Contextualizing the World We Know

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As I reflect on my European travels coming to an end, I feel infinitely grateful for all of the traveling I have been able to do as well as well as all that I have learned. Each experience this semester, whether with friends or while traveling a foreign country, has inspired me in different ways while simultaneously working in tandem with one another, helping me to understand the world and myself better.

Since writing my last post, I have left Ireland to travel to Morocco and Poland.  Both experiences were completely different, yet I have found a common thread in the ways that they have helped me to contextualize the world we live in.

Morocco is a place whose people, food, energy, culture and views hold the capacity to make anybody fall in love.

What’d I tell you about the food?!
S/O to Hamid for watching the moon set with me!! Also, for teaching me to sand-board down desert dunes!
Perfect sun-rise after a night under the stars!
Name something more beautiful!

Seldom can I remember a moment when I have been as happy as I was each moment during my five days in Morocco. I truly felt as though I could have dropped all of my future plans to live in any one of the small towns we visited and/or the desert for years to come. Though I am not moving there anytime soon, I am grateful for the ways the country opened my mind, and allowed me to interact with and learn about a very different part of the world.

A donkey on a farm in Ouarzazate, a small valley town beneath the Atlas Mountains. During the wet season, the Muslim and Jewish people in the community work together to collect water for the next six months to be used in irrigation for farming. All of the water is collected in canals from the snow and rain that drips down from the mountains.
Taken in Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou. The Berber people who still live here work hard to maintain traditional practices that orient around sustainability. They were very bothered when the government built a bridge crossing the river that floods during the winter since traditionally they use donkeys to cross.
Our tour guide pointing to the small community. He explained that both Jewish and Muslim people live in the community, and live in complete harmony. He later explained that his outfit is made out of indigo and will maintain its dark blue color regardless of how often it is soaked.
One of the men we stayed with in the desert. The pride he shared of his home, his excitement to share his desert with us and his openness to singing/chanting in accordance to his feelings warmed my heart.


A picture showing houses made of the Atlas Mountains. If only the Western world could go back to the good ole days when we worked with our environment and understood our dependence on it 🙁
The Berber camp we slept at while in the Sahara desert!
A couple from Amsterdam, a couple from Spain, a family from Brazil, a couple from Italy, and a solo traveler from Germany, two solo travelers from Canada and two Holy Cross students! A trip is only completed with good company!! So thankful to have enjoyed the company of and learned from this VERY international group!

Poland, a place with an utterly tragic history, allowed me to confront the oppression that has and continues to darken our world. It further offered me the chance to contextualize Europe’s history while considering how that history still shapes the world today. I also learned that contrary to my preconceptions about the country, and aware of the role that my own privileges play, Poland has more to offer than the brutalities of Auschwitz or the anti-immigrant rallies that occupy the news today.

Having traveled alone, I enjoyed the young energy I found in Krakow during a pub crawl. I also loved the walking tours that gave me insight into Poland’s past and present cultures. I left understanding that had it not been for the oppression afflicted upon the Poles by the Germans and Russians, it would be a very diverse country, rather than the most homogenous country in the EU. In fact, up until WW2, Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, as they were the ones inviting Jews to their country when antisemitism  spread in Western Europe (starting in the 14th century).

Taken at the front gate of Auschwitz. Arbeit macht frei: work sets you free.
I originally hated that the sun was present in this photo since it does not match the mood of this awful place. After reading Night by Elie Wiesel, where he metaphorically compares the concentration camp to one long, completely dark night, where even God is not present, I came to appreciate it as symbolic to the theme of his book. I think this not in an effort to rationalize a place which holds a history so brutal I will never be able to conceptualize it, but more as a reminder that this light was not always present on these gates, or more broadly, in this country.
The ghetto wall from WW2 in Krakow. Right up until the 1939, Jews and Christians lived in harmony, and were each other’s coworkers, neighbors and friends. Germans put them against each other by forcing Christians to murder Jews, then photographing the killers with the dead bodies and using the pictures to spread propaganda… a good way to fuel hate, huh? They then isolated the Jews into ghettos, such as the one this wall surrounds where they were forced to live and work in awful conditions.
After the ghetto liquidation in 1942, all Christians found in buildings were chairs. This memorial represents the only thing left of Jews in Krakow that year.
A picture from a museum in Wroclaw showing the Orange Alternative’s movement where dwarfs were used to mock the communist, Russian authorities. Imagine how humorous it would have been for the Russians to arrest somebody simply for carrying around a dwarf!
Today, dwarves are scattered around the city. This dwarf in jail was one of my personal favorites!!
An orphanage where women can leave their unwanted babies in the window during night. This is a response to the strict abortion laws currently present in Poland.
The Christmas market in Wroclaw. Would you believe that prior to WWII, there would have been an equally large Jewish market this time of year? Today, Poland is the most homogeneous country in the EU, so only Christmas markets are present.
Mulled wine is my favorite thing about Christmas abroad!
Poland has EXCEPTIONAL food!
My new favorite food!! Best part is that these dumplings are available on every other street vendor during the Christmas season!
A mural from the underdeveloped part of Wroclaw painted during the communist era just 30 years ago. Pigs and red… think anti-communism!
A more recent mural representing the fact that people are willing to give up their basic values for the sake of safety. Given the fact that this is the first time in 200 years that things are well for Poland, one can understand why they might be quick to give up their basic morals for safety.
This mural reads: “if you love your kids, don’t burn garbage in heating systems”. It’s in reference to the fact that Wroclaw has very high rates of pollution… some days it is worse than Beijing! The EU is working on development projects to clean the city up and also initiate job growth.
A protest advocating for animal rights; merely 30 years ago, this would have been illegal!
This tree installation demonstrates the tension between city life and nature in Poland. The city is working on finding a proper balance, putting significant effort into revitalizing the nature that has been destroyed by cities. I saw this here, as well as in murals and in several art exhibits across the city.

In terms of my public health major, it is fair to say that other than my courses themselves, little has provided me with textbook material about health. That said, as a friend once told me “don’t let school get in the way of learning”. In light of these words, which are equally as funny as they are wise, it is fair to say that each experience while traveling has provided me with the context needed to understand different governments as well as the race, class and gender norms on a broad level that affect public health every day.

Beyond this, my experiences have also instigated genuine curiosity, leading me to read and research far more than before. It is fair to say that traveling in correlation with my classes, free-reading, socializing with strangers, learning to enjoy my own company, spending time with friends all in compliment to the lessons from Holy Cross has allowed this semester to be truly transformative.

I have 8 days left in Ireland before I head home! There is simply not enough space in this post to gloat about Cork and Ireland and about the time spent with new/old friends, but for those interested, stay tuned!

I fit as many pictures/videos of Morocco below as I deemed appropriate; enjoy!

Art made out of indigo, green tea, sugar and saphrine. They burn it, and no matter how much water is spilled, the colors will never fade. Yes, I bought one!
HAHA! A dog trying to get the chicken locked into the basket!
I know you’re a stray and could be sick, but you’re just soooooo cute!!!

Me (with yellow head scarf) and another tourist dancing with Berber men after being politely taken from our dinner tables!! 10/10 recommend. 

Given to me by a little boy named Mohammad after we traded his European and American currency for my Moroccan currency.

Tea with a Berber family, and an introduction to the rugs they made by hand. 

Joe and I pre-desert… head scarves are used to be socially appropriate and also as added sun/wind/cold protection in the desert. During the winter, it’s hot during the day, and very cold at night! During the summer, the sun is constantly causing blistering heat, but there are also severe wind storms.

The camel trek on our way to the Berber tent, where we would stay for the night! 

S/O to my new friends for sand-boarding with me down the desert dunes!
From our camel trek to the Berber tent!
Having myself a time!
His name is Bob Marley…. no I did not just make that up #one #love
Bob, we’re going to take a picture, and it’s going to be fun… look like you’re having fun!

The camel trek back in the morning!! Yes, I was talking to the camels, don’t hate, #one #love.

A picture from the evening after our desert tour, when my new friends and I met up for an afternoon of bargaining and food in Marrakesh!
If you look closely, you will see monkeys on these men’s shoulders! Beware… they will charge you if they catch you taking a picture. Also beware of the fact that they will put these animals on you and refuse to take them off unless you pay! But who doesn’t enjoy some good haggling?!
Pro-tip… walk with your video recorder underneath your scarf… you’ll capture it all without being charged!


Even more exciting is the snakes that will be wrapped around you if you do not pay attention!! Is it worth letting your guard down and allowing snakes to be wrapped around you for the sake of a clearer pic and to support the tourist industry?!
A Berber street market… check out all of the spices as well as the dead shark!
A second shot of a Berber street market!
If you know me at all, you know donkeys are my favorite!! Be my friend, pleaseeeeee!
A picture of Marrakesh with its two mosques and the sun setting! A perfect last night!
The view of Marrakesh as I enjoyed a glass of wine with my new friends and before I enjoyed two precious hours of sleep before leaving for the airport! Experiences > sleep!