Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Poland

Sh*t Happens

For example, you might end up at the airport in Milan right on time. But at the wrong airport.

Or perhaps you lose a bracelet you love dearly that was given to you by your grandmother, and you don’t notice until you get home at almost midnight. In Krakow.

Or you leave your keys at the restaurant. One of them, because you went to six that day.

But usually it isn’t as bad as it seems.

Because as much as it sucks to pay €160 for a taxi ride through the pouring rain at frightening speeds, you can, in fact, end up at the other – correct! – airport with plenty of time to get through security and onto your flight. Plus, you get an amazing story out of it. I mean, how many people have not one, but two (2!) insane taxi stories to tell?

And your friends are around and convince you to go back out, visit the cafe, the restaurant, and the bar you visited over the course of the evening to ask if anyone found and turned in a gold bracelet. And when that search comes up empty and you’re dejected and you don’t know what to do, they just might convince you to ask at the restaurant that you had lunch at too. And they, even though the staff is in the midst of cleaning up and stacking tables, will still stop and ask the servers from earlier in the day before they check in the magic drawer filled with lost items, and pull out your bracelet.

And your host mom doesn’t actually hate you when you call her at 10pm asking her to throw a set of keys out the window to you. The next morning, when you call first your school, then the other program where you have classes, they happily look around and sadly inform you they haven’t seen them, but that they’ll keep an eye out. The cafes you call are similarly helpful, and when you call the restaurant you had lunch at, the owner has them and will even be by in just a couple minutes, so if you wait he’d be happy to get them for you right away.  And all of this, of course, is happening in Czech, just as a testament to how much you’ve learned.

The reality is that the world is full of all sorts of sh*t, and you just have to deal with it. Sometimes (like all of these examples…) it is self-imposed. Sometimes life just hands you a bad deck of cards. But, as they say, lemons lemonade.

I think it is safe to say that when you travel, you expose yourself to a lot more potential problems. At home, we worry about being on time to meetings or classes, but showing up late can usually be explained with a sheepish smile and an apology. Planes, trains, and busses don’t wait for you to show up with your smile. When you’re abroad, every interaction is fraught with the extra confusions of second languages and different cultural expectations. When you’re traveling, you’re more likely to be moving around; I, at least, am way more likely to loose something if it is in transport.

I know a lot of people who try to plan EVERYTHING when they go traveling. they want to know exactly where they’ll be at every moment. They want to have their schedules written down minute-by-minute before they even pack a bag. They want no surprises, which seems to me to be the same as wanting no real experiences. I leave for a destination with a loooong list of things I’d love to do, but no plan to fit them all in. I usually pack the night before I leave, and I hit whichever destination is appealing at the time.

There are a billion different ways to travel, and I’m not saying mine is right or that ^ is wrong. But I leave myself open to disaster. Because the disasters – which undoubtedly suck at the moment – make the best stories. And the best way to learn, the best way to grow, is to make mistakes and figure out how to worm your way out of them.

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Český Čtvrtek – Káča

Můj tatinek jednou řikal, “všichni musí sbírat něco.” On sbíral známky v dětsví, a dnes sbírá knihy o fotbalových rozhodčích. S mojí rodinou, sbírame mince z celého světa, proto máme mince z Japonsko, z Kanad’y, České Republicky, a mnoho dalších. Ale, sbírám něco sama taky. Sbírám káči. Proč? Tady je podvika.

Když mi bylo 13 let, cestovali jsme do České Republiky s mými prarodiči. Potom jsme cestovali do Italie, ale to jenom já, můj bratr, a moji rodiče. V Praze, jsem založila moc krasnou káču v trh a moje babička ji koupila pro mě. Byla to moje vzpominka z České Republiky.

Potom, jsme cestovali do Italie vlakem a ve vlaku, můj tatinek pověděl mě o sbíraní. Když můžeme koupit něco káču v Italii, budeme. V celé Italii, jsme hledali. Hledali jsme v Římě, hledali jsme v Milaně, hledali jsme v Benátkách. Nakonec, jsme v Benátkách, viděli jeden káču v obchodě oken. Ale tento obchod byl zavřeny, a museli jsme jet vrzo ráno. Můj tatinek klepal a klepal a někdo otevřel dveře. Tato káča byla opravdu poslední káča skla v obchodě, možna v celých Benátkách. Ale koupili jsme. A měla jsem dvě káči ze dvou zemí.

Když jsem cestovala do Japonsko, koupila jsem káču tam. a Ted’, zkusím koupit káču v každé zemi. Je legrace, protože mám něco dělat všude. Musím hledat, proto mus=im zkoumat místa. Nemůžu jenot jet na proslulá místa když chci koupit káču z této země. Ale, nemůžu koupit všude, protože ěasto nemůžu hledat nebo nemůžu najít káči.

Myslím nejlepší důvod pro sbíraní je podviky. Když cestuju s někým, můžeme hledat dohromady. Je to legrace a trochu jiný než normalní cestování. V Listopadu, jsme cestovali s dvěma kamaradkamí do Turecka. Tam, jsem šly na trhy. Nemyslely jsme, že koupíme něco, protože všechno bylo velké nebo drahé. Ale, řikala jsem, když někdo bude vidět káči, prosim řekněte mi to. Asi za dvacet metrů, jsem viděla něco a křičela jsem “káěi!” Pravda, byl tučety káči. Koupila jsem jednu krásnou.

Mám dvě káči z Polska, protože jsem koupila jendu na trhu a naše výlet vůdce koupila jeden v Židovském muzeu. Je dreidel a nevím když opravdu káču, ale ona je opravdu hezká a děkovala jsem jí. Koupila jsem moji káča z Francie, z Švýcarska, a z Islandu v dětském obchodě, ale na Islandu jsem hledala jeden v kuchynském ochodu taky.

Moje kamarady někdy koupily káči pro mě v nové zemi, nebo pomohy mě s hledat někde. Nemám káči ze všech zemí kam jsem cestovala, ale mám jich mnoho. Mám káči z Japonska, ze Švýcarska, z Turecka, z Polska, z České Republiky, z Italie, z Francie, a možna ješte ale nemůžu vzponenout ted’protože jsem tady a jsou v Americe. Ale mám jednu otázku: když cestuju někam dvakrat nebo už, měla bych koupit jeden na každý výlet nebo ne?


My dad once told me, “everyone should collect something.” He collected stamps as a kid, and now he collects books about soccer referees. With my family, we collect coins from countries around the world, so we have coins from Japan, Canada, the Czech Republic, and many others. But, I also collect something myself. I collect tops. Why? Here is the story.

When I was 13 years old, we traveled to the Czech Republic with my grandparents. And then we traveled to Italy, but it was only me, my brother, and my parents. In Prague, I found a beautiful top in a market and my grandmother bought it for me. It was my souvenir from the Czech Republic.

After, we traveled to Italy by train and on the train, my dad told me about collecting. If we could find a top in Italy, we would buy it. Throughout Italy, we searched. We searched in Rome, we searched in Milan, we searched in Venice. At the end of our time in Venice, we saw one top in a shop window. But the shop was closed and we had to leave early in the morning. My dad knocked and knocked and someone opened the door. That top was truly the last glass top in the store, and maybe in all of Venice. But we bought it. And I had two tops from two countries.

When I travelled to Japan, I bought a top there. And now, I buy a top in every country I visit. It is fun, because I have something to do everywhere. I have to look, so I have to go to different places. I cannot only go to the tourist places if I want to buy a top in that country. but I can’t always buy one, because often I can’t search or I can’t find a top.

I think the best reason for collecting is the stories. If I travel with someone, we can search together. It is fun, and a bit different than normal travel. In November, I went to Turkey with two friends. There, we went to the outdoor market. We didn’t think we would buy anything, because everything was big or expensive. But I said if anyone sees tops, please let me know. From about twenty meters, I saw something and yelled “Tops!” It was true – they were dozens of tops. I bought a pretty one.

I have two tops from Poland, because I bought one at a market and our trip leaders bought one at the Jewish museum. It is a dreidel, and I don’t know if it is truly a top, but the woman is so nice and I thank her. I bought my tops in France, in Switzerland, and in Iceland from children’s stores, although I also found one in Iceland in a kitchenware store.

My friends sometimes buy me tops from new countries, or help me look for them somewhere. I don’t have tops from every country I’ve been to, but I have tops from many of them. I have tops from Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and maybe more but I can’t remember because I am here and they are in America. But I have a question: If I travel somewhere twice or more, should I buy one for each trip, or not?


Auschwitz

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We arrived at Auschwitz at 8 in the morning, just as it was opening for the day. Though I was exhausted from the long bus ride, I was also excited and nothing short of apprehensive. I had expectations regarding what Auschwitz would be like: huge beyond belief, frightening, difficult to comprehend. Some of those were right and some were not.

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I was surprised by the size of Auschwitz. It was both bigger and smaller than I expected. More than that, it seemed almost normal. The individual barracks looked bigger from the outside than I imagined they would be, but once inside and faced with the number of people that lived in each one, they were smaller than I could comprehend. Each room of the barracks, though large enough for maybe a few dozen people to sleep comfortably, slept more than a hundred. I cannot even imagine the lack of space or privacy they afforded the Jews that were imprisoned there. Combined with the difficulties associated with malnourishment and the accompanying diarrhea, the privacy would not have been the biggest issue people faced there.

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Within the barracks, as we walked through, we saw visual displays of the items people had left behind – hundreds of thousands of shoes, combs, glasses, suitcases. The Jews transported to Auschwitz thought they were moving to a better place, and then they were thrust into reality. It must have been devastating. At some point, someone on the trip wondered aloud whether or not they would have survived. We were there on a cold, dreary day, but the weather will only get worse through the winter. And we were wearing two, three, four layers, including hats scarves and gloves, compared to the thin, damp, and dirty cotton jumpsuits people were forced to wear for months without a washing. I responded with something about the incredible ability of humans to survive the unsurvivable, but I don’t know if I would have survived a week, let alone months or even years in those conditions.

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As difficult as Auschwitz I was to comprehend, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was even harder. By the time we transitioned to the second camp (by bus, not walking the three miles like prisoners would have had to), the fog had thickened and the cold was more penetrating. As we walked into Birkenau, with the train tracks fading into the haze before us, I was struck by how huge this place was. It made Auschwitz I look tiny, and the wooden barracks made the weatherproof brick buildings of Auschwitz look downright cozy.

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The red-brick chimneys, all that was left of most of the wooden barracks the Nazis had burned at the end of the war, continued forever. They literally faded into nothing as the fog concealed them from view. Birkenau seemed to go on forever, and it is only half the size the Nazis intended it to be. Walking through the barracks was devastating and distressing and depressing and for the second time in a week I was brought to tears. Standing on the middle of the train platform, at the spot Nazi officials famously stood, directing Jews, gypsies, and other prisoners to the left if they appeared strong and to the right to be gassed if they did not, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all. But also, the closeness of it.

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Once again, I have no idea what actually happened to my family. But I know that the Nazi records of my great-grandmother are either burned and lost in history, or they never existed. Those people that got sent to the right – the Nazis never bothered making records of their arrival in Auschwitz. It just wasn’t worth the effort to record the arrival of those that were being sent straight to their death. As I stood in the middle of the train platform, after the tour had walked off, I looked at the single train car sitting on the tracks. I looked at the empty platform running in both directions, hazy trees visible at one end and the faint outline of the entrance to Birkenau at the other. I’d like to say I imagined the pictures come to life, but really they came to life around me without any conscious thought, as if the ghosts rose out of the fog to treat me to a more realistic picture of what happened. I could almost see my great-grandmother calmly stepping out of a train, relieved by the breath of fresh air and overwhelmed by the huge expanse of the camp surrounding her. Maybe she arrived on a fresh spring day, when the sun shined on the buildings and she had a sense of hope as she was directed to what she was told would be a refreshing shower. Maybe she stepped out on the same dreary sort of day I was there, and knew immediately she was walking to her own death. Maybe she was one of the hundreds of people on each transport that were dragged, already dead, out of the train cars and she didn’t see the hell of Auschwitz at all.

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Regardless, a click of a camera pulled me back to real life, and I followed the group to the remains of the crematoria.

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