Oh man, 20 days to go, and the tears are already trying to peek out.
The stories of my paternal grandparents in WWII are as ingrained in me as their family name I carry. My Grandmother Sappenfield, or Grandsap as she preferred to be called, was too young to contribute to the war effort. Not one to sit idly back, she lied about her age to work in a munitions factory. She was a real life Rosie the Riveter. My grandfather, a few years her senior, was a soldier in General Patton’s Third Army, the most heavily decorated army in US history. He died almost ten years before I was born, so the only memories I have of him are the photos he sent home from the war.
I was very young when I first saw the pictures. They were graphic and gruesome and a real piece of history in my tiny hands. Pictures from inside concentration camps. Black and white scalloped photos of bodies that looked like skeletons with skin, stacked in piles. Open expanses of earth that looked like landfills until your eyes distinguished the charred body parts. Dead soldiers of both sides lying on the ground. These photos were haunting at the time, but perhaps not for the right reasons.
My grandfather wrote on the backs of each of the photos he sent home. On one he wrote (paraphrasing from memory now), “Scenes like this make me know that I won’t regret anything I have done or will do in this war.” He wrote that he didn’t understand how anyone could deny these truths when he could smell the stench of burning flesh from miles away. He understood the reality of war and the abilities of humans to do unspeakable things to each other.
When I first saw these photos, I was terrified of the decaying bodies and the emaciated creatures I saw before me. Now, I’m almost ashamed that that is what struck fear in me. I didn’t see the victims as humans, I saw them as objects that scared me, when the truth is they were people forced into unimaginable suffering. But that was the goal: to reduce these people to sub-humans. To break them, mentally and physically. The fact that humans could inflict that on any other living being is now what horrifies me.
Because I grew up with these stories and photos as a part of me and of my family’s history, I’ve always felt a personal connection to the war, despite being born more than 40 years after its end. It’s something I’ve always felt should be remembered as a tribute to the victims and a warning to the world of what can happen when we stand idly by, or don’t act fast enough.
Yesterday, I made my first trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Admittedly, I was nervous. I was afraid that the fear I felt as a child would come rushing back, but more intensely now that I fully comprehend the gravity of the Holocaust. However, my visit wasn’t traumatic, but educational. Growing up with a part of history in my possession helped prepare me for this experience.
I went with a small group and tour guide for the day trip out of Krakow. As we stood on the tracks where victims were carted in and doctors made their ‘selections,’ our guide reiterated that visits like this aren’t to see an exhibition, but to pay our respects. To visit the world’s largest graveyard without a single grave. To remember the suffering these people went through, to put a face to their pain and to make them human once more.
My grandparents were the lucky ones; their homes and lives weren’t being threatened in the same way the as the victims of this war. Though fighting wasn’t a choice at the time, they believed in what they were fighting for. They felt compelled to do their part.
The sign hanging over the entrance of Auschwitz in English roughly means, “work makes you free.” My grandparents understood this. They understood that they had to work to end this terror and to ensure their children would be safe. Today, we have to continue this work. We have to recognize that hate is a learned quality; it is a habit to be broken in some and one never to be taught to our children. I carry my grandparents’ stories as my reminder to never stand idly by.
All photos pictured here are from my trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau this week. My grandfather’s photos are stored safely at home back in the States.
Yes, it’s worthy of a whole post. I really like getting mail.
Also, reason #410983109283 why I should move back to America: chevron tape! Too cute.
Also, this gem:
I don’t get why he did this today. Usually, men here do this to stay cool, but this afternoon was really lovely and not miserable at all in stark contrast to how it’s been the last 3 weeks. Oh well, to each his own.
Happy Wednesday, y’all!
Yesterday, I “ran” in my first ever “race.” Somehow, I managed to make it nearly 25 years without ever registering, paying for and participating in an actual race. With my natural athletic prowess and background mainly consisting of years of musical theater and voice lessons, how I managed this is truly a mystery! …Said no one ever.
Now, “ran” may be a strong word. With a high of about 97 degrees, beaming sun with a slight haze, lots of humidity and almost no breeze along with the thousands of people who seemingly had no idea what they were doing or what a race was, actually running the entire thing would have been quite a feat. Even relatively fit people who looked like they run on a regular basis walked most of the 5 kilometers around the Garden Expo. However, they let me in and even gave me a runner’s bib with a real number, so I think that makes it official.
Despite the heat, and of course the subsequent buckets of sweat, IT WAS SO. FUN. Seriously, getting sweaty and colorful with some of my favorite people is one of the best ways I can think of to spend my Saturday afternoon.
When else do I get to look like this?
I think my favorite part wasn’t the actual race, but true to form, the beers and (veggie) burgers that came after. There’s just nothing like a cold, frosty beer to help re-hydrate after approximately 12 hours of sweating our bums off, amirite?
And being able to fist pump the air while yelling “Color Run!” to anyone else who looked like they got into a fight with Elmo, Big Bird and a pack of smurfs. That’s pretty great.
A few pros and cons of the race (in my very limited knowledge of these things of course): who thought running a 5k in the middle of August’s heat and humidity would be a good idea? Waiting just a month or two longer would have greatly decreased the risk of heat stroke. The color stations at each kilometer did all have water stations, but some were easier to find than others. Also, the water may as well have been boiled for how cool and refreshing it was. The heats were supposed to be 15 minutes apart, but about three minutes was more accurate for how it went down. That made for tight spaces and bottle necks, so the few times I mustered the energy to pick up the pace, I was quickly shut out by a phalanx of walkers. Oh well, I’m not a runner, anyway.
Directions were given entirely in Chinese (someone correct me if you heard English directions, too), yet it was the locals who seemed to not be able to follows any directions whatsoever. That’s probably just a Beijing thing, though. We were highly amused/perplexed at the droves of people participating who didn’t seem to know that they were at a race. Many “runners” showed up in high-heeled strappy sandals and long flowy skirts.
The lines for on-site check-in did seem to go much faster than I anticipated, so kudos to the people organizing that part. Signs to entrances, check-in, bathrooms and other appropriate labels/general directions could have been done a bit better though.
All in all though, it was a super fun day, and I would absolutely recommend doing a Color Run – I will definitely be doing it again should the opportunity arise. There are very few times where you get to get slathered in color and be silly with your best friends, so I’m very happy we did this. The most surprising part for me was that I really enjoyed the 20 second spurts of running in between the power-walking. I usually hate running, but this was kind of fun, and I wanted to do more of it! We’ll see if that feeling continues past this weekend.
I do think this was the perfect first race because it wasn’t timed, it encouraged frolicking instead of sprinting and people of all ages and levels of physical activity do it, so its athletic intimidation factor is pretty low. I tend to cave pretty quickly and hide in a corner around people who are legitimately athletic.
Today has been spent in a heat hangover. It’s not a real hangover because three beers is not enough to get this girl nearly drunk enough for a hangover (aren’t ya proud, mom?), but I have been sluggish and dehydrated all day. We did make sure to hydrate yesterday, but I think something with electrolytes is in order for such sustained sweating.
Luckily, today’s skies have been riddled with pollution and thunderstorms, so I’ve taken this as God’s way of telling us this Sunday is for resting. I’m making sure to take advantage of getting re-acquainted with my couch by rewatching season 1 of The Newsroom. God, I love this show. Despite the fact that I have zero emotions and was born without tear ducts, I cannot get through an episode without tearing up. Superb writing, amazing acting, I can’t get enough.
So has anyone else done a Color Run? What was your experience like?
I woke up this morning to find this little tidbit of news. Former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith is getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. From President Obama. Alongside former president Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Sally Ride (posthumously of course) and Oprah Winfrey, among others. Is this real?
Do you ever have those days or weeks where you start off with the best-laid plans and intentions, full of energy and drive? Yeah, well this wasn’t one of those weeks.
This week’s edition is devoted to my beloved home state of North Carolina. This is by no means all-encompassing of anything, and seriously, don’t take my word for it. Knowledge is power!
North Carolina is back in the news, and once again it’s for all the wrong reasons.
No sooner had the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act than North Carolina began to lead the charge of southern states in disenfranchising voters everywhere. These thinly veiled attempts at combating voter fraud are merely that, and everyone sees right through them. John Oliver did a hilarious (if it weren’t actually true) bit on the Old North State that is spot-on and says it better than I can – and with slightly less personal misery.
Watch the video here. Sorry, I couldn’t get it to embed. (Technology is getting the best of me today.)
I mean, REALLY, if the North Carolina legislature has it their way, soon the only people allowed to vote will be those already in office.
Oliver also touches on some other pieces of legislation North Carolina has recently put through, or is attempting to do so, particularly in reference to abortion and women’s health and reproductive rights (and yes, it is that all-encompassing). REALLY?!, North Carolina? You think religious law is a problem? Maybe you should remove your own from our public policy before you sit down to work.
I find it ironically amusing that while Republicans claim to want less government, they have no problem getting their laws all up in my lady business. Really, if I wanted you there, you’d have an invitation. Oh yours didn’t come in the mail? Then stay out, please.
Think that’s enough? Nope. Our government is also attacking our teachers, the people charged with not only the textbook education of our students, but also their well-being more often than not. (This article from the New York Times touches on this.) We depend on teachers to instill in our children not only math, science and proper grammar but also integrity, confidence and the values we used to pride ourselves on. How are our educators supposed to do this if they can’t afford to live? And what will the effects of losing these educators do to future generations of students? I hope something changes and we don’t have to find out.
Does it sound like I’m angry? Well, I am. I’m angry that this is happening. I’m also angry that the people working to fight these horrendous assaults on basic rights are not in the news as much as the crazies in control. I’m echoing myself from something I wrote last year, but there are SO MANY amazing organizations replete with incredible individuals that are working their tails off to represent the best interests of our state.
Two groups that I have worked with personally, the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), are doing amazing work and making headlines themselves, all blazing a trail for justice.
Despite my friends from other states and countries giving me crap about my state right now, I’m so proud to call North Carolina my home. I’m proud to see protesters at Moral Mondays. I’m proud to see my friends and former colleagues standing up for each other, because if we don’t who, who will? And who will stand up for us when our time comes?
So come on North Carolina, let’s show everyone what good the South is capable of.
Y’all, I have officially taken this whole anti-social thing to new levels. I may be bordering on misanthropic right now. It’s not that I don’t adore my friends – I really do! I just think I need more personal space than the average human being, something that is very difficult to come by in this can of sardines city. So, prepare to be thrilled by my week.
Since I am Queen of the Hermits, my work week usually consists of work, visits to the Starbucks around the corner from my office, and home. However, a coworker and I spiced it up this week by venturing outside of our office for lunch, and boy was I one happy girl.
I had the tofu burgers bento box for lunch, and ordered the pumpkin tofu salad to take home for dinner that night. The bento box was tasty and SO filling, and I nearly licked that salad container clean. Ginger soy dressing. NOM. Go ahead and scoff, but healthy food that is also delicious is very hard to come by in Beijing outside of my kitchen, AND the Obentos location near my office is 50 percent off all food for the entire month of August. These people don’t know it yet, but they met their new best friend last week. And hey Obentos, if you would like to pay me for my endorsement, I will gladly accept daily and/or weekly payments of meals. Thanks!
I felt so happy about eating healthily for two meals that I managed to even get a workout in on Friday evening before skyping with this fine lady.
I love that even though I’m halfway around the world, and we barely see each other, and she’s a crazy awesome/busy businesswoman, an hour and a half on skype flies by without us even noticing. Need more of her in my life!
Saturday I made these bad boys:
They were vegan, but they still used sugar and lots of other delicious things that are sadly not calorie-free, but I made sure to polish them off. In my religion, it’s a sin to not finish your chocolate. After that I treated myself to a nice two-hour workout because, hey, why not? A few errands and a trip to the wine store later (because a house without wine just makes me uneasy), I was talked into breaking my solitudinal (yes, I made that a word) ways, and met up with Amelie to enjoy the incredibly rare sunshine and blue skies. Naturally, an adult beverage on a rooftop is the only way to properly enjoy such an oddity.
Since I met my social interaction quota for the week, I headed home to catch up with my heterolife partner via skype:
I miss her. Sigh. I also watched this:
Sunday morning I caught up with my sweet mom and these cuties:
True to form, my grandparents decided that at least 8 minutes had passed since they last purchased a car, so it was time for another. A possibly related sidenote: I sold my car at Christmas, they now have three cars for two people. Happy coincidence for me when I’m home? I think yes. 🙂
So yeah, that mostly the high points. Think your week was better than mine? Think again. I HAND-FED A PANDA THIS WEEK.
*Drops the mic.*
No matter where I am on this lovely planet we call Earth, there are certain things I will just never understand. These are some of those things. A new weekly installment for the blog.