Warsaw 1: Reflections and Photos

Warsaw was a long time ago relative to the length of the program and how long we have stayed at our next stop. Due to the demands of the program and the levels of exhaustion that accompany them, my communication in all forms has been broken and very tiring.

With that in mind, I’ve included some photos of our short stay in Warsaw with a few thoughts about the experience so far that came up during our time in the old, demolished, and rebuilt city.

On our way!


Warsaw looks older than it is due to the efforts undertaken to rebuild it to its (mostly) former self prior to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, where the city was mostly leveled to rubble. The architecture is beautiful and while deeply connected to its past, does not exclaim that it is built on an incredibly tragic history.


I have not been to a medieval-era part of the world before! It was exciting to see evidence of an era that did not exist for my own homeland.


A “waiting room” inside the Gestapo interrogation and torture “prison.”
A room that would often be crowded with up to 20 individuals, despite its construction being intended for 2 -3 individuals.




I found a vegan Polish bistro where I was able to try some of the greatest vegan pirogies I could ever imagine tasting! I didn’t know that dessert pirogies existed!

I think that visiting the Gestapo “prison” and the Pawiak Prison had the most impact on me while in Warsaw. I saw and walked through spaces where hundreds and thousands of individuals perished for no justifiable reason. I read postcards written in the last moments of one’s life and heard translated readings of illicit letters that were recovered, intended for loved ones. What was very striking oftentimes were the items created within the prisons by prisoners – chess sets made out of hygiene products and writing material, which were certainly illegal but gave a sense of normalcy and direction in chaotic and unpredictable circumstances.

Learning about Yiddish literature and culture was also fascinating – our lecturer was amazing and really conveyed a lot of passion for her area of expertise! It was very sad to learn about how much Yiddish the world lost through World War II, but I feel lucky to have learned about it from someone who cares deeply for it.

It is remarkable the work that has been done by scholars and other professionals to delve into specific facets of World War II and the Holocaust, as well as by others who have studied Poland’s history, and the effective ways that they share their knowledge with all of us Canadian students. It is a true privilege to be learning in the physical spaces in which the content of our studies transpired.

Poland: Warsaw I

It’s been three days of content for the course and as I write this we are preparing for a travel day that will be wrapped up with a seminar in Auschwitz, our next destination and residence for 12 days.

The city of Warsaw is beautiful, and it is difficult to comprehend how much of it has been destroyed and rebuilt when you look at the style of the buildings and the composition of the streets and towns. Some of them look very classic while others are more modern. We started our learning in Warsaw inside the Jewish Historical Institute, which is one of the only buildings that in part survived the Warsaw Uprising destruction. Burned portions of the floor in the entrance hall remain visible and a part of what the institute stands for.

While in Warsaw, we are staying in Pokoje Goscinne Zwiazku Metalowcow – a place that definitely struck us as decent-but-not-great upon our arrival. However, we received a small lecture and saw a documentary about the building, and learned that it was a part of a bigger story of Hotel Polski, a story that isn’t clear on where the “good” and the “bad” people are, and who ran it (despite the article’s position). This certainly increased my appreciation of the space! I do still itch quite a bit, but that’s okay.

We have aleady visited multiple sites, as Warsaw is an epicenter of Holocaust activity. We have visited Szucha Gestapo Prison (an interrogation and torture chamber), Muzeum Więzienia Pawiak (a prison where mostly Jewish individuals were held captive and where death was usually imminent, and the Polin Muzeum (where we received a special-guest curatorial tour of the Holocaust portion of the exhibit from Jacek Leociak). There have also been a handful of walking tours to acquaint us with everyday aspects of the city (such as where to get food, drinks, and produce) as well as historical aspects of the city to help us understand where we are situated and what has occurred in the space.

I will update with photos and more details on my experience later on! For now, as usual, we are on the move and are all feeling quite tired but ready for more learning.

Poland: Before (Good-byes and Panic)

Allegedly I am going to Europe tomorrow.

In the autumn, on a bit of a whim, I applied to a unique opportunity to study the Holocaust through a psychological lens. The application was free to submit and required some commitment to fill out but not so much that I felt obligated to go if given the opportunity. As a risk-averse individual with no noteworthy travel experience or history studies under my belt, I became a little more nervous when offered an interview for the course. I learned how intensive and challenging it might be, but also many inspiring aspects of it that would ensure it was a memorable and worthwhile experience. However, as a graduated student outside of the program’s scope by a year I was not certain I would receive an offer. After a great delay, I was told I would have to submit an appeal; I submitted the appeal and waited a bit longer.

Then the offer came.

I will not lie to you, reader friend, I cried. Not from joy, but from the sudden onset of fear that resulted from my general anxiety around decision-making and the weight that seemed to come with this particular decision. Days passed, but within hours of the allotted time to do so, I submitted my acceptance documents and pushed the reality of travelling to Poland to study a topic I knew little about from my mind.

In the last month and a half, wrap-up for my work and the dispersal of beloved colleagues commenced. I had by now been able to ask questions about the course and had physical evidence of the fact that I was going (currency, a bus ticket, and a gift for experts abroad); however, the distractions that come with saying good-bye and packing up one’s apartment allowed me to deny reality for just a bit longer.

Cue: Monday morning. It’s go time.

Goal: Move out by Saturday evening whilst managing to gain closure with team.

Tasks: Pack up entire apartment; mentally prepare for flying to Poland on Sundayfeel satisfied with time spent with colleague friends.

Accomplishments: Packing up entire apartment; moving out by Saturday afternoon.

Still to do: Feel satisfied with time spent with colleague friends; feel mentally prepared for flying to Poland.

I anticipate the next series of posts will be a flurry of reflections that I haven’t processed from the past year as well as personal observations and teachings as I move through the journey of this course. Thank-you to anyone who has been a part of me getting to this very scary but (so I’ve been told) also very exciting place. Some of you pushed me to the end of the application and some of you will help me to the airport. More of you will certainly help carry me through the next several weeks.



ABCs of: Denim, Easter, Food

The day of near denim overdose.

(See how I continued the “ABCs” with the words in my title?)

There is little to update anyone on during this frustratingly lengthy exam break (12 days between my first exam and my last two exams on the same day), but I thought it would be a nice time to throw down some photos and muse over things.

My last exam was welcomed, as I had a 9-day break between that and the last day of classes – and as it is a difficult course for my arts student background (Brain and Behaviour Psychology), I was very pleased with how it went! I finished in less than an hour and was given chocolate-covered almonds at the end. 🙂 

Following this exam’s (and course’s, I suppose…) completion, I began about 36 hours of intensive resume-depositing and driving between school, home, the ‘Wack, and back! It was really nice to just kick back in the ‘Wack after all of the driving and make some veggie meatloaf with my daddy-o while watching movies. 

Father-daughter camera dates!
The most delicious of unmeatloaves.

After a too-brief but rejuvenating visit with mi padre, I ventured back out to UBC and put in some more study hours in preparation for a busy Easter Sunday back at home. 
Thus far, the study schedule I have devised has worked exceptionally well for being so simply-structured, so I’ve been on track for everything so far! I sense that I will be well-prepared for my favourite class and that I will make it through my least favourite.

Ah, dinner – one of the most magical moments to capture (not really, but it is a moment that can elicit salivation over and over, which is kind of magical, right?)! I tried a vegan “imitation ham” which added
some fun texture to dinner, and with the help of gravy and everything else on the plate, dinner was both filling and delectable.

Not a couple to let food fall by the wayside, he and I decided to celebrate 20 months of togetherness with a trip to The Reef for a Caribbean lunch! Plaintain chips, jerk tofu, Johnny cakes…. I still haven’t tried one of their coconut cocktails yet, but I think when that day comes, it will take the Reef to a whole-new level!

Hopefully, more exciting and interesting adventures will arise in the week still left before my next exam takes place. In the meantime, I will continue to hunt for a summer employer, contemplate what courses I will take next year, and try to pack up some of the belongings in my dorm room to prepare for moving out in just over a week. 

Vacation seems both too far and too near at the same time.

Recognition Banquet in Photos

Hello, and welcome to the NRHH/RHA Recognition Banquet of 2014!

Here, we take a moment to recognize some of the hard work and successes of student leaders at UBC within the National Residence Hall Honorary, the Residence Hall Association, and the university as a whole.

Gerri the gender-neutral giraffe welcomes you to our event, hosted on April 1st.

And this was a little bit of my perspective, as an outgoing RHA executive, as the event played out that afternoon!

Shaina has a talent for aesthetics.


The RHA had a
strong team this year.
I’ll be sad to leave this executive team, but happy
to have gained new friends and colleagues for
the upcoming year!


NT and KT, VP partners in crime!

Back from Hiatus

Hello, M&M.

If I’m not mistaken, it has been quite some time since we’ve interacted! My hope is to be back more regularly for updates as classes end… and the season of studying for final exams begins.

In the last two weeks…

My mom made special homemade soup for me!

My sister turned nineteen and we went DANCING!

I obviously ended up baking cookies (CCK recipe).

In addition to birthdays, baking, and breaking it down, I have been preparing for the end of this term and what the next chapter of 2014 will hold. 

For the end of this term: 
– My final paper (the first paper I have written in about 16 months!)
– The transition report for the incoming RHA Vice-President
– Final events and socials for the RHA as a whole

The next chapter:
– Job interviews! One last Saturday, and one this coming Saturday with UBC REC
– My official induction as a member of the 2014-15 NRHH
– Applying for summer jobs!
– Preparing for my stint as a residence advisor next school year
Amidst all of these exciting upcoming opportunities and ongoing year-end preparations, I have been trying to get all of my socialization squeezed into these final weeks!

There was the Welcome to Wonderland Boat Cruise:

There was also the 2nd annual Barn Burner:

I also participated in my third Storm The Wall event! We placed first in our heat which was very exciting, and advanced to the next race – something I haven’t accomplished before with my team!

Wall Me Maybe 2.0
Wall Me Maybe 2.1

Beyond attending and organizing events, I have been reflecting on what I’ve done and been a part of over the last eight months. 
~ Academics have been at a relative high for me, and my involvements have balanced well with school. For the first time in a while, I will miss courses that I’ve taken this year along with the professors that taught them; I also feel that my major has become more of a place that I feel at home, particularly in my gender and sex differences course (and my personality and behaviour disorders courses last term). 
~ I struggled through another visual arts class but enjoyed being able to use my camera for projects and was pleased that I applied something I’m passionate about in my final project (uploading to blog is currently being contemplated).
~ Being an executive member of the RHA has been great – it puts me in touch with every part of residence (mostly) and I have been a part of a forward-moving year for the organization. I regret the lack of closeness developed with my fellow executives early on, but am grateful that we’ve done so much as leaders and that we’ve bonded more in the last little while!
~ My personal life has expanded and evolved in terms of family bonds, friendships, and my relationship – all in ways that I think are taking me in a good direction. I don’t know what this direction is, but it feels like a good and enjoyable one.

Overall, this year at UBC has been a good one.
The summer is always a mysterious next chapter – travel plans, new job opportunities (sorry Safeway), and time for friends and family in abundance!
I look forward to seeing where things go.

Once my camera’s most recent photos have been uploaded,
I’ll get back to this and update on the more recent events following
the Boat Cruise! Barn Burner, food adventures, and more!

Our cityscape view from the boat last weekend.