Almost Paradise

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When you think of paradise, what do you picture? Sandy beaches with coconut palms waving in the breeze? Peaceful, clear water that looks as though it’s made of glass? That’s usually what I picture, but on Thursday I think I changed my mind. I think paradise looks more like this:

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and this

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and this

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To me, paradise is 140 American 7th graders, gathered together at Ground Zero in Hiroshima, Japan 70 years after the United States annihilated the city. I know this may sound odd because to most people, the thought of 140 7th graders anywhere at any time conjures images of panic and pre-teen chaos. Images of Hiroshima City following the bomb drop are heartbreaking, sickening. But to me, this image of young kids learning about and paying tribute to those who lost their lives in an unthinkable tragedy, is beautiful. To me, that’s paradise.

Let me give you some background:

In class we’ve been studying the Pacific War and I’ve asked kids questions like; Can war be justified? How does war effect people? What are the long term consequences of war? etc. We’ve studied strategy, survivor stories, the science behind the Atomic Bomb, and Hiroshima’s heroic desire to become a symbol of world peace. Then, we took the kids to see the city firsthand. To hear the stories, see the remnants,  and feel the magnitude of the event. They felt it. My amazing thirteens listened to the lost and they felt it: an overwhelming sense of the need for peace.

If you haven’t visited the Peace Park, Museum, or Victims Memorial it’s worth a visit. Hiroshima is a beautiful city with meandering rivers and parks. Peaceful gatherings of friends and families can be seen strolling past Hiroshima Dome, pondering the past, looking toward the future. It’s hard to believe that in my aunt’s lifetime, this stunning jewel of a city was a place of horror and indescribable inhumanity.  That’s what makes Hiroshima so remarkable. Rather than harbor anger and hatred, Hiroshima retaliated with a desire to be a symbol of peace and to bring an end to nuclear warfare.

Hiroshima is such a powerful reminder of the wreckless remnants of war and the overwhelming need for world compassion that when I snapped the photo of 140 13-year-olds in that remarkable place, I felt a sense of peace.

It really is paradise.

To learn more about Hiroshima City, please visit http://visithiroshima.net/world_heritage/a-bomb_dome.html

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I love everything about baseball: The silent anticipation before each pitch. The smell of peanut shells being crushed under beer soaked hiking sandals. The crack of the bat as the pinch hitter poles a long one into deep left.  Take Me Out To the Ballgame being softly chanted during the 7th inning stretch as young and old enjoy watching bloopers on the jumbo screen. The taste of a juicy hot-dog with just the right mix of green relish, spicy mustard, and sweet ketchup. The roar of the crowd at the double play in the top of the 8th to clinch a close win. Baseball players filling out their uniforms as only a baseball player can… I love it all.

Never one to claim to know “everything about baseball,” but someone who grew up with a super fan father, I felt confident in my abilities to follow the Japanese version of America’s Favorite Pastime. And I was right. Kind of.

The game of Japanese baseball is identical to it’s American parent, but the fan experience is something different entirely. There are cute baseball players of course, but there also cute cheerleaders (yes, cheerleaders). And cute cartoon bird mascots. Tiny, cute little mini-umbrellas opened only when a run is scored. Cute babies wrapped in cute hats shaped like cute baseballs and cute birds and cute cats and cute fish. Cute little tiny baseball bats that you bang together when something exciting happens on the field. Cute bento-boxes full of cute sushi rolls. Cute chairs not suitable for my cute American sized backside. It’s a lot of cute.

But it isn’t the cute that sets this experience apart. It’s the symphonious chanting: “Every time try! Every time try!”  The pep-band playing peppy jingles that everyone knows by heart. Stands of people singing in unison celebrating base-hits, caught fly balls, stolen bases, base runs, line-drives. You name it, they celebrate it. I’ve never been to the championship football game between two big 10 colleges, but I can’t image anything being more raucous than this. It’s intoxicating.

I’ve never had more fun not watching a baseball game in my entire life. I have no idea what the final score was, but I know the home-team lost by a significant margin. And it wasn’t because I glanced at the score-board, it was because all the cacophonous joy that was being had, was had by the opposing team’s fans.

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Melting Pot

Barcelona, Spain. International Airport. 3:05 p.m.

Standing at baggage claim, awaiting my adventure in this new country and looking forward to practicing some rudimentary Spanish that I kind of remember from high school, and as soon as I think it I find myself in this conversation:

[Enter, oldish man wearing no front teeth, chapped lips, and a blue blazer. He shuffles toward Andrea, standing at the baggage belt. And says…]

“No puedo encontrar mi equipaje.”

[No response]

“No puedo encontrar mi equipaje.”

[Startled] “Oh, um, me? Um…siento, hablo sólo un pequeño español.”

[Pause]

“No puedo encontrar mi equipaje!”

“Again, um, otra sir, no entiendo. Lo siento.”

[pause]

“Usted no es de España?”

“Nope.”

[pause]

[Louder] “No puedo encontrar mi equipaje!”

[To self] “Equipaje? What the hell does that mean?”

“Um, bags? Las bolsas están aquí.”

[Gestures to baggage belt directly in front of them.]

“No, no, usted no entiende.”  [Slower and louder] “¿Dónde está mi equipaje?”

“Oh, you don’t know where your bags are? Um…”

[Points to the arrivals screen.]

“Qué aerolínea? Did you fly? Where? Donde?”

“Nueva York”

“Claro. Belt tres.”

“Gracias señora. Buenas dias.”

[Man shuffles off. Andrea is left at baggage claim flustered, but smiling.]

Conversations like this happen quite frequently when I travel to Europe. In Turkey I was asked questions in Turkish, in Greece in Greek, even in New York I’ve been approached in Italian and Spanish. I guess I look Turkish, or Greek, or Spanish, or Italian. Is it my olive skin? My brown eyes? My chestnut hair? Could be.  The truth is my cultural heritage is a mix of Scottish, English and German. My family’s theory is that when the Romans conquered the British Isles during the Roman Empire, some burly Roman soldier found a Scottish milk-maid he fancied and made his love “official,”  thus securing my future as a melting pot person. I like it actually. I’m proud to be an American of diverse cultural heritage.

I wonder if I’ll be mistaken for Japanese on Thursday?

Glass You Made It

My parents took my brother and I to the Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens. It was beautiful a beautiful day with my beautiful family.

Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens
Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens
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Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens
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Reflection @ Denver Botanic Gardens

 

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Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens

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Dale Chihuly @ Botanic Gardens
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Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens

 

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Dale Chihuly @ Denver Botanic Gardens