Tuesday, March 31, 2015

{European Excursions Part 2: Czech and Auschwitz}

That was one long bus ride. Lots of sitting. But we drove through Austria, and it was beautiful. We only took a rest stop there, but I can officially say that I have been to Austria. We arrived in Czech at about midnight, and the walk up to the hotel was really long. Everyone collected their luggage and got their room number and we went to bed, ready for the choir rehearsals the next day.

I woke up the next morning super excited for the day ahead. I was in Czech, and I was going to be a part of the Fusion choir! I was also looking forward to making new friends. After breakfast, we all went downstairs to begin the rehearsal. I hadn't really listened to any of the songs beforehand, so I was a little nervous about that, but thankfully I learned the songs quickly over the weekend.

Although I liked to sing, the fact still remained that I hadn't really gotten to know any of the Fusion kids very well. I was shy, and I didn't really know how to communicate with the kids since they all spoke a different language when they were with their friends. I didn't want to ask them to speak in English, but I didn't know what else to do. I sat with my dad. I talked to my aunt and uncle. But I didn't really stretch myself to the point of going up to someone and talking of my own accord. It was more like they came to me. But I'm so happy that I made the friends that I did. They all made my experience so much better and more memorable. Once you've been a part of Fusion, even just for a week, it's hard to get it out of your system. I had been bitten by the Fusion bug and I didn't want to leave, even though I still had a week and a half left.

Before we actually started singing, we did a few warmups and games to get to know each other a little better. At first I didn't really participate because I was still feeling a little shy, as I was the only American in Fusion. We did a little ice breaker, and one of the questions was who buys your underwear. It was kind of embarrassing, but it definitely loosened everyone up! I was starting to feel more comfortable with everyone, and that's when I started enjoying myself a lot more, because I had people to talk to. I laughed a lot that weekend. We did a lot of singing and in my opinion we sounded pretty good.

After a weekend full of rehearsing, we set off for Poland, but before going to the church we were going to stay at, we visited Auschwitz, a German concentration camp in WWII.

I'm not sure if "looking forward" was the right phrase for going to Auschwitz, but I did want to see it, even though it was a terrible part of history.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

There were an incredible amount of buildings in Auschwitz that were museum-type places. Several of them had the Jew’s possessions in them. Rooms and rooms of shoes, clothes, eyeglasses, suitcases, even hair.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

In one room, which was the hardest building for me, was the room that held the shoes. There was a glass case that held children’s shoes. Thousands of them. And those were just the ones that had been found and preserved. There were shoes in there that would fit a two-year old. It was heartbreaking to see that the Nazis had shown no mercy, even to those who couldn’t even talk, let alone walk.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

Then there were the suitcases. So many people had brought them, in the hope of one day packing it up again and leaving that horrible place, and not very many of them got that chance.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

The gas chamber was very dark and eerie. Upon entering the chamber, there was a long, dark concrete hallway with white marks up and down the walls. The tour guide informed us that those marks were fingernail scratches. When the Jews found out they were being gassed and not cleaned, they began clawing the walls in terror, and they are now left as a permanent mark. There was equipment in the chamber, but I was feeling sick to my stomach and I had to get out as fast as I could. It was too terrible for me to grasp.

Photo By: Marko Spindler

The actual concentration camp was huge. As far as you could see there were rows and rows of guard towers, rows and rows of houses for the Jews. The day that I went it was freezing outside (literally) and the wind was terrible. It was difficult to concentrate on what was happening around, but it was hard to miss the barbed wire around everything and gas chambers everywhere you looked. My dad and I went into some of the houses that the Jews had been put in, and the living situations in there were awful. There were bunk beds that were barely big enough for two, and 10-15 prisoners were mercilessly shoved into the cramped beds, if you could even call them that.

As we left Auschwitz, everyone was rather subdued. We had just witnessed one of the most terrible tragedies in history. Just talking about it with my friends was an uncomfortable subject and the conversations never lasted long. I’ve learned about the Holocaust and WWII, but it never really felt real to me. It never felt real that someone would have enough hatred to try and destroy a whole population of people. Experiencing it firsthand shed it into a new light. It really happened. Families were separated here. People were tortured right where I was standing. Children, grandparents, moms and dads were all killed here. Just because they were Jews. They didn't deserve for that to happen. It’s hard to put into words just how horrible it was because it’s beyond anything I could fathom. I hope that Auschwitz will be a reminder that we should NEVER let anything like that happen again.

* * * * *
After Auschwitz we headed to Katowice, Poland. We were about to do the thing that everyone had been waiting for! It was time to do our Fusion concerts and launch Fusion in Poland. 
To Be Continued

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

{European Exursions Part 1: Slovenia}

After months of waiting, it finally happened. I went to Europe! The purpose of my trip was to be a part of the Fusion choir when Fusion was launched in Poland. Fusion is the ministry that my Aunt and Uncle lead in Celje, Slovenia. It's a teen outreach, and it's a rock choir. You can also go to camps and learn different instruments, such as guitar, piano, and drums. About 20-25 kids are a part of Fusion Celje. I had an amazing time, and I wish I was still there. I would love to go back sometime in the near future. If you go once, you never want to go back home.

Before the Poland launch, my dad and I had a week in Slovenia to kind of explore and prepare for the tour, which was going to be a big deal. Dad and I landed in the Zagreb airport in Croatia at about 1:30 pm their time. As we were waiting for our luggage to come (which took forever), we spotted Uncle Johnny, Auntie Brooke and Kinsley waiting for us with a sign. The window we saw them through had ads plastered all over it so we couldn't read it at the time, but it was still good to see them, even if it was through a giant tomato.

On the drive home, which was about two hours, I could feel myself slipping away. I was so tired, but I couldn't sleep because it would mess up my sleep schedule. To stay awake, I played charades with Auntie Brooke for the ride. It was pretty fun. On arriving at Uncle Johnny and Auntie Brooke's house, I was so relieved because that meant I would only have to force my body to stay awake for a couple more hours. I was so tired I don't even remember what we had for dinner that night, but I'm sure it was good. At about 8:30 I finally went to bed and slept through the whole night, which was a relief. I didn't know how my body would adjust to the different time zones, but I think it did okay.

That morning, we made plans to go sledding, so dad and I would have some activity to do to keep us up and running. Gwynne (also a Fusion leader) came along, and we had a lot of fun. Since we never get snow in Washington, it made it all the more fun to be able to go sledding. We were also sledding in Europe, so... I had such a good time I didn't notice the cold or anything. And getting to watch my dad wipe out in the snow was pretty enjoyable.

That night, Uncle Johnny and Auntie Brooke were having some of the kids from Fusion over to watch the final Harry Potter movie. They had watched them all starting with the fourth movie as a group. I met Saša, Klara, Urh, and Miha. I was a little nervous about meeting new people, especially people from another county, but I enjoyed getting to know them, and they had a love for Harry Potter, like me. I went to bed after the movie because I was still feeling the jet lag.

On Sunday morning we went to church, and Uncle Johnny translated for me and dad. After church we went to the restaurant Verdi Verdi. I ordered lasagna, and I must say it was pretty delicious. We had a pretty chill night, which was relaxing, and I wasn't feeling as jet lagged as I had the previous night. I actually stayed up to text and Snapchat all my friends back in the States. I was chatting with my cousin Alainna, and then she realized it was one in the morning for me and stopped texting me.

So much happened and so much was packed in it's hard to remember what I did on certain days, and I'm probably boring you with my day by day diary-like rambling. You want to hear about Fusion! I mean, that was the whole point of my trip to Europe. On Tuesday I went to the Fusion band rehearsal and met some more of the Fusion kids. As I wasn't actually in the band, I simply watched and listened. It was fun to watch how hard they had worked and how well they were doing.

On Thursday was the actual Fusion choir rehearsal. Dad had some work that he had to do, so I didn't have him as a refuge if I felt alone, which was, in reality, good for me, because I had to find ways to include myself without my dad being there to help. Of course it was super awkward and I went on my iPod to make it look I was doing something and I wasn't the girl sitting in the corner all alone, but I participated in my first Fusion rehearsal and I had a lot of fun. Saša and Klara were there, and they helped make me feel a little less alone. A few of the songs we did I wasn't too sure about and I didn't necessarily care for the melody, but as I continued to practice them with the whole Fusion group, they grew on me and even now I listen to them on repeat and sing alto in my room while doing the motions in front of the mirror.

After the rehearsal was over and most of the kids had left, I couldn't resist playing some of the instruments there because I hadn't touched a piano or guitar in about a week and I needed to play something. Uncle Johnny joined me on guitar and Auntie Brooke on drums and we played around for a little while. It was fun, and I got a little bit of the music pent up inside of me out.

The next day it finally had arrived. The thing we had been waiting for. We were going to Poland. We met all the Fusion kids at the train station right by Uncle Johnny and Auntie Brooke's house, and with all our luggage waited for the bus. The bus arrived and we loaded all our bags and pillows into the bus. Excited and a little nervous, I boarded the bus and sat down.
To Be Continued

Monday, January 13, 2014

If I Was a Color...

Hi everybody! It has been almost a year since I've written! Mom is so much better than I am at remembering to write. So I decided that every time I have to write and essay for school I would put it in my blog. This essay is a little older, and it was the funnest, and also probably the shortest essay I've written. This essay is about what color you would be if you were a color. I hope you enjoy!

If I was a color, I would be orange. Orange is a bright, fun color, which is how my friends and family describe me. This color is thought of as excitement, enthusiasm and warmth.

When I think of excitement, I think of joy and happiness. There is a lot of exciting things in my life, like my crazy little sister and my amazing family. Both bring me lot of joy and happiness.

I'm super enthusiastic! (most of the time) If I have something to do, I jump right to it, and I'm always open for new suggestions. If something pops up, I'm there to help. Sometimes I'm a little to enthusiastic with my friends...

I love making new friends! If there's a girl standing alone, not looking sure of herself, I go over and talk to her. My dad says I have to many friends! But I love doing that. I think that's what describes warmth.

Orange. The bright, fun color that fits me almost perfectly! And, if you're feeling down, just look at the exciting and warm color, orange.

Friday, February 8, 2013

{Wildlife Refuge}

Yesterday we went to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. It was a good time of year to go, because there were no leaves in the trees, and it's almost spring. We saw many things that we don't usually see in the summer. Our favorite was the many nutria we saw. I think it was five! We also saw several hawks, herons, and probably a hundred or so geese and ducks. There was also an occasional woolly bear.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and you could hear the geese honking and the ducks quacking. I would put my head through our sun roof to take pictures, and the breeze felt wonderful. Towards the end of the trip, we saw a hawk soaring low to the ground, obviously chasing something. I was peeking out the sun roof and trying to take pictures, but we were going so fast it was difficult even to get it on video. Yet it was so amazing and beautiful, I think I'll always have it my mind.

Here are a few of the pictures I took, and something interesting about the animal or bird in the picture.

Here Aidan and Avery are getting the bulletins that tell about the animals in the refuge. Here's a fun fact about them. They were very loud the whole trip and scared away many birds I could have gotten a picture of.

This is a nutria, and this is the best picture I took of them. I have several. I used the zoom on the lens, but it was still close enough to tell that it was eating something.

A fun fact is that nutria originally lived in South America, and were brought to England, Asia, and USA for fur farming. The farming crashed in the 1940s, and many were released into the wild. Avery was so hilarious, because she exclaimed "It looks like a very large rodent!" Which that's funny, because they are.

This is a red-tailed hawk, and I have many pictures of them too. I tried to catch a picture of it in flight, but it was going too fast. A fun fact about red-tailed hawks is they usually live in the same territory their whole life, and that territory usually ranges about ten miles.

This is a great blue heron, and this is by far my favorite picture of them. I did have another picture of a rather fat heron, but it was too far away to get a good picture. Great blue herons usually fish alone, but when it comes to nesting they nest in great colonies.

This picture is just a bunch of tangled branches, but it was so pretty I took a picture, and it wound up in my blog!

These are Canada Geese, I'm sure you know. Their Latin name is Branta canadenis. They are highly vocal, and are known to make more than ten distinctive calls.

This is my very favorite picture of all time. I love it! I'm still telling myself that I was the one to take the picture. This is also a red tailed hawk. I really liked the coloring on it's breast, and how it was so unique.

I hope you enjoyed my little 'tour' of the wildlife refuge! Maybe you should go sometime soon!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Three Cups

One morning my mom wasn't up yet, and my little brother decided to make some waffles for breakfast as a surprise. As some of you have most likely experienced, when little kids decide to make breakfast, almost always something happens.

When I came out of bed, he had already finished the waffle batter and had put plastic wrap over the bowl. I told him he should wait to cook them till mom got out of bed, but that it was a good idea. I went into the living room to read, and mom got out of bed about 15 minutes later. I was still reading when Aidan showed her the waffles. I heard her say, "Oh Aidan! How sweet of you. I'm so glad I don't have to worry about breakfast. Did you make sure you got all the ingredients?"

Aidan and mom went over the recipe to make sure he had put everything in and the right amount. Then, I heard my mom exclaim, "Good heavens! Three cups?!"

I went in to see why my mom had gotten so surprised. When I asked her what had happened she said, "You know how when I write out recipes on sticky notes, they're rather sloppy and hastily written?" I groggily nodded yes (I was still tired). "Well," my mom continued, " I wrote out the recipe, but I didn't have enough room to write out the whole recipe. I usually put in 1/4 of a cup of sugar, but since I didn't have room to write that out, I put a semicolon next to the three cups of flour and wrote sugar. Since Aidan didn't know that, he put three cups of sugar in the waffles!"

Mom looked at Aidan and said, "Did we even have three cups of sugar?"

"Not anymore!" he giggled.

So that morning we had waffles with three cups of sugar, and they were so sweet we didn't even need syrup.

The moral of the story is, if your mother writes her recipes on sticky notes that are sloppy and hastily written with semicolons, you should probably make sure she doesn't mean three cups of sugar.