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What I'm Reading: June 2017 #2

Friday, June 30, 2017

Photo by Claudia Nuta

This is my  bi-weekly series to share with you whatever I’m reading that has either interested, entertained, or angered me.  I’ll talk about the book I’m reading, articles I’ve read, blog posts I’ve liked, interesting videos, ect.  This is one of my favorite type of posts to read on other people’s blog, so I hope you will find some links you enjoy!  Want to know what else I’m reading? Be my friend on Medium and Bloglovin’ and Goodreads for more!


Reading

Online

All of the Women I Admire are Over 30: something I WROTE is actually online!  I'm going to start including stuff I've written elsewhere here, because if you're not your own hypeman then who will be?

Also by me: How to Travel When You Have Anxiety

Writing about crushes and ex's and we-were-kinda-a-thing-but-it-didn't-work-out is always difficult.

Lorde's new album is basically a party for our messiest selves.

What if you desire too much? is a question I tackle this month on Dear Damsels.

Katie shares books that inspire travel and they all sound so fascinating.

KathmunduandBeyond has been posting so many itineraries that go through Central and Eastern Europe and they're helping with my traveling planning SO MUCH.

Personal essays should've be looked down upon as a "lesser" form of writing.

A long-read on porn which isn't weird at all and definitely needs to be discussed more.

Here's a 6,000 word guide on making it as a blogger in the Year of Our Lord 2017.

Books

I finished Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber, and (since I haven't seen the movie) I was very happy with the ending.  It seems dark at times but DON"T WORRY it will get better.

I started Commonwealth by Anne Patchett, who I've never read before this.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that half of this book is set in Virginia, which should be obvious considering the title.  I never said I was a detective.  You can tell that Patchett is a good writer because the premise of Commonwealth sounds very plain, but it still makes me want to read on.  Also, I miss my state.

I'm finally at a hostel that has a decent selection of books, so I swapped out two of mine for The Martian and The Sisters Brothers.  I love finding books that are already on my to-read list.

Watching


The music video for the "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)" from the Hamilton Mixtape came out recently.  Another reminder that America would be nothing without immigrants.

Listening


I honestly love every single song on Lorde's new album, but nothing comes close to that emotional pulling-at-my-gut feeling I get when I listen to this one.

Living

I'm in the Slovakian mountains right now (was not in the plan, a post will be coming soon) and wow I really needed to be around nature.  I've been doing cities for the past month straight.  It seems like one month might be my city-limit before I go a lil crazy.  This place is beautiful and if it weren't for meeting my friend in Budapest I'd probably stay a good week or so.

Quoting

Now's not the time for dick measuring, Stuart!
-Liam Neeson, the best line from Taken

How I Messed Up My Trip to Auschwitz

Monday, June 19, 2017

Photo by Adrian Infernus
Visiting and then subsequently talking about your trip to a concentration camp is a very tricky thing.  I talked in a previous post about how I don't know how to talk about Auschwitz; I will try to make this post as respectful, sensitive, and un-awkward as possible.


I messed up my visit to Auschwitz.

I've been looking forward to the visit ever since I decided to go to Krakow.  I expected it to be a humbling, life-changing experience, going at my own pace through the camp and showing as much respect to the murdered as possible.  I knew during the high season summer months free entry is only allowed from 8am-10am and then again 3pm until closing.  This is what my friends have done when they visited, so I was going to do the same.

I did some last minute research the night before, trying to figure out when the buses left for Oświęcim (the Polish name for the town; 'Auschwitz' was forced upon them by the Nazis) when I saw people commenting on forums about the reservation website.

Apparently in 2015, after my friends visited, the museum added an online reservation system.  Even those going during the free hours must have a reservation.  I understand why they have this system; it limits the number of people at the museum and makes things a bit more orderly.  Still, this came as a surprise to me and threw a wrench into my plans.  Sure, I could still show up at 8am and hope for the best, but that still wouldn't guarantee me entry to Auschwitz I.  (Auschwitz II, or Birkenau, is always free, but you are not allowed to enter any of the buildings in that camp.)

I didn't come all this way to take a gamble with visiting Auschwitz (disclaimer: yeah I should've done my research ahead of time, but hindsight is 20/20), so I took the only option left.  At the last minute, I booked a tour with SeeKrakow for 120 zloty, about $32, which included pickup at my hostel.  This included a guide for both camps.  What was supposed to be a free day trip (bus transportation would've cost 30 zloty, or $8) suddenly got a lot more expensive.

I still could've shown up at 8am and hoped they would let me in, which is what two girls in my hostel did and it worked out for them.  I just didn't want to take the risk since it was my only day to visit.
Learn from my mistakes.  I'm of course very grateful for the privilege that even allowed me to visit the camp, but I would've appreciated Auschwitz a lot more if I didn't have to do a guided tour.  After toying around with the reservation website, I suggest you reserve your place at least a month ahead, since that's how long I would've had to wait for a 'free visit' reservation spot.  The website says to do it even further in advance, so keep that in mind.  Of course, you don't absolutely have to have a reservation like the girls in my hostel, but it'll save you some peace of mind.

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What I'm Reading: June 2017 #1

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Photo by Annie Spratt

This is my  bi-weekly series to share with you whatever I’m reading that has either interested, entertained, or angered me.  I’ll talk about the book I’m reading, articles I’ve read, blog posts I’ve liked, interesting videos, ect.  This is one of my favorite type of posts to read on other people’s blog, so I hope you will find some links you enjoy!
Want to know what else I’m reading? Be my friend on Medium and Bloglovin’ and Goodreads for more!


Reading

Books

I finished The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer while in Warsaw.  I didn't know what to expect from her book since she's one of those women that people love to hate, but I'm glad public perception of her didn't sway me from reading this book.  Schumer is funny and hardworking and crazy smart, and so many of her observations are things that I wish I could say but just don't have the balls to yet.  5 stars.

I'm also in the middle of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Sybil, the true story of that girl with 16 distinct personalities.  It's very slow going with The Goldfinch but I'm trying to finish it quickly because it takes up so much room in my bag.

Online

How women in TV shows are always lotioning at night.  Strangely enough I think about this phenomenon a lot, so I'm glad other people have noticed enough to write an analysis of it.

I loved this piece on being gay versus being southern.  It's great because there's no definite conclusion, since it's a predicament that I don't think anyone has the answer for.

Feminism and the fear of dying alone.

A day in the life of Kim Kardashian's assistant is crazy interesting.

You Should've Asked: even though women in the workforce is rising, they still take on a HUGE chunk of mental labor by being the "manager" of the household.

I'm very interested in the whole big city vs. small town debate (since I find a lot of problems when people blame everything on "coastal elites" vs. the "poor middle America").

I've been following Chelsea Manning's case since the very beginning (which was back when I was 14, proving once again that teenage girls are aware and care about politics), so I loved the NYT profile on her.

It's been one year since the shooting in Orlando, so here's a piece on queer grief: "Grief can be neon, can be a ball, can be camp, can be a read, or can be a parade. It can be as joyful as it is sad".

Watching


Orange is the New Black! I had a rainy day in Krakow so I plowed through most of it that day, then finished it the next.  I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than the previous seasons.  There's a lot that happened that I'm still not sure how to feel about, so I'm ready for all the think-pieces that are sure to come.

Listening


Halsey's new album.  I really loved Badlands and her followup album doesn't disappoint.  It's very moody and honest which I love.

Living

As you can tell, I haven't been posting as much as normal.  I'm currently a little over 2 weeks into my 2.5 month long trip and I don't want to force myself to blog and adding extra stress to my life when I should be enjoying myself.  That's going pretty well, I think!

Quoting

We should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
-Philip Larkin

What is left to say about Auschwitz

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


What do you wear to Auschwitz?

Not your cut off Levi's you bought in Valencia.  Shorts feel inappropriate somehow.  Neither can you wear your beloved Chacos.  The thought of your toes touching the same dirt that they labored and died on feels disrespectful.  Jeans, a navy top, and covered shoes it is then, even though it'll be 80+ degrees.



How do you talk at Auschwitz?

You don't.  Other than an "excuse me" when you bump into people, you stay silent.  There is something restricting your throat.



How do you take pictures at Auschwitz?

Very carefully.  No selfies, no snaps of areas that feel too personal, still somehow too vulnerable.  You say no to the man that wants you to take a picture of him in front of the gas chamber replica.  He's confused, thinks you don't know English, because he then tries to show you how to use a phone camera (you have an iPhone 7 in your hand).  You say no again and move on.



How do you cry at Auschwitz?

You don't.  The few times you tear up, someone near you cracks a joke or says something to their partner.  Another time.  You'll be back when it's winter and less people are around.  There's way too many people around to focus on the tragedy in front of you.



What is there left to say about Auschwitz?

Nothing, except we must never let it happen again.
Eastern Europe 2017: Days 1-13 (Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine)

Eastern Europe 2017: Days 1-13 (Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunset over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw


Day 1-2: Glasgow ---> Palanga, Lithuania

I only got one hour of sleep last night since I had to leave at 4am for the airport.  After going through security I used my leftover pounds to buy books in the WH Smith because I'm going to be on A LOT of long buses and train rides over the next 80 days.  I plan on just leaving them at whatever hostel I'm at when I finish them because I can definitely not lug around all these books forever.  My Osprey 30L is a good size for all of my essentials, but I'm going to have to buy a second bag to hold all the souvenirs I want to buy.  (That's alright though because I'm not going on any budget flights until I fly home.)

I'm only spending one night in Palanga because I REALLY want to get to Poland so tomorrow will be entirely spent on a bus!


Days 2-6: Warsaw, Poland

Spent most of this day on a bus.  Got to Warsaw around midnight.  Took a taxi to my hostel because it felt safer, but the taxi driver still tried to scam me.  The front desk worker at my hostel (Oki Doki Hostel) helped me talked to the taxi driver.  Even though it wasn't her fault at all, she gave me a little discount on my reservation and gave me a free breakfast token, which was really kind of her.

I did 4 different walking tours and they were all pretty quality.  I really enjoyed Warsaw, even though many people told me that they liked Krakow more.  I went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum (16 zloty for student ticket), which had a recreation of a sewer that you can walk through.
 The Museum of Polish Jews is free on Thursdays, but it was so informative I would've paid for it.  There aren't many artifacts; it's mainly just a visual history of Jewish people in Poland so prepare for lots of reading.

Chernobyl had a lot of creepy moments like this one

Days 7-11: Kiev

I was so close to missing my bus to Kiev it's not even funny.  I couldn't find the bus stop to take to the bus station and there was a traffic jam so I couldn't get a taxi.  I ran back to my hostel and when they told me again that bus 127 "is so easy to find" I started crying because I was STRESSED and no it was NOT easy (it was pretty simple to find I just wasn't thinking straight).  Once I got to the bus station it was 5 minutes til departure and I couldn't find anyone who spoke English so I wasn't even sure if I was on the right bus or not.  Thankfully I was, but there was a little voice in the back of my head worrying about it the entire way.

I like Kiev, I really do.  I was concerned at first when I arrived at the Central Bus Station at 7:35am since it's not in the nicest side of town, but once you get to Independence Square everything really lightens up.  It's crazy inexpensive in Ukraine: breakfast for less than $2, a huge dinner for $4.60, metro rides for 15 cents, and a ballet performance for $3.  It's going to be hard facing the prices everywhere else.

The highlight of my time in Kiev was definitely the day trip to Chernobyl.  A guy in my hostel was also going on the same tour as me so we got breakfast beforehand and arrived a tiny bit late.  This turned out for the best because we were put in the overflow van instead of on the big bus.  So we had a small 15-person tour compared to what could've been a 40+ person tour.

Days 11-13: Lviv

Lviv was very sweet and is very similar to Krakow (which is where I currently type this).  I'm glad I went to Kiev, but to save time and have an easier trip, you can skip Kiev and just go to Lviv.  There are a lot more English speakers in Lviv than Kiev, and it's actually a little bit cheaper.

I watched the sunset on the top of a hill with a girl that I met in Kiev and a really beefy Norwegian, so that was a good ending to my time in Ukraine.  I was very excited to get back to Poland though, to a country where I can actually understand the alphabet.

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