Connections

It has been almost a year since I found out that I would be a member of CR 10. It feels like just yesterday but I know I am a different person now then I was back then. It has been a while since I’ve returned to this blog so forgive me for I may be a bit rusty. I find it difficult to return to the experiences of this past summer on CR with the hustle and bustle of sophomore year but I will do my best without getting too sentimental. Here goes nothing…

Coming back from Europe, I felt as if the whole experience was a dream. We packed so much into each day it was truly difficult for me at the time to fully appreciate what we had the opportunity to witness. Family and friends wanted to know every detail of the trip: where we went, what we did, what my favorite city was, who my familia was. Every time I tried to answer, I could only think how my words could never accurately relay the sensory overload I had gone through. How could random facts and anecdotes fully describe this experience to an outsider? How can I introduce to you every member of my familia and explain every experience we had shared together: the laughter, the frustrations, the tears, the awe, the struggles, and the goodbyes? The truth is, I definitely did a poor job of explaining CR to everyone, but I think that is ok. In fact I think that is the point. We call ourselves a family because only we can truly understand what happened in Europe those famed 3 and a half weeks. The weeks where a group of essentially strangers became family.

Connections, this entire experience revolves around them: connecting flights to arrive in Berlin, connecting trains in between countries and cities, and connections that Dr. Pitcock has cultivated so that we may have this experience.  One particular connection that has stuck out to me is the relationship with Dr. Pitcock. Fabio, owner of the restaurant Francesco Vini. It is a friendship that has grown from opposite ends of the world. It spans across two completely different cultures and yet it still flourishes, so much so that we, the students, can benefit from this connection. When we first ventured out into the strange and unknown world of Europe, we 16 were awkward, nervous, and excited around each other all at once. From my experience, there were times that I thought for sure it was a mistake for Dr. P. to choose me to come along for this journey. I couldn’t see how I fit in with the group. But as we all endured the same travels, laughs, tears, and joys, I felt connected with my group in a way I could never be connected with anyone else. While we were all on our own personal journeys, the fact that we journeyed together connected us in ways we never thought were possible.

Since school started, I have been so swamped with classes and extracurriculars that I have found it tough to find time to simply reminisce about our experiences. I found myself so lost in my academics that I was missing the relationships that I had built over CR without even realizing I was missing them. I missed quoting vines and laughing till I cried with Brittany. Her insightfulness kept me on my toes as I would never miss a moment to hear what she had to say. I missed navigating and kayaking with Marat. His compassion and thoughtfulness to consider every member of the group taught me to better consider other’s needs above my own. I missed the joy and smiles from Lauren that I relied on to keep me going when times got tough. The open love she exudes for everyone taught me to care and love more deeply than I thought I ever could. I missed practicing my terrible Australian accent with Indigo and her head turning, bubbly laugh that made my day whenever I heard it. When hearing her voice, whether she was singing or participating in conversation, you couldn’t help but give her your full attention. I missed having intellectual conversations with Ryal where I felt like I was learning more than I was teaching. His ability to be astoundingly intelligent yet his determination to make sure everyone in the group had a voice helped me realize what kind of leader I should aspire to be.  I missed having Brooke as a clear and decisive leader whose judgement I could rely on and who I would follow anywhere with no question. She was the shoulder I could lean on when I was too tired to carry on and she taught me how to lead by example. I missed Audrey’s calmness in the most frustrating circumstances and her ability to mediate differences without ever losing her cool. I also missed her surprising humor and her well timed jokes that could lighten the hearts of anyone within ears reach. I missed having Emma as a confidant for anything. No topic was too personal nor too difficult to share with her as she would open up just as much as you opened up to her. I missed Jake and his never-ending quotability and his voice that commanded the attention of a room whenever you heard it. His smile can light up a room and I can never forget the pure, deep friendship he pursues with everyone. I missed talking about literally anything with Abby. From politics to music, I found out we were essentially the same and I could always turn to her when I needed reassurance in my thoughts. I missed the discussions about religion with Jacob and his ability to teach me about traditions that I had no experience in. He pushed me to become more versed in other traditions. I missed the unapologetically deep questions that Kyle would ask to genuinely get to know each person. He was the catalyst for which I could analyze my own experiences and introspect on how that made me the person I am today. I missed learning about art and music and culture in general from Olivia Chambers. Easily the most well informed person in the group, she taught me to have a more global vision and how to enjoy life’s every moment at the same time. I missed Olivia Wales’s ability to capture every moment in its disastrous perfection. To spend any moment with her is to know pure joy and she taught me to look for special moments in the most unsuspecting of times. I missed shopping with Taylor and her never-ending adventurous spirit. She taught me to love myself and everyone around me without hesitation. I missed Lindsey and her ability to build relationships with each of us. She never shied away from difficult conversations as she sought to teach with humor and experience. She taught me to listen with a clear mind and a full heart. And of course, I missed Dr. Pitcock. Man, if I could write everything down that he has done for me and all of CR, this post would never end. I don’t know where I would be today without his guidance. He guided us through Europe, through hard days, through good days, through tough conversations, through forgotten memories, and essentially, he guided us to finding ourselves. I could not possibly thank him enough for all he has invested in us. I truly believe in his ability to form a team, no, a family.

I know it might seem like I am rambling, but this is honestly what CR is about. It’s not about the places or the cities. It’s not about the food or even the beauty of our surroundings. It’s about the people. The memory of people in history, forgotten and infamous, and it’s about the people who I got to experience it all with. Thank you, each and everyone of you for being a part of my life. Mia familia.

Signing off,

Nishanth Sadagopan

 

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We didn’t start the Firenze

I do not know how to sum up the last two cities we went to except to say that they made an incredible impact on my relationships with the people I am now proud to call mi familia. Time seemed to fly by, but the unique culture of each city impacted each of us differently and ultimately brought us much closer together.

I will always look back and miss the art and the views and the food, but all of that pales in comparison to what I will miss most, what I think most of us will miss most: being in these incredible places with each other. Never have I so quickly bonded with 15 strangers on such a deep level in my life, and I sincerely miss each and every one every day.

I will do the briefest summary I can muster of the impact these people have had on my life, because they are all too incredible and unique to not be celebrated individually.

Emma

Emma lived two doors down from me and we hardly spoke a word together until we reached Berlin. This is probably one of my biggest regrets of freshman year, because Emma is a wonderful person. Through CR I learned how incredibly kind and devoted Emma is. Her openness about her struggles inspired me to be more open about my own, and her incredible prevailing faith radiated from her in her amazingly positive attitude. She is hilarious, she is strong, and she stands firm in her beliefs. She has direction; she knows what she’s doing and she guides others through everything; from failure to joy, she’s there for it all.

Audrey

Audrey seriously surprised me when it came to CR. I had been in a class with her and knew her to be quiet and introverted; I didn’t mind that, I consider myself to be an introvert as well so I know how taxing it can be to constantly be around people for 3 and a half weeks. But Audrey never had a moment where she looked like she was struggling; she embraced her struggles and made them clear to us so we could help her through them and in doing so, I think they became less of a burden to her. Audrey taught me that it’s okay to admit you’re introverted so maybe you want to observe and don’t wanna scream on the train all the time, but it’s also okay to get outside your comfort zone and explore as much as possible. She taught me it’s okay to express who I am, because everyone loves you regardless. I am so thankful to her for that, as well as the incredible quote book she kept for all of CR. May the Crecade always live on through those memories.

OC

OC is a wordsmith, and she’s a lot smarter than most people give her credit for. She knows what she’s saying; there’s a reason the quote book is 90% OC quotes, and it’s because she’s hilarious. She says whatever she is thinking, and most of the time it’s funny. When it comes to actually writing, OC is one of the best writers I’ve ever actually met. She can articulate feelings and encapsulate moments in words in a way I don’t understand and honestly, I envy. OC taught me to never be afraid to say a dumb thing out loud, because who cares what other people think? She also taught me the importance of humility; she is absolutely brilliant, but she doesn’t constantly talk about it or brag about her accomplishments. She makes self-deprecating jokes and is always a good sport, but is genuinely one of the smartest and most humble people I know.

Wales

Ahhh, Olivia Wales. You could say we knew each other coming into CR (go Chi-O), but that didn’t stop me from learning more about her as the experience went on. She is enthusiastic about everything and will put 110% effort into everything that she’s doing, which is such an important quality to have. Her energy lifted others up when we were all exhausted and I’m sure she was exhausted too, but she always had a smile on her face and was ready to go to the next thing. Her incredible spirit and love for life inspired me to be more energetic and enthusiastic and made me realize what an impact my own energy and actions could have on the people around me. Olivia also taught me that it’s okay not to be too open; she showed me that there is power and nobility in keeping some things to yourself.

Lauren

Lauren filled every day with more love than I have ever seen in my life. She is a constant light to everyone around her; she is always smiling and always reminding everyone how truly loved they are, not only spiritually but also by those around them. Lauren was open to every conversation and every time I talked to her I came out feeling a thousand percent more loved than when I went in. She has a way of inspiring the best in people, and though I know she struggles with it, I so admire her wonderfully positive outlook on everyday life. Lauren taught me how to start difficult but necessary conversations and make others feel so incredibly loved.

Brittany

I honestly wonder how I made it all year without Brittany Harano. She is goofy, she is caring, she is graceful, and she is my soul sister on about 1000 levels. She spent an entire day doing horrible British accents with me, trying to teach me ballet, and coming up with the weirdest possible poses for the camera, most of which involved both of us almost breaking our backs. She taught me to be unashamedly myself; who cares if German people are staring at how weird you look? You’re never going to see them again. Like, actually never. She also taught me what to do when I felt uncomfortable; there were days when everyone felt stressed and were getting frustrated and it would start to make me panic, but Brittany would just remain at the back of the group with me and goof off, doing ballet in inconvenient places or posing like statues. I’m so very grateful for Brittany Harano and the lessons she taught me.

Brooke

Brooke and I sat right next to each other for an entire semester of Spanish and spoke maybe 10 words to each other the whole time and I am so mad at myself for that. I was mainly embarrassed at how bad I was at Spanish and didn’t want the pretty nice girl sitting next to me to think I was a complete idiot because she was, like, a genius. But Brooke is so much more than an incredibly beautiful genius; she is also kind, and independent, and a leader, and one of the strongest people I’ve come to know. I think I learned the most from Brooke the day we went to San G; I don’t deal with stress well, so when our plans completely fell apart I checked out and just tried my hardest not to have a panic attack. But Brooke thrived under the pressure; she helped people calm down, dictated who needed to call who and when, and got our schedule back on track so that we would make it back on time. It was like watching Wonder Woman work. She didn’t even bat an eye, she just leapt into action, thinking only of how to solve the problem and how to keep everyone as calm as possible and make sure our experience was still enjoyable. Brooke always puts others first and is never afraid of a challenge. She has worked incredibly hard to get where she is and she will continue working incredibly hard to get where she wants to go, and that dedication and work ethic inspires me.

Indigo

Indigo is joy. I don’t know how to describe her other than that. She literally oozes joy wherever she goes; I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s nearly impossible to not smile in Indigo’s presence. She sings everywhere she goes, and her voice sounds like an angel; Kyle was right when he gave her the award most likely to sing in the shower and not annoy anyone. Indigo has passion for musical theatre, for bringing joy to the world, and for life. It was amazing to observe her constantly positive attitude; no matter what had happened that day, Indigo would pop in the shower and sing her heart out, and the spirits of the entire room were lifted. She taught me how to bring joy to those around me, and most importantly, she taught me what it looks like when you’re truly in love with what you do. I aspire to love what I do as much as Indigo loves singing, and to do as much good as she does through it.

Taylor

Taylor taught me how to get rid of my discomfort, and as someone who is uncomfortable a lot, I am eternally grateful. Any time there was a lull in conversation, or just quite frankly a really awkward conversation arose, Taylor was there with a hilarious remark or an “Anyways…”. She was never afraid to admit that a situation was awkward, and would always laugh it off or pull me to the side to get out of it. And she wasn’t just funny when things got weird; she was positively hilarious 100% of the time. I believe the quote of the trip comes from when Ryal was flexing and Taylor blurted out “is that the statue of David?!” It’s not just her comments, but her comedic timing, her inflection, her facial expressions; Taylor can have everyone on the floor clutching at their sides within seconds. I loved Taylor’s jokes, her honesty, and her willingness to be open. She inspired me to admit when I was uncomfortable and maybe even find a joke out of it. I’m so glad to have found a friend in Taylor, because she truly is a genuine, sweet, comedic genius and I miss her already.

Ryal

Ahhh, Ryal Reddick. Did someone say high school hero? No? Must’ve been the connotation subconsciously attached to his name. No, but all jokes aside, Ryal might just be one of the best friends I’ve ever found, which was definitely one of the biggest surprises that came out of CR. Sure, I may make fun of him a lot, but that’s just because I’m mean. He inspires me in how much and how deeply he cares for everyone around him. Anytime someone found themselves having an off day, or struggling with something, Ryal was there for them, walking alongside them and helping them find the path to get better. I had my fair share of bad days and he was never impatient; instead, he listened and did his best to tell me what I needed to hear. He truly was Superman on our experience, always being everywhere and taking care of everyone who needed it, and I appreciate it so much. I learned from him how to put others before myself and watched in admiration for his love of all those around him and his need to protect them at all costs. I never expected to come out of CR with Ryal Reddick as one of my role models, but then again I never expected half of what happened on CR to happen. So here we are.

Jacob

Jacob (triple J) is one of the kindest people I know, and watching him interact with everyone was truly a great. He has admirably strong faith and is willing to have an open discussion about it with anyone and he is very comfortable with where he is in his faith and his life. He is not afraid to ask questions that may not go over well or to question aspects of his own life when valid points are made; overall, he remained an open-minded person for the duration of CR. He didn’t know nearly anyone coming in, but his infectious charisma and genuine kindness made him somewhat automatically grow very close to nearly everyone. He cared about everyone on the experience and it showed through his actions and words. I was inspired by his openness, rawness, and overall kindness.

Jake

Sorry, I meant Mr. Lynn*. Mr. Lynn is absolutely one of a kind. He is the man who makes sure everyone is having fun at every event while also being the life of the party, he is the guy who will ask you the most serious question about life very lightly on the way to dinner and then stare you down with his icicle blue dagger eyes, he is simultaneously a dad and in love with Dr. P. He is so constantly happy, and seeing his smile makes it almost impossible to smile back. Mr. Lynn taught me how to balance fun and serious, joking and thought-provoking. He was always down to do whatever spontaneous activity whenever, be it laying in his boxers in the park or buying Amplemann socks, and he was always practically giggling as he did so. But he was also not afraid to ask questions that other people might not, and he would always find a way to get people outside their comfort zone (in a good way). Jake brought so much happiness and so much discussion to the experience, and I’m so glad I could learn from his kindness.

Marat

Marat taught me how to be a true and genuine friend, and I am incredibly grateful. He was often a silent observer, but it was never without reason; he was always looking out for everyone and making sure they were okay. There were several instances in which Marat noticed that I was not having a great day, or that I was thrown off, and he would quietly pull me aside and make sure I was alright. Marat would keep an eye on the men in the streets of Italy to ensure all of our safety, and he pulled me out of the way of moving cars many times. He was a listening ear when I needed one many times and I rarely heard him complain. I aspire to be as true and genuine a friend as Marat.

Nishu

Nishu is a DJ, a doctor, and a great friend rolled into one. He has an infectious laugh, an amazing music taste, and a caring heart. Nishu would thrive every day on 3 hours of sleep and I rarely heard him complain about it. Instead, he’d use the time to work on his music, or journal, or blog, or shower, or do anything productive. Nishu was an expert on not wasting the day; I was getting 7 hours of sleep a night and I was exhausted, he was getting half that and he still managed to produce music. But Nishu is more than a machine; he has an incredible, infectious laugh that makes everyone in the room stare incredulously, and he has a kind and caring heart. I learned so much from Nishu, and I’m so excited for how much more he can teach me.

Kyle

Kyle, or as I prefer to call him, Lentil, is my brother who I was tragically separated at birth from and no one can convince me otherwise. Kyle learned how to push my buttons on this experience; both emotionally and physically. Whether it was calling me “Gail” or getting into elbow fights in the streets of Rome, I found myself resorting to my old sibling rivalry tactics to attempt to win our apparent battle. But Kyle (Lentil) didn’t just push my buttons on a sibling level; he also asked me questions I was in no way prepared to answer. We would be walking down the street, and all of a sudden he would ask one of the most difficult, personal, thought-provoking questions ever, and I would find myself learning more about myself as I answered him. He would always listen carefully and comment and thank me for being so open, and then if there was an awkward lull he would go right back to elbowing me in the side. I admire his deep-thinking, his vulnerability, and his observational skills. Most of all, I’m glad I found out that I have a brother at college.

These 15 strangers lifted me up and helped me through things, be it an emotional breakdown or physically canyoning through the Swiss Alps. What’s truly amazing is they didn’t know they were teaching me these amazing lessons as they did it; they just carried on as they normally would and I learned from the incredible ways they lead their lives. I am proud to call them my best friends and I love them all so much.

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot,” -Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

These people gave me so many wonderful things, and confidence may just be the top one. I owe them my whole heart and soul.

Thank you all for the wonderful impact you have had on my life. I will cherish CR10 forever.

A 2000 Year Old Wall

One of the coolest things in Rome, in my opinion, is the Basilica di San Clemente. What appears to be a normal church – at least normal by the standards of Italian churches – turns out to be the location of a part of history quite unique to the city. Rome is the lasagna city, as the new Rome is built on top of the old one. This is why there’s no subway system: every time they dig, they find some 2000 year old ruins and have to call the archeologists and stop the excavations. Another name for it is the eternal city, as it’s history has been preserved so well.

This basilica models this theme perfectly: it is built on top of an older church, which is built on top of some aristocrat’s house where they held cult meetings during ancient Roman times. So you can quite literally walk through time and see how Rome has progressed through the years in its architecture, theology, culture, artwork, etc. It’s truly amazing. Jake Lynn and I walked through most of the ruins together and spent most of the time trying to understand what the cult believed in. We’re still lost, but that’s okay. The rest of the time was spent trying to wrap our heads around how old the stone we were standing next to was. Our conversation looked something like this:

*touches the wall*

“Dude, this Stone is literally as old as Jesus.”

“Yeah, like when people lived here, Jesus to them was some guy from Nazareth.”

“2000+ years ago…”

“Wow… what does that even mean?”

“It’s 100 times as old as us.”

“It’s 10 times older than the founding of our country.”

“It’s almost 150 times as long as we’ve been in school.”

We stood there with our hands on the wall for a good 10 minutes going back and forth about ways we could understand what 2000 years meant. We probably looked like idiots to the rest of the tourists – but what tourist has ever looked like a rocket scientist? Once we finally felt like we had a good grip on what something that old meant, we realized how much history had been going on before that house was built. We didn’t even try to wrap our heads around that. The realization we came to was we are playing a role in a story so much larger than our own lives, and that was humbling and empowering at the same time.

We’ve seen a lot over the course of the last month. We’ve learned about how to respect the memory of those that are oppressed and how to maintain the knowledge of what can go wrong based on what has gone wrong; we’ve seen how even the biggest castles can’t defend us from Gods plans; I jumped out of an airplane and experienced one of the most beautiful places on Earth; we climbed to the top of the Alps, we felt the gentleness of the breeze on the sea and the peace of Riomaggiore; we learned from some of the greatest minds in history about art and its significance to the world as well as how generations can change and shape a culture, enjoyed world class gelato in the countryside of Tuscanny; and our experience came to a close in Rome. It’s amazing how much we have accomplished on this experience: it’s more than words can really convey.

But very little of that matters to the majority of the world. Few people are going to care that I skydived, or ate a bunch of gelato, or went in a bunch of museums. What matters is that we spent the last 3.5 weeks getting closer to each other and figuring out ways to relate to people who would have no connection to us from the outside. The reality is, we are all human beings, and human beings have been around for a while. And since everyone had to come from somewhere, there’s a good chance we all have a connection to every single person on Earth through the history of humanity and its struggles.

I have no idea who walked through that ancient Roman ruin when it was in its prime back in the day. But I do know that they were human beings, that they had families whom they loved, kids they were trying to raise, bills to pay, and a job to do it with. Something some random dude in Riomaggiore told me was that his son had just finished traveling around the entire world, and the one thing he learned was that it doesn’t matter where you are, or how far from your house you stand. People are people. They all have so much more worth than any adjectives can prescribe them.

We have this shared humanity that spreads across time and space, and it’s necessary to recognize the intrinsic value that we all hold. When you think about all of this, it’s hard to treat anyone with anything other than love and respect.

So as Cultural Routes 10 comes to an end, I feel all of the same bittersweet emotions as everyone else. And I think that we all recognize how powerful the knowledge we’ve gained is, and how much influence we can have in helping the world out by working together.

Power and Grace

Two days ago, we got to visit this super cute town filled with farms, cow bells, and huge waterfalls. Walking through this valley between two huge mountain ranges, there is something so comforting about nature’s purity and beauty.

Dr. P took us to Trümmelbachfalle where 3 waterfalls from glacier melt all converge into this one powerful waterfall. As this fall was a little bit off the road we were traveling on, I would have never discovered this place on my own or thought it was a place to be explored. I could’ve just thought looking at the waterfalls was amazing enough. But thankfully Dr. P navigated us through fields of wildflowers and across streams to this incredible creation.

While hiking up into the caverns of this waterfall you could hear the roaring water- so loud you could barely hear people talking. This was the first sense of power present in the falls.

Then you could feel the temperature drop drastically, and the brisk spray splash onto your face. And when you got to the rail separating you from the falls, power was immensely evident in the path of the rushing water. The water carved such a smooth, powerful path in the mountain.

This whole experience is an incredible example of God’s power and grace. He is all-powerful, carving every detail from rolling hills to volcanos to tsunamis. His power is so vast and just takes your breath away when you get close. If this was the waterfall’s power, I can’t even fully comprehend what God’s power is truly like.

And yet with this extremely powerful waterfall, God’s grace is so evident. When I paused to embrace God’s power at the top of this cascade, I looked up to see little water droplets gently coming down like snowflakes. I couldn’t take my eyes off this. How could water droplets hit the sides of the cavern and rain down like snow? These droplets reveal God’s grace and mercy raining down on us in the midst of His powerful creation.

God carved the world with His mercy and power. From the Earth’s tectonic plates to each of us, He used His complete power and authority to create beauty while covering us in His grace and mercy. And He lets us just stand in awe of His creation. He gave us everything as gifts. How incredible and loving is He?!

This experience put me in complete awe of God with His combination of power and grace. It also taught me how you can always look at a situation and see more details within. You could easily walk into Trümmelbachfalle and only see the beauty. But with a closer look, you can see power and grace and so much more.

We all take different paths in life, but what path will we carve for others? God crafted an incredible place for us to live in and find Him. I’m so thankful to have experienced this nugget of truth and experience Him more and more through His creation.

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

What A Day

So Marat woke me up this morning exactly 2 seconds before my alarm went off to head downstairs to do a quick morning worship sesh. After spending sometime in 1 Peter, I realized time had flown by and I didn’t have much time to eat breakfast. So I hurried to the breakfast table and was blown away by what was there.

They had real Nutella.

I know right? How could this day possibly get better? Well it did. I scarfed down my breakfast, checked out a beach towel – these hostels don’t like customers taking their shower towels on their adventures. A van picked our group up, and we headed to our first adventure of the day. We put on our wetsuits, grabbed some sketchy water shoes without ankle support, and a helmet with a funny name on it. Of course I went for the Frodo helmet, since we’re about the same height.

The end result looked like this:

Yeah. We’re tough.

What could we possibly be doing in all this gear you might ask? Well… I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s called canyoning. You kinda have to experience it to understand, or watch a video on YouTube or something. The best description I’ve heard is “white water rafting without the raft.” We slide down several chutes in a river, rappelled down a big rock, flew like Superman into the current below us, and almost slipped serval times. But most of all, we had a great time. The entire group was grinning ear to ear (except for Taylor because she cut her finger). We had three guides: Stef (a Swiss native), Nina (from Germany), and Matt (from New Zealand). I’m pretty sure Matt secretly hated Indigo and me for constantly saying “amazing” in an Australian accent, but we weren’t going to have it any other way.

Once we made it to the bottom and got back to the base, I had some coffee – the caffeine was needed for the rest of the day -, took a hot shower, and got suckered into paying for a highlight video from the trip. Ah Who am I kidding? There was never a shadow of a doubt in my mind that I was going to buy the video.

Don’t worry the day didn’t end there.

The next activity consisted of getting a kebab just down the street. If you think that sounds boring, that’s because you just read about canyoning. The kebab was a fantastic experience. It was food, and in the words of Dr. Pitcock, “this is the hungriest CR yet.”

But wait! There’s more!!

After some down time, 11 of us met in the lobby to go to the land of Myth known as “drop zone.” We were all extremely excited and ready to go, but the van picking us up got stuck in traffic, so the hype was kinda lulled. Don’t worry though. We didn’t even know what hype was until we were almost at the end of the activity. I debated ending the post there to keep you in suspense, but then I realized that other people are probably going to post about it anyways.

So we got to the runway, took some sweet pics (see below), and tried to contain our excitement for what was about to happen. Here are some of the pictures of us before we got on the plane.

(Sorry, Mom. I didn’t position myself correctly in the jumping picture so you can’t really see me, but I promise I’m in it)

What followed was an unforgettable experience. I free fell from 13,000 feet out of an airplane, did a barrel roll and a back flip, and then fell through the cloud of a storm that came out of nowhere. I don’t know how many people reading this have been to Interlaken, but it truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and the beauty from that high up as you plummet towards it is impossible to explain. Also I definitely screamed like a pre-pubescent teenage boy when I jumped. Unfortunately, I won’t have the pictures for a few days, but when I do, they’ll be all over the Insta and I’ll update this blog post! I know the blog has been pretty heavy lately, and we’ve definitely been feeling that weight as well. Today was a much needed break from the emotional limits we’ve been pushing on this experience, and I hope you can see that from the smiles on our faces (and from the irony of the “serious” pictures).

Respect and Responsibility – Berlin

Berlin, you are so blunt. Thank you for sharing your history with us!

Berlin has done an incredible job at distributing respect and responsibility to respective parties for important historical events. I’ve even had a difficult time trying to discern Germany’s own frame on its historical events because the memorials and museums seem so raw and unbiased with facts written out and even Germany’s own atrocities detailed. They don’t seem to hide much.

Beginning with responsibility, the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe are crafted in sleek, harsh, metal materials with clean, sharp edges, revealing blunt history with no blankets or frills to hide or exaggerate details. These memorials (paid for by the German tax payers) detail the German government’s mass murders, placing responsibility for many innocent deaths on German power. The Topography of Terror uses vast details to depict Hitler’s plans to create the perfect world and dispose of the unclean. The Germans are not afraid to face their past actions and take responsibility so unfortunate events are never allowed to repeat.

While admitting a large German responsibility for the murder of many Jews, Berlin also respects those who lost their lives for present Germany. This is insane. Berlin respects everyone from large groups to individuals.

The Museum to the Murdered Jews and Memorial to the Homosexuals give respect and a sense of citizenship to those whom the Germans in the Holocaust harshly persecuted and killed. Citizenship is now present where it was once taken away. With memorials to individual groups who were killed, Germany respects each individual life lost.

In Treptower Park, the Soviet Union’s win over Germany and individual Soviets’ deaths are extremely respected with the reverential landscaping and intricate craftsmanship. This is crazy to me! In Berlin, there are beautiful and rich memorials honoring Soviets who killed Germans, and these memorials are paid for and upkept by the Germans. The Soviet War Memorial even said the German soldiers helped refurbish the Soviet War Memorial. How crazy is that? These Germans are helping upkeep a memorial to Soviets who killed so many of their people. So much money, real estate and time are invested in respecting the past which is definitely not always in Germany’s favor.

By Germany taking responsibility for its actions and publicly giving massive respect to the Jews, Soviets, and all ostracized citizens, Germany entrusts its inhabitants to think for themselves, giving the inhabitants respect for the past and responsibility for the future.

I am beyond thankful to be entrusted by the German government, even as a visitor, to interpret the meaning of memorials. The openness to interpretation found in many memorials allows people to think about the meaning, not just be spoon-fed. This deep thinking allows me to better remember history behind lives lost. I believe when we expose the truth, we are able to learn from a situation so it won’t happen again.

In the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Primo Levi says, “It happened, therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say.”

I want to walk in truth, confronting issues and learning from them so they don’t repeat.

Confronting failure is hard because first you have to admit to the failure, and that is hard. I especially hate to think I’ve failed, and while that may be just a part of my perfectionism, I also think there’s something in American culture that encourages us to push and push and push until we reach success; but sometimes you need to take a step back and expose your failure no matter how harsh it is so you can respect yourself, take responsibility and learn.

I know I have work to do in revealing my failures, and I believe the US has work to do in confronting our mistreatment of people – in internment camps, slavery, tribes and so on. When we expose our failures, we give respect and responsibility to whom it’s due, allowing us to learn from mistakes.

And taking this to a more individual level, wow have I been blessed with the best team ever! Bravo, you guys are incredible! Marat, Abby, Ryle, and Taylor, thank you for revealing how vulnerability with others opens opportunities to respect others even more. Each of you have been so vulnerable. Seriously thank you for sharing! I have learned from each of you and I respect each of you so much. Thank you for being so intentional. I am so thankful we get to entrust each other with the truth of our lives to learn and grow together.

Bravo Berlin!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

Preserving the Memory

Despite being exhausted from the long and arduous journey to the other side of the world, I woke up at the first sign of light in Berlin at 5:04 a.m. Our journey to learn about the culture of our neighbors to the east would start today and I wasn’t going to waste any time. I wanted to find out and document everything that I possibly could, from the simple cultural differences at breakfast, to the preservation of the history of this storied nation and city.

Our journey through the first full day started at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of transitions. The gate has seen the defeat of Germany to Napoleon and the humiliation that followed as a result of the removal of the quadriga. It has seen the rise of a dictator bent on world domination who would march his Storm Troopers through its entrances as a display of power. It has endured the hardships of a literal tear in the middle of the city where the gate which was once open to the public was no longer accessible due to the Berlin Wall separating West from East Germany. It was the perfect site to set the tone of the trip. The Brandenburg Gate opened our eyes to the expansive memories this beautiful city holds.

After being split up into our small groups, our squad “Team Alpha” planned and mapped out our day so that we would be able to cover the itinerary with enough time to truly experience each moment. We first visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. This powerful name only just begins to invoke the sense of evil and destruction that happened to a particular people group under the prerogative of a dictator. I found it very interesting that the city did not simply want this to pass beyond memory, but instead wanted this memory to remain in the forefront, a memory that would remain stitched in with the fabric of its being. This was apparent by the layout of the memorial:  a large block of land dedicated to those who were taken in the anti-semitic violence right in the middle of the city. It served to make a statement that this must always be in the minds and hearts of Berlin. img_2079.jpgIMG_2083

After we saw the memorial, we went to the museum underneath the memorial. This was the most difficult experience of the entire day. The museum was a dedication the victims of the systematic murders of an entire people group. It almost made us feel as if we were responsible for all of these deaths, which in a sense we were. As a global population, we did not do enough to stop such a genocide until it was too late and the damage had already been done in the millions. It nevertheless was almost unreal and impossible to comprehend in this day and age. This is why I believe it is so important to continue preserving this memory. Because it did happen, it is possible to happen again and thus it is necessary to hold it in our minds always so that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward as a global culture. Because of the cyclic nature of history, it is very possible that we will face the same challenges and pressures of propaganda and fear.

To reflect on the experience we just shared with Berlin’s most intimate and awful history, Team Alpha headed to my favorite location of the day: Tiergarten. This beautiful, expansive park stretched further than the eye could comprehend. It encompassed, rivers, ponds, open fields, forest-covered paths, and beautiful sculptures and memorials. The quietness of this space despite its location in the middle of a bustling city was what made it so captivating to me. It seemed to me that this natural work of art was intentionally preserved in the middle of the city to bring beauty to the troubled story of Berlin. The space brought a sense of healing to our group after we had just bore witness the destruction implemented by the same nation. It was not a hiding place per se, but instead it was a place where one could remember and be comforted in knowing that all people of all backgrounds, religions, and national affiliations can enjoy the same space: a sort of call to love your neighbor through the beauty of the world, a beauty we need to preserve and work to hold. It is a testament to the fact that hate is not innate to our being, but it is instead taught by our interactions toward one another. To grow as a global population, we must learn to teach love and acceptance in the face of fear and hate. This is something the Berlin has come to terms with and it is something that we as a group need to bring back to the United States. IMG_2090IMG_2092

These were the locations that really struck me on our journey this first full day. I hope to learn more about the culture of this incredible city in the days to come.

Until next time,

Nishanth Sadagopan