2/18/10

Traveling Home




I wrote this yesterday to one of my close friends from Argentina who is on exchange here at the University of Utah:

For me, saying goodbye is the worst activity that has been invented in life. I am no good at it and I cry every time. But it is important that you start to mentally prepare yourself for your return home. Otherwise you might be very sad when you get home.

I generally experience a few days of depression when I get back home, but when I am gone for long periods (like Argentina) it lasted for a while.

Not that I am sad to be home or that I didn't miss my family and friends. But that quote that I have up about travel really is true for me:

"Certainly,travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” -Miriam Beard

When we travel we experience so much more than we consciously realize. And then when we return back to familiar surroundings with our family and friends, we begin to realize how very deeply we have changed.

And then you recognize . . . that there is no way, in any language, to adequately explain and illustrate the changes that have gone in your soul.

People will ask you: "So how was the USA?"

How can you possibly answer that? You can't. So don't try to.

I have told people over and over again, that for me, Argentina was a transformative experience. One that is changed my life forever.

Can I explain it adequately? Never. Only my heart can feel the totality of that change.

But, I love to share stories . . . of empanadas on a park bench in Parana . . . or the wonderful city of Cordoba . . . to wandering all over Santa Fe and BA with newly made friends for life . . . or even trying to convey the depth of despair and sorrow from the interviews that I did.

Little by little, as time goes on, you yourself will begin to understand how this experience has changed you.

The best part . . . is that you still have no idea how this trip has changed your life's path, for the better, in the future. So sit back and enjoy it Ces.

Soak it in. Because the next time you come back, you will be a different person and ready to experience different things . . .

12/19/09

The Fa├žade



My experience with Germany before this adventure was limited to two very different sojourns to Frankfurt. The first was on my very first study abroad, with Brigham Young University’s communication department. The second was while I was serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With BYU, we traversed the continent, meeting many of the leading newspapers, government agencies and LDS Church officials. While in Germany we met with the Frankfurter Allgemeine and huddled with the general authorities of the LDS Church in Western Europe.

During my mission, I contracted meningitis in the forests of Latvia. Two weeks after having been evacuated to the Baltic-American Clinic in Vilnius, Lithuania, I had stabilized to the point where I was flown to an American Army medical hospital outside of Frankfurt.

Frankfurt, 11 years ago was the pride of Germany. A glistening city, with modern skyscrapers, it served as the financial heart of the continent. I have assumed that Frankfurt was representative of the rest of Germany. I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The shape and feel of cities and urban areas rarely happen by accident. After World War II, German communities had to decide how and where to rebuild. To an 18 year old from Denver, Colorado, this thought never occurred to me. The Kansas National Guard has never occupied my city, nor has the Canadian Air Force bombed it into unrecognizable obliteration. Most German cities though, had to make very serious choices as to how they would rebuild.

Some cities, like Frankfurt, decided to hit the reset button and build a new and “modern city”, complete with new city block grids, roads, suburbs and all. Others, like Munich, decided they wanted to keep the feel of the old town in tact. They rebuilt their old roads, their old buildings, their parks and their churches.

Munich today probably doesn’t feel exactly like it did pre-WWII, but I bet it’s close. I imagine that people are still walking the same patterns, to get to the same places as they did 100 years ago. This is just simply not possible in Frankfurt anymore.

I pass no judgment on which approach is best. “To each their own”, the saying goes. But for me, going back to Germany now, I saw what I want my own city to look like, to feel like, to breathe like . . . and that was in Munich.

And 11 years hence, I look forward to discovering completely new and exciting things about Germany that I will have inevitably missed this time around . . .



12/18/09

Late Jurassic Dreams

My age group is probably the youngest to remember anything of the Cold War. For me, I didn’t care so much about the Soviet Union or the consequences of a nuclear winter. No, what I cared about most when I was a young boy was dinosaurs.

It’s important to understand that this was before the really cool computer generated graphics of dinosaurs that I secretly still geek out about to this day. My world of dinosaurs was almost exclusively derived from books. I’m not aware of a dinosaur book that was published that I did not possess growing up.

Of all of the dinosaurs in those books, I picked the biggest to be my favorite, the Brachiosaurus. I fell in love with this giant when popular thought suggested that Sauropods immersed themselves in bodies of water to support their great mass. But no! These walking skyscrapers lived on land, ate at the tops of the trees and had no natural predators once they reached their teenage years . . . (I know, I know, I still get excited).

In all of my books, they teased me with the fact that the only fully mounted Brachiosaurus skeleton in the world was in the Humboldt Natural History Museum in East Berlin.

Yep . . . East Berlin.

I remember pulling out an atlas and finding East Berlin on a map. When I learned what this meant for my chances of visiting, I was devastated. It was then and there that I became staunchly anti-Communist. Communism was the diabolical enemy that was keeping me from seeing this amazing creature in person.

As we grow up, we often forget about our life’s major dreams and goals when we were 5 years old. By the time I was 25 I had already seen a Brachiosaurus skeleton in Orlando, one here in Utah and yes 2 count them 2 in Chicago alone. Who doesn’t seek them out when on vacation or traveling for work?

So, as I was sitting eating a wonderful Russian lunch, under the tracks of the SBahn in Berlin this past October, this whirling rush of clarity came into my brain. I pulled out my map of Berlin only to discover to that the museum that held my Brachiosaurus was only two stops away.

This was too good to pass up. I was scheduled to go and tour the newly remodeled Reichstag with my group. Thankfully my professor sensed that this was a profound moment in my life and gave me his blessing to take off like a bat out of hell toward the museum with three of my friends in tow.

It’s hard to describe fulfilling a dream that has been tucked away in a dusty corner of your mind for the past 26 years.

When I entered that hall and looked all the way up at my Brachiosaurus, that longing adventure of my 5 year-old self was satisfied.

I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t blink, all I could do was stare and smile and my friends gave me my moment with my friend from the books of so long ago.

And so I ask you . . .

What . . .

are your . . .

. . . Late Jurassic Dreams?