The Problem Is…

I’ve taken some time to digest everything that’s going on in the US right now. Obviously, the outcomes of the grand juries of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases are two very big stories. And, as with any polarizing event, people showed their true colours on social media. I chose to step back, bite my tongue, and form an educated opinion on the matter before saying anything.

To give everyone a frame of reference, I am White British-Black Caribbean. I am not Caucasian (at least not fully). I am not African-American.

Before you go on, dear reader, I remind you that this is my opinion. And that I accept criticism as long as it is constructive. If you cannot be constructive in your debate, then please take your remarks elsewhere.

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First of all, there is a race relation problem in America. To say that there isn’t is to invalidate the beliefs that one group holds. That they are essentially oppressed. “Oppression” is defined as ” unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power; a sense of being weighed down in body or mind” according to Merriam-Webster. Oppression isn’t solely a physical thing – it’s also mental. And that is what I think is going on. I think (and I am making a large generalization here) that the African-American community feels oppressed to some extent. Not necessarily physically, as in the existence of a system exercising power over them (i.e Jim Crow laws), but mentally.

To say that there is not a race relation problem in America is to ignore the obvious, in my opinion. And it’s obvious to me because I’ve experienced plenty of racism first-hand. I think (again, large generalization here) that the Caucasian community believes that there is not an issue with race relations in America. That the civil rights movement nailed the coffin shut on racial tension.

With these two schools of thought conflicting each other, the vicious cycle of racial tension continues. African-Americans believing that the Caucasians are oppressing them. The Caucasians believing that there is no problem with race anymore.

Neither one is right.
Neither view is helpful.
Each side perpetuates the vicious cycle.

Secondly, the problems with race in America have been swept under the rug. Perhaps for fear of truly addressing the issue. Perhaps for lack of understanding how to properly address the issue. Perhaps for more “important” problems like government shutdowns, ISIS, and national healthcare.

I can understand not wanting to tackle this issue. Then again, it’s a big issue. And you can only ignore the giant elephant in the room for so long before you start to get uncomfortable.

Thirdly, I think that the riots, lootings, and destruction of businesses were completely uncalled for. I believe in peaceful protest and civil disobedience to an extent – I don’t believe in destroying things so that your voice can be heard.

But, let’s think about this. And bear with me here. Another large generalization.

I don’t think that a majority of those who rioted and looted in Ferguson were voting citizens. They have the right to vote just like any other US citizen – I just don’t think that voting is a common practice in Ferguson and similar communities. To me, if I want my voice to be heard, I vote and I contact my Representatives and Senators. And even if things don’t go in my favour (as much of the midterm election), at least I know that my voice was heard.

How do you let your voice be heard if you don’t vote? You riot and you loot and you burn buildings. Because those things make statements.

It’s not right. Not at all. But I believe that is the reason behind the destruction.

If this country could open its closets, show its skeletons, and pledge to honestly work to alleviate the problem, then there could be some proper social progress. Until then, I’m afraid that unfortunate events like those involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner will continue to happen.

It’s a big, complex, nasty, festering problem. But it’s not impossible to tackle.

I’ve got some ideas…

- j

friendship and fomo

Hello, my name is Jade and I’m getting over a serious case of FOMO.

FOMO, for those who don’t know, stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

Let’s start at the beginning. As a child, I moved around a lot. I went to a different school every year until I was 11. Because of this, I learned to make friends easily – it’s hard to be the new girl every year at a different school. This practice of making friends easily has made me a “social butterfly,” so to speak. In college, I had many different circles of friends.

However, my definition of a “friend” was fairly wide back then. Underneath the outgoing, extroverted personality was my fear of missing out. I always felt like I had to remind friends that I existed. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Or at least it was for me. I can recall a number of times when friends would hang out and not invite me. I remember how upset I’d be at these people I called my friends. I hated being an afterthought.

In recent years, I’d see pictures of these friends from college or high school – a lot of them are all still close today. The same group of people – without me. I’d look at these pictures and be jealous, wishing that I could be there…wishing I could be that close to those friends once again.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about friendship as an adult, it’s this: True friends are the friends that want to be a part of your life and want you to be a part of theirs. They invite you out. They do not hesitate to help in emergencies. They do not hold back when telling you something about yourself that isn’t positive. They lift you up. They encourage you. They challenge you. They’ll stand next to you when you marry the person you love and they’ll sit with you at a coffee shop for hours on end.

As I look at a lot of the friendships that I have or have had over the years, I can now appreciate people for who they were in my life at the time. Some people aren’t meant to stay in your life forever, no matter how good the friendship was/is. No matter how badly we want to hold onto them. I’ve discovered the freedom in letting go of seasonal friends. By seasonal, I mean that they were only around for a season in my life, whether that be a few months or a few years. I can honestly look back and be thankful for these friends, because they were integral in forming the person I am today. I can only hope that old friends can look back on their friendships with me and say the same.

It was hard for me to grasp this concept at first because I draw such energy from people. I get so excited about life after spending quality time with a friend. But I’ve become more deliberate and careful when using the term “friend.” I’ve become more comfortable using the words “acquaintance” and “colleague” to accurately place people in my friendship spectrum.

This isn’t to say that I’ve written people out of my life. Or that I’ll never see them again. I might see them again. We might catch up on life over coffee. We might reminisce about the good old times. We might speculate what life would’ve been had we made different decisions.

I read somewhere once that it’s in our adult life that we get to really choose our friends. When we’re growing up, we have school, religious services, and extracurricular activities that kind of narrow down the friendship scope for us. As adults, we’re not confined by a classroom or school or activity in terms of finding and making friends.

Seasonal friends are a dime a dozen. True friends – lifelong friends – are few and far between. And I’m okay with that.

- j

freedom, simplicity, and materialism

Still reading The Sacred Life by Michael Yankoski. And it’s still rocking my world. I’m making myself read it slowly and allow myself to digest what I read; I’d hate to miss something important because I got too excited and read the entire book in a sitting.

I just finished the chapter on simplicity. And it rings so true.

The tragic irony of today is that we’ve been pushed toward a new kind of slavery by the rhetoric of freedom, liberty, and self-determination. Instead now we find ourselves mired in the intensely arrogant belief that the pinnacle of freedom is a society of individuals running around pursuing whatever they feel like, without any thought whatsoever about what we’ve been created for. (The Sacred Life, p. 70).

As I think on this quote, I see this everywhere. Living in the US, I hear variations of this phrase a lot: “We’ve got freedom of speech; I can say whatever I want!” Heads up, that’s not what the First Amendment means.

Beyond that, I see this twisted sense of freedom rearing its ugly head in my life. Surely, I have the freedom to enact Sweatpants and Netflix Standard Time (SNST) on my days off – it’s exactly what it sounds like – but should I? I feel like making brownies from scratch and eating three of them in a sitting while SNST is enacted, but should I? Answer: definitely not.

Yankoski talks about his own struggles with this sense of freedom – his desire for more wealth. And his idea of “enough” was “just a little bit more.” In that sense, enough is never enough. We will always want “a little bit more.”

Suddenly I see how coercive the idea of more has become in my life. I drive myself toward it ruthlessly, utterly bound to the idea that bigger will always be better, that larger will be stronger, that just a little bit more will be safer, sturdier, more stable. It’s always future tense, never present, always just around the corner of the next accomplishment, the next milestone. I’ve been blinded and have blinded myself to the abundance around me by constantly searching for the evasive and fleeting and retreating more. (The Sacred Life, p. 72).

After all, unchecked growth in a living organism isn’t called health after all. Cancer. That’s what we call it. And left untreated, it is lethal. (The Sacred Life, p. 73).

Growth that is left unpruned is like weeds in the garden, invading and dominating all surrounding plant life. I don’t know about you, but I realize that I need to temper my own desires and work on pruning some things in my life.

Yankoski describes materialism not as the addiction to things, but as the addiction to “the experience of obtaining something new.”

Lines outside of Apple Stores – people camping out for a new mobile phone.
Queuing on the cold morning of Black Friday for special deals.Midnight movie premieres.
Midnight novel releases.

It doesn’t seem like we’re free at all.
I’d say Yankoski hit the nail on the head.

Later in the chapter, Yankoski outlines four simple actions to refocus our sense of freedom.
Prune. Purge. Reclaim. Delight.

The pruning and purging to me are the same thing when it comes to what I should do in my life – get rid of unnecessary things. And the term unnecessary spans a wide variety of things currently in my possession. My husband and I have a hierarchy in place just in case we are suddenly without our incomes. At the top of the list are Internet and cable. We can get rid of those things and survive. When my husband first proposed this to me a few years ago, I gave him the most bewildered look. Now, I get it. I can live without the internet. And some days, I’d love to not have the internet around to distract me. And I can live without cable. In fact, we did for the first two years of our marriage.

Today, I went through my floordrobe (yep, still have stuff on the floor of our guest room from moving in four months ago) and gathered several bags (more than I thought!) of clothes, handbags, and shoes to give to Goodwill. I’d been meaning to do this a long time ago, but it was reading this chapter that gave me the push I needed.

The reclaiming part is something new to me – using the things you have rather than replacing old stuff with new stuff. Pinterest in a haven for repurposing materials into beautiful, functional furniture. My new home is in need of a few things – namely a dining table, bookcases/shelves, and two office desks/one mega desk. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on these items, why not put the money into making our own?! I’ve been delving into DIY blogs and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. Now, to find some wood pallets…

And delight. Enjoy the true freedom of ridding your life of stuff.

Prune. Purge. Reclaim. Delight.

- j

Stream of Consciousness

I’m in a writing mood and since I can’t really come up with a solid theme for this post, I figured I’d just let my mind wander…

It’s autumn. It’s one of my favourite times of year. It’s when we’re reminded that death can be beautiful. The fiery reds. The vibrant oranges. The deep yellows. All of the leaves changing colour before they fall and become that ever-so-satisfying crunch beneath our feet. That satisfying crunch becomes a wet, soggy mess when it rains. And I loathe walking in wet leaves. For some reason it reminds me of soggy cereal, which I also loathe. But I love autumn. And I love leaves on the ground. And I love the rain. So, I just have to deal with the soggy leaves sometimes.

This is the time of year when I drink copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Because Autumn = Earl Grey, not this “Pumpkin Spice” nonsense. And really, let’s be honest, you can’t taste any pumpkin in commercially produced “pumpkin spice” flavoured things. You’re just tasting the spice blend – nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, etc.

This is also the time of year when I feel compelled to listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. It just feels like autumn when I listen to jazz / big band / easy listening. It all started about three years ago when my husband and I got married and moved into our first place in the autumn. We played Sinatra while we unpacked and I’m reminded of that whenever I listen to him.

That also reminds me of writing my first novel. I did NaNoWriMo in 2012 and wrote a 50,000+ novel in a month. I haven’t read it or touched it since finishing it, but it was such an accomplishment. I listened to a lot of jazz while writing because it helped me focus. Now, any time I listen to Melody Gardot (in particular), I’m reminded of the characters that were brought to life in my novel.

I should start on another novel…

- j

being attentive + single tasking

In my never-ending quest to simplify my life, I’ve found this book that is currently rocking my world. It’s The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski. I’ve only read the first two chapters, but I’ve been mentally and spiritually digesting those two chapters for the past week. In a nutshell, The Sacred Year is about Yankoski being intentional with incorporating spiritual practices into his life. The second chapter, “Single Tasking: The Practice of Attentiveness,” grabbed me by my shirt collar and hasn’t let me go since.

Yankoski discusses the art of “juggling.” We’re all pros at “juggling,” giving our half-hearted attention to all of the things demanding it in our lives – work, friends, family, television, social networks, emails, meetings, etc. He quotes Tolkien in saying that he is “like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” Don’t we all feel like that sometimes? In the deepest parts of our minds, we’re juggling decisions, plans, questions, answers, daydreams. In the quiet moments, things are rarely quiet upstairs. In any given moment, I’m thinking of twelve different things. And having the imagination that I possess, I can go from planning tonight’s dinner to trying to figure out why Diet Coke takes forever to settle at 30,000 ft in a moment’s notice. And that’s just what’s going on in my brain.

Let’s talk about the impulse to constantly check social media. It’s embarrassing to say, but it’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email. And indeed, it is the last thing that I do before falling asleep. There are many a night when I fall asleep reading Reddit.

The sad thing is…I know that I’m not the only one. Constantly connected, yet so disconnected at the same time.

When was the last time that you had a face-to-face conversation with someone and made a point of giving them your undivided attention?

What about when there’s a silent moment or two in a conversation? Do you reach for your phone for comfort?

I asked myself these questions after reading “Single Tasking: The Practice of Attentiveness.” And the answers were hard to admit to myself.

Yankoski says that the term “pay attention” is really a misguided command. Instead, it should be “be attentive,” as “attentiveness is not something you can buy at any price but rather something you must become.” Yankoski goes on later in the chapter to describe an apple that he spent an hour focusing on. Yes, he spent an hour locked in a room with a red apple. He took in the apple with all five of his senses and his descriptions of this apple made me feel like I could visualize this apple in front of me. He spent an hour focusing on something that he’d probably seen hundreds of times throughout his life, but had never really seen. He discovered characteristics of an apple that he’d previously disregarded.

I took it upon myself this afternoon to spend time single tasking – doing one thing at a time and doing that one thing being fully attentive and aware. I went to my favourite coffee shop. I ordered a mug of black coffee and settled down at a table. I ate a salad that I brought. I read a letter that my sponsored child wrote me. I wrote a letter back. I drank some of the coffee. I reread the second chapter of The Sacred Year. I wrote in my journal. I finished the coffee.

I did all of these things as single tasks. I didn’t have my earphones in at all – partially because I didn’t want music to interfere with my single tasking…partially because I think it’s a bit silly to listen to my music when the coffee shop was playing some pretty excellent music. I put my phone in my handbag and didn’t touch it the entire 1.5 hours I was at that table.

The result of intentionally single tasking? That mug of coffee tasted SO GOOD. I have to be in the mood for black coffee, so I don’t drink it often. But this mug of coffee was wonderful. I was able to taste the complexities of the blend. I bet it probably would’ve tasted a bit different if I hadn’t been attentive. I noticed a bunch of different things about the coffeeshop that I’d never noticed before. The colours (especially the abundance of reds), the arrangement of furniture, the people, even the mug that I was using. I came away from the coffee shop more appreciative of it than before.

This journey to simplification and being attentive has been developing a lot recently, even before I started reading The Sacred Year. While on holiday in England with my husband a week ago, we visited Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. In the middle of taking pictures, I got frustrated with myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to fully enjoy the sights because I had a camera or an iPhone attached to my hand.

My hope is that I can become more attentive and less attached to social media. I can find more to appreciate in the small, seemingly insignificant details of my everyday life. I can give another person my undivided attention without reaching for my phone the second there’s a lull in the conversation. I can visit a place without “checking in” on Swarm or Facebook. I can have a funny thought to myself without the urge to Tweet it. I can enjoy a beautiful sunset without reaching for my phone to take a picture that will only pale in comparison to the real deal.

This is my invitation to all of you to do two things: realize where you can be more attentive and work on unplugging and becoming more aware of life going on all around you.

Here’s to living a more attentive and thus more fulfilling life,

- j

Harder Better Faster Stronger

I love exercise. Like I really do. It may be hard for me to get out of bed early and go to the gym. Or go to the gym right after I finish a long day of flying. But once I’m in the gym, I’m in the zone.

My love of exercise with my ENFP nature requires me to change things up. And for the longest time, I stuck with workout plans that had me doing all sorts of isolation exercises 5 times a week. I stayed stagnant for a while because I never found a program that truly piqued my interest.

Until recently. (dun dun dunnnnnnn)

Because I joined a new gym, I was given one of those free mini personal training sessions and body analysis meetings. Ya know, the ones where they take your measurements, talk to you about your goals, do a 15 minute personal training session with you to get your endorphins up, then try to sell you a PT package that costs WAY too much. Thankfully, I saw past all of the sales mumbo jumbo and took the meeting for what it was worth.

First off, I balked at my actual weight and body fat percentage, but they actually put me in the “ideal” range, one step from being super lean beasticon lady. Now, I don’t feel ideal and my goal is two-fold: lean up and get stronger. Through recalling what I learned as a scrawny freshman in a weight training class and scouring r/fitness and r/xxfitness, I knew that strength training would be ideal to reach my goals. Compound exercises – exercises that require the use of multiple muscle groups – are the way to go.

I’ve started the 5/3/1 strength training program. With this program, I am lifting weights 3-4 times a week with different assistance exercises added. This program focuses on four core lifts: the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. Your sets are based off of your 1RM (one rep maximum – the most weight you can do one rep of.) The program that I found is twelve weeks long, with new 1RMs taken every four weeks. I’m two weeks into the program and I love it for a few reasons:

  1. Cardio is not required. I get so bored doing cardio…unless it’s something outdoors.
  2. I’ve discovered a new love and respect for weight lifting.
  3. I feel like a beast when I’m lifting.

Historically, I’ve been one to quit a new program after two weeks, but I love this one. I love the challenge of beating my current 1RM on these lifts and seeing how much I can get to. I love wearing my Chuck Taylors and knee-high socks on squat and deadlift days. :)

For any of you interested in Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, I suggest you check out this article on Muscleforlife.com. Samantha Menzies published a blog post about 5/3/1 from a woman’s perspective – fyi, the workout is still the same…it’s just nice to get a different perspective :)

Here’s to lifting weights and kickin’ ass!

- j

One Year in the Air

I’ve been a flight attendant for a year! I can’t believe it – time has flown by! I’ve learned quite a lot, which I will attempt to synthesize here:

  1. Flight attendants are safety professionals who also serve food and drinks. Things can go pear-shaped quickly and we must respond just as quickly.
  2. Flight attendants are the best MacGyvers. Somehow, we can make the most creative and useful things from our galleys.
  3. The weather will not deter me from exploring a new city. It rained in Munich and Zurich when I visited and I still managed a good 3 hours out in the city before coming back to the hotel.
  4. Sometimes, it’s okay to be a slam-clicker. But generally, if the crew is down to hang, then so am I. #TeamNoSleep
  5. A healthy and positive mentality is everything. Once, the last day of a three day trip was already scheduled to the maximum number of hours. I was dreading this part of the trip, however my flight leader said, “You know what? Today’s going to be a great day!” Even with the unexpected aircraft swap, we ended the day with a lot of laughter and a good letter from a passenger.
  6. Unexpected rough air is a thing. I would’ve been injured had I not been strapped into my jumpseat during the times I’ve experienced it. I am astonished that passengers get up and open bins or use the lavatory when the entire cabin crew is seated and strapped in.
  7. Hotel life is lonely. I’m finding that I love being home more and more. I live for hours-long coffee dates with good friends. And eating a home-cooked meal at home with my husband.
  8. Celebrities are regular people. I’ve met and served a handful already and they’ve all been chill.
  9. Finally, I’ve learned how to pack lightly. Before this career, I couldn’t imagine going on a week-long trip without checking a bag. Now, I’m going on holiday next month and I don’t plan on checking anything.
  10. I need to stop being afraid of it and get French Speaker qualified soon.
  11. I love seeing European influence in American cities. While walking around DC, there were times when I felt like I was in Paris or London.
  12. Nothing compares to the thrill of taking off and landing. I get excited every time.

I feel very fortunate and am extremely grateful for this career. I’m looking forward to many years on the line, discovering new places, making new friends, and creating new memories.

- j

I Almost Quit.

This morning, I was ready to shut this blog down for good. Or at least erase all previous posts and start anew.

Why?

Because I was, and kind of still am feeling less than confident about my writing skills.

I love writing with all of my heart, but to me, my passion seemed to go unnoticed. Not that I should do things with the intention of being applauded or validated by others. But I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it.

I don’t know where this came from. All of a sudden, I just felt like a below average writer…that my passion for writing would lead me nowhere and that I should just quit.

Honestly, I was ready to delete it all and never look back.

What stopped me was the realization that I really shouldn’t look to others to validate myself. I shouldn’t put my fabricated feelings of inadequacy on the shoulders of others. I should take ownership, pull myself up, and keep going.

I quietly started a 30 day writing challenge. Today is day 20. I’ve written something in a small journal that I keep with me every day. There were times when I fell behind because, ya know, life or laziness, but I always caught up. I say I did this quietly because I didn’t announce it on any social media or tell anyone. Mostly because I didn’t want anyone to see me fail because I know I have a history of not seeing new projects completely through. With this 30 day challenge, it’s done something simple: kept me writing. Before, I’d write maybe once a month. For something that is this important to me, I need to dedicate more than a few minutes a month to it. There’s no theme to this challenge – no daily word or phrase that triggers whatever I write for that day. The task is simple: WRITE. So far, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to stick to it. The most it’s done so far has been to allow me to flesh out how I felt when I visited Dachau. I wrote for that day right after I got back to my hotel. It’s a unique picture of me mentally and emotionally working through what I saw and learned that day.

So, I’m keeping the blog. And the previous entries. Because I need to start somewhere. And there’s no point in starting over if I don’t have to.

- j

Brussels

A few days ago, I mentally spun the globe and decided on where I was going next.

Brussels.

It tends to be a very senior trip, but I got lucky and picked up the trip. I had no idea what I was going to do once I got to Brussels, a city I’d never visited. Thankfully, a few crewmembers also wanted to hit the city. After arriving in the city and getting a few hours of sleep, we hit the ground running. Much to my surprise, this weekend was the Belgian Beer Weekend. What a time to visit Brussels! The city was buzzing….literally. Tents filled the Grande Place with various Belgian brewers. We didn’t actually enter the festival because it was packed, but it was fun to walk around and see the city out in full regalia for this event.

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“Proud of our beers.” As you should be, Brussels. Belgian beer is delicious!

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One of the many beer shops off the main square. So. Many. Great. Beers. I’m partial to Belgian Abbey Ales. And Leffe is a favourite of mine. So many varieties of Leffe.

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It wouldn’t be a visit to Brussels without seeing Manneken Pis. It’s much smaller than I thought it would be – so true of many popular historic landmarks. Apparently, the Manneken gets dressed up every now and then.

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The Belgians are serious about their chocolate. There are numerous chocolatiers in the city. Too many to count. We stopped in this one because they had these giant meringues, which are significant to Brussels. I didn’t get any meringues, but I did grab a few macarons and sampled chocolate in about five different stores. #ChocolateWasted

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Had to have some Belgian beer on the Grande Place! This was one of the moments where I thought to myself, “I cannot believe I’m getting paid right now!” This was my first time having Leffe Radieuse and it was good. Later on, we had dinner at a little local place away from the beer festival madness. We all had Carbonade Flamande – a traditional Belgian beef stew made with beer (of course). I ate it too fast to instagram it (so you know it was hella tasty)!

I’ve fallen in love with a new city. A city where so many languages are spoken (I’m glad I got to parle français). A city that has convinced me that I should probably learn Dutch. Once I get German down, of course.

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Till next time, Brussels…

À bientôt, Bruxelles…

- j

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My Visit to Dachau

When I picked up a trip to Munich, I had no idea what I was going to do in the 24 hours that I had in the city. While waiting for my trip briefing, I googled “things to do in Munich.” As I scrolled down one of the websites, I came across a link for the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. I had no idea that Dachau was so close to Munich, so I set it in my mind that I was going to visit Dachau.

When we arrived in Munich, the weather was quite unfavourable – windy, rainy, and cold. Because of this, the two crewmembers who said that they were going to join me to Dachau ended up staying in the hotel. So, there I was. By myself. In an unfamiliar city. With a plan. No big deal. I have no problem traveling solo – sometimes, I prefer it. As I did in this instance.

I took the S-bahn to Dachau, then hopped on a bus to the memorial site. I decided on renting the audio guide (€ 3.50) to enhance my experience through the camp.

I can say without a doubt that no amount of mental preparation was sufficient for what I experienced visiting Dachau.

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This is the Jourhaus – the main gate into Dachau. Prisoners were marched along this road and into the camp through this gate.

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This is the gate at the Jourhaus with the infamous concentration camp welcoming phrase Arbeit macht frei – “work makes you free.” This phrase disguised the camp as a labour camp to prisoners.

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This panorama is looking out onto the roll call square, where prisoners were assembled daily for roll call. This picture doesn’t begin to convey how large this area is. Up to 40,000 people were held in this area.

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This panorama is of the former maintenance building, where prisoners were systematically processed into the camp. Today, it houses the permanent museum exhibits.

 

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Behind the former maintenance building is the Bunker, where prisoners were detained for whatever the SS saw fit. Different abhorrent punishments were carried out in this building. This picture is of the SS commander’s office. No explanation is given for these hash marks.

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The Bunker.

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Hallway in the Bunker.

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The “shunt room,” where new prisoners were registered and processed. All personal possessions, including clothing, was taken from the prisoners in this room. The desk in the background contains actual prisoner registration cards.

 

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The prisoner baths within the former maintenance building. New prisoners were shaved and bathed in this room. They were also subject to “pole hangings,” where an SS official would tie prisoners’ hands behind their backs, attach them to a chain, hook the chain on a hook in a wooden beam, and let the prisoner hang there.

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Rauchen verboten – No Smoking sign revealed as layers of paint have peeled in the shunt room.

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One of the many memorials on the camp grounds. Never Again.

 

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Memorial in front of the former maintenance building. Dachau was the first and longest-running concentration camp during the Nazi regime.

 

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The perimeter fence. There was: a no man’s land, where SS men in guard towers would shoot to kill, a trench, a barbed wire obstruction, an electric fence, and a concrete wall. There was no escaping Dachau.

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Camp Road. All of the 34 prisoner barracks where along both sides of this road. Two of the barracks have been reconstructed. The rest of the barracks are noted by their foundations that are filled with gravel.

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Barrack 1, which was one of the medical barracks used for experimentation. Experiments included: altitude, hypothermia, and malaria.

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Inside one of the reconstructed barracks. This shows what the prisoner bunks looked like from 1933-1934.

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Reconstructed prisoner bunks, 1937-1938.

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Reconstructed prisoner bunks, 1944-1945. Visitors cannot enter this room, presumably because the bunks are so tightly packed in this room.

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Prisoner lockers, which held their uniforms.

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Sign upon entering the crematorium area. It says, “Think about how we died here.” The crematoriums were not accessible from the main camp originally. Today, they are accessible from the main camp, and are located in the back of the camp.

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“Barrack X” – the new crematorium built in 1942.

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One of the four ovens in the new crematorium. Keep in mind that prisoners were the ones operating these ovens.

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Death Chamber 1, where dead bodies were piled up until they were cremated. The door leads to the gas chamber.

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Inside the gas chamber. Unlike Auschwitz, this gas chamber wasn’t used for mass killings, but rather for individuals and small groups. The ceiling is low and lighting is sparse. It felt very oppressive.

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Sign above the gas chamber.

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The two ovens in the original crematorium.

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The Grave of the Thousands Unknown – a mass grave behind Barrack X. There were 32,000 documented deaths at Dachau. Experts estimate the actual number is much more than that, especially when the camp’s population grew to around 30,000 towards 1944.

I spent about 2.5 hours at Dachau. It was enough and not enough at the same time.

I am forever haunted by my visit to Dachau. It was emotionally draining. The rain and overcast weather provided a somber atmosphere to the camp. When I reached the crematoria area, it started raining harder. Many people who were also touring the grounds went into the new crematorium for shelter. The irony of that is not lost on me.

This isn’t just German history or WWII history or European history – it’s human history. It’s my history. It’s your history. Whether you had family members who experience the Holocaust or not, it’s our history because we’re human. Many groups of people were systematically exterminated simply based on their race / religion / sexual preference / intelligence / perceived threat to the Third Reich / etc. I hope and pray that this part of history doesn’t repeat itself. I hope and pray that world leaders learn the harsh lessons learned through WWII and the Holocaust – a government, totalitarian or not, cannot oppress and exterminate a large group of people. It’s not sustainable. And above that, it’s not right.

I can try to convey what this visit taught me, but words fail. My experience was equally intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. When I got back to my hotel room, I reflected on the visit and burst into tears. My heart goes out to the families of those who experienced the atrocities of the Holocaust.

All I can say to wrap up this post is that I urge every single one of you to visit one of the concentration camp memorial sites some time in your life, if possible. You can read this post, watch documentaries, and read history books, but nothing compares to being on the actual grounds of the camps.

NEVER AGAIN.

- j