24/31 hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Veni. Vidi. Vici

Rome. A city rebuilt upon itself. Layer upon layer of ancient history, stacked on top of more ancient ruins. Not to be too stereotypically Italian, but it really is like a homemade lasagna with its layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, layered again and again over hundreds of years. Walking through Rome, it is so easy to just stumble upon old ruins. What I found to be most interesting was that some of those ruins didn’t even have a plaque explaining its significance. It is simply an uncovered piece of history laying between a few contemporary buildings. Its beauty was almost too much to comprehend. On our final day in Rome, my small group stopped to take a look around a church. On our walk back, Brittany said to me, “I love how we are just taking a casual stroll by the Colosseum.” She was so right! It almost becomes too easy to take all of this majestic history for granted after all that we have seen and done in the last 3.5 weeks.

As our time in Rome comes to a close, I realize how much I will miss this city. I will miss strolling through the ancient Forum where an entire civilization used to “hang”. I will miss making wishes in the Trevi Fountain. I will miss learning so much within the walls of Vatican City. I will miss standing outside Russell Crowe’s hotel, waiting for a gladiator sighting. But most importantly, I will miss our evening walks past the Pantheon headed straight for Giolitti’s.

More than missing Rome and the gelato, I will miss Europe as a whole. Traveling has allowed me to examine the American culture from a distance. I found plenty of differences between our culture versus the Europeans, some negative and some positive. One thing I certainly appreciate about the Europeans, especially Italians, is the way they take a nice long time to sit and enjoy their dinner. So often in America, we barely sit down to scarf down our food before we run off to our next task. Forget having time to converse with family or friends. The dinners of CR were one of my favorite parts of the day. They would often linger on for 2-3 hours. During this time, we would share with each other every aspect of our day and the interesting things we learned about the city and ourselves. I think Americans could learn a great lesson on the tradition of coming together at the end of the day and having great conversations over a meal.

But what I will miss most is not spending every waking minute with the CR familia. I could probably write an entire blog post over each individual on CR and how they impacted my experience and how much their friendship means to me. Writing this blog now, I am suddenly aware of how close we have all become. We could laugh, cry, or make the silliest jokes, all with full confidence that another person would be right there in the moment with us. While CR has come to a close, I am so eager to see what the future holds for CR10. But what is most exciting is that we still have three years together to strengthen our relationships and build on top of what we have started.

CR10… We came. We saw. We conquered.

Veni. Vidi. Vici.

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Dinner With Sam

So we just arrived in Interlaken, but I still have a ton to talk about with both Berlin and Munich. Here’s one of those things from the first city. So way back last week in Berlin, we had dinner one night with a tour guide from the UK names Sam. I had met sam before on Frog Camp, and he remembered me because of my stylish glasses. He didn’t remember Ryal though.

Anyways, we were enjoying our meal, asking intellectual questions, stuffing our mouths with schnitzel, and chugging still water. Sam was super interesting to talk to and had a ton of great insight into cultural differences in politics, religion, the whole nine yards. We all were enjoying his insights and wisdom, but there two questions I really wanted to ask him, and one quote we had to share with him.

So I just went for it.

“Okay Sam. So I know you drive on the left side of the road, but what side of the sidewalk do you walk on?”

He paused for a moment, and we finally stumped him. He didn’t really know. I had succeeded in intellectually challenging a European tour guide. After much thought and clarification about what I meant by that, he came to the conclusion that he naturally tended towards the left side of the sidewalk. He also explained that they started driving on the left side because it was safer for horse riders to be on the left side so they could protect themselves with their sword arm (their right arm) against threats on the road. I don’t buy it. I think they’re just wrong.

The next thing brought up was the American Revolution. I know I know, but we were just that comfortable with this guy. Plus Ryal brought it up, not me. Sam quickly responded with “oh yeah I’m so hurt by the fact that you guys one a wars 200 years ago that I had nothing to do with. Also how’s your health care?” Basically, he just started roasting the US, so I had to ask: what do are the stereotypes of US citizens in Europe? Here are the notes I took:

Loud

Loud

Loud

Enthusiastic

Badly dressed

Religious

Gun loving

I will admit, most of those are pretty true. You could here us coming towards the U-Bahn station from miles away – or should I say, kilometers away? He also explained to us how there is a difference between the type of people Americans root for, and the type of people Brits root for. Americans love the people who are good at things. We’re really quick to praise success and idolize the people who have done well, or who have been dealt a good hand in life, whereas British culture typically finds it hard to do that. They would much rather see the underdog come out on top than we would. While I don’t think either one is inherently more correct than the other, as the latter may bring up problems with perpetuating success and the former may cause exclusivity, that simple conversation revealed just how much people of different countries can learn from each other.

Night Train to Party Train

In preparation for this trip, we were advised to stay up all night on the CR tradition: the night train. I hate to disappoint, but we certainly did not do this. Although, we still have stories worth telling. As a preface, Europeans are not particularly fond of a group of sixteen, American college students, with the largest bags and loudest voices boarding their train. To begin the on-board adventures, I would like to thank Jacob James for his incredible ability to bring people together. He radiates energy and instantly set the tone for how enjoyable our night train experience was about to be. He started us off with immediately suggesting Hot Seat: a high-pressure game where your group has one minute to ask you any question they want; riveting I must say. From questions about how one eats their taco to horrendous, and I mean horrendous, first kiss stories, the night was nothing short of memorable. I am grateful for this new level of friendship reached and each and every one of these people continue to amaze me in their past, present, and plans for the future. It helped me realize how much more I have to learn about each individual and I am looking forward to continuing to do just that.

As sick as the fellowship (that was for Kyle Hepting) on the night train was, the morning did not greet us kindly. For starters, our conductor, who already did not like us, woke us up at 6am to give us “breakfast”. “Breakfast” consisted of two hard pieces of bread and either coffee or tea. After we nibbled, we started counting the stops and nodding off back to sleep. About thirty minutes later our conductor was standing at our door yelling at us in German. I am not sure if you have ever been yelled at in German, but it is about a million times scarier than your parents have ever said to you. His knowledge of English was slim to none and the only thing he could say was “it is finished” and “two minutes”. After us honors students put two and two together, all hell broke loose. For everyone who knows me well should know that this just about gave me a heart attack (I don’t handle being late well). As my graceful self quickly got out of bed, I hit the hot tea off my bed, spilling it everywhere. But with two minutes on the clock, that had to be ignored. As Olivia threw down luggage that weighed about a ton to me, I threw them down the hallway while everyone helped clean our cabin and attempt to grab everything. A special thank you to Abby Souder for being the only responsible one of the group and grabbing our rail passes, which are our lifeline for the rest of our trip. We made it off the train with my heart rate at 128, but little did we know we had plenty of time to spare. As we stood outside the train trying to find our bearings, the train sat there for a solid ten minutes and proceeded to sit there after we left. I am convinced our conductor had it in for us and enjoyed watching us Americans squirm a little bit. I reached this conclusion because I watched him share a chuckle with his colleague or should I save accomplice after watching us sprint off the train in sheer panic. Needless to say, first impressions while arriving in Munich (people wise) was not stellar.

Regardless of the rough morning, Dr. P treated us to a wonderful breakfast at a café in Marienplatz. I thought unwelcome feeling would change quickly but it continued when we sat down in the café a couple immediately got up to leave. I can’t say I blame them too much since you can hear us coming from about three blocks away but I felt myself getting hostile even though it was so early in our Munich experience. This view changed throughout our first day as we were awestruck by the city’s beauty. It was drastically different from Berlin, old architecture, calm streets, history at every turn. As abrupt as the morning was, it helped me realize how important it is to recognize and respect your surroundings. I love the way Americans make conversation, sing, and practically dance through life, but respecting the culture around us helped us to even further immerse into the society we entered. CR10 has capitalized on this by learning how to navigate the city, appreciate the culture, but still remain unapologetically ourselves.

Our first day in Munich turned out to be wonderful. We pushed through the tired, learned more about each other, and ended up jumping in a freezing cold river in the middle of a park. However, that night turned out to be the best night so far. We arrived at a Mexican restaurant that has been CR tradition for a decade now. My view of the Munich people made a complete 180 as the owner was nice enough to close down the restaurant just for us. Not only did he close it down, but he blasted music for us all to dance together and even our waitress joined. There was salsa dancing, two-stepping, A LOT of shimmying, and even Dr. P got out on the dance floor. My personal favorite was the conga line around the restaurant during Despacitos third time playing. But, before I continue, I a wonderful person that I have been lucky enough to come to know because of this trip.

Audrey Payne, if you do not know her, you need to get on that. In the middle of the dance party she pulls out this hidden talent of doing the worm. I personally have never seen a better worm in my life and I have Bennett Hofmeister for a brother. Not only can Audrey do the worm, but she is a phenomenal flute player in the band who plans to continue to pursue her music career after college by joining her community orchestra and teach private flute lessons. Alongside her music career, she would like to double as a lawyer. I am pretty sure the only step up from there is a secret agent, so watch out she could do that too. Audrey is one of those people that you can never stop learning enough about because her talents are endless, her spontaneity is magnetic, and she never ceases to amaze you. She is selfless, passionate, so incredibly kind-hearted, and brilliant in the most beautiful way. She is always keeping us on our toes and I am looking forward to many more surprises.

These first days in Munich have really pushed me to be open-minded. I would like to think that I was that way walking in, but I tend to form my views quickly if something goes wrong. Going back to the conductor putting me into cardiac arrest, I immediately thought that the whole city of Munich didn’t want us there. It took me all day and a nice restaurant owner named Martin to figure out how incredibly wrong I had been. The days followed have been taken by storm with an emphasis on allowing the culture to teach me before I write it off. We have one more day in Munich and I can definitely say it will be missed. (Keep going past pictures for the most important part)

One last, but very important thing. Today is my parents 31st wedding anniversary but these two have been together for a total of 36 years. Thank you for being the epitome of a Christ-centered relationship for John, Bennett, and I and always loving and supporting each other/us unconditionally. It has been the most beautiful thing to watch, learn from, and environment to grow up in. Thank you for giving me the two best friends/brothers I could ever ask for and allowing us to hang out with people as cool and as fun as you. Any parents that decide that they want to go play laser tag and whirly ball for their anniversary celebration definitely have it going on. I love and appreciate you so much and thank you for giving me this opportunity to explore abroad. I can’t wait to celebrate with you when I get back. I love ya’ll.

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