotes/Vine references.  I felt so much at peace that I just looked around at everyone (sorry if I creeped anyone out by staring) and starting thinking about how close we’d all grown in a mere 3.5 weeks.

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We made the trek back to the hotel and by then it was around 2 am.  Brooke and Indigo had to leave for the airport at 5:30 am, so naturally, a couple of us decided to pull an all-nighter—with only a few hours of CR left, we wanted to squeeze as many memories in as possible.  Some went to bed around 4, but Indigo pulled a bold move and slept on the floor while those strong/delusional enough to stay awake danced around her head to Footloose and various Frog Camp songs.  The time went by surprisingly quickly with card games & back massages, and the next thing we knew, the sun had risen (and the Son has risen am I right?).  We walked Brooke and Indigo downstairs and said the first goodbyes of CR.  It was hard to believe I wouldn’t see them until August, and to be honest I’m still in denial about it.  Soon enough we said our farewells to the second batch of leavers Emma, Olivia, OC, Audrey, Kyle, and Ryal.  It was weird to be separating from people I’d grown so close to, and I trudged back up the stairs to reluctantly pack.  After I’d shoved everything into my oversize suitcase that had been lugged across 3 countries, Lauren, Marat, Taylor, Nishu, Jake, and I grabbed some breakfast.  It was a strangely silent breakfast due to the mixture of lack of sleep and an overload of emotions.  We grabbed our suitcases and the time came for me to say bye.  Weirdly enough, the song Time to Say Goodbye that had been played by all the street performers in Florence popped into my head and the feels began.  Lauren and I were waiting on the small and questionably secure elevator, and I just had to hug her and fight back tears.  We gave our final hugs and got in the van that would take us to the airport—the moment Lauren and I sat in the van, the tears came back full force and it actually hit me that CR was coming to a close.  Something I had looked forward to since December 17 was ending, and I didn’t want to accept it.

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Once we got to the airport, we parted ways, and for the first time in 3.5 weeks I was truly alone.  After going through excessive amounts of lines and security, I made it to my gate and onto the plane.  I found it weird being surrounded by so many Americans, and I started to realize how annoyed the Europeans probably were by us…we weren’t exactly a quiet bunch and probably disturbed a number of dinners and peaceful walks.  Too late to fix that now, but now I am more conscious of my noise level.  Nothing can dim the volume of my obnoxious laugh though, much to my chagrin.

On the ginormous plane, I was seated next to an angsty tween boy who avoided eye contact with me and didn’t smell too pleasant for 9 hours, and I spent most of it trying to process CR.  I landed in Charlotte and Facetimed my mom and drank enough coffee to make my body shake.  I figured if I hadn’t slept at this point I might as well tough it out until that night so I could try to keep the jet lag to a minimum.  After my final flight, I arrived in Memphis with bloodshot eyes, but was excited to see my family.  The Harano’s were waiting for me holding a neon pink welcome home sign, and we grabbed my bag and trekked into the muggy Memphis heat.  Man, I thought Rome was hot, but Memphis wins the humidity.  We chomped up some dinner and while they peppered me with questions, I had few answers because I still couldn’t articulate how amazing Cultural Routes had been.  How can you go into detail about how much you’ve grown as a person by learning more about your peers and the world when someone is asking you how skydiving felt?  They soon realized how exhausted I was and I fell into my greatly-missed bed and into a deeeeeep sleep.

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It was one of the most exhausting days of my life but I have 0 regrets about staying up with my familia to pack in as many mems as possible.  It’s been weird and borderline dreary being so far away from everyone, but I know that when we get back to campus we’ll all jump right back into our same conversations and laughs.  I had the best 3.5 weeks of my life on CR, and I cant wait to see how it impacted everyone else.

The Walking In Between

One of my favorite parts of CR is the walking. And let me tell ya, we walked a lot. I had the most stirring conversations, eye opening realizations, and Lauren-style “wow” moments during our walks between destinations. It is so special to see the cities from a pedestrian point of view because we started to know our way around (huge step for a directionally challenged gal like me) and we truly saw the city’s culture rather than just the tourist spots. The musical genius Ben Rector (who came to TCU last fall!!) sings “life is not the mountain tops / it’s the walking in between / and I like you walking next to me”. You can bet your Patagonia Micro-D Fleece I liked these goobers walking next to me. CR10 certainly visited the mountain tops in Interlaken, but we also had in between moments on travel days (RIP night train) and our 204.4 miles of walking according to the iPhone health app.

It’s crazy thinking about everywhere my shoes have been in 3.5 weeks—they have accumulated dust, rocks, dirt, rain, and snow from all across Europe and now they get to go back to the states and continue on to new adventures. All 16 of our shoes will go on to different cities and different experiences but they’ll carry the memories of CR from Kansas to Illinois. We would joke about having rocks in our Stocks and Chacs (Birkenstocks and Chacos, AKA the official unofficial sponsors of CR), but I would gladly undergo the agony of having a foreign rock shard in my foot if it meant I got to walk across Europe again with the familia.

I am a highly nostalgic individual, so all throughout CR I took videos of us walking around with historic architecture rising above our heads. I’m planning on making a video compilation just to be even more nostalgic and make myself cry some more. It’s fun seeing who is talking to each other in these videos—in every single one, we are branching out and making more connections with each other. We were pushed to connect with people we weren’t as comfortable with coming into CR, and you can tell in the videos that we were making the effort to get to know each other by making use of the time we had while exploring cities with each other.

Taylor and I walked back from dinners together a lot. We find a lot of similar things funny which is startling because usually nobody else thinks lame things are funny like I do. Taylor is world renowned for her story telling and facial expressions. You can’t talk to her and not walk away with a cramp in your side from laughing so hard. I love how she perfectly captures every emotion possible in her hilarious facial expressions, and you can’t help but mimic them when you’re with her. One time at dinner, Dr. P asked some of us who were sitting near him who had surprised us most on CR. Two of us said Taylor because she has such an explosive and magnetic personality that has shone so much on CR. If you’re reading this Taylor, you’re a superstar.

We got to see mimes on two occasions, and they have an uncanny ability to see a person and in an instant copy their walk. I started trying to do this with people in my groups because it is a fun challenge to analyze someone and how they carry themselves. It tells you so much about a person by simply seeing how they walk. For example, Audrey walks with such elegance and upright grace, Lauren has the happiest, bounciest walk I’ve ever seen, Abby walks with equal parts humility and curiosity, and Indigo leads with her heart as her eyes take in everything around her. I would find myself in the back of the group to watch everyone walking and laughing (creepy, I know) and think about how long the next 2 months will be without them and their quirks. I’ll save my gross nostalgia and feels for another post, but I encourage all of you to take every moment, especially the in-between, transition times to make meaningful connections with whoever is near. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about them as you both get closer and closer to your destinations.

Magic Moments

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “A Good Soul Jive” which consists of R&B and soul music. On said playlist is the lovely song, “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters. It gets me thinking about how some moments in our lives are so amazingly unreal that the only word to describe them is…magic. If you’re an avid reader of our quaint CR10 blog, you might notice I haven’t blogged since our visit to Dachau—this is due to a mixture of exhaustion and writers block, but mostly because everything I want to blog about is a brief, “you had to be there” kind of thing. Instead of writing about each of these times, I waited until now to describe multiple (but not anywhere near all) of my magic moments from Interlaken to Florence.

1.) The Train to Interlaken

To get from Munich to Interlaken, we had to take a series of trains. The first one left bright and early, so many of us slept through it (In a strange turn of events, I ended up sleeping on the floor of the compartment. It was oddly comfy). The train I found the most magic in, however, was our very last one. Though it was only 15 minutes long, it had many of us transfixed. Our first view of Interlaken, Switzerland was something I’ll never forget—after being in a dark tunnel for a hot minute, the sun suddenly burst through our train windows and all we could see was the dazzling lake and mountains and trees and sky. The train went silent at first,then all of a sudden we started buzzing about how breathtaking it all was. I’m pretty sure about half of us remarked that we wanted to have our honeymoons here (watch out future CR spouses). We saw a whole new side of God’s creation and it was topped off with paragliders floating down all around us. When you have 16 sleep deprived teens and a beautiful mountain view, magic just happens.

2.) Jumping out of a plane

11 of us thought it would be a grand idea to fall through the sky from 13,500 feet. And it was. After we all got suited up (and took some Top Gun level pictures), we jumped out of planes. It honestly felt fake, and I didn’t even scream because I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were free-falling with a stranger strapped to our backs (shoutout to my guy Craig) with the stunning terrain of Switzerland under us. It doesn’t get much better than that. The only reason I knew for certain that it happened was the fact that my ears didn’t pop back until the next day. Also I threw up in the bus on our way back—I blame that more on motion sickness induced by our crazy skydiving instructor lady’s mad driving, but it counts. I would definitely skydive again if I knew my ears and stomach would cooperate, but nothing beats doing it with these 10 rockstars with me.

3.) Hiking Through Cinque Terre

Don’t let the idyllic, chill Italian beach town vibe fool you, Cinque Terre can be home to some hardcore & sweaty activities. Hiking is one of them. Our day started by going all the way up a mountain to a church, then going across vineyards and valleys to the other “lands” of Cinque Terre (“five lands”). CR is all about the deep talks, especially while walking. Everyone is wanting to grow closer together, so what better way to do that than by asking simple, easy questions like “what was your biggest struggle in life?”, “what are your faults?”, “who are you now vs. who you were in high school?”, “tell me about your family and how they’ve shaped you”, “who do you most look up to?”, “what are your dreams/aspirations?”, “what are you passionate about?” Obviously these questions will help you get to know someone, and I’ve realized they are good questions to ask yourself for you own personal growth. Kyle and I were having one of these CR-deep-talks as we walked, and it was so special listening to and sharing what we are passionate about and why. Kyle, like everyone on CR, is incredibly wise and thoughtful, and truly strives to make the world better using the talents and interests God gave him. He is super involved and passionate about combating human trafficking, and it was eye opening and heartbreaking to hear about how deep it runs in our world and how no easy solution exists. I admire people who see things like human trafficking and, rather than getting discouraged or downtrodden, use all their drive to fight it. Every person has passions and dreams, and learning about them is something I will never tire of. People are far more complex than we can ever imagine, and I’m so thankful everyone on CR has the courage to ask each other about our deepest fears and greatest triumphs.

4.) Floating Down the Arno River

Our very first night in Florence, we had a big surprise waiting for us: we got a nighttime boat ride down the Arno River! What a way to see Florence. The weather was perfect, the river was sparkling, all my newest pals surrounded me, and we got to see Florence from the only boat in the river. People on land were taking pictures of us and waving because we were that big of a deal. We floated under the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and remarked how we all were peaking in life at that very moment. Our Italian boat-rower-dude was teaching us how to say some Italian words and describing the rich history of the buildings we were passing. If you ever get the chance to have a suave Italian row you around Florence at sunset, jump in.

5.) Street Musicians Playing Their Hearts Out

I love music. It’d be kind of hard not to considering my career path, but it has nonetheless been something that moves me and shapes me. After grabbing some gelato, we headed to hear some street musicians outside the Uffizi. I danced around with Lauren (she’s the next Odette in Swan Lake I’m tellin ya) then we all cruddled together (CR + cuddle = cruddle) to listen to a guitarist, flutist, and violinist. There’s something amazing about a group of people going silent just to listen to and enjoy someone creating music—all of us hear the same notes being played but hear different things and find different meaning in the songs. Some of us took videos or audio recordings, some of us listened blissfully, and some of us fell asleep (*cough* Marat). All of the musicians played a beautiful variety of songs, but they all played “Time To Say Goodbye.” Weird, but cool. Despite Dr. P telling us to be all in 24/7, it’s hard not to think about how soon CR will be over and how quickly approaching our “time to say goodbye” is. We are already in our last city, and the pressure is on to make the most of every moment. I can assure you there will be many more magic moments to be had in Rome, and I can’t wait to update you on them. But for now, I will try to get in my 4 hours of sleep before we wake up to go to Vatican City. Ciao!

Responsive to suffering, attuned to joy

I don’t have my thoughts collected enough to write a long post about Dachau, because if I tried to write about everything I saw and felt, I fear I wouldn’t do the horrors the people endured in that place justice. I just want to write about one thing I find symbolic and stirring: the Poplar trees that lined the street between the barracks.

The first thing I noticed when I saw these was that they looked like angels wings; these trees (the same kind that were there when the camp was in operation) seemed to be a symbol of life and hope in the midst of so much suffering and evil. The place where these wings seem to meet is a Christian memorial—it was incredibly moving for me to see and remind myself that God is sovereign even in the most incomprehensible and horrific situations. As you walk down this street between the barracks and under the shadow of these trees, you quite literally approach the foot of the cross.

I went to the convent behind this memorial and prayed for a long time for peace and healing for those affected by this concentration camp, which is, in a sense, everyone on this earth. Who knows how those brutally worked, starved, and killed could have made an impact on us today? Their freedoms and potentials were worth so much more than something as nonsensical as race and the fight for power.

In my honors religion class this past semester (Indigo and Emma were in it too!!), our amazing professor, Dr. Middleton, said we should be “responsive to suffering and attuned to joy.” The ability to see and understand oppression but still have a heart of joy is something I am working on. My life has been comparatively “easy” and there is nothing I would change about my path to who I am today. Joy is something that comes naturally to me, but I haven’t had to endure hardships anywhere close to what the majority of the world has to go through. The human beings that were cycled through this camp had their belongings taken, heads shaved, names replaced with numbers, bodies beaten, and dignity stripped. Their identities, cultures, and faiths were reduced to colored shapes on patches.

I had no idea some of the women were kept in a building and continually raped by the SS soldiers until I saw a small marker where the building was. The fact that I am still learning more about concentration camps despite being immersed in memorials and museums for the past week speaks to the terrors of the holocaust. There is no possible way for us to know everything that went on in these camps—each person suffered different tragedies. It was hard enough for me to read about this, so I cannot begin to imagine how these individuals felt living it out.

Despite these evils, we are still called to be attuned to joy. I wonder if any of the prisoners looked at those trees and saw angel wings too. If they looked at them and wished they could fly above the electrified barbed wire and guard towers and out of the camp. The thousands that remained resilient show that hope, even just slivers of it, remained. Our time at Dachau is something that will be on my mind for a long time and these emotions will be hard to sort out.

I’m so thankful to have gone through all of this with the wonderful people of CR10—I have never met a group of more thoughtful, passionate, kind, inquisitive, and loving friends than I have in these past 8 days. I think it is so beautiful that we all visited the same space yet each person got something different out of it. That really reinforces the idea that our perspectives and past experiences continue to shape how we view and react to life’s heartbreaks, joys, and surprises. Everyone has been so open to discussion and truly invested in what each other experienced. I hope and expect this dynamic will continue throughout the entirety of CR.

Friede Friede Friede

Our first full day was all about connections: connections between places, time periods, cultures, ideas, and with our fellow CR10ers. My team today was Audrey Payne, Indigo Crandell, Jacob James, Jake Lynn, and Olivia Wales (Team Charlie!!!).

We launched right into our itinerary and were determined to get everything in….but of course we had a few detours such as in the Mall of Berlin to ride down a slide, eat some delicious crepes by the river, and into a TK Maxx to see how it compared to our beloved American TJ Maxx. We forged connections and built bonds while having a blast and exploring Berlin. However, many of these places we explored were far from lighthearted. The Brandenburg Gate, the Soviet War Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Treptower Park, and the East Side Gallery were all perfect opportunities to delve into Germany’s history and begin questioning how this city has been shaped and continues to be affected by its past.

One thing I love about these places is that we were able to see two sides of the story. One of our focuses was on the struggle between the Germans and the Soviets, particularly during the time period of the Berlin Wall. Treptower Park was remarkable because it was built by the Soviets to memorialize those killed in the Battle of Berlin. A Russian memorial in the heart of Germany! Dr. P came with our group today, and the knowledge he shared was incredible—the symbolism packed into this site was overwhelming (you can read more about it in Jacob’s post from today!). We all gained a greater appreciation for the Soviet’s side of the story and learned how important it is to have empathy despite our own pride and prejudice (haha, Jane Austen).

As a ballet dancer, I am naturally drawn to art and how people use it as a path to healing. The fact that they have transformed a portion of the Berlin Wall into an art gallery speaks to the power of art and emotion in overcoming a crisis. As we walked along the wall, we saw many artists represented by their colorful and stirring work which, in a sense, covers the blank uniformity of the wall. By simply painting on concrete, the Berliners have made a statement of individualism and resistance to past oppression.

Another memorable site from today was “The Crier” statue which parallels the Soviet War Memorial and faces the Brandenburg Gate. This figure is shouting “Friede, Friede, Friede”. In classic American style, we assumed this meant “freedom,” but in actuality it means “peace” from an excerpt of a poem by Francesco Petrarch:

“I wander through the world and cry ‘Peace, Peace, Peace.’”

One of my goals from here on out is to relentlessly pursue peace in the world and try to see all perspectives. I feel so inspired by my peers and all they shared today both physically (my handy health app says we got 27,115 steps in today) and emotionally. We’ll be waking up in 5 hours to take on day 2…bring it on, Berlin.

-Brittany

Wheels Up

CR has quickly changed from a cool study abroad I wanted to apply for to an experience I am losing sleep over because I’m too excited to fall asleep…this lack of rest may pose a problem when we have 0 time to sleep over the next couple of weeks, but I guess we’ll find out soon! My bag is fully packed, but it is still difficult to comprehend that this really starts tomorrow. I feel like it won’t hit me that CR is happening (and not a figment of my imagination) until we meet up in Berlin!

Some of my biggest fears for CR are: dragging around my suitcase, lack of growth, the airplane food, inability to make connections with people, insensible shoes, not dancing for 3.5 whole weeks (though I promised one of my teachers I’d take a few exotic arabesque pictures, and I’ll probably end up dancing in some way or another anyway), and getting kidnapped. Some are reasonable, some aren’t, but all are fears nonetheless.

Some of my biggest excitements for CR are: growing in my faith (I can’t wait to see how my perspective of God gets bigger the more of His creation I get to see and His people I get to meet…and Lauren and I made a pact to have Jesus-time every day), making best friends, seeing the world, going skydiving, learning more about myself and others, eating some dang good food, and learning more about how historical events have impacted us.

I’m trying to suppress my expectations (without suppressing excitements) for anything on CR—I know it will be wildly different from anything I could think up, so I’d like to go in with fresh eyes and an openness that might be restricted if I go in with an idea of what I want. As far as expectations for after CR, I’m so excited to be a part of the Familia and continue getting to know CR alums, in addition to welcoming CR11! I’m also looking forward to seeing how my life will look different after everything I experience in Europe, whether it be in how I view/treat myself, others, or the world. I absolutely love how this will be more about experiential learning rather than classroom learning—as much as I love and see the value of learning in a classroom setting, there are many things you can only learn by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, & listening.

My flight leaves in less than 12 hours. That’s so hard to wrap my mind around, but I am beyond ready to be all-in. In Dr. P’s closing words from our last meeting, “See you in Berlin.”

-Brittany