Got back from Tanzania earlier today and stepped out of the airport into classic Sofia winter fog. I was stripping down to my tank top at Kilimanjaro airport and now I need a coat again. So it goes.
So much to tell that will probably never get told here (I’m honest about my limitations, i.e. laziness), but I thought I should at least follow up on the previous post as far as the technicalities of visiting Tanzania. Obviously, as I’ve just returned from there, I got into and out of the country just fine. They didn’t even ask for my vaccination booklet at Dar es Salaam, and H didn’t get asked either when she arrived on her later flight. However, she said she did see a door for the clinic across from the visa processing windows, which I missed probably because it was 2:00 a.m. and I’d just spent the previous four hours crammed into my seat on a tiny 2 x 2 plane with an extremely large (not fat, just large) Australian man next to me who didn’t really fit into his own seat and therefore ended up reducing the size of mine due to the overflow.
Let’s back up a bit.
So…despite the fact that I’m currently in my 7th year of teaching, it just doesn’t ever seem to get any easier or less time-consuming. In fact, I’m willing to say that it could even be MORE time-consuming, somehow. Anyway, all I know is that this whole blog thing has been even harder to maintain this year. Maybe it’s also because I’ve been having fewer capital-m Moments in my second year; this is just life now, not so much a mini-adventure every day.
Now I’m back on my blog finally and the whole interface is different and I have no idea what’s going on. There’s no way to actually catch up on everything that’s happened in the 4 months since I last posted, so here’s a very brief run-down:
We started school again! I like my kids. This might also be why I can’t seem to stop working (see above).
I went to the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, Germany and saw lots of people wearing dirndls and leiderhosen:
I’m in Berlin for the weekend (this was spontaneously decided upon on Wednesday night) and overall enjoying the trademark efficiency and infrastructure here – as my co-workers say, it’s nice to be in a “real city” for a little while.
Today I visited the Holocaust memorial – or, as it’s officially called, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This was a fascinating experience – I hadn’t really followed the development and opening of the memorial that closely – that in some ways was very different from what you’d find in the U.S. For one thing, there’s the official name. It’s a superlong mouthful, but there it is on every sign and label. And wirhin the memorial information center itself, the word “murder” is frequently used – far more often than I remember from the U.S. Holocaust Museum, although it was quite a while ago that I was there, so I may be misremembering.
Then there’s the design of the memorial itself. It seems deceptively simplistic at first – just slabs of granite, no symbolic number or seemingly greater significance, but then slowly it sneaks up on you: it’s like a graveyard in the middle of Berlin. And it really is the MIDDLE of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, and Bundestag all a stone’s throw away. It’s eerily quiet among those stelae, and the ground is concave, so you get further and further surrounded by these massive stones the farther you walk in.
One thing I found most striking about it was the conscious and deliberate acceptance of responsiility, by placing it in prime location downtown and continually referring to Nazi actions as “murder.” It was amazing to take in, and I just don’t see that that would ever happen in the U.S., that there would be such clear admission of guilt and desire to remember and preserve that wrongdoing for the sake of future prevention. Perhaps the sheer scale of the crime necessitates it, but I don’t see the U.S. ever doing the equivalent (as a funny coincidence, the American Embassy is across the street). I don’t think we’re good at admitting we’re wrong, and we certainly don’t like to publicize our mistakes.
I’ve thus far found much of Europe to be far better about this than we are. I found the Berlin memorial a tribute to the modern German people as well as to the murdered Jews, and can only wonder if the U.S. would be able to acquit itself as well in a comparable situation and avoid a totally revisionist history.