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.

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Weirdly Close

We’re all getting weirdly close, and in the best way possible!

While in Florence, we had a free day to do whatever we wanted to do between Venice or San Gimignano. A group and I chose to go to San G, and it was an awesome experience. Definitely an experience, not a trip.

This experience showed me we’re all getting so much closer, loving each other through all our mistakes and hard moments. And this was showcased especially with our rocky transportation experiences to and from San G.

From the start, we planned to leave the hotel at 10:45am to catch our 11:10am train. At 10:40am, Brittany was busy saving kids from forced child labor in an intense dream, and when Indigo and Abby woke her up, she rushed to get out the door. We ended up jogging out of the hotel and running through the streets of Florence all the way to the train station. Although this was an unexpected, semi-stressful experience, Brittany was shown incredible love with friends giving her croissants and juice, no hard times. Brooke showcased her awesome navigation skills, leading our run to the station, and once on the train, we had awesome conversations. I got to sit next to Brittany and Ryal who shared awesome stories.

Once we got to Pogibonssi, our train station, Ryal realized he lost his wallet. Then we missed the bus so we had an hour to kill before the next bus to San G. Ryal handled this situation so responsibly, and we quickly devised a plan to get pizza to avoid a hangry team. Indigo’s joy rang out in leading the group to find somewhere to eat. We got to support a small, local business and quickly get back to the station.

In this move, Marat saw a group of people that could’ve posed a threat and he made sure to stay between us and the group until we all got past them. That’s so selfless, and I’m very thankful for his actions. And when we got back to the station, Brittany dropped pizza on her toe and Marat cleaned it off with a napkin. It was then that Abby commented how weirdly close we’re getting. She truly chooses the best moments to capture with words.

We got on the bus to San G, took a beautiful ride through Tuscany and took a breath. The morning was definitely an experience to laugh at. And many awesome moments came out of it!

Arriving in San G, Nishu hyped up and we were all ready to get some world-famous gelato. But first, we stumbled upon a fantastic view, and Kyle made us pause, take it in, and take a group pic. Good thing he did, because this ended up being our only group pic of the day, and we paused extra to take it all in.

While in San G, we got to enjoy each other. Talking, getting world-famous gelato, people-watching, and shopping, we got to experience San G together. Nishu also brought some laughs with his cologne extravaganza.

So relaxing.

Then when we thought it was time to catch the bus back, we were not even close to correct. We had missed the bus. We were stressed and perturbed, some of us pacing, others laying in the grass. Brooke saw this and made us sit in the grass to calm down. Sunday’s are a holiday in San G, so we watched our bus stay parked for an hour before we could take it to a train station. Our plans had to be flexible, and we figured it all out so we still got on a timely train back to Florence. This even gave us extra time to talk and relax more together.

This whole experience of going to San G maybe didn’t go as planned, but was so funny and brought us so much closer.

Experiences bring us closer, and we still have one more city! Rome, I can’t wait to pack our time full of experiences with the best people ever!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen

Peanut Butter and the Path to Mordor

Interlaken, Switzerland was exactly what I imagined the Shire to be like when reading Lord of the Rings. Everything was lush and green and mountainous and you couldn’t escape the natural beauty of the town no matter how hard you tried. The water that came out of the tap was directly from the MOUNTAINS, for God’s sake. I felt like God, or Tolkien, had sent me here for a specific reason.

That suspicion was only furthered when the day after we arrived, I joined a group of fellow CRecader’s to go canyoning. I had no idea what canyoning was, but it sounded terrifying. The way it was explained to me was that you jumped off of CLIFFS into RAPIDS and tried not to drown for, like, the thrill of it? I’m not gonna lie, I signed up because everyone else was doing it and I wanted a cool wetsuit picture, but I don’t regret it by any means. It was challenging and spectacular all in one.

Anyway, when we got to the canyoning base camp, we got to pick out our helmets, and this is where I felt Tolkien reaching out to me from beyond the grave. I went with the classic Peanut butter (an amazing substance, which I believe should be classified as it’s own food group, but I digress), and my friend Kyle (who also goes by Lentil, but that’s a story for another time), chose the helmet….wait for it….Frodo. It was at this moment I knew a white wizard was about to appear before me and tell me I needed to join him on an adventure. That wasn’t exactly what happened, but it was kind of close.

Our tour guide did appear and tell us it was time for an adventure (oh, and did I mention he was from New Zealand? As in, where lord of the rings was filmed? The coincidences don’t stop here folks). After a ROCKY bus ride and a hike through some beautiful woods that looked quite literally exactly like Fangorn Forest, minus the talking trees, we arrived at the falls and rapids we would be delving into. Here, I felt like I was in Rivendell, and all the nerves that had been building inside of me immediately calmed. If this place was as beautiful as the home of the majestic elves, what could go wrong?

Well, quite a lot could go wrong if I’m going to be honest. I tried to embrace the spirit of Arwen and be as graceful as I could, but repelling down the first rock I managed to slip and plummet straight into the water. See, the difference between Arwen and I is, she’s an elf. So, she can kind of control water. I, however, cannot. This was a bit of a disadvantage. The rapids were harsh and unrelenting, but I did my best to combat them. It was only when we were Tarzan swinging from one rock to another that I finally felt powerful, and even though I’m sure I looked like a raggedy Ann doll flying through the air, the feeling of freedom I felt from flying in that moment was incredible.

My comrades went on to jump from a plane later that afternoon, and I applaud them for that, but I tempted fate quite enough jumping into jagged rocky water. It was uncomfortable, it was freezing, and I was scared the entire time. But once I stopped and looked at the beauty that surrounded me, I realized just how incredible what I was doing was. I was canyoning in the Swiss Alps. I don’t know how many people get to do that in their lifetime, but I can’t imagine it’s many. So I decided that instead of spending the entire time terrified, I was going to be Arwen, and I was going to love every minute of it, being flimsy and not graceful and having fun with my friends. And I did.

Interlaken, you were beautiful. Thank you for all that you taught me.

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

Highs and Lows

I never expected to jump off a cliff into a river fed by glacier runoff or to paraglide in the Swiss Alps, but that’s what I did today.

After an exhausting day of traveling from Munich, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland, we arrived at our hostel. Dr. Pitcock told us that as soon as we put our bags in our rooms, we could come back down and sign up for adventure activities. I was simultaneously excited and extremely nervous. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Being the indecisive person that I am, I decided to look at all the options and overwhelm myself with choices. Great move, Audrey. There were so many different activities available to us, from skydiving to kayaking to bungee jumping and so much more. I spent a long time debating every option and eventually made a decision. I originally thought I had narrowed it down to just kayaking and so I could have a peaceful, relaxing day, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In order to strengthen my bond with more people on CR and to push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to canyon. Not only that, but I decided in a spur of the moment decision to add paragliding to my list. I walked away from the signup list, quickly realizing I was going to participate in two life-threatening activities in one day. Now that I have done both, I can tell you that this was one of the most exciting days of my life.

For those of you that don’t know, canyoning is an activity in which you jump from various high places into an ice-cold river and move down the river without a raft of any kind. That’s right, you did read that correctly. We put on wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets, rappelled into a canyon in the Swiss Alps, and hurled ourselves from 15 feet drops into a river, avoiding landing on rocks and getting sucked into currents along the way down. It definitely doesn’t seem like the smartest or safest idea, but we had an absolute blast. Our tour guides were fantastic and gave us clear directions. A few times, though, we thought they were joking when they told us what we were supposed to do. One of my favorite moments of the canyoning trip occurred after we rappelled around a giant rock in the side of the cliff face like Tarzan. We climbed down from the swinging point, feeling accomplished that we avoided falling into the swirling, almost whirlpool-like area way below us. Our tour guide Matt then turned around and told us to climb back the way we came, because we were going to cannonball straight into that whirlpool-like area. We thought he was joking at first, but he was completely serious. Those moments were terrifying. I looked down the drop, waiting for the tour guide to count me off, certain that I would bash my head against a rock or get stuck in an undercurrent in the water and die. Thankfully, none of that happened, but today was definitely an exercise in trust. Our group had so much fun bonding over how ridiculously cold we were and talking about how relieved we felt that we didn’t die between every jump. There were so many great moments. Indigo almost jumped when the tour guides weren’t ready and Matt had to yank her backward onto the rock so he could count her down. The helmets had names on them so the guides had to refer to us by our helmet names, so we spent several minutes cracking up about Ryal being called “Snooki” and Kyle being named “Frodo”. We laughed together and freaked out together and supported each other when we got scared. It was a wonderful bonding experience.

Next was paragliding. I was so thankful that Marat offered to go with me, because I would not have done it on my own. It was one of the most unbelievable moments of my life. We got on a bus and drove up a huge mountain. My paragliding guide constantly joked around with me about only having 11 days of experience as he set up the parachute. We strapped in and prepared for takeoff. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. It took us five tries to get off the ground because the wind was so inconsistent. Eventually, however, we ran down the hill and the wind lifted us into the air. I have never seen a view like the one I saw today in my life. There are no words to describe the experience of flying thousands of meters in the air with the Swiss Alps, two gorgeous glittering lakes, and the city of Interlaken below you. I grinned the whole time we were in the air. It was humbling to see God’s beautiful creation from the air in that way, and I spent most of the ride taking everything in and feeling thankful for the opportunity I have to grow while on this experience. I don’t think people take enough time in their busy lives to look up, so literally being up high today made me realize that, despite the issues we may have in our lives, we have so much to be grateful for. I also really enjoyed getting to steer the paraglide for a little bit and doing some rollercoaster-type stunts in the paraglider.

I ended the day with Jacob, Marat, and Dr. Pitcock. We rode a train up the mountain and took time to appreciate the view and talk. While this activity wasn’t as thrilling as the other activities today, I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them a little better while looking at the Swiss Alps. There aren’t many times in life where I will be able to make that statement, so I took the time to enjoy it today.

While today didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would, I had so much fun. The lessons I learned today aren’t drastic, but they are good reminders.

1. Be careful when you’re wading through waist-deep water. There might be rocks that you can’t see.

2. The highs and the lows in life have valuable lessons to teach, whether you mean high and low figuratively or literally. In today’s case, it was literal.

3. Expect the unexpected.

4. Remember to take the time to appreciate the world around you.

5. Push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while. You might experience something incredible.

Dandelions

 

“There are other things you can eat. First there are dandelions. You simply pull out the whole root, shake off the soil and stick the whole thing in your mouth. Unfortunately there are only a few of them at our work site.”
-Jean Bernard, prisoner in Dachau concentration camp from 1941-1942.

 

I have never been one to take a lot of pictures within a museum. Occasionally I will snap a picture of the room as a whole if I find it striking, but not usually many individual pictures of boards, paintings, or even sculptures. But this time was different.
We arrived at Dachau concentration camp early in the morning and rain was in the forecast. We all split off on separate paths and entered the gates of the camp. The museum was to our right, which contained artifacts and the history of the camp, and the barracks and crematorium to the left. I chose to enter the museum first. The museum was located in the old maintenance center of the concentration camp. When I entered the building, I felt a physical weight fall over me. Learning about concentration camps at home and now actually being in one are two vastly different things I came to find out. I wandered through the rooms, trying to put myself into the shoes of the prisoners, although I could never even come close to understanding, who would first enter the camp through the exact room I was standing in. I read every bit of information I could, trying to process all that was being thrown at me. Halfway through the museum, I read a quote on one of the boards, not a rarity seeing as I was reading literally everything. But for some reason, I felt compelled to take my phone out and take a picture of this quote; the only quote I took a picture of out of the entire museum. It was in simple black and white font, and barely took up any space on the gigantic wall. If you weren’t looking closely, you may even miss the quote completely. But this is the one I chose to take a picture of.

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I continued walking through the museum and when I was done I walked outside into the center of the camp, feeling almost numb to all the information I had just read. I sat on a step right outside and my gaze was focused on the ground, reflecting on the museum. I got up and was about to make my way across the main center to the barrack, but I stopped when I noticed something. Dandelions. Tons of them. The sign of hope for hungry prisoners was once nonexistent within the camp and now there were dandelions scattered everywhere throughout the grass surrounding the camp. I felt a feeling of fate as the only picture I had taken within in the museum was a quote about dandelions. Chills went up my spine. What touched me the most was how it comes to represent hope. Those trapped within the concentration camp had to hold on to any sign of hope they could, and today hope remains. The hope is that something this hateful and atrocious will never occur again. But there is also fear in that hateful things consistently occur/are said in the world today. As I looked around, I observed everyone else visiting the camp. I had hope that everyone there was educating themselves to ensure that history does not come full circle. I had hope that everyone there respected the horrific acts that had occurred. What terrified me was the amount of people who showed blatant disrespect for the grounds of the camp. It sent a different kind of chill up my spine, the chill of terror, that the Holocaust may be disappearing in the minds of some. I walked along the dandelion filled grounds and walked in the barracks and the crematorium, which was extremely difficult to say the least. But everywhere I looked dandelions, my new sign of hope, was scattered where I walked.

 

After the we left the camp, we all sat in silence not knowing exactly how to put our feelings into words. But there was a comfort in simply being together, even without words being spoken. This shows exactly how bonded we all have become. Munich in general has definitely been a turning point in the relationships built on this trip. Even Dachau created so much conversation regarding religion and salvation and how it is often in conflict with the Holocaust. These are the exact conversations that create bonds that simply cannot be recreated. There have been hard and (very) hangry days, as well as days filled with laughter and spontaneity. My team in Munich, Hohenschwangau, even jumped into a freezing cold river with quite a swift current. Waking up that morning, I could have never seen myself jumping into a freezing river in Munich, but that is exactly where I ended up. My team was absolutely incredible and exploring Munich would not have been the same without them.

 

Hope is everywhere. It is in our everyday lives, relationships, and even the unexpected.
Munich, you were absolutely amazing.

Art Amid Chaos

Through the plethora of boards plastered with words and topics and knowledge in the museum at Dachau, one stood out among the rest in my eyes—Poetry in Dachau.

Why did a seemingly minute title (among much other heavy, important topics) stand out so heavily, so prominently?

Because of the glimmer it gives into the rebuilding of humanization amid a time of extreme objectification. The Jews and the Homosexuals and the Roma’s and the Sintis and the Disabled and the people who stood their ground, opposing political overtaking, were subjected to a malignant torture having their right to personhood ripped away from them.

The people in these camps were no longer people. They were given verbs and adjectives that should only ever belong to animals or objects, never to humans who embody skin and bones and contain a real, live soul. The Nazis had an ability to degrade the enslaved to a point of their own identity and personhood becoming lost along the process; this was all part of their psychological torture.

Yet, despite all this, as I read this small board tucked in the corner of a big museum, I saw livelihood again; I saw rebirth after death. A resurrection of “who” after being a “what.” Art has the ability to awaken: I firmly believe that. Nevis Vitelli, a sixteen-year-old prisoner, wrote in a journal that amid “suffering lies the song of poetry, like a hymn that liberates and penetrates to the bottom of truth.” Poetry requires vulnerability; vulnerability reminds us that we can feel, that we are something more than mere flesh and bones.

I am a lover of words and put my heart where my mouth is when it comings to writing. I find something so special in the way words have the ability cultivate both joy and hope, yet also sorrow and suffering. Funny as it sounds, I have lived by a personal mantra when it comes to my own writing:

“Making sense of my mind by marrying letters into words that birth itself art.” 

By simply using words to craft art, these prisoners were reminded of their realness, reminded that they still have blood pulsing through their veins and a heart that could feel truly and deeply.

Roman Gebler, a prisoner at Dachau, described it best saying, “In the camp, I made a meaningful discovery; No power exists in the world that is capable of destroying humans as spiritual beings.” As much as their spirit was crushed, art was one of the few things that could still preserve the little bit of life that remained in them. A quiet savior came down to bring life to some of the brokenhearted and lift up the crushed in spirit— that savior was poetry.