Tuesday, March 30, 2010

how many people does it take to get stefanie and emily from terezín to prague?

i posted the answer to this question on facebook and received a few confused responses, so here i am to set the record straight:

it only takes one old man on a bike, one cheerful ticket lady, and the entire terezín police force to stefanie and emily safely back to prague.

here's why:
stefanie and i spent the day in terezín. that day happened to be a saturday. we took the bus there in the morning and looked at the schedule when we arrived and decided that the last bus we could take back left before 6pm. after walking around the town and visiting all of the places that were open on saturday (most of them), we headed back to the bus stop. we arrived at 5:35ish. when we looked again at the schedule, we discovered that the bus we wanted was supposed to come at 5:35. we waited around a bit, but it didn't come.

then we saw an old man on a bike and i stopped him and using my slovak and his czech, we got him to help us out. he looked on the schedule and (i think he didn't want to have to tell us that there wasn't another bus, so he) told us that there was one at about 6:30pm. we waited around for that bus, but it never came. so, we headed into town to try to find a hotel or something so that (as a last resort) we could get a taxi and pay the huge fare to get back to prague (45 minutes by car) that night. as we were searching for a hotel, i spotted a police station!

we went into the police station and i explained our situation and asked if the man behind the glass could help us out. he turned around and got on the computer to search for some form of transportation we could take... then another guy came to help him... then another... then he explained to me that the next town over had two trains leaving for prague at 7:39 and 8:08pm (by then it was about 7pm). we had to turn left at the intersection and it was a 25-30 minute walk to the next town.

it was already dark out and stef and i had been walking around all day, so we were a bit hesitant, but what other option did we have? i wasn't so sure about just turning left and walking until we got there, so i asked if he had a map (mapy is the word i used...i'm not sure if it really translates though) or could draw us one ("as if we're here [putting my finger on a spot on the counter] and we go like this here [using my finger to trace a path to a second point on the counter]"-all in my slovak, of course). the men went into a group huddle and then one guy came out from behind the bars (stef thinks he was a fourth man, i think he was one of the original three), asked if it was just the two of us, and when i said yes, he said he would take us to the train station. so, we got to ride in a czech police car to the next town over.

when he dropped us off, he pointed to where we could get tickets, then said that prague was to the left (and pointed). i thanked him, we went in, and bought the tickets. as we waited for the train, several trains passed by, and the ticket lady would tell us each time that it wasn't our train. then, there was one that came and was going in the direction of prague. we asked, and she said yes, we needed to go through this tunnel that goes under the tracks. we ran through the tunnel and came up on the other side when the train was flying by. so we waited and then the 8:08pm train came. as it came, she called to us that this was it, we thanked her, got on, and safely made it back to prague. what an adventure it was.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

from concentration camps to peace walls

this is an excerpt from my journal on march 14th after my college roommate and i had visited terezín, czech republic and then the john lennon wall in prague, czech republic.

i'm really glad we went to terezín and were there for awhile. it was the first concentration camp i've ever been to. it was interesting because it wasn't a "destination camp." people came through it more than they came to it. it theoretically functioned as a self-governing town. red cross workers came to see it twice and the nazis "beautified" it for them, so you wouldn't be able to tell that it was as bad as it really was. they even used the town in propaganda films. they really tricked some people into believing that the camps or ghettos weren't bad (or perhaps, people just wanted to believe that so it wasn't quite as hard as one would think to convince them).

one of the good things that happened there as a result of the need to "keep up appearances" was that the children still got to learn, at least some, and both child and adult artists made art there. this art has been preserved to keep telling the stories of what happened during the holocaust.

the town currently functions as a town, with buildings used back then either functioning as museums or ways to remember, or functioning as buildings for everyday use. this is a weird concept because i wonder how a person could live in a building knowing that it has a history as part of a concentration camp/ghetto. on all accounts it was very meaningful to be there and try to take everything in.

this is the entrance to a secret prayer room. pictures aren't allowed, so i don't have pictures from inside. but to be in that holy space was extremely powerful for me. to see the walls, painted with parts of psalms, to feel the texture of the walls and know just a bit of the power of the place.

it was also good to go to the john lennon wall the next morning. it was uplifting, of course, but also meaningful in a deeper way. messages of hope, peace, and love from all over the world covered the wall in layer after layer to provide inspiration and motivation.

a picture from the john lennon wall. there were several "tags," but there were even more messages of love, hope, peace, and imagination. seeing all the layers makes me wonder how many people have written on it and how many have come and been inspired.

one of the things i kept coming back to is the importance of memory and remembering. stef said that lots of kids who were 5, 6, 7 when world war 2 ended in germany didn't know about the holocaust until they were adults because their parents didn't talk about it and they didn't learn about it in school. everybody just wanted to forget about it. the problem with forgetting is that it opens the way for the same thing to happen again. so, as alla bozarth-campbell tells us in "passover remembered," we remember and we "pass on the whole story."

the other thing i kept thinking about is the invisibility of those killed in the holocaust who were not jews. in terezín it was almost exclusively jews (or people classified as jews), but in concentration camps and the holocaust as a whole, there were roma, homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, political prisoners, etc.

where are their stories? who remembers them? who is outraged with them about what happened? what are the implications of forgetting them? do we still have so much discrimination because did not cry out over their pain, suffering, torture, and death in the same way or to the same extent that we cry out over that of the jews who were tortured and killed? how can we live together and see god's reign here on earth, if we don't cry out against ALL injustices?

Monday, March 8, 2010

medzinárodný deň žien - international women's day

so, today is international women's day, which is actually celebrated (though not hugely) here in slovakia. it is a day for women, which they consider females 18 or older. i received flowers this morning from my host dad, which was nice. actually celebrating the day (that i would have forgotten about if it weren't for the glance at my calendar yesterday) and wishing all the females i encountered (not just the grown-ups) all the best, got me thinking about the day.

i didn't even know that international women's day existed until i was in college. being a women's and gender studies (wgst) major does have its advantages. having learned through my wgst classes about the day, also means that i learned about it as not just a day to celebrate that i am a woman, but to think of other women in other situations around the world.

i also realized that in the united states, as many of you know, we still have huge discrepancies between men and women. pay is not equal. rape is far to prevalent. sexual and domestic abuse occurs way to much. women are still not represented in the upper echelons of many companies. women's body image issues infect all parts of our lives. women are underrepresented in government. women do not have full control over their own bodies. women are not allowed to follow their call to ministry in certain churches.

and this is just in the united states, just compared to men, without thinking specifically of things like race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and just what i could think of. yet we pretend that there's equality and those who say there isn't are just "radical feminists." am i a feminist? yes. i believe that women and men should share in first class citizenship throughout the world. i believe that all deserve dignity and the opportunities to live fairly and equally. i am a feminist and i am proud of that.

so, as i prayed and gave thanks to god for this day, i also prayed for and remembered women around the world. i remembered and prayed for the women who are raped as a tactic of war. for the women who have mouths to feed and no food with which to feed them. for the women who cannot even provide clean water for their families. for the women who struggle every day to survive. for the women who still work to rebuild their lives from the earthquakes in haiti and chile.

for the women who are fired or paid less simply because they are women. for the women who are fired, paid less, or not hired in the first place because they are roma. or african american. or hispanic. or native american. for the wonderful women whose love is not recognized by the government, churches, friends, family. for the women who try to deal with the horrible migration laws and bureaucracy of the united states just so they can live with the one they love or make a better life for themselves and their families.

i pray for the women who mourn, rejoice, laugh, cry, yell, smile, hug, kiss, hurt, heal, share, give, love, lose, leave, conquer, suffer, survive.

i pray for you and i pray for me and i pray that one day we might truly live in a world where all can be treated fairly. where all know what it is to love and be loved, without fear.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ako sa vola boh? or: how is god called? on my naming of god

important to know to understand the following: in slovak, the literal translation of the phrase asking your name is "how are you called" or "how do you call yourself"? so, that's the kind of phrasing i need to use when i talk about god. god is god, and when i ask about god's name, i know that. it's god, or if i want to use the original hebrew, i could, or i could use what you are supposed to say when you read the hebrew name for god, since you're not supposed to use the actual name. anyway, that's not what i want to talk about, that's just a side note.

so, i know god's name, but what is god called? how do i call god? that is a whole different story. for quite some time now, i have not really known how to call god (sorry for the awkward phrasing, but i can't say i don't know god's name).

first of all, i don't really feel comfortable with/i don't feel like it's right for me calling god god. i think part of this is due to the academic part of my life. i have studied religion, christianity, and the bible and so i think in doing these things (which i have loved doing), god went from being a name like mom, dad, or granny and became instead a label like father, mother, or grandmother. so, for me part of moving away from god as name is because it has become a label and labels bring with them formality, which i don't want in my relationship to god. i want it to be personal.

another reason for my search is due to my hesitancy to use gendered language for god. since both male and female were created in god's image, "god" in hebrew is plural, and i think it's too patriarchal to make god masculine (especially since the holy spirit is technically a feminine noun), among other reasons, i can't just give god a more common gendered name.

for a variety of reasons i also don't like "father." yes, the patriarchy thing (i know, call me a wgst major. i am and i'm proud of that), but also, father is very formal and for me it is not at all conducive to an intimate/meaningful relationship. in addition to that, i have a dad (i know, what a surprise!) and i know there's that whole you have to hate your parents to love god thing that jesus says in one of the gospels, but i've never really connected with that. i mean i know that your parents can't be god for you, but i like my parents, they're good ones, i am not lacking in parents. if i were to call god dad or mom, it would be confusing god and my parents, because you can't call two different people the same name. it confuses people.

so, what does that leave me with? .... exactly, so here's what i've been thinking lately thanks to a recent conversation:

in "the shack" (which i have not finished reading yet, but am technically in the middle of reading), the wife, nan, calls god "papa." now, i don't use papa ever, i call my dad dad or daddy. one thing i am lacking, though, practically speaking are godparents. now go with me on this. for me/my parents, my baptism, was very much a cultural ritual thing (especially seeing as we did it in my grandparents' catholic church and not in vail at our church or anything). my mom's sister and my dad's brother were my god parents,

i'm not positive on the beliefs of one, except that they are not, by any means, your "typical" christian beliefs (even in progressive vail) and the other of which was (once i entered the age where i could talk and walk) mainly just around for christmases. anyway, so i didn't really ever have a "godparent" (in the christian understanding) figure growing up the way many people (especially those that surround me) do.

so, i've decided to try out papa and mama (because my mom is mom or mommy). i feel like they are conducive to intimacy and a comfortable relationship and i can handle the creator god being papa if the holy spirit and perhaps occasionally also the creator god can be mama. jesus is jesus, of course, so that one's easier. anyway, i'm going to try this out and see how i like it.

what about you? how do you call god?