Gone Like The Wind

What seemed like only yesterday has flown by so fast; I can still clearly remember the couple of days leading up to Cultural Routes and the hectic flying day to Berlin, our very first city. In those few days leading up to my experience, I was feeling a range of emotions from excitement to anxiousness: excitement for what was to come and anxiousness for having to start over in getting to know an unfamiliar group of people. Although it is easy to say I’d like to go back and relive it, CR wouldn’t be the same twice and it’s never good to live in the past. I learned a lot and have even been able to see those lessons playing out well after CR concluded. As many others before me have said, I can’t even begin to describe my Cultural Routes experience.

One of the most important lessons I learned about while on CR is the need for rest. Often times, the most challenging part of CR was relaxing. Although a crucial cog of CR is being All-In 24/7, how can I be all in if I’m struggling to make it through each day?? You can’t. Part of being All-in 24/7 requires you to be making the most of the little time you are given to rest, so that you can be energized for all that the day holds. It was so tempting to stay up and chat every night in a guise of being of “All-in 24/7,” but then I would be short tempered and cranky, which would not be good for the team. The need for rest has translated to my college life as well. This semester, especially, has revealed a great desire in me to rest. Constant busyness has been the theme of my life this semester, along with any other sophomore I’m sure, and I don’t say that as a badge of honor towards my involvement. But rather, constant busyness with no rest has left me drained and made it harder for me to really be All-In towards the things I choose to involve myself in. With consistent rest in my life, I know that I would me more dedicated to being All-In towards all that I do. This seemingly insignificant lesson has been the one that has stuck with me the most; I hope to be able to find rest in the midst of busyness.

Another important lesson impressed upon me was the proper articulation of my thoughts. I can’t count the number of times I may have said something out of line, thinking my words were completely innocent, yet they were actually blunt and conveyed a message I didn’t mean to come across. Needless to say, it led to some tense moments that could have been avoided if I had been more tactful in my word choice. Nowadays, the thought of whether or not I might be saying something to someone that could come off as rude fills my mind each time I am interacting with another person. There have definitely been some moments that I may have struggled with that this year, yet it is something I have been painfully aware of. The proper use of rhetoric can define and shape how a conversation goes as well how someone views you.

Gone are the days when our group could be seen moseying around each city, laughing and enjoying each other’s presence like we’d known each other forever. Gone are the days where every moment spent together was filled with deep, meaningful conversations that could go on for hours without a strict agenda limiting our time. Although CR10 has been over for a while, the lessons learned will be permanently etched into my brain. So, thanks Dr. P and Lindsey, and all the others a part of the CR10 familia for making my time in Europe such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Farewell,

Marat

Close Calls

So far, transportation has been much more difficult to navigate than I first expected. From diverted flights, close calls on trains, and missed busses, our group has had our fair share of transportation problems. Through it all, I have grown a sense of appreciation for the people who navigate the tricky transportation systems daily. Even after three and a half weeks attempting to figure it out, I’m still befuddled at times when I stare at the intermixed train and bus maps (luckily, there are some people who are quite adept at it). Despite difficulties, transportation has surprisingly taught me a lot, from being wearier of my actions to learning more about myself.

Looking all the way back to our time in Berlin, I realize how spoiled we were with the transportation system. You could get almost anywhere with the train system. At first, I struggled to see where all the trains were going and had no clue how to differentiate between a U-Bahn and S-Bahn train. Thankfully we had an expert navigator in our group, Ryal Reddick. Ryal had been to Berlin before and was able to easily lead our group anywhere and everywhere with his expertise. I’d say by the second or third day in Berlin, I felt like I had a better grasp of how to navigate Berlin. But just when our group thought we were getting good, we hopped onto a train going the completely wrong way. Although only a minor mistake and easily redeemable, on a different train our mistake could potentially lead to a more severe problem. We were able to manage transportation pretty well in Berlin, but that did not necessarily reveal how the rest of our transportation experiences would go.

As I’m sure you’ve heard from blogs before, our night train to Munich was disastrous. I’m not sure what it was, but our conductor had a vendetta against us. Maybe we were too loud getting on the train or he was annoyed because we weren’t sleeping and instead enjoying quality conversation with each other in the different compartments. Whatever the conductor’s reasoning, his treatment towards us was quite cruel. Our entire coach was awoken to his cries of “it is finished,” “it isn’t my problem,” and most terrifying, “two minutes, two minutes.” Don’t forget that this was all expressed in a heavy, thick German accent. We all started scrambling, fearful that we wouldn’t get off in time. In the process of scrambling, food trays and drinks were dropped, items were left (IYKYK), and adrenaline levels were through the roof. When we finally did get off, we stood on the platform and watched the train stay motionless for another ten minutes. I fully believe that the conductor was in glee while watching us struggle to get off the train. Not a great start to Munich, but we were blessed by not going through any further problems with trains in Munich (or at least any I can think of). During and right after our night train to Munich, our group was anxious and exhausted, but I think we can now all agree that it’s a great story to tell, despite the emotional scarring at the time.

Our next transportation problem occurred on the way to Interlaken. This was not due to difficulty in navigating but rather our lack of train etiquette. Right before an announcement came over the speaker, our group increased our volume so that we could hear each other over the loudspeaker. By the grace of God and Dr. P’s many apologies to the train staff, we avoided a catastrophe. Because we had been so loud, we had missed the announcement that everyone going to Interlaken needed to get off at the next stop. As Dr. P was apologizing to the last train attendant, she mentioned that the next stop was the correct one. About ninety percent of us were standing on the platform. In other words, all of us on the platform were wrong and in danger of the doors closing and the train leaving us far from our final destination. Dr. P’s much better train etiquette saved us from the rest of our terrible train etiquette. Our Interlaken train situation has definitely taught me to be more cautious about how loud I am in public and in public transit. I often wince now whenever I hear our group’s raucousness wherever we go. I am not devoid of blame in all cases, but Interlaken has caused me to think more about how loudly I speak.

Interlaken would go on to provide more headaches. When Nishu and I headed out for the day to go kayaking, we stood at a bus stop for a while waiting and waiting, until we figured something must’ve gone wrong. We walked forty minutes to get to our destination. Our attempt to catch the bus on the way back to the hostel would be just as fruitless. Nishu and I speed walked back to the hostel and because of the time crunch, ran the last half mile. I’d find out later more specifically how the busses ran. With that information, sprinting and long treks could have been avoided. But shoot me for not just asking and trying to do it on my own. My refusal to ask the citizens of Interlaken with help in figuring out the bus system led to us missing our busses. This do-it-myself attitude shows up in more than just not asking for directions, but in how I work with others. As much as I hate admitting it, I like being in control, so when others try and take charge, I sometimes respond negatively, which is a fault. It’s funny how much was revealed in missing a couple of busses. In the future, I hope to be more willing to ask for and readily receive help. That includes help in accomplishing a task or help when I’m emotionally drained.

Although Italy doesn’t utilize trains as much as Germany does, our group still found a way to make life difficult by almost missing our train and even missing one on a certain occasion. One morning, our group had to jog all the way to the train station (no mere feat) to catch our train to Pisa. We had time to get on the train easily and sit down and relax (not quite as exaggerating as it sounds). However, two days later, a smaller group of us found ourselves almost sprinting to the train station to catch the train to San Gimignano. Nine of us decided to travel to the Tuscan countryside town for our free travel day in Florence. Our arrival to the train was much closer than the train to Pisa and it started rolling only a minute after we boarded. Thank goodness we decided to sprint, or we would have certainly been left behind.

We arrived at the Poggibonsi train station about an hour later and proceeded to buy bus tickets to get us to San Gimignano, only to miss our bus due to confusion of where we were supposed to be picked up. Eventually we made it to the small countryside town. The town was small and rustic and reminded me of a medieval town with its high walls. We ate some world-famous gelato (twice), got a picture with the store owner, walked around a bit, and sat on some steps so people could journal and converse. The plot thickened when we walked down to our bus stop and our bus decided to no show. Because it was Sunday (or a “holiday”), the busses didn’t run until 5:40, six minutes before our train departed for Florence. Even attempting to call a taxi proved pointless because they, too, weren’t running till 5:40. At this point, I remember feeling so frustrated and many members in our group were on a similar wavelength. This is when one member of our group, Brooke, decided to intervene and have us all sit down and try to calm down and figure out the situation. She found another train that would only have us arriving about thirty minutes later than originally planned. Problem solved. Yet, I was still so frustrated. It was our third bad run in with transportation that day. Full of anger, I sat in the grass close to ten minutes. As I sat there thinking about all that had gone wrong that day and how stressed I was, I asked myself why. Why was I mad? Why was I stressed? Why was I harping on the negative? Everything was fine; we had devised a successful plan to get back. This is something I struggle with so much: focusing on the negative even when the situation turns out fine. In that moment, I decided to smell the roses. Instead of continuing to mope in the grass, I got up and walked over to sit next to my friends on a wall with a great overlook of the valleys surrounding the town. I attribute my action to Brooke’s logical words, Lauren’s positive outlook, and Indigo’s joy in the situation. All three handled the situation in a way that I want to be able to regularly act out. This seemingly frustrating travel day turned into a valuable lesson for me.

I hope these stories don’t sound negative or as if I’m complaining. I just want to tell it how it was and how I felt in that moment. It’s weird to think that such a minute thing as transportation revealed to me so much of my character and personality and even pushed me to look at life from an unfamiliar perspective. Often times, it’s the little things that can have such a great impact.

-Marat Rosencrants

Pointing to Something Greater

The few days spent in Interlaken can be described in one short phrase: full of adventure. I’ve witnessed incredibly beautiful scenery as well as taken part in the many outdoor experiences Interlaken has to offer. I’ve loved every single minute of it.

In our full first day in Interlaken, Kyle, Indigo(oi), and I woke up early and spent some time having a refreshing worship session. It was a great way to start off the morning, especially considering we had a beautiful backdrop of snowy mountains and fresh mountain air to wake us up. After we finished up, we quickly headed to breakfast since we had lost track of time and needed to get started with our day.

For my first adventure, Nishu and I headed on over to Lake Brienz (a natural lake created by runoff from the glacial ice of the Swiss Alps) so that we could spend some time kayaking. We started off great by missing out first bus and having to talk 45 minutes to the lake. Turns out, it ended up being okay as we were both able take in the beautiful scenery around us. We finally got our kayaks into the lake and began. I spent most of my time on the lake reflecting on the past couples of weeks and trying to keep up with Nishu (Nishu is admittedly much better at kayaking than I am). Three hours later, Nishu and I hurriedly dragged our kayaks onto shore because we needed to get back to the hotel. For the second time that day, we missed our bus and had to rush back to the hotel at a brisk pace. We may or may not have sprinted the last half mile. Luckily, we arrived back to the hotel on time for the real thriller of the day.

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I quickly dropped my bags off in my room and grabbed what I needed for my next extreme sports experience. Audrey and I were headed to go PARASAILING. I could not be more excited to be up in the air overlooking Interlaken, its two lakes, and the mountains. Despite mine and Audrey’s excitement, we were both forced to patiently wait before we got up in the air because we had to drive up a mountain before we got up in the air. On the twenty-minute bus ride up, instructors briefly covered what everyone needed to do. When they went over takeoff, I began to get a little nervous; we had to run off the mountain and just keep running until our feet were no longer on the ground. Thoughts of whether the paraglider would work began to pop into my head at this point. However, my fear was assuaged when my partner reassured me of his experience in the air. I don’t know how many times in my life I can say I really enjoyed running off a mountain to be jerked up into the air, but my experience was smooth and simple, and we were soon flying high. The view was INCREDIBLE! I could see both of Interlaken’s lake, the mountains I was flying over, the town of Interlaken and all its seemingly tiny people, and even the hotel our group was staying at. Words cannot describe the beauty of Interlaken from above. Pictures struggle to depict the beauty as well, but here are some attempting to do so.

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My instructor even let me steer for a couple of minutes. To up the extremeness of the already extreme sport, the instructor went for some 360s, which admittedly caused my stomach to drop a few times. After about twenty minutes in the air, we landed smoothly. Audrey landed shortly after due to the wind preventing her and her instructor from taking off. That little hitch didn’t seem to bother her too much and she was still brimming with excitement when she landed. We quickly headed over to buy the pictures (because who wouldn’t) and we headed back to the hotel.

At this point in the day, I figured the day was done. I had done quite a bit already and I was looking forward to relaxing a bit before dinner. However, Dr. P invited Jacob, Audrey, and me to take a short train ride up to the top of one of the nearby mountains. I thought sure why not, this could be a lot of fun getting to see another bird’s eye view of Interlaken. So, we took a scary train that escalated at above a forty-five-degree angle. I was anxiously waiting for a drop similar to the Disney World’s Tower of Terror drop. Thank God that didn’t actually happen. We safely arrived at the top and headed over to the 360 overlook. Again, what I saw cannot be easily described. I was able to enjoy a still and peaceful view of all of Interlaken and its surrounding area. Views like below are ones I could sit and look out at for hours.

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On day two, we mixed it up a little and the group reconvened for a little hike. Our plan was to hike a little, see some waterfalls, and then take some gondolas up to the top of Mount Schiltorn, a near ten-thousand-foot-tall mountain. The hike started from a beautiful village and as we walked further, the more serene the atmosphere felt. Getting the chance to talk amongst each other and learn more about other members on CR was relaxing as we sauntered through the valley. On the hike up, I was quite surprised to even run into a friend (what are the odds?). I can’t stress how beautiful it is to walk through the Swiss Alps and I still have a tough time comprehending that we did. The most stunning part of the day was arriving at the peak of Mount Schiltorn and being able to see out for miles uninterrupted. Our group had to take pictures and we took our time to appreciate the beauty that surrounded us and made sure to not rush through our brief time. Snow-capped mountains, a rotating James Bond themed restaurant, small snowball fights, and friends around made for the perfect experience.

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My experience in Interlaken and the city’s beauty all point to the same thing: the many blessings God has poured down on my life. I don’t know what it is about nature that draws me to think on such things, but when I’m in nature, removed from the busyness of life, I find it much easier to reflect on my blessings and to ponder in the quietness that often evades my everyday life. Maybe the towering mountains remind me of how insignificant my troubles are compared to all that God can do, will do, and has repeatedly done for my life. Or maybe the beauty of God’s creation helps me realize the amount of work God has put into creating nature, others, and myself included. Whatever it may be and as much as I tend to forget, I am extremely thankful. I am so thankful for my parents for adopting me, for giving me a loving home, and for giving me a fantastic education. I am thankful for Allen, a godly man that has poured into me for the last five years and will be a friend till the end. I am thankful for the many other people God has put in my life from my friends and family. And I am thankful for Dr. P for giving me the chance to go on CR and for investing and putting in so much effort to make sure CR is a stimulating and challenging experience for my peers and me. There are a number of things I can be thankful for and the short list I have given doesn’t even begin to cover it. All of who I am and where I am would not have been possible without God’s working hand in my life. I strive to constantly remind myself of all that God has done and continues to do in the lives of others and in me.

Interlaken, you were beautiful beyond words and you taught me so much about myself. Onwards and upwards we go.

Marat Rosencrants

Never Again

My time at Dachau was an extremely difficult and emotionally challenging day. For our final day in Germany, CR10 spent the day at the Dachau concentration camp just outside the city of Munich. The Dachau concentration camp was a Nazi instrument of terror for twelve years, and in it, so many unspeakable horrors occurred.

From the moment I walked into the main central memorial area, I felt extremely uncomfortable. The path we took led us straight through the Jourhaus, the entrance gate to the concentration camp. As each prisoner stepped through that gate, they lost their freedom and dignity – set on a path that would lead to their unwarranted death or to a past that could not and should not be forgotten. “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “work sets you free,” is the phrase that was ironically placed on the gate. It made a mockery of the people as they entered. The notion that Dachau was a labor camp and a correctional facility played down everything that really occurred behind closed doors.

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Looking out on the prisoner camp, I began to realize the sheer size of it all. The prison camp was only a small portion of the entire camp, which means the entire camp was ginormous. How preposterous is it that the Nazi’s would devote so many resources, so much time, and so much land to systematically oppress all sorts of people who weren’t part of the “superior” race of Aryans?

I spent most of the morning walking the entire course of the camp and trying to take it all in, wondering how in the world this could have happened. I tried to imagine placing myself in the prisoners’ spots. Attempting to place myself in the prisoners’ shoes helped to make sense of all that was around me. I tried desperately to imagine myself walking through the entrance gate. I tried to imagine standing completely still during roll call, having to keep still even when a neighbor collapsed to the ground or seeing a dead man dragged to the position next to me. I tried with all my will to understand the gravity of the situation. Yet, I am fully aware that I can never even come close to truly understanding without being put in a situation like that. All I can do is try.

What got to me most was the final section of the camp, the crematorium. Harry Zaslow, a Jewish-American soldier, took part in the liberation of Dachau. In a recorded interview, he mentions smelling a putrid stench coming from somewhere and looking up to see smoke coming from two buildings near the back of the camp. He approached the buildings and opened the door to the larger building to discover a room full of dead bodies, piled on each other to the top of the ceiling. After already witnessing the hundreds of bodies laying around the camp, this only added to his horror. Harry continued on and opened another door to find another room of bodies also stacked to the ceiling. At this moment in the recording, I stood in the middle of the two chambers, unable to put together any coherent thoughts. TWO large rooms filled with dead bodies?!?!? Not to mention the significant number of those dead in the box cars on the train tracks. How horrifying!! The recording continued and Harry described stepping into the furnace room,  and looking into one furnace. What he saw must’ve shaken him to the core. There, in front of him, lay bodies slowly being roasted going into the furnace. Only then can I imagine did this US soldier fully grasp the barbarity of the Nazi regime.

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In the large crematorium, I also got to see the gas chambers. Here, one hundred and fifty prisoners were stuffed in a room under the belief that they would be receiving a shower for once! This small room was then heated up and filled with noxious air that would cause those inside to suffocate for fifteen to twenty minutes and then die. In the past, whenever I had heard any mention of gas chambers, I had assumed that it was a quick death, not realizing that it was meant to be a slow and torturous process for the people stuck inside. Words cannot describe how quickly I ran through that room, knowing all that had occurred there. The few seconds I spent scampering into and out of the room were enough to make me feel its heavy weight.

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Even days  after visiting this haunting memorial, I can’t help but feel anger towards the injustice, sorrow for the so many lives lost, and shock for the extent to which the Nazis cruelly dealt with the thousands that were brought to the Dachau concentration camp. Despite my reeling and despair, I was able to leave the site not feeling completely overwhelmed and depressed.. The Protestant Church of Reconciliation provided a feeling that had evaded me all day – hope. Its design stands in stark contrast to the design of the concentration camp. This church was created with different sized rooms and a lack of any ninety-degree angle – a symbol of the Nazi murder system. Another design created random protrusions along the church walls to emphasize the importance of depth.

“Depth can frighten or threaten you, but also be a shelter or protection. It’s important that experience of depth doesn’t destroy you. Out of the depths a person may complain, may weep, may cry, may pray.” – Helmut Striffler (the architect)

We can’t run from depth; we can’t run from the things we find gruesome and horrifying. If we don’t choose to face what we find deeply disturbing, we fail to honor and acknowledge the suffering so many people went through. Failing to address past atrocities can lead to an unwanted repeat in history. We also CANNOT let this sickening experience destroy the hope we hold. This quote brought me so much comfort in realizing that I absolutely needed to feel despair and anger to better understand all that went on in Dachau. With this quote came a bible verse from Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.” I cried out to the Lord while praying, utterly devoid of hope. He was attentive to my cry for mercy for my unrestful soul, and in that moment, I felt some solace. This religious memorial actively fights against the belief of discrimination and causes me to actively fight against it too. The Dachau concentration camp is meant to honor those who died and to show the world how the Nazis were able to carry out their plans. With this information, we have the responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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NEVER AGAIN can we stand for discrimination, racism, homophobia, and prejudice that led to the brutal murder of so many innocent lives. NEVER AGAIN should the entire world be blind to the maltreatment of entire groups of people. And NEVER AGAIN will we allow a tyranny to extinguish the lives of millions.

– Marat Rosencrants

Embracing an Undesirable History

In my short (yet seemingly lengthy) time in Berlin, I have learned so much about Berlin’s rich history and the amends it has made and continues to make in response to its hand in the many horrors of World War II. Berlin is a city unlike any other in how it goes about the creation of museums and memorials to the placement of those museums and memorials and to the extensive symbolism interwoven into each museum and memorial. Our team, Team Bravo, has had the last three days to explore the city of Berlin to learn more about its role in World War II and the Cold War, and to ask some questions as we spend time examining each site.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has been by far been one of the most impactful moments of my time in Berlin. This memorial covers an entire street block and is filled with 2,711 concrete slabs, of varying heights, that represent the more than six million Jews that were massacred during Hitler’s reign. The slabs increase in height the further you wander into the memorial, and with it, comes the feeling that you are slowly being overwhelmed. As I walked towards the center of slabs, the sounds from people on the street, honking cars, and even the sound of someone walking a few feet away were dampened, and I began to feel very alone as the slabs towered over me. The uneven ground was further cause for uncertainty as it sloped up and down causing me to trip. I can only help but wonder how much more overwhelmed and uncertain each Jew felt at the beginning of each day, wondering whether or not they would return home that day as their persecution increased. With the increasing persecution, the Jews were slowly headed towards a disaster that could not be stopped.

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Later that same day, our entire group went for a night adventure where we got to experience the same memorial. Except this time, it was in the dark of night, with light only being provided by the hotel and street lights. We went out into groups of three and four and ambled through the memorial. I don’t proudly proclaim my fear for the dark, but this was pretty dang scary. As we walked through the memorial, I felt more and more uneasy the longer we walked on, and I was quite relieved to reach the rest of our group at the end. When we reconvened, our group began to discuss why this memorial was here, why it was the named the way it was, and reasonings for the way the memorial had been built.

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Not only is this memorial placed near the heart of where the Nazi’s controlled their operations, but it is placed on prime real estate in the center of Berlin, near the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, and the US Embassy. I believe that the memorial’s placement signals Berlin’s effort to really show how much they desire to right their wrong in that they could’ve sold the property to the highest bidder yet decided to create a unique memorial for the main victims of their terror. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also employs strong rhetoric. The word “murdered” is as blunt as it gets and implies the killing of an innocent people, who did not deserve the cruel treatment they received. Among the many slabs in the memorial are spots on the outside that are skipped and left empty. This simple act honors the many Jews who might be excluded from the estimated six million. Not only does this memorial honor six million Jews, but the empty spots honor the many Jews forgotten because of missing deportation lists and the impossibility of having an exact count of the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust.

The museum below went onto build on the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe by personalizing and humanizing the many lives lost. The museum included many real stories of individuals Jews who faced persecution and eventually lost their families and their lives in the brutal concentration camps. In the Room of Dimensions, there were several excerpts from letters written by Jewish victims to their family or anyone that would listen. One quote particularly stuck out to me. Judith Wischnjatskaja wrote:

“Before I die I want to say farewell to you. We want so much to live, but
they won’t let us, we will be killed. I am so afraid of this death, because
the small children are being thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye for ever.
My warmest kisses for you.”  -Your J

In the letter transposed and sent to the museum, the author removed the word, pit, and changed it to grave because it sounded too harsh. Instead, the creator of the museum chose to include the word as to convey the letter’s full meaning. Again we see Berlin fully show their darkness rather than just hiding it. In the next room, the Room of Families, fifteen different Jewish families, from 13 different countries are represented by vertical hanging slabs that continue from the above memorial. Although this doesn’t cover each country that had Jews killed, it reveals an honest attempt to showcase just how widespread Germany and Berlin’s terror spread.

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The memorial’s design and museum below bring so much life to a people the people of Berlin once thought inferior. The memorial and museum counter the Nazi’s views of Jews as an individual group. By making each slab to be a different height and creating an extensive museum below that is filled with relatable personal stories, it humanizes the Jews, and reminds us that each Jew was a unique human being.

Thanks so much for an amazing time Berlin. And thanks to Team Bravo for the wonderful, thought-provoking conversations that have taught me so much in the last few days.

Onward we go.

– Marat

In a Pickle

It is the seventh hour of being stuck in the Atlanta airport (and the ninth for my companion, Indigo) and I am utterly fed up with being in the airport. Our flight was delayed by four hours due to acrimonious weather, meaning we would miss our connecting flights to Berlin. We were forced to re-book to a flight that will take us all the way to Istanbul, Turkey and then back to Berlin. Needless to say, the emotions are running high; and Indigo and I are about to be on our way to Berlin (9 hours late nonetheless). Despite our misfortune, the prospect of arriving in Europe in less than a day’s time for 3.5 weeks leaves me full of excitement; and I am experiencing a vast range of other emotions from fear to nervousness to anticipation for all that is to come.

While finishing up school–from finals to papers to projects–I have had little time to dwell on, or even realize, just how quickly CR was approaching. Only after boarding my delayed flight has the realization hit me of the adventure that awaits; the only thing holding me back from that is an 11.5-hour flight and then another 2-hour flight (if I haven’t made it clear that I am anxiously waiting to be on the ground in Berlin and exploring the city, then I want to make that clear now). But the time is nearly upon me and my fellow CR members, and I could not be more excited!

In the long car ride back home from Fort Worth, and in the few days after finals, I had plenty of time to reflect on what I want this experience to be. Some of my goals include: not comparing CR10 to any other CR experience (CR9, CR8, etc.); being present in every moment; and overcoming the inevitably hard moments I will face.

Too often, I compare myself to others. This trait can only be debilitating to my personal CR10 experience and learning from it what I need to learn as an individual. As C.S. Lewis says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I fully intend to heed Dr. P’s, C.S. Lewis’s, and the many CR alumni’s advice to not compare! Not only will it rob me of the joy I should be feeling while travelling across Europe, but rob my team member’s experiences as well.

A prominent fear of mine that has developed as the semester has worn on is that of the future. I am one that often becomes preoccupied with the next stage of life or what I’ll be doing tomorrow. Living presently in a moment that has yet to arrive is one skill that I certainly hope to take away from this experience. In fact, just a few days ago, I was thinking back on my freshman year of college and just how fast it flew by, and I began to worry about how fast CR itself would speed by. How preposterous is that?? Worrying about what lies ahead only takes away the focus on the present and from being present in this experience I am sharing with fifteen other students. From here on out, I desire to make the most of the little moments I have, because those moments can end up being the most significant parts of CR and, generally, of life. Whether it be losing a few minutes of sleep to enjoy deep and thought-provoking conversations with team members or fighting through weary legs and bodies to pay attention and take time to reflect on the many things we will witness, I will be fully engaged and fully present in all that we do.

One thing I really hope CR can teach me is perseverance through hard moments. As much as I hate to say this, I often shy away from doing hard things in my life. It is uncomfortable to do hard things, and my dislike of failure can cause me to disengage and be discouraged to push through challenging tasks and times. I know that CR is mentally exhausting, yet stimulating; physically laborious, yet completely manageable. CR will challenge me in a variety of ways and, with the desire for personal growth to push through that which challenges me, I know that this experience can be a landmark for how I face challenging classes and situations at TCU and beyond.

 

In thinking about all that I want my CR experience to be, several fears and hesitancies surfaced, which I believe is normal for anyone embarking on an unknown adventure. I fear I may at first feel awkward arriving onto the scene almost half a day late, and that I may miss out on the blossoming of relationships. I fear the idea that I may not be doing things the right way. And I fear that CR will not be all that I hope to be. Although all of these are clearly irrational fears, they are nonetheless fears. I will have more than enough time to catch up on relationship building. There is no right way to do CR as each experience is unique in its own way. And from hearing how CR has been a standout moment for many peoples’ entire college experience, I know that I shouldn’t worry too much about CR matching my expectations.

 

I have already overcome another one of my fears, which is missing my flights to Europe. Now that I have that one out of the way, every other fear begins to feel so trivial. We are well on our way and as JK Rowling said, “All is well.”

 

See you soon, Berlin.

 

– Marat Rosencrants

 

P.S. This was meant to be posted in America, but due to the flights fiasco, it was delayed and so now I am posting it in Istanbul.

A Tale of Two Stories

Like Cultural Routes, Berlin is a city that holds much more than one would originally expect. When I first applied to Cultural Routes, I had seen the many pictures, and imagined that I would be spending 3.5 weeks in Europe merely enjoying myself and “learning” a thing or two on the occasion. But man, oh man, have I realized how incorrect my initial assumptions were. I believe that Berlin is the perfect city to set the tone for Cultural Routes in that this city is MORE than Germany’s capital, MORE than a place that is known for its modernization, and much MORE than a city that only wants to showcase its best qualities.

After spending some time researching my city and talking to CR alumni about their own experiences, I am quite fascinated in having the chance to explore Berlin for four to five days. In talking to both Davis Donaldson and Will Beasley, I learned some interesting stuff in the brief time I got to hear from them. Despite talking to them separately, both of their descriptions of Berlin were very similar. They both acknowledged that Berlin is a unique city, in that it isn’t afraid of its history and wants to make amends for past transgressions by its creation of hundreds of museums (over 150) and memorials for the many deaths Germany caused. Berlin truly desires to right their wrongs and to bring their darkness into the light. How many cities can you name attempting to do the same? Berlin’s capacity to shoulder responsibility and man up to what it has done is such an admirable characteristic that other cities and all people should attempt to emulate.

Berlin goes above and beyond and showcasing all that they have done, good or bad. Treptower Park, Berlin’s second-largest park, is a Soviet memorial erected in 1949 following World War II. What is most interesting is that Berlin allowed the Soviets to create it and two other memorials in Berlin to express their grief for the mass casualties that took place there. Not only does it allow the Soviets to express what they wanted to be expressed, but Treptower Park is also the resting place for nearly 7,000 soldiers killed in Berlin. Having heard that this is one of the more popular parts about CR’s time in Berlin, I greatly anticipate seeing the artistic expression of the Soviets and having the chance to learn a thing or two from Berlin’s attitude in its recreation of past horrors.

As many people know, Berlin was also central to the tug-of-war held between the U.S. and the Soviet Union – a fight between ideologies of capitalism and democracy against that of socialism and communism. Although a unified city now, there are clear distinctions between what was once East and West Berlin. Will Beasley further mentioned that the divide of Berlin can still be clearly seen. Not only is there a drawn line to indicate where the country was split, but you can see the differences of each Berlin in the design of its buildings. Even 30 years later, this city is still not altogether whole.

When I am in Berlin, I want to learn as much as I can from a city that makes it easy to do. The historical side of Berlin in both World Wars and the Cold War have always fascinated me, and I cannot wait to see the many museums, parks, and memorials it has to offer. My goal is to remain eager in getting the chance to learn about something that interests me despite the fatigue the group and I will face in the first few days from doing so much.

There are a few things I plan to do to make the most of my time in Berlin. In the few days I have between coming home and flying to Berlin (when I’m not packing), I plan to brush up on a little more of Berlin’s history in order to be ready to receive the amount of information that will be thrown at me. When I do get to Berlin, I know that my peers will have many different viewpoints to offer and separate ways of thinking about all that we receive, and so I hope to be able to hear with open ears. I will put effort towards having conversations with those with me about the many things we see and question them further in the attempt to learn and to maybe offer a perspective they might not have. Finally, from hearing regrets of past CR members, I will earnestly take notes as I hope to preserve as much as I can of what I will learn.

Berlin is MORE than all that it has to offer because it also marks the beginning of an exciting journey that Dr. Pitcock and my fellow CR members and I will ensue on in a short time. See you in 45 days Berlin 😉.