Wednesday, October 7, 2009


"I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I'm free" Anne Frank

It has been another wonderful week in England! I’ve gotten involved a wide variety of clubs and societies at the University including: newspaper, Christian Union, Law Society, Swim Team, Mountaineers, and Kayak team. I am hoping to soak up every bit of Europe that is possible on my short four-month stay. My days are busy and filled with enriching experiences.

I have always enjoyed sports and exercise and through college I have really missed my experiences swimming for a competitive team in high school. There is a sense of motivation and team spirit that comes only when exists a team. I believe I am naturally very determined, but having a team behind me encourages me to push myself a bit harder. The first swim practice was yesterday, it was tough and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk afterward. I’m really excited for practice tonight and the adrenaline rush that goes hand-in-hand with swimming. I think I like sports so much lately because sports alone mirror the intensity that I take toward life.

Last week was my first day of rock climbing practice with the mountaineers. I have always been so afraid of repelling down rocks. I know that I will be safe, but the substantial drop gets me every time. From the top of the climbing gym I told myself, “If I can go to Paris by myself then I think I can repel 60 ft.” I leaned back and allowed myself to be pulled down the cliff. Slowly but surely I am debunking every fear that I have in life. Every challenging workout or experience that I have had is just weakness leaving my body. I don’t have to be afraid anymore.

Last weekend I went to Holland to visit my close friend Sahara Meyer who is studying abroad in Leiden, Netherlands. Sahara and I went to Amsterdam for the day on Friday. We saw the general tourist sights: Homomonument, the Royal Palace, the National Monument, the Red Light district, and we toured the hiding place of Anne Frank during the Second World War. The business where Anne Frank hid was quite spacious. The floors creaked with each step I took, the eerie nature of the home still present. I read Anne Frank’s diary in 4th grade and had an image in my mind of a cramped dank attic where the family members were crammed together. The hiding place was actually quite large, providing spacious living areas and bedrooms. Anne’s diary does a phenomenal job of describing the horrors of being in hiding; of remaining quiet throughout the day and treading lightly at night. Anne writes about wishing she could play outside, or have access to more books. The psychological impacts of isolation become so evident in Anne’s writing. It is strange to think that such a wise and candid writer could have been only sixteen years of age at death. Perhaps the most moving part of the exhibit was a picture of Anne’s Father in the house a few years after the end of the war; in the photo Otto braces himself against one of the walls and holds his hat over his heart. Anne died just weeks before Auschwitz was liberated. Anne’s friends are quoted as explaining that Anne believed her entire family to be dead and lost her own will to live, “she died when she choose not to live.” Maybe that is true outside of war situations as well.

I was lucky to be in Holland for the celebration of “Leiden Day” which is a Dutch independence celebration. Leiden was blanketed in roller coasters, hot dog stands, carnival games, and dances. On Saturday morning we went to the Leiden Day parade. Each year, Leiden selects a different country’s movements toward independence as the theme of their parade, celebrating independence throughout the world. This year the theme was “The American Dream” detailing historical events in the United States since colonization. There were floats for Native Americans, Amish, and other immigrant groups. The parade ended with a tribute to American pop culture including floats representing High School Musical and Titanic. I don’t think that I have ever seen a more high quality parade of American history than what I saw in Holland! The celebration of the independence of other nation’s on Leiden Day reminded me a proverb I learned in Haiti that, “my independence is intrinsically connected to yours.”

In England, students attend high school for a few years and then go to “college” which is the equivalent of the upper years of American high school. Sometimes my flatmates will reminisce about their “college times” and it always startles me. I can’t believe that I am already more than halfway finished with University. Someday I too will speak of fond memories of college… I just don’t want that to happen quite yet!

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