Travel log: Berlin, Part II

Throughout school, I was fortunate enough to have a few teachers who went beyond lessons and instructions. These people inspired me, molded me and gave me the passion for learning I carry today.

I am grateful for each and everyone of these people. They all played unique roles in making me who I am today…

Even in a crowd of amazing teachers, one stands out as truly life-changing: Paul Smith.

Thanks to the transferring credits from another school, I was stuck with taking a pretty full schedule of classes my senior year.

I had one period potentially left open, which presented me with a problem: Take that time to give myself “the rest I deserved” or sign up for the Holocaust Literature class that everyone had been raving about?

The class won out. Proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made…

Through a semester of discussion, visits from Holocaust survivors and a trip to the National Holocaust Museum in D.C., I learned more than facts about the greatest human-created atrocity the world has ever given ground to.

It only takes a teacher to explain the basics: Eleven million people killed, composed of six million Jews and more than a million children.

But, it takes a truly special person to give it significance. Paul Smith was this person.

Today, I carry the lessons that Mr. Smith taught me. I hope they makes me a better person. I know they makes me more appreciative of the life I live. I also believe they give me a better understanding of the weight of something as simple as a city-block filled with gray towers…

Designed to give a sense of uneasiness, confusion and helplessness, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a stark representation of one of the darkest periods in history.

As I stood before it, the artists goals overwhelmed me: I was stunned to speechlessness.

I’d felt this way before, yet, I can never prepare for it.

After that point, the energy was pretty much taken out of me. All the students met back up for a sub-par dinner at an Italian place. Then I made another early night of it.

The next day, with a good night of sleep and more invigorating run under my belt, I was prepared to go, see and explore some more.

My class spent the morning touring the Pergamon Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of ancient monuments and art pieces.

I usually devour history with passion. For some reason, though, I wasn’t that intersted in the museum. After a few hours of people watching touring, I was more than ready to move on to other things. Especially since those “other things” included lunch and a “Spree fahrt” (translation: Spree cruise).

Lunch was another “this-is-my-only-option” salad. Not photo worthy.

I didn’t dwell in salad-induced depression for long. I had a cruise along the Spree River to attend to!

Our hour-long tour provided a great view of the city and some of it’s most famous monuments. I’d take those over ancient Turkish relics any day of the week.

After the tour, I kicked my stress-level back into overdrive by frantically racing around the city in desperate search of Internet. Why Dunkin’ Doughnuts must you fail me now?

With just minutes to go before the scheduled dinner meeting time, I was able to find a DD, shell out an Euro and squeeze in a bit of e-mail checking. Please allow this to also serve as explanation for why I didn’t post anything during the traveling time…

While I could have used a few more hour minutes on the computer, I neither had the time nor the money. Plus, my dinner plans weren’t just for any ho-hum Italian. Indian food was on the menu.

Some of my company for the evening.

Even good Gemüse Strudel, Apfel Kuchen, Kaiserschmarrn or anything else Germany offers can compare to my love of Indian food. My stomach was happy. Therefore, so was I.

The next day consisted of a little education in the German History Museum (which held my attention much better than the previous day) and a lot of business. And, by “business,” I mean Fußball.

With both German and American games on tap, we headed down to the “Fanmeile,” or the largest, most-drunken gathering of soccer fans in all of Germany.

Apparently most Germans aren’t particularly interested in American soccer, so we were able to land good viewing spots… for the England game. Unfortunately the American game wasn’t being shown on the big screen.

With hours to go until the real game time, Rebecca and I decided to head back to the hotel for a less-drunken, more comfortable viewing of the game. From the stories I heard the next morning, that was probably a wise desicion on our part.

I’m ashamed to admit that very little “nightlife” was explored in Berlin. But, with so much to do during the days, I needed my sleep!

The next day, amidst crews cleaning up the streets from the post-game riots celebration, we lugged our bags all the way from Mongolia to the train station, boarded das Zug (translation: train. Come on people, work with me…) and headed south for Bavaria.

There we were greeted with strangers our families and whisked away to our homes for the remaining six weeks.

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2 responses to “Travel log: Berlin, Part II

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine

    That memorial sounds so touching. I’m always amazed at how many wonderful tributes like that go unnoticed… we spent so much time gazing at the big monuments, but the people immortalized in the smaller ones are just as important. This sounds like such a great experience!

  • Paul Smith

    Emily,

    I am touched by your overwhelming words about me. I am humbled that a student of your stature would think so highly of the course and my teaching.

    There are times in our lives when we experience things – some by chance – some by purpose – and later some we recognize by fate. In education the seeds planted in classrooms across this country are hopefully placed in a fertile environment where free thinking, discussion, and a beginning of understanding can take place. Meeting you as the “new girl from Ohio” opened the beginning of a relationship that has, for me, grown in admiration as your educational journey has taken you to many varied opportunities and experiences.

    But your words about me, have also planted seeds – seeds which continue to give me the motivation to continue to open the eyes of others to the potential of humankind.

    Ms. Emily, you are indeed a fine example of the goodness of humankind. Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to learning about your many future successes. Hugs …

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