"I am a part of all that I have met…"
Alfred Lord Tennyson. I’m sorry that I have been such a terrible blogger, but my priorities have been elsewhere. I went on an incredible reporting trip through Dublin and now I’m in my last 2 weeks of life in Utrecht. I honestly have no idea what to do with myself. I’m getting sad about leaving while simultaneously getting excited about going home. The only thing I know for sure is that the people I have met here have totally changed my life. I am not the same person that left the Knoxville airport almost exactly 5 months ago. I will never forget this experience. Next stop: Prague then home!

These are my favorite photos from a beautiful day spent at the Keukenhof Gardens. I never thought I would see something like this, and the photos don’t do it justice. It was the perfect day and the perfect setting, I only wish my camera hadn’t died before we left the park.

Anyone that gets the chance, go here! It’s a simple little day trip from Amsterdam with buses running to the gardens every 15 minutes in the Spring. It was absolutely the best money spent on a trip within the Netherlands. Definitely the most amazing early birthday gift ever!

--Tagged under: Keukenhof Gardens--

--Tagged under: Amsterdam--

--Tagged under: Tulips--

Three Months Down, Two and a Half to Go…

Things I (still) love about Utrecht:

1. The architecture I still make comments about how pretty the city center is every time I walk or bike down there. And speaking of biking…

2. Biking We don’t do enough of it back home, and I’m hoping it’ll be a habit I stick with when I come back.

3. The People I love everyone I live with. The international students are so nice and I feel like I’ve made some incredible friends both in classes and at the apartment.

4. Living Alone Um… roommates are overrated.

Things I love about Europe:

1. Culture I swear, I have heard at least 50-100 languages since I’ve been over here. Also, the food is awesome.

2. Trains I had never been on a train before coming to Europe and now I love them! I will surely miss them when I return home.

3. The Weather It’s not too hot, not too cold and in the spring it’s so sunny that it almost makes me want to cry. Could not be better.

Things I miss back home:

1. Science Writing All of my writing here is very culture focused. I think I’m going through science journalism withdrawals. Seriously, I have the shakes.

2. My Friends Now, this cannot be helped, but since I’m half way around the world I have a little trouble keeping up with all the goings on back home. Miss you guys.

3. My Family Of course I miss the fam, but what makes it worse is the fact that I’m missing Zacky’s graduation. I’ll just have to make it up with a REALLY good gift.

4. Driving There is something to be said for driving through the streets of Knoxville singing obnoxiously to Mika. It’s just not the same on a bike… people can hear me. 

Above all, I am happy. I love my life here, however different it may be, but I am also looking forward to coming back to the familiar back in the states… Although, let’s be honest, I’m not ready to come home quite yet.

Till next time!

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

I wasn’t originally planning on blogging about my visit to Sachsenhausen (right outside of Berlin), but I think it’s important that I write it down and put it out there because it is perhaps one of the most important things I have ever done for myself.

The picture above is of the area where public hangings took place to intimidate and pacify the prisoners.

I’m not entirely sure where to begin. As background, I went to Berlin with a class trip to visit some of the creative sectors in the city. The camp wasn’t on the agenda, but I suggested it to a few of my friends and 6 of us agreed to go together on the last day before we left to come back home. Oddly enough, it was the most gorgeous day we had while in Germany.

Entrance to the museum was free, but we got the guided audio tour, which turned out to be incredibly informative. I don’t think I’ll really get into the history of the camp, because you can just click this link and read it in a far more succinct fashion than I could explain, but I think the important thing is that I explain how I felt at each point during the 3 hours I spent there.

Almost immediately the group of 6 split up. For some reason, I don’t know if it was because of the audio tour or what, we all wound up alone before we even entered the gates of the camp making the whole experience even more intense. I found it hard to set foot inside the gates marked “ARBEIT MACHT FRIE.” It took me a good five minutes to psych myself up enough to get through them, but from the minute I was inside my feet felt like lead.

I don’t think that I can accurately describe what I felt when I first walked into the camp. There is such a sense of overwhelming sadness inside the walls that it can’t be explained without being there. I looked around, and for a place filled with people on a Saturday, it was eerily quiet, as if the sound was somehow sucked out. There were no birds chirping or loud voices. At times, it was almost silent.

The first thing that really struck me were the numbered stone blocks that represented the places where the barracks once stood. All of these stones had at least a few mourning rocks on top of them. The first time I cried was when I placed a rock and said Kaddish. I’ve only said that prayer twice; once at the Western Wall and once at Sachsenhausen. Honestly, I don’t think that Kaddish can be said enough at a place like that. When I ran into a few of my friends I explained the significance of the rocks, but ultimately we all went our separate ways again.

The most powerful moments of the day happened when I came across the gas chamber, the mass shooting pit, and the ash graves. I cannot compare the feeling I had as I walked down into the pit to anything else. I felt suffocated. I wanted to run away, as far away as I possibly could so I didn’t have to feel that oppressive sadness anymore. It just got worse when I got into the gas chamber. The idea that so many people were killed in such a heartless, sadistic manner to satisfy the inane beliefs of a mad man is beyond me. By this point I was balling. By the time I got to the mass graves I could barely breathe. It’s hard for me to even think about it now.

Granite blocks were positioned above the ash graves to act as a marker. Placed from one end of the blocks to the other were hundreds of mourning stones, covering every inch of granite. Looking out across the camp through my tears, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be alive and seeing this place. The Holocaust has always been real to me, but just seeing this world first hand was an invaluable experience.

Walking through Sachsenhausen was perhaps one of the hardest things I have ever done, but as I was leaving and my feet began to feel a little bit lighter, I knew that it was something that I would never forget. It was truly a life changing experience.

This Installation was inside of the museum of the camp. It’s the last thing you see before you leave the building.

--Tagged under: Sachsenhausen--

--Tagged under: Holocaust--

--Tagged under: Germany--

--Tagged under: Concentration Camp--

"Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead."

-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Well, it’s official! I’ve chosen Dublin for my reporting trip. In truth, a lot of the reason I’ve picked this city is to see some of the places mentioned in the book quoted above and to learn about the modern writing scene in a place so rich with literary history. I’ve also been told that it’s “my kind of city” which, I suppose, can only be a good thing.

A conversation had on the metro in Paris
  • Drunk stranger sitting across from me: Bonjour
  • Me: Bonjour
  • Drunkie McGee: *hurried unintelligible slurred French*
  • Me: What? Do you speak English?
  • Drunkie: O! Are you English? Speak English!?
  • Me: Yes... I think.
  • Drunkie: I sit next to you now *sits next to me*
  • Me: (nervously, while clutching purse) Is there something you need?
  • Drunkie: I want English girl! You English girl?
  • Me: What? No.
  • Drunkie: No! You English girl!
  • Me: NO. I'd really just like to read my book.
  • Drunkie: English girl! Where you from?
  • Me: I'm American.
  • Drunkie: ...
  • Me: ...
  • Drunkie: American? I wanted an English girl. *Moves to another seat*
  • Now, I'm not entirely sure what this interaction meant. From what I gathered, the guy was extremely upset that either A) I was not British or that B) I wouldn't let him rob me. My guess is that it was a bit of both. Oh Paris, I wish I could say that this was the only ridiculous interaction I had while visiting you, but alas, I cannot. More stories to come, trust me, this was only a taste.

Here’s the article! Check out the comments section. A couple people got pretty pissed off about what my source had to say. Let me know what you think!

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