Two years ago, I would not have thought that my life would take me where I am now. I am nursing, not as a career, but as a volunteer, writing professionally and creatively, living in Honduras, speaking in Spanish more than English, and all together, living a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. Want to learn how to quit your own job and travel the world for a year while pursuing your dreams? Check out the first of a series of my articles on traveling the world for a year without a job at Endless Trek Magazine.
I recently was discussing with a friend in Copan the word culture and how we both thought it was often misused to make excuses for unacceptable treatment of women and children. Until she had brought it up, I didn’t realize that I myself had used it as an excuse in my writing and conversation. The word “machismo” could very easily be exchanged for the American idiom “boys will be boys,” both placing the unacceptable acts of men in the category of “culture.” When these words are used, somehow rape, domestic violence, and cheating become more acceptable because they are part of the “culture.”
I am frequently asked by friends and family, how can you live in Honduras where men treat women like they do? This question makes me upset when people ask it, and for some time, I did not understand why. I now see that the root of my irritation is that not so long ago America’s “culture” was one of female oppression, and the phrase “children should be seen and not heard” was used frequently to ignore the voices of the innocent.
It was strong people, that’s right, PEOPLE, not just women, who helped make the freedoms of women and children possible in the U.S. Americans seem to forget that this change only really happened in the last 100 years, and we lived in a similar world as women and children do here. While the unacceptable behaviours of men in Honduras are ignored on a regular basis, and that is termed machismo, I believe that way of thinking is changing, not just here, but in the world.
I see strong children and females all around me. I am reminded, that while many battles have been won, it is an on-going war to change the mindset of a world that has been primarily patriarchal, with women and children seen as possessions, not human beings of equal standing, for most of its history.
I look at the male children around me, and I ask myself where and how can they learn to be different than their fathers? How will they learn to be champions of women and children and call themselves feminists too? So often, I see men pushed to the side in the feminist movement, but they can be just as much a part of it and are necessary to it’s progress. They can show what true culture is.
By definition, culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” True culture is when people come together with all their knowledge, wisdom, experience, and history to create a statement of who they are as a people and what they have achieved together. As a cultural statement of the world, I hope someday at the base of all our achievements will be equality and respect.
Coming to Germany at three o’clock in the morning by car share and desperately tired, I thought it was time to treat myself to a little luxury, so I stayed four days in a hotel with a swimming pool and sauna. The first two days were divine in my private room. I only left the hotel to take a quick peek at the East Berlin Wall Gallery which was conveniently located across the street. The third day I decided to venture from my cozy bed and made up for my lack of tourist activities by visiting three museums in one day. I was impressed by the museum selection in Berlin. They have a whole island dedicated to them here. My last night was spent treating myself to an extravagant meal at the restaurant Gendarmerie, where the largest wood sculpture in the world resides. The warm lighting of the interior drew me in and made it stand out from the rest of the renowned Michelin restaurants lining the street. I made friends with the waiter while swapping observations about the other diners who I found entertaining to watch and ease-drop on while savoring my delicious meal.
After Berlin, I headed to Bad Soden-Salmünster to meet with a friend from high school I haven’t seen in ten years. I enjoyed this little town with its forest walks and morning snow, but most of all I loved feeling so part of a family. Her mother reminded me of my own making me new gluten-free creations every day. I went for morning runs with the dog, listened to her father’s jazz band, drank hot spiced wine at a Christmas market, cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, caught up over tea and chocolate, discovered a new favorite author, Kazuo Ishiguro, and went on road trip adventures to Frankfurt, Würzburg, Fulda and Heidelberg. They made me feel loved on my first birthday away from home, and it meant so much to me.
Dark Romanticism Exhibit at Städel Museum in Frankfurt
“The death of a beautiful woman is the most poetic topic in the world.”~Edger Allan Poe
“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.”~André Breton
“I fear neither witches nor poltergeists, ghosts, braggarts, giants, good-for-nothings, villains, etc. I fear no creature but one: Man.”~Francisco de Goya
Berlin Modern Art Museum
“People had lost all control and discipline, all concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ was gone. Of all the horrors of war, this was the most terrible: Since then I have feared nothing in this world quite so much as the bestiality of a wicked human being; no animal would behave in such a way.” ~Katherina Heinroth
Blind Power~Rudolf Schlichter
“With their nightmarish monsters, these pictures make us reel by confronting us so closely with the spurious foundations of our existence.”
Berlin Jewish Museum
Garden of Exile
“One feels a little bit sick walking through it. But it is accurate, because that is what perfect order feels like when you leave the history of Berlin.”~Daniel Libiskind
In the Garden of Exile, I felt an eery sense that no matter where I walked I would be in the same place, even though I knew there was an exit. I felt trapped with the appearance of being free. As I walked through the isles, I realized the view was always the same, a clear path with a wall at the end. I couldn’t escape the strict design. Despite the order of the rock garden, I always felt unbalanced as I was never able to stand up straight due to the tilted foundation. Olive willow tree tops peeked out from columns, but I could not enjoy them because they were too far away to properly observe. The sound of my boots on lonely stone pathways resonated emptiness and abandonment with traces of fear and mourning hanging heavy in the air.
As I look at the closing door and the darkness envelops me, my throat becomes tight, and I hold my breath. Letting go of the pain in my chest might make me lose that last bit of light which feels like hope. My eyes well up, but I hold back emotional response. I could be here for a long time, and I cannot lose it yet. I have to hold it together and think. So I move my paralyzed body, touching the cold wall to guide my blind fumbling. I see a small bit of light at a top corner of my cement prison. I walk towards it, and the space around me only narrows. Claustrophobia sets in, panic. What cruelty to leave some light but have it be impossible to reach. I feel betrayed. I want to scream, but I am afraid of what else might be in here. I frantically follow the wall to the other side and come back to where I began. I realize attempts at exit are futile, so I squat with my back to the wall trying not to cry, holding myself so I don’t feel so alone, so I feel protected against the unknown. I comfort myself with memories of what it feels to be in the light, and I calm down remembering this is not my reality. That I can return to the warmth if I choose to step out the door, but horrified knowing so many never did again. That they died like this.
Axis of Continuity
I grow weary as I climb these stairs, but I push my tired body to keep going up. When I reach the top and look back, I see the lattice-work, the intricate bindings. The struggles that make us stronger. I can relax knowing it is all part of a greater plan. The interweaving of a blanket. A door opens into warmth. How apt there is a tree in the center with wishes of children hanging from it. Always a tree remains to remind us beauty and peace exist, that hope is just around the corner if we can open our hearts to change.
“I wish we could all live in peace, love, not war, no hate, just for everyone to be at one.”~Anonymous
In the Natural History Museum of Berlin, I wandered through a gallery of rocks. The ones that go bling bling and sparkle in the light. As a young teen, I read a book about a girl who had lapis lazuli eyes that drew men in much like the sirens lured ships in, only to be crushed along the rocks. The thought of such deep blue eyes and feminine power has always intrigued me, and I felt mesmerized by the lapis lazuli stones amongst the collection. Note to self: There is no need to wait for someone to buy you nice jewelery; I am going to buy myself a ring when I get home…a lapis lazuli ring.
Gaia Hypothesis: Earth is a self-regulating super organism.
Tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton: Brachiosaurus brancai, 13.27 m (43 f 6 in.) high, 150 million years old
I hurt for Germany and its Berlin Wall, its Holocaust museums and memorials, constant reminders that their past is full of war and cruelty. How can they move on under such scrutiny? The guilt must be like the weight of an elephant on someone’s chest. This mural says it all. Tourists come to Berlin to see the wall that split the country, not necessarily the art and history museums or amazing nightlife and culture that make Berlin so special. Looking back on past evils in history, will people stop making the same mistakes, or are we doomed to repeat history again? Maybe we need to be reminded daily of our cruelties because we so easily forget them. Or does the constant reminder only make us indifferent? Do future generations deserve to be marked with a scarlet letter because of the faults of their ancestors?
“We are all part of a chain. Puzzle pieces that create a picture. Everyone has a role. You don’t need to be educated to be important. If you do what you love, what does it matter? If you can improve, that is good. If you want to be the best at making soup and have a college degree, make soup.” ~ Words of wisdom from a man at YAAM (Young African Art Market) sitting around a metal barrel of fire, reggae in the background, surrounded by graffiti art…a little Jamaican Berlin Oasis.
Berlin screams consumerism and postures power.
Staring at the remains of the Berlin Wall with trees growing up and around it, I again sense that the trees will outlive us humans and our wars. They will make the ugly things we create dissolve and disintegrate as though we never existed.