From World Youth Day to World Traveler

Hello one and all 馃檪 I am so grateful for patience that I have forced you to have with me as I retroactively write about my Summer experience. Time goes by so so fast and it is not always the best time to pull out my iPad, but wow have I seen and done so much!

My World Youth Day experience, which was so much more extensive than my speed blog post could offer, ended on the most high note. I had a day to myself because all of my fellow pilgrims were already off to their next destinations and I had a night train to Budapest, Hungary. During this day I picked up my train ticket at the post office in Krakow center, and made my way around town to discover a burger restaurant and an amazing tea place in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Ironically, the tea place was English/American themed, but the workers were so kind and the tea delicious.

View of the Castle in Krakow!
View of the Castle in Krakow!
"Hands that help are far better than lips that prey." Cytat Cafe in Krakow.
“Hands that help are far better than lips that prey.” Cytat Cafe in Krakow.

The narthex in the Jesuit church located in the city center. Beautiful paintings!
The narthex in the Jesuit church located in the city center. Beautiful paintings!
I was able to catch up with my father, and soon after I wandered my way back to the Jesuit Church next to the center where my bags were stowed away with the Jesuit coordinater for the U.S. chapter of Magis. I arrived about an hour and a half early, so I made my way into the church, and within fifteen minutes, a mass started! it began with a moment of adoration, which caught me so off guard but was so exciting (Adoration is when the Blessed Sacrament – the Eucharist – is exposed, and Catholics pray and worship in its presence, which we believe to be Jesus’ presence!). Then there was Mass, 100% in Polish, which is lovely to listen to, but I can’t tell you anything that was said to me.

The best part about going to Catholic services around the world is that they all share similarities, so even when there is a language barrier, I know what us going on and what responses to give and what is coming next. It’s a universal church, and so radical to experience!!

Afterwards, I got my backpackand made my way to the trainstation. My train did not depart until 10:30 pm and got into Budapest at 8 am so I wandered around and ate a quesadilla in the mall that is connected to the rain station. There was a random Polish man who walked up to me with his World Youth Day backpack and started talking to me about the next World Youth Day which will be in Panama! I absolutely plan to go, and he said we could meet in california as he wants to do a month long pilgrimage through North Central America. He then gave me a clay bell souvenir from a nearby Polish town which I have since had to part with because I broke it. I had nothing but wonderful experiences with all of the Polish poeple I have ever met – their spirits are radiant!

Adam & I at the Mall in Krakow!
Adam & I at the Mall in Krakow!

My experience with the night train was inexchangable though it was difficult. The train cars are incredibly tiny, like little sardine cans. Gratefully, in my car there was only me and a middle-aged Hungarian man who spoke only a bit of English. I woke up throughout the night to the realllly loud crackling of the wheels on train tracks right out of our window and the group of French folk next door who were having a grand ole time, booze and all. I also was certain that the ticket I purchased was supposed to come with breakfast but I did not receive any – however, it was no worries! I made it to Budapest and would be seeing my mom and cousin in nine hours!!!

Ma & Delaney make it to Budapest!
Ma & Delaney make it to Budapest!

Mag+s pt. 2 & WYD 2016

The Church where we performed at end of our experiment!
The Church where we performed at end of our experiment!
Mag+s Part Two/World Youth Day~ (from July 23-Aug2)
My experience of Magis concluded first with a concert at a church in Piotrk贸w Trybunalski where my experiment, along with one other singing group and then a dancing one, performed with the band Mocni i Docnu (Strong in the Spirit). It was so much fun and the church was filled with Polish folks and the spirit of love was so radiant in the praise and worship. Then, we pilgrims moved onto Czestachova where we made a small pilgrimage to Jasna Gora, a beautiful and enormous monastery that holds the painting of Our Lady of Czestachova (Also known as “Black Madonna”). That was a very surreal experience. At one point in the evening I was sitting alone on the grass in front of the monastery after most people had gone inside for a prayer vigil. I was just singing to myself the song “He Loves Us” when a boy who I thought couldn’t hear me started singing with me. He didn’t make eye contact with me but just began singing the song too and we finished it together and that made me feel so special and so touched!! He shared that he was from Singapore and invited me inside to the vigil – what a kind lad. It is moments like this..
After our last Mass, all of the pilgrims proceeded to board trains to Krak贸w, where we would meet Papa Francesco!! (OKay, so no one actually met him, but it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get!). We stuffed onto the trains like a sleeping bag into its case, and that was the start to a week of adventure, anxiety, crowds, sweatiness, stickiness, crowds, hunger, laughter, uncertainty beyond compare, and may I mention more crowds!! There are much to many details to include about World Youth Day (in Polish it is 艢wiatowych Dni M艂odzie偶y) but the only way to imagine it is to truly experience it. For me, much of the time was spent in disbelief and awe, and so I can’t imagine trying to explain these abstract and emotional experiences.. To be a witness to ~3 million Catholics & Christians from almost all of the countries in the world come together in one beautiful city and country and celebrate the Eucharist together is, well, you can imagine that I struggle to find words to adequately say anything about the experience at all.
We stayed the nights at a school about a two hour train ride outside of Krak贸w sleeping on a gymnasium floor – it was a wonderful and humbling experience. I did not experience the discomfort of this pilgrimage in a negative way; I actually really enjoyed the simple living and not having so many choices to make. Each evening there were fun activities happening in the square, but we usually had to run to the station to catch the train back to our host parish. The train station experiences were nothing short of intense – folks had to push and shove to get on, and the schedule as well as the duration of the trains would vary. It created a lot of anxiety and stress in many people, but I think strengthened my understanding of pilgrimage. This is only my one perspective though, and I am sure the situation was either smoother or more difficult for other folks around the city!
On the last day, we were celebrating Mass at Campus Misericordiae (Field of Mercy) where we had just slept the night before. It was not very hot, but because the sun was showing no mercy, there were pilgrims all around us dropping from heat exhaustion (I don’t joke – we saw at least five people get carried off in stretchers because they were no longer coherent). I decided during the Eucharist to walk around with an umbrella and hold it over people who were waiting in lines to receive (they were everywhere) and it was so nice to be able to offer some kind of refuge even for just a moment, and also to hear the many thank yous that came through in a variety of languages. I thought it was so much fun to go around even though I may have only helped these people for 10 seconds.. The sun had nothing on me!! Little moments like these throughout the week really stuck out as unifying, especially among such diverse crowds where often times the only form of communication is through eyes and smiles and silly hand gestures.
Maybe it is important to ask, how have I changed because of this experience? Yes the details are so important, but if I am not a different person than I was before, it was quite a waste of time (right??). The trick is that though I know I am different, it is so difficult to put how I feel or what I’ve experienced into words. I can say I’ve learned so much, though.
The world is massive, but it is also small. I am careful to draw generalizations about a human experience because we each experience humanity through our identities. However, we really are interconnected, interdependent. It is quite frankly the most profoundly beautiful realization to come in contact with.

Our Campus Minister and group leader, JoAnn, wearing two packs and a parka! "Double Wide" became her alter ego.
Our Campus Minister and group leader, JoAnn, wearing two packs and a parka! “Double Wide” became her alter ego.
Some of the food we received on our first night - canned fish sauce/dip and ch艂eb!
Some of the food we received on our first night – canned fish sauce/dip and ch艂eb!
God saying hello on the field!! 2.5-3 million pilgrims gather to hear Pope Francis!
God saying hello on the field!! 2.5-3 million pilgrims gather to hear Pope Francis!
A mob of pilgrims from all over the world walk down one of the main streets in Krakow.
A mob of pilgrims from all over the world walk down one of the main streets in Krakow.

Experiencing Magis in Poland (July 15-25)!!

The chapel I spent the week in, featuring a nice rose.
The chapel I spent the week in, featuring a nice rose.
I have really abandoned writing for quite some time, but I am attempting to catch back up! Here are chronicles I wrote about a month and a half ago, about an experience I had two months ago. Wow, has time flown!

Originally written In mid-August, 2016 – Mag+s Part 1 <3 Hello again! It has been just about three weeks since I last wrote, and so much has happened since then. It will be tough to recall, but I am excited to try and remember all of the delightful moments regarding my journey through Poland for Mag+s and World Youth Day 2016. So to begin, I arrived in 艁贸d藕 after a plane, train, and bus ride from Dublin. I was so excited because this was my first time being in a country where I didn't know a single word in the language and so could not understand almost anything that was listed on street signs, menus, etc. However, within no time I was reunited with another group from Seattle U (different from Ireland fam:)) and my language barrier vanished. For a little background info, MAGIS is a meeting of young people (ages 18-30) from all over the world who are interested in Ignatian spirituality. The program offers an opportunity to share a unique experience at three distinct levels: individual growth, relationships with God and others, and intercultural dialogue. Each pilgrim is placed in an experiment and out of the 95 experiments I got placed in 37. For everyone else who was placed in 37 (including Chris from my Seattle group, what are the odds?? They are slim.. 2000 pilgrims, 95 experiments, who wants to do the math?) we were to stay in 艁贸d藕 and spend the week singing with pilgrims from Russia, Singapore, Poland, France, and the U.S. In our group, we had such a good time laughing together, singing, praying, and reflecting. Though there were so many languages spoken, English is the one language that many folks know (at least to get by) in addition to their home languages. This meant that even though I was in a non-English speaking country, I was comfortable in my (unimpressive) language abilities the whole time. For other pilgrims coming from non-English speaking countries who know English as a second/third/additional language or perhaps not at all, well I still heard great things from them! But certainly they faced many more challenges than I did, and perhaps spent the week in more silence than they normally would. One of the most important lessons I learned from this particular detail is that the language of prayer and worship and loving le Jesus surpasses any earthly language barriers that may exist.. Still, for me and many of my group members, it's difficult to process the idea of being accommodated wherever we go -sure, that's not why people learn or speak English, but if you think about historically the reasons for English becoming one of the more prominent languages, it's a sad realization. Primarily Britain and the US are responsible for colonizing lots of places around the world and, as a result, many folks have been forced to learn English to get along. I suppose me and some of my comrades as Americans feel sad for this especially because in the U.S., despite it being a "melting pot" or "land of immigrants," there is a system that requires English literacy to have access to the privileges, culture, and social and economic capital to be an American. You might be thinking, well yes most countries have only one language, so what is the difference? The United States is unlike most countries, however, and it demands of people to keep their "foreign languages" at home.. Hence why it is not more essential that public schools teach second languages, and why we United Statesians (not everyone of course, but particularly the whites of us) can go into other countries and expect that someone can understand and help us, generally without first trying to understand others or help ourselves. This is a very concrete example of privilege which has caused much dissonance and discomfort within me. I could write about this topic for such a long time, but never mind. Each day we would celebrate the Eucharist and have an Examen (which is one of St. Ignatius's spiritual exercises) in which we reflected on our day and paid close attention to movements we felt in our heart. I found this exercise to be particularly difficult because it required sensitivity of spirit, which I think I lack in the quiet moments when I am alone with my thoughts and with God. My mind feels like a storm in that I cannot sort out my thoughts - there is so much I can say but truthfully I felt out of touch with myself. The past year has been so busy and stressful that I seldom had to confront this feeling. I guess I am learning that I am very good at working in my external life - for others, for imagining a new world I would like to see one day. But when I look inside myself I no longer have the words to describe who I am or what I am feeling. These two weeks of pilgrimaging showed me so much of who I want to be and what kinds of things make me feel most myself (in the presence of the Lord). Hey, I'll get it together someday! I'm only just a young lady, and I suppose there is no rush. During this week of Magis I stayed in a home stay with a beautiful, kind, hospitable, and prayerful family!! My host mom, 6 months pregnant with her second child, welcomed me and my host sister from Saint Louis University as if we were her own. Everything that she said to me was unbelievably wholesome, good, resonant. I continue to feel her love even two weeks after saying goodbye, and I hope one day to return to her and her family :3 [caption id="attachment_38" align="alignnone" width="225"]My host sister, Natalka!! My host sister, Natalka!! [/caption]
The family of parishioners at this church where we spent the week at in 艁贸d藕 was also indescribably inspiring, spreading love like wildfire. They showed so much hospitality and goodness it did not feel like real life. We (all of the pilgrims) were never strangers, but became their brothers and sisters and almost instantly. It is difficult to explain what this feels like, but I wish the feeling among everyone. It is like seeing God in the people around you. In fact, it is seeing God in the people around you, and having your heart overflowing, and not wanting the moment or the day or the week to end.
From one of my journals:
A woman says, first in Polish and then in English, that it is not language that matters. It is what’s in our heart. We can love each other across the world and live peacefully without speaking – it takes only kind eyes, gentle touch.

End of week family feast :)
End of week family feast :)

Ireland Part 3 (Belated!)

Written July 14, 2016:
Well, I am leaving Ireland now!! I cannot believe it has been two weeks. This trip has been filled with laughter, new friendships, and discovery – both of the self and of place.
The main task that my professors put forth during this course in Ireland was and is to take note of details; be as specific and descriptive as I can, bring memories to new places, and overall offer an attempt to bring non-travelers to the place where I am. This kind of note taking/paying attention to details then is a way to draft poetry, and I’ve learned about many different kinds of poems as a result. My professors are both phenomenal, indescribable human beings… They offered my classmates/comrades and I a way to tap into the emotions and experiences we have and express them using poetry, prose, fictional literature.. And tap into the wisdom of many fantastic Irish writers and poets as inspiration.
I think my immediate response to what this trip has done for me is to encourage giving attention to that which does not demand attention. Sure, the sweet smell of waffle cones hot off the press will get me every time, but now I will even try to notice the light clinking of glasses in the background, or the rustle of a raincoat being adjusted, or the few small raindrops on the top corner of my booklet. The call to notice is a call to rebel in this fast-paced, over-stimulated world. I quite enjoy it 馃檪
My absolute favorite part of this trip has had to be visiting Dun Aonghasa, which is a rain fort up on the cliffs of the Aran Island Inis Mor. The atmosphere is quite unlike anything I could find the words to describe, and is much better than all of the images and videos we find in movies and online.
The ocean waves 300 feet below create a steady noise that sounds like air conditioning, or like a freeway that runs parallel to a park. Occasionally, the waves crash with a thunder like someone the floor above you has dropped a heavy box on the ground, and you can feel it in your bones. Patches of grass all spread out between sharp, rigid and grey stone stretch for miles, with little flowers popping up every few inches to say hello. The sun passes in between soft, white clouds and warms my back and the stone I sit upon. The feeling I get on the cliffs is like after a wedding when everyone is joyful and life breathes through the air like an energy I cannot see.
Death is a common theme that threads together conversations of visitors who do not know one another as they tell jokes about falling off the cliffs, being blown by the wind, or staying there forever. There is a horizon, and we are told that it leads to Newfoundland. 3000 years of ruins stand, magnificently.
We also went to Coole Park, which used to be a royal property owned by the Gregory’s (Lady Gregory a powerful literary force in her time), and that too was magnificent. To think that one single man owned such a large, extensive property… Wow!! And now we trod across its trails, the crinkling of tiny twigs underneath our shoes and the shaking of trees by the wind as the buzzing bees circulate their flowers.
Galway was hosting the Irish International Film Festival for a bit when we first arrived, and I was able to see two films! The first, a set of five short films, made us sit on the edge of our seats, laugh, and imagine. The recurring thematic idea of the short films was about being trapped in situations, places, bodies.. The second film I saw was called Mom & Me and, though it was an Irish film, took place in Oklahoma (recently named manliest state in US by some magazine??) and focused on different men and their relationships with their mothers! The film was heartfelt and adorable 馃檪
On another note, the fruit in Ireland is incredibly impressive!! Affordable and very yummy. I am currently eating blueberries and green grapes and boy are they tasty. There is a book store in Galway called Charlie Byrnes, and I bought 6 (six!!!) books for 6 (six!!) euro. Even though they are used, they are still in great condition and were some pretty good finds! I found a historical text on Greek women and resistance, which I am so excited to read, among the others.
As my group and I journeyed from place to place, there often was an unspoken sense of melancholy that would drape itself across our voyaging affects. I attempted to reflect on this feeling, and I share it with you to give you a sense of one of the many tones and moods of my journey in Ireland with Seattle fam.
—- We try so hard to find what is lost within us in these places. We search for wisdom, relevance.. Some revelation to propel our young and curious minds. Searching, searching, quiet longing. Using our imaginations to picture a life here – could we craft such an existence with our thoughts?

Be back soon with some words from POLSKAAAAAA <3 <3 <3 Lil cottage on Inis Mor

Dun Aonghasa rain fort -3,000 years of ruins!
Dun Aonghasa rain fort -3,000 years of ruins!
Beautiful Heavens :)
Beautiful Heavens :)

And if we don’t care, then who cares?

9 July 2016
Today has been a rough day, full of emotions, travel, and solitude. Reflecting on the events that have happened in the states these past few days, I feel called to write about it. It may have little to do with Ireland, but I feel a sense of urgency and (as my professors recommend) I am going to express it. I would like to preface that there is some use of violent and angry expressions in this blog post, so I guess if you can, prepare yourself for that. Also, I am sorry that the wording and ideas are a bit scattered. This is more of a word vomit than a well discerned piece of literature, but I trust that the message will overpower my mediocre (but improving!) prose.

Firstly, I pray for the families and loved ones of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The fact that I can access a visual of their deaths makes me feel so deeply confused – what do I do when I watched someone get killed, so violently and so close up, from a screen thousands of miles away? That I can access footage of their deaths, that anyone with Internet access can, is so tragic because where is the humanity in that? Why are people not OUTRAGED? WE CAN WATCH CLIP AFTER CLIP OF BLACK MEN AND WOMXN GETTING MURDERED AND NOT BE ANGRY??? AND NOT SAY “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”?? I know this happens all the time in areas of conflict overseas, which makes me feel even more moronic that it takes it happening in the states to anger me so deeply. But maybe I am feeling this way because, in my opinion, more people are not. I also pray for the families and loved ones of the police officers that were killed in Dallas. This, too, is interconnected to what else I will write about.

I am extremely saddened by these recent events. Today, we were traveling via train from Dublin to Galway – a cross country adventure that only took just over two hours. Scrolling through my social media, I encountered many posts/videos/etc. about the recent deaths of these men, which is so important! It is so important that, though I am so far away, I can stay in tune with the news. 50 years ago, a traveler in my situation would have a much harder time accessing the current events in the US at such a rapid rate. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to contemplate national and global news in such an isolated and reflective setting – a serious privilege when I think of those whose experiences intersect with news stories like this one everyday. Being of such a privileged background has granted me the opportunity to pick and choose when I want to think about these issues, and when I’d rather think about something more pleasant. However, the more I dig into the discomfort of finding out the entire reality of race/color/privilege/power/bias/etc., that I (tragically) was not able to learn in my first 13 years of education, the more these stories take root in my heart and keep me from being present in whatever moment I find myself in. So this is why I write. Because I know that my liberation as a child of this world is bound up in the liberation of those continually, continually oppressed, bruised, and battered by this broken country and world.

As I sat in the hostel watching a video attached to an article, I did not know that what I had clicked on was a compilation of video footage from many separate deaths that have occurred throughout the past few years at the hands of police. As you might guess, this video focused on the black men that have been lost to this violence. Of course, by the time I had realized, my eyes were already glued to the screen. There was one video in particular that showed a man being run over by a police car on accident. He was being chased and, though he stopped running because he faced a dead end, the car did not. Watching this (apart from the many videos of victims dying by gunfire) for some reason knocked the wind right out of me. I could not longer be with the lovely people in my group, who I love and care for so deeply, because I felt like this exciting moment of being in a new city and enjoying a celebratory meal did not fit in with the experience I had just (accidentally) had. It is to say nothing against anyone who went about their lives, but I just felt really sad and needed to get fresh air.

Now comes the part where I express my anguish. Anybody could be reading this, but I am addressing my friends and family in particular who feel that they have nothing to do or say about the deaths of these and many other black and brown individuals (whether at the hands of police, mass shooters, what have you). It does not matter what you think they did or did not do wrong. It does not matter whether their killer had a history of mental illness, was raised in a particular part of town, what have you. It does not matter if these lives were taken on accident, or in self-defense, or any other way we like to sugar coat when a law enforcement officer’s gun goes off and someone dies. What does matter? Their lives.

We cannot wait for a better tomorrow. We cannot hope for a better tomorrow. We cannot sit around and say, when will these darned racists go extinct, or when will gun laws become stricter, or when will blah blah blah. Do you understand how racism has operated in this country for the past millennium? If you do not, please do your research. I am learning right beside you, don’t get me wrong – there is so much I don’t know. But, what I’m getting at is that our silence IS violence. Our participation in a system that elevates white folks over others at every turn – that allows for inequality that is clearly interconnected with race (among other identities) to persist, and we say nothing… This is violence. We have to work for a better tomorrow TODAY. This is the world our children, our students, our nieces, nephews, loved ones, will grow up in. How are we perpetuating a system that just does not work, for anybody? Human beings are interconnected, and our liberation from systems, mindsets, structures that hurt us is bound up – together.

We have to live intentionally and actively if we want to see a world in which the news does not broadcast how hate (manifested in prejudice, bias), once again, has stolen the life of an innocent person. We (anyone and everyone, y’all) should be learnin’ and fighting this system together. That means trying to deconstruct any and all systems that are oppressive. It is so much more than watching the news and saying “how horrible.” It is so much more than acknowledging that it exists. Yes, that is the first step. But we have to move quicker. There is urgency in this matter and everybody, especially those who have the power to make change happen faster, is responsible.

Also very important – There is so much to learn from the resistance, strength, and wisdom of people of color. Please do not wait for white news reporters, celebrities, political figures, etc. to tell you that this violence is caused by a system we are all living in and benefitting from. There have been cries from these oppressed communities since before there were any of these fancy words to describe what was happening, so try to respect that!!

I think that we have to combat this in our daily lives together. We just do. Everyone has gifts to lend to this movement as well, so don’t feel that you have nothing to do. We all have the ability to love, don’t you know? Love each other, lift each other up, love in silence, out loud, and for peace. If there is no justice, there cannot be peace, even if these green, rolling hills have tried to convince me otherwise. There will be unrest until all of God’s children are granted the dignity and respect that they deserve from the moment they are conceived onto this hurting world.

I am sure more will come on this later!! Sending love and care to everyone who has stuck with me thus far 馃檪

“And if we don’t care, then who cares? And if we don’t change, then who’ll change?”

Here is a link to a list of GREAT educational resources that a few of my friends shared on their face books (no credit to me for finding it): http://citizenshipandsocialjustice.com/2015/07/10/curriculum-for-white-americans-to-educate-themselves-on-race-and-racism/

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First Reflections in Dublin…

29 June 2016
Today I begin the second leg of my journey, to Dublin. I am on my way there right now, and I have been instructed to meet my group at 5 o’clock underneath the Bell Tower at Trinity College. I can tell you more about what we are doing in Dublin as I am there, but what I know so far is that we will be learning a bit about Irish History, focusing on the Easter Rising, as it is the 100th anniversary!
The group is composed of different students from Seattle U and two professors. I have wanted to go to Ireland since as long as I can remember… For years I have said, when folks asked the question, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”, Ireland. I am not sure why… Part of me thinks it’s because I watched a romantic comedy film that takes place in Ireland and I loved it so much that I suddenly longed to be there, but that is so silly!! I’ve decided I must come up with a better reason for wanting to visit, as a movie about an American gal and an Irish lad falling in love is a bit cheesy :).
As it turns out, my mother’s (and my father’s?) side of the family has ancestors from the UK (Insert Brexit joke here ;)) and Ireland from the 19th century, so maybe that can be part of my explanation! However, in all honesty I am just so interested in the place, the people, and the history, aside from my Irish blood. I am so so so excited to share photos of all the rain and green – just like home in Seattle, but even better because, you know, romantic European clich茅s and all of that good stuff.
I got to sit in one of the emergency exit rows, which means I have the whole row to myself. Just beneath the plane lies a sea of fluffy, white clouds, which look distinctly like cotton. The sky, a light pastel blue, I am excited to see what it will look like underneath the clouds.

30 June 2016
I am here at Trinity college! So far, I absolutely adore this place. The folks here, with their cute and quite endearing accents, are kind and thoughtful. It is a different experience to be in an English speaking foreign country now; a bit less intimidating, but thrilling nonetheless. Today I had a “slice” for lunch, which is a mix between a pot pie and a hot pocket? I know you’re thinking that it sounds disgusting, but wow!! The crust was so flaky, doughy, buttery…Inside was this yummy mushroom and chicken filling. Mm. There was also a bunch of Irish themed chips at the store, of which I purchased “Shamrock and Sour Cream.” Apparently shamrocks taste like onions.
This morning we read poetry together as a group – first, we shared our own poems, and then our professors read a few aloud. It was quite calming and yet I feel antsy to begin writing poetry again. As the poems were being read, I couldn’t help think about how I want to incorporate poetry into a future classroom, because throughout all time this kind of expression has brought depth, meaning, and strength to situations of chaos and calamity. Many of the Poems deal with the Irish and Irish Catholics being oppressed, tortured, ‘Anglicized,’ and more by the Protestant & British leaders, and what is communicated throughout the poetry is a desire for liberation, peace, home. Common threads that tie together cultures and peoples across the globe who have faced a power that does harm to those seen as ‘others’. I am reflecting a lot of the history of this place where folks with the same ‘color status’ as the ‘superior’ ~white~ were seen as inferiors still, for many reasons. If you ever thought ‘if all humans were the same color, then we wouldn’t have inequality/discrimination/racism/etc.,’ sadly a look at Ireland’s past will tell you that skin color is not the problem.
Soon, we are going to Dublin Castle. UPDATE: I went to Dublin castle! Specifically we spent much time in the Chester Beatty Library, which was amazing. There is a special exhibition called “The Qur’anic Text on the Folios Included in lapis and gold: The Story of the Ruzbihan Qur’an.” Let me tell you, I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the details of what was on display – it was mesmerizing, how intricate, detailed, and ornate the pages featured on display were. The library provided magnifying glasses so you could look even closer, and some of the floral patterns were the most precise and small I have ever seen. The exhibition focused on the aspects of the production of the manuscript, and it was fascinating – while I am not Muslim and know very little about the Qur’an or the tenants of Islam, I felt truly captivated by the decoration on the folios. The vivid colors of gold and ultramarine, the perfectly aligned and spaced text of Arabic, the tiny gold specs the size of a pin head that ordained the small black lettering… So beautiful, spiritual, and breathtaking. Later I was in another exhibit on the world religions and was watching a video on the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) when a man approached me and asked if I was a reporter (I had a pen and paper in hand). What a funny question to be asked!! He noticed that I had spent quite a bit of time looking at the Islamic exhibitions, and I guess he was curious if I was a journalist or something, as he introduced himself with excitement that he was Muslim and his name Muhammed. It was pretty funny and cute! Needless to say, today was a great day and I am so grateful to be here ~ talk to you soon :)

Dublin Castle has a rich history!
Dublin Castle has a rich history!

This beautiful Celtic green inspires a lot of peace.
This beautiful Celtic green inspires a lot of peace.
From the roof garden of the Chester Beatty Library.
From the roof garden of the Chester Beatty Library.

Brussels, How I Love You.

Brussels has some beautiful parks!
Brussels has some beautiful parks!
Here is a bit of me rambling on about what I’ve observed in Brussels, for all of you who have never been and want to learn more! DISCLAIMER: I am not an accurate source of reference, as I am simply a tourist with two eyes and a heart for adventure! Please enjoy my logos as I figure out how to blog.

It is Saturday, June 25th, 2016 and I am currently in the car on the way to Karlsruhe, Germany for my friend’s family reunion! We have been jamming to 80’s tunes as we drive through the green, lush fields heading south for Deutschland. This is day 8 of my trip, and I soon will be flying to Dublin, Ireland to read and write some poetry. The weather has been beautiful in Brussels, with a few days of rain and plenty of sunshine. Driving down the highway reminds me of Washington, as the lanes are surrounded by tall, green trees…
For breakfast we had Belgian waffles, which are nothing like the ones you can buy anywhere else that isn’t Belgium. They are so sugary and soft, and the dough is so delicious! They are very rich, however, so I’ve only had two this entire week, and that has been enough!
Most of my time here in Brussels has been spent downtown, which is about a 35 minute metro ride away. The metro here is so easy to figure out that I was able to go out by myself without any confusion – while most signs and instructions are in French and Dutch, and all prices are listed in euros, it takes about five minutes to make sense of it. Here in Belgium, you can buy alcohol as young as 16, but they usually don’t ask for an ID, so truthfully as long as you don’t look like a preteen you can buy most kinds of beverages. Myself, Leela, and a good friend went to a large, happening (albeit very sweaty and smelly) bar called “Big” Delirium (as opposed to Little Delirium), and we each got a Delirium red, which is a cherry flavored beer. I am not a beer drinker, or a drinker for that matter, but it wasn’t half bad! I have also been shown around to other popular drinking/hangout spots around the town, and most of them are quite chill and a fun place to meet up with friends from all over town.
We also spent a bit of time in Grand Place, which, while a favorite tourist spot, is also a popular spot for locals. I never learned exactly what the buildings in the place are, but the architecture is gorgeous and especially at night, the lights have a European Romantic aura that is quite exciting to be around the first few times you see it.
I also frequented the parks in the city. The royal park, also known as simply “park” by the locals, used to be the palace garden but is now a public park. Though surrounded by industrial sights, once in the center of the park, the only access you have to the hustle and bustle of downtown is the metro rumbling beneath your feet. The Parc du Cinquantenaire is also a gorgeous space that is centered by an enormous arch and a plaza with a few museums. The parks in Brussels are the most beautiful I have ever encountered – even thinking about all that you can find in Southern California and Seattle, nothing really compares. And even though I enjoy going around the town and seeing the city and culture come to life, my favorite moments of this leg of my trip have been when I’m spending time in the gardens.
Because I stayed with my friends the whole week, I did not have to spend much time or money eating out, so I cannot really comment on the cuisine here. However, the dining and drinking atmospheres are very fun to be a part of. In most restaurants (So I’ve been told) evening meals usually last around two hours, depending on the kind of occasion.
This past week there were two football (Soccer) victories that Belgians were celebrating! Even though we were in a commune pretty far from downtown, you could hear folks screaming, honking horns, and celebrating outside the window for upwards of thirty minutes after the game had ended. The national pride here is quite a sight, as I am sure it is in most countries of this size! Leela and I went onto the metro on my second night here to go meet some friends downtown, and there was a group of lads who were very drunk with face paints, horns and flags, and it was only 6 or so in the evening. One of them went up and down the metro cars blowing the horn and trying to get passengers to say OL脡!! But most of us just wished he would sit with his friends and save the horn for the streets – it was quite noisy 馃檪
In spending so much time with my friend’s family who has lived in Brussels for three years (and done their fair share of research to learn about the community), I have learned much about the culture and ways of this community and also Belgium as a socialist country. On Sunday’s, most places are closed and it is customary for families to have that day as a true day of rest, visiting their loved ones and taking time to relax and enjoy life. The public transport is very good (except when there are strikes- then there is none :)) and there are many many specialty shops – for example, boulangeries, patisseries, charcuteries, etc. that specialize in, say breads, pastries, or meats. This way you have to travel to many stores usually to get all the groceries you need, but it makes for a much more intentional experience that feels special and authentic, at least to me! It is quite different from the Safeways, Targets, and Costcos of the U.S., though I am sure that Belgium has those too.
To wrap up this particular post about my experience in Brussels, I will say that with all of the chaos and violence and hardship that this city has seen recently, it appears that most people believe in going about their days and trying to live without fear. Often, you can see soldiers and policeman posted around the city in frequented areas, looking calm and collected. From what I can see, Brussels is an incredibly strong city and it has been a blessing to be able to visit and see some of the resilience that the community has. There is so much more to say, but I will have to save it for later!!
See you soon!! Brinkley 馃檪

Hello world! My European Adventure

Salut 馃檪 I am going to be sharing some experiences/reflections that I have while abroad in Europe on this site as sort of a travel blog! The countries I am spending extended lengths of time in are Belgium, Ireland, Poland, and France, specifically in the cities Brussels, Dublin, Galway, Lodz, Krak贸w, and Aix en Provence. I will be doing some school work, some pilgramaging, and lots of learning – If you would like to keep up with my adventures, feel free to stay tuned 馃檪 <3 Brinkley