A short walk through history

Nearly every minute of my walk to the grocery store encounters a reminder of Germany’s dark past.

Not long after I leave my home, I pass these three “Stolpersteines” (German for stumbling stones) memorializing a family deported to separate concentration camps under the Nazi regime.

For the past 20 years, artist Gunter Demnig has crafted and placed these small memorials outside the last known address for victims of the Nazis reign.

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Seven weeks until the German Elections!

Willkommen von Deutschland! So, it’s been a little harder to keep up with this blog than I anticipated—as well as with what is happening politically in the United States. Seems I wake up every morning to a dozen push alerts and messages from friends. (Though, I’m glad I might have health insurance when I return home! It was weird to watch that vote over breakfast.)

Plus, I’m in language school 8 hours a day. Which is fun…but…a lot.

I want this blog to be a “value add” so I think I’m going to just post here when I see something that I think might be of interest. That said–the German Parliamentary Election (or Bundeswahl 2017) season officially kicked off this weekend and I thought people might enjoy hearing how quaint it is. It lasts seven weeks.

Yes. Seven weeks.

Over the weekend, campaign posters popped up around Germany and in my neighborhood.

They’re so…tame….and issue focused.

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Paris Agreement: Changing what we can

As I’ve aged, I’ve really started to love hiking. There’s something about wandering through nature with a friend, cut off from technology and surrounded by all of Mother Nature’s glory that just centers you.

It seems fitting that a year ago today I was spending a carefree June day hiking to the Kjenndal Glacier in Norway. I can still feel the crisp air that surrounded me as the sun shone in such a way that every drop of water and blade of grass seemed in technicolor.

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What to think about the airstrikes in Syria

Just more than 12 hours after I published my post about WWI and Syria, President Trump launched an air strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria. There is certainly no shortage of hot or bad takes on social media right now about whether that was a logical decision.

I’m not an expert, nor am I confident in what the right decision is regarding Syria. I’m a little unsettled that this administration changed course in a 12-hour period. However, the Syrian people have been waiting for years for someone, anyone, to help end the conflict.

I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head right now so here’s a rundown of them by hot take topics on social media:

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Reflecting on Syria on the anniversary of WWI

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I. To Europe, this is a significant day because it marks when the U.S. abandoned its longstanding isolationist position and began what Europe perceives as the United States’ modern transatlantic relationship with European nations.

Liberty Memorial-The National WWI Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.

While I was traveling in Brussels last week, I constantly heard about the anniversary and its importance to the relationship. There will be an anniversary celebration in my hometown of Kansas City at the National World War I monument today. You can watch it live here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reflecting on that history, the Trump administration’s current foreign policy (especially in light of recent events in Syria), and my travel experiences in Brussels.

It’s always interesting to travel abroad and hear another perspective about your country. We had a lot of conversations about why American audiences don’t keep up with foreign current events until it actually affects America.

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Brussels: One year later

Memorial at the entrance of the Brussels Airport

My trip to Brussels ended over the weekend and I am back in D.C. now. It was quite an experience and I am so grateful for the chance to learn more about the EU, as well as get so many foreign policy briefings and observe the historic exercise.

Along with being in Brussels during British Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic triggering of Article 50 to begin Britain’s exit from the European Union, I was also in Brussels during the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Brussels airport and metro.

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Welcome to Brussels: An introduction to the European Union

Hello and Greetings from Brussels, Belgium, the home of the European Union!

I’m here on a tour sponsored by the European Union Delegation to the United States for graduate students in journalism to learn more about what it does and its relations with the United States. It has already been a fascinating trip and we’re only on day one. I would like to share with you some of my reflections from this trip so far. (Note: I want to point out these thoughts that I share are my personal reflections and not necessarily those of the EU.)

American and EU flag pin

It’s an interesting time to be visiting the EU as Britain is trying to exit the European Union. Meanwhile, Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Romewhich established an economic community between six member countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This economic partnership set the ground work for what developed into the European Union which now consists of 28 member countries — soon to be 27 when the UK “Brexits” (British exit).

Britain’s vote to leave the EU has left many pundits speculating about the future of the organization. But it seems European Council President Donald Tusk’s speech in Rome this weekend commemorating the anniversary has helped calm some nerves.

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The unexpected gift

When the box showed up at my desk with a return address from Mexico, I was nervous. Should I open this? Just a month earlier, the floor above ours was shut down after someone sent an anthrax threat to a group with ties to a certain presidential candidate’s family charity.

Would it be safe to open it?

I hesitated. I didn’t recognize the name on the return address for the rather large box. It wasn’t suspicious in any way—just was unexpected. I think I told my coworkers to call 911 if anything went wrong as I cut open the box.

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The more you know: Immigration executive orders, Consular Affairs and visas

Yesterday morning, the Trump administration introduced a new executive order (to replace the previous one) addressing visa applicants from (now) six countries. Not long after, I walked into my Diplomatic Practice class and learned we were having a guest speaker: Ambassador Michelle Bond, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.

Man, living in D.C. is weird sometimes when certain people cross your path at the right moment.

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What’s the big deal about NATO?

Much like the ignorant arguments about vaccines, I worry some of the great progress achieved by our grandparents following World War II may come undone due to its own success. I fear many take for granted the political structures and alliances in place that have allowed the United States to achieve security and prosperity.

Exhausted by two world wars, the “Greatest Generation” established the United States-led world order through diplomacy by setting up alliances designed to deter war. Rhetoric from the president-elect over the weekend has many experts in the field of international affairs concerned one of their greatest achievements may be at risk: NATO.

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