Sadly this was our last day of the Eastern Europe Trip. This came to a bittersweet end. We were all so tired, but leaving Europe was sad. Starting the day our wakeup call was 7:45 in the morning and we had to leave by 9:00. All that time in between was getting ready, eating breakfast, and loading our luggage to the bus. Of course knowing me I didn't wake up too early even when I said I was. I guess the lack of much sleep caught up to me but it was all fine because I was on Europe. So I got breakfast and got on the bus. We were supposed to go hiking up a mountain at the 1936 Olympics Stadium, but the weather clearly didn't want us to. Amazing Julie set up a picnic and everything for us but there seemed to be rain in the forecast so we changed our plans. Instead we went to BMW Motors.
Let me tell you. The architecture was absolutely tremendous. Now that I think of it the architecture in all of Europe is amazing. So we went and looked around and saw beautiful and too expensive for my budget cars and motorcycles. We posted with them and overall it was a fun experience because I've never been to a place like that.
After we finished our time at BMW Motors we left and got back on the bus and went to the airport. We got lunch at the airport and if you're me that included bread. We gathered everyone and started checking in. Going through my head this whole time it felt like we were just traveling to another country for the trip, maybe going back to Czech Republic or something like that. But no. We were going home. This was all so surreal. Aside from being so tired and having to lug my million bags everywhere, p.s. if you're traveling PACK LIGHT. At least for next time I will know. But anyways we end up going on the plane and it was an 8 hour plane ride which was terrible. I ended sitting in between two strangers as did alot of our people too. I hate that. Especially when the guy in front backed his chair all the way back so I felt so trapped and couldn't get out. I ended up standing up and walking for quite a bit because sitting in one place for awhile is a no no for me.
On this plane ride I felt like I was being thrown back into reality and this trip was a whole dream. It really did. I felt so removed from the world in this trip it felt great. You come to realize that what you think is important in your life really isn't and you have seen the worst of humanity when walking the same steps that victims of the Holocaust stepped. I stood in the same place that people were gassed and thought that they were going to shower. The only difference is that they couldn't leave the room, but I could. I walked around knowing I am free and I could leave whenever I wanted, but that choice was never given to them. They were taught to believe that work would make them free. Isn't that what was above them everyday on the sign in Auschwitz? "Work makes you Free".
This trip was absolutely amazing. Wow, just wow. This changed my perspective on everything. People worry about the smallest things that when you finally take a step back you realize what's really important. I am so grateful for Ms.Freeman and all the chaperones. I will never forget this trip and Really it has changed my life for the better. I know now what's important in my life and I want to do better and be an upstander for people that can't, or even inform people that don't know better. This trip will forever be in my mind and heart. I want to go back and redo it all over again. Eastern Europe gang 2017 forever!
Today we are returning home from our memorable trip. I am excited to see my family, but I can't help but feel a little upset that we are done with the trip. It seemed to have flew by! This trip is truly like no other. The juxtaposition of having fun with my fellow students on the trip and the seriously emotional visits we made allowed for some unique experiences. Today, for our last day we hopped on the bus to go to Munich and go to BMW world for a little bit. It was really cool there, you could go inside and look at different cars, some really new and some older, retro looking ones. After our little adventure in BMW world we once again boarded the bus and set out for the airport.
It's really hard for me to say my favorite thing or place on this trip because we did so much! Berlin was amazing, we had four days to explore the city, taste some great food, and visit some historical sites. I can't forget to mention the extremely meaningful experiences we had at the various camps we visited. For me, the most difficult and emotional camp to visit was Majdanek. Ms. Freeman had some of us read poems/pieces of writing from the point of view of prisoners and this gave the structures real meaning. It gave a voice to those who perished in that gas chamber and that is what made visiting the camp so powerful and upsetting. Hearing my fellow students read these words brought the camp to life. We all struggled to comprehend how humans could treat fellow humans in such a cruel way.
This trip and the Facing History course have taught me that we always have a choice. We always have the opportunity to do what is right, to act in a kind, compassionate, humane way. At the Euthanasia center we visited, we learned that employees, before being hired, got to watch the euthanasia killing process occur before accepting the position. Our tour guide told us that only two people turned down the job after seeing the killings. Nothing bad happened to them, which means that everyone else who saw the killings and proceeded to work at that facility had total awareness of what was happening and was not being forced to do the things they were doing. We continued to learn things which continued to provoke the question: How could someone let this happen? This trip taught me the consequences of being a bystander.
The Eastern Europe trip is one consisting of sad and upsetting moments as well as heartwarming moments filled with friendship and comradery. This trip is not necessarily an easy one, however with the help of 46 uplifting students and 4 incredible chaperones, we managed to create a balance between both the upsetting and the happy moments.
To the 45 other students on this trip, I am so thankful for your humor and kindness. It is thanks to a great group like you that we had such a great twelve days.
To the chaperones, thank you for working so hard to make this trip meaningful and for keeping us all safe.
To Ms. Freeman, thank you so much for continuing to bring students on this trip. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work which goes into making this trip happen. You allowed for us to have an unforgettable trip.
The trip has come to an end, but not without one more moment of excitement. This morning we went to BMW Welt (BMW World) with a lot of cars and cool
architecture. I sat on a motorcycle and in a ridiculously nice car so that was fun.
As excited as I am to be back in Boston with my bed, friends, and family, this trip has been uber fantastic. From late nights, early mornings, and long bus rides we have all bonded a tremendous amount and I have made so many great new friends. One of the biggest things I'll take away from this trip is the responsibility we carry to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. At the museum we went to in Terezin the woman working there said our attention to the exhibits gave her hope for the future. It was easy to criticize the people we saw taking smiling selfies at Auschwitz or jumping across the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, but we forget that not everyone was taught to take in these topics with such thoughtfulness. Seeing this made me realize that we need to make sure we continue to educate and keep the gravity of the memory of the Holocaust alive in order to teach future generations.
One amazing part of this trip was coming to the realization that in order to understand the sites we were at it was essentially up to us. Our tour guides or Ms. Freeman gave us the facts and the information, but it was in our hands to really picture it, try to take it in, and to process it all in order to understand. Going through this together really bonded our group, and over the past 12 days I feel very lucky to have experienced the trip with these 49 other individuals.
Not everything was super somber though! Prague (Praha!) was really fun and definitely one of the most beautiful cities i have ever been in. Berlin was super cool, seeing all of the different architecture and learning the history behind it was very interesting. And going to the Bauhaus was amazing!!! I made new friends and bonded with old ones, and the food was spectacular!
At the beginning of the trip I joked and asked if my post could be a haiku. I was told no, so here is one added to my post that summarizes some feelings:
Long nights, early morn'
50 amazing people
A very good time
Lastly, I would like to thank our lovely chaperones for being organized, there for us, and a really good time. I would like to thank all of the other students for being so kind and respectful, and for naturally creating a support system for everyone as we went through these sights. And of course, I would like to thank Ms. Judi Freeman who is the queen of planning trips and miraculously has been doing this for 17 years. I feel very lucky to have experienced this trip and hope everyone has a good rest of the year.
I have the duty and pleasure of writing the last Eastern Europe travel blog post, and, wow, is it difficult! How does one even begin to make sense of this emotional, overwhelming, bluntly revealing trip? Writing this post brings me to tears because it is impossible to bring to justice the power of this trip. I present to you my most telling moment, a scene which I cannot push out of my mind, in an attempt to sum up this adventure.
For me, the most painful, enlightening, and memorable moment occurred at the end of our Majdanek visit (Lublin, Poland). We had just finished walking through a gas chamber, walls etched with fingernail scratches and stained with bright blue Zyklon B residue. The wind whipped around us, brutally cold, unforgiving, echoing the screams of the exterminated. The sun blazed, so intense it seemed determined to blind us. Some students frightfully held on to each other. Most of us were crying. We stood in that circle, together, linked, connected, us against the elements. It produced this phenomenal juxtaposition: 46 students, each with a personality and a family and a specialty, each who could have been a prisoner or a victim of the Holocaust, against an immense, almost blanketed number of prisoners and victims. It is not possible to fathom the scale of extermination of the Holocaust, and thus, you must focus on the details.
We did not embark on a trip with our family or good friends; we were 46 students, most of us unfamiliar with a significant number of new faces. We embarked on a trip with strangers, living and learning with each other for twenty-four hours for thirteen days, forcing us to intimately accept the habits and roles of other humans. In that moment at Majdanek, I realized we were each a detail. The gravity of the Holocaust suddenly dawned on me, the fact that so many details were lost, so many faces and stories and dreams, in the most atrocious slaughter imaginable. In that moment, I understood the dignity in humanity, and the weight of every single human life, juxtaposed against a myriad of people living in an endless expanse of time.
So, for me, the message of this trip was this… How can we preserve, cherish, and expand the life of every person around us? How do we harmonize our singular souls against the boundless universe? How do we notice the details when we are presented with vastly blanketed events? How do we recognize the 17 year old student, soccer player, and older brother, out of the unceasing flow of Syrian victims? We must face the details in order to stop the scope of tragedy.
One of the first targets of the Nazis were children. The Nazis, obsessed with a notion of creating a “biologically pure” Aryan society, deliberately murdered Jewish children in order to prevent the growth of a new generation of Jews. More than 1.5 million children were lost. Throughout the trip, I realized that we are the next generation to enter the workforce. We must continue to voice the cries of the children lost due to the Holocaust and every other genocide. The imprint left on us by this trip will allow us to leave a parallel imprint on the world. Our lives and our actions are each details that, when tied together by a common experience, can create a poignant picture of people who will change the world for the better. As a result of this trip and a year full of profound learning, we are 46 students who will pursue prospective futures with a level of empathy, understanding, and knowledge that not many others have.
I am eternally grateful for Ms. Freeman for being, as my mother says, a force of nature. You are truly progressing the future of the world, one student at a time. Ms. Freeman, I cannot thank you enough. Thank you to the chaperones for their steady, insightful presence. Thank you to every single student who made this trip a remarkable adventure. I will never forget this.