Submitted by LindaSo, I must set the record straight. Yes, I was on a trip to Europe, but I wouldn't say it was "extremely lengthy" as my fun friend Michelle mentioned in her post. It was 13 days, just under two weeks, though before I left she kept boo-hooing about my being gone for "3 weeks", "2 months", then "6 months". Rest assured, we both survived without our constant texting and debriefing throughout the past two weeks!
I was privileged to travel with a group of APU staff, board members, alumni and friends of the university. Our ultimate destination was the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, but we hit the pavement and filled up our camera memory cards along the way.
When you attend APU, or attend APU functions, often the theme is "What can you take away from this experience?" or "How will you be different tomorrow, as a result of your new learning and experiences?"
Well, I have certainly experienced some new awareness after having visited the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. Dachau was one of the first concentration camps established, and was a model for other camps. It is now a memorial and a historical monument that allows visitors to see the barracks, crematorium, fencing, and view many many photos that show life and death at Dachau, the terrible dehumanizing of people, as well as liberation.
The mood there was somber, as we walked the road where Jews and other political prisoners walked to the entrance of Dachau. This is the entrance gate, where thousands passed through the words "Arbeit Macht Frei", which translates into "Work brings freedom".
I was so moved by the stories of life and death there, and the horrible conditions and inflicted pain. This memorial shows people entwined in barbed wired, which symbolized the prisoners and the fencing that held them hostage.
As you pass through the actual facility, you can't help but have tears well up or a giant lump in your throat. And then you think about the liberation, which also evokes more tears.
In my kindergarten, when I teach about Japan for our big multicultural celebration, we try to make 1,000 paper cranes to represent peace. I was so happy to see these brightly colored cranes, dangling from the chapel area at Dachau, with the words attached "Let peace begin with you". I took this photo to show my kindergarten friends, but as I look at it again, I remembered how good it felt to see some color there, where everything seemed to be dark, dank and somber.
As we visited Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria, we continued to learn about how the holocaust and other events of political unrest have been a way of life for many generations of Europeans. This picture is of a portion of a memorial entitled "Iron Shoes", which is along the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary.
So what is my learning? How am I different? Well, I definitely have a better picture of history, and a deeper emotional understanding of the holocaust. Mostly, I'm thankful that me and my family have never had to endure such extreme suffering, and that we live in a country that is about freedom. Let peace begin with you.