Social Studies Galour!

I thought the Ballinstadt Museum of Emigration in Hamburg was amazing. Listening, reading and viewing the stories of some of the 33 Million Europeans fleeing or emigrating to the “New Land” was powerful. I didn’t know that the Jews were already persecuted in the late 1800’s in Russia and left for a new land of hope. My mother had also used this shipping company to travel to the USA at the age of 19. She was going to visit her brother who had moved to Michigan with the promise of finding employment and did. He was homesick. She never did return to Germany as a resident after that voyage. Now that we are ready to leave Berlin, I am truly in awe at all the history we have experienced here with the wealth of artifacts and quality museums that survived multiple conflicts. Amazing!
• First of all, using an efficient Subway system built in the early 1900’s.
• Walking through ancient history at the Pergamon Museum and Neues Museum and walking on a lifesize reconstructed alter of an ancient Greek city that honoured all the Greek gods and goddesses.
• Walking through the gates of the City of Babylon built in selected pure blue bricks by King Nebuchadnezzar II in 600 BC
• Touching a 700 BC palace wall that was destroyed by an earthquake south of Amman, Jordan
• Viewing the original burial bust of Queen Nefentiti from Egypt
• Checkpoint Charles Museum highlighting stories of brave individuals that reversed the East and West segregation
• Walking through 2711 concrete stelaes monument built on the `death strip` of the fallen Berlin Wall Security area as a Memorial to the Murdered European Jews
• Open air – free- Topagraphy of Terror- Gestoppo, Nazi and Reicht Propoganda Display 1933-1945
• Having German Kaffee and Torte in the most beautiful McDonalds I have ever been in (see picts on Facebook)
• Eating pizza at the 12 Apostles Pizzeria – recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook series. We enjoyed the Paulo and Magdelene pizza mit Rocket (that means lettuce!) Unfortunately drinks are almost as expensive as the food, beer being the cheapest. Ordering tap water isn`t very acceptable!

As for the family, today was not one of our best family days. We were rather dysfunctional: poor communication, `are you really catching my point` intense conversations, opinions shared, poor choices made, TO… taking a REALLY long time to get out of the apartment! Frustrations from all angles! I realize this could potentially happen since being together for 24-7 could bring all of that on and it did today. The thought of quitting the trip early definitely crossed my mind. BUT, pressing forward is the only and best solution. Take a deep breath and go back to what the agenda was going to be for the now, shortened day and do it anyway! Conclusion: we operate much better when we are out and about and NOT `hanging` around our apartment too long. There is too much chance to opening up never-ending issues due to idle time. Distractions are good and have a place. As difficult as it is in the thick of it, it does get better once the scenery is changed and the hope for a better tomorrow is always there! Ha.. same as it is at home!
Tomorrow we will make an early start (we better this time) and jump on a train to Prague. Next SS treasure is the Museum of Communism.
PS Thanks for all your encouraging emails and comments on facebook. It sure allows our `real` life not feel so far away! A good thing.

The Warmth of Family

It is amazing to think that words like cousins, aunts and uncles mean so much. For most of my life I have not had any cousins, aunt/uncles or grandparents living in the same community never mind the same country. And when you meet these people connected to you by blood it is different than meeting kind folk, a feeling I have not often felt in my life because of not living in Germany or Holland. Instantly you are ‘special’ and there is a genuine excitement that you are going to be spending time with them. “Like” doesn’t need to be earned, only practiced. It was there before you even got there.

My cousin mentioned during our first days in Copenhagen that the family in Germany are all very excited to meet you all. At first my reaction was “Why?” Now that I am a sitting on a train heading to Berlin with all the memories of the last 10 days it all makes sense. My aunt touring us for the last week in Denmark and Oldenburg with daily enthusiasm and patience, my cousin opening up his flat for us to invade for 4 days, touring homes of my other cousins taking time to share details of their decisions and choices, coffee times, special meal preparation times, a large family BBQ get together and all the conversations that are filled with questions about who we are and what we are about. I will cherish this family feeling.

Looking back we have seen and done many interesting things. My photos albums of Copenhagen, the afternoon in Sweden, Oldenburg, Handsapark, Hamburg and family are posted on facebook. Another new item in my life. I understand now how this social networking has been successful. It is great to communicate in easy way through viewing, liking and commenting. A connection to home.

First impressions are powerful and Copenhagen was that. Our first European city but a wonderful one to begin with. I felt comfortable and safe there. Overall people seemed at ease with no desire to want to cause any harm or discomfort for any reason. The vast majority of people were attractive, fit and trim and took good care of themselves. I don’t think I have ever seen that in any city before. Biking to and from work, social gatherings and errands is common. Thus, the fit and at ease community breathing in all that fresh air with daily exercise. I would love to return there again and stay longer. Cost of living was definitely more expensive. An average coffee was $4 from 7-11 or a street corner. The atmosphere, scenic buildings and variety of activities is magnetic.

Top things we did in Copenhagen: #1 rent bikes #2 eat at Ny Haven #3 talk through the Christiana area #4 Climbing the stairs up to the top of the Christ our Saviour Baroque Church.

I will look back at Oldenburg as a relaxing place by the Baltic Sea with beautiful brick vintage houses and warm memories with family. Hamburg has a mixture of old and new with an extensive harbour and historic building reclaimed for modern purposes. Food is amazing. When crossing from Denmark to Germany the people climate changed quickly, it was evident that Germany people have wonderful food that is hard to resist. We have enjoyed a lot of it.

Twelve Personal Commandments

Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project: Or Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun; Collins 2009) created her list of Twelve Personal Commandments that helped her focus during her year of learning and writing. The exercise is a way to instil your values into your daily living.  You can find her personal commandments at

I am starting my list and will adjust and practice as I go:

1. Take time to touch and appreciate your loved ones daily.

2. Meditate – daily.

3. Each day is new, yesterday is done-let it go and work with what is here.

4. Live intentionally.

5. Ask good questions of yourself and surroundings.

6. Do good.

7. Be kind.

8. Be happy – everyone with you will feel successful.

9. Appreciate health and energy by making the most of it.

10. Exercise my  reason and purpose of life: to show love.

11. Never take what I have for granted.

12. Weed out the unnecessary.


PS  Would love to hear your list, partial or whole. 

Countdown is on!

When people have asked about taking this trip I’ve said, “It’s time to shake things up a bit!” and that pretty much sums it up. It is time to shake things up and break from our hamster wheel life. It seems we are being run ‘by life’ and losing sight of ‘intentional living’ (thanks Elizabeth for your words on this one Sunday morning in June). It is time to step back, do something different, learn new insights and live simply. All we need is a backpack for our essential belongings, food, lodging and each other to experience people, places and the world. Don’t get me wrong, my intention is not to reject my life, I want to change my life without changing my life by finding more happiness and making it better. I’m looking forward to a new breath of air.
Years ago when I was working with a MECY team creating the new Social Studies Manitoba Curriculum and this write up by Michael Angier was used in our presentations to educators. Thanks LM for this. My favorite is the last line.
by Michael Angier

Let’s face it. It’s easier to go along with the crowd than be a maverick. It’s easier to blend in than stand out. It’s less stressful and causes fewer problems.

But only in the short run.

To really make a difference in the workplace we have to be able to confront the tough issues. We have to be able to set boundaries and challenge the common wisdom — or lack thereof.

Sure, you can keep your head down, avoid conflict, play safe and try to be invisible, but that’s no way to create breakthroughs. The question is, do you want to be effective or at the effect of everything else?

Caution: Do not take this advice and become abrasive, obnoxious or combative. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What I AM talking about is learning how to stand up for yourself and your cause(s). Take a stand, but do it with dignity and professionalism. Far too many people think the only way to get things done is to run rough-shod over others. They think they need to be intimidating to accomplish anything.

This is simply not true.

I love something that Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” He certainly proved that to be true.

But he didn’t liberate India from the powerful English Empire by being a milquetoast, either. He was able to confront effectively, and most of the time, without force or violence.

Where are you hiding out and playing it safe? What do you feel strongly about but are doing nothing about it? This is your life. Are you in the game or are you on the sidelines?

One of the most effective ways to confront issues and individuals is to ask questions. But be careful about this. Eighty percent of all questions are merely statements in disguise. They’re used to manipulate and often intimidate.

The key is to tell your truth with compassion. And the more you do it the better you get at it. Yes, there will be times when people will not like what you say. They may even get upset. But if you’re respectively making your case with compassion and understanding, you will begin to affect positive change.

You’re not obliged to make everyone comfortable. You’re paid to impact the world — not be impacted by it. To do that, you need to be able to address inequities, set boundaries, share your ideas and pursue your passion.

The way I see it, you can create breakthroughs or you can be broken down by the system. There’s not much middle ground. I’d rather be accused of coming on too strong than being irrelevant.

Go ahead. Shake things up a bit. Not just to make waves but to make things better.

More info about Michael Angier can be found at