Snow – Monday, February 13

Today I woke up and looked out my window to see snow falling gently on the ground. I smiled the second I saw it. The back yard is very pretty with the snow on it. I had breakfast and then headed to the AIB. Ali, Lindsey and I went on a 4 mile run in Bonn. I really enjoyed this-it was nice to be with other people while I was running. It made it much easier to go far and be mentally motivated to keep going. The cold didn’t get to me and I was very proud of myself for accomplishing it. After running, we went to the market and got baughtworst. So satisfying. I then had Ethics class at 2:15. Class began with the professor lecturing for about 15 minutes, then assigning us groups, then we had 45 minutes to create a presentation. After that, one group presented for 10 minutes then we had a 30 minute break. Then we presented for another 30 minutes and after that, class was out an hour early. It was awesome. I hung out at the AIB for a while and then did abs with Ali, Rodd, and Lindsey. On my way home, I took the wrong UBahn so it took like 40 minutes to get home. It sucked but I met a woman who is a journalist from Africa. She seemed really really smart and interesting. She had actually met some of the other girls before-she remembered Victoria’s name.

I finally made it home. I was so hungry. Mom and dad and I Skyped for about an hour. I hadn’t talked with them since before Berlin. I miss them a lot now. They helped me set up a delivery from Frog Hollow for Pascal for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I hope he likes it. I am happy that I got to do something for him.

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Public Transportation – Sunday, February 12

Top bunk, sunlight streaming in from the only gap in the blinds onto my face. Today I woke up in Prague at Sir Toby’s Hostel. 6am, then 8am, then 9am, then 9:30 and finally we all got out of bed to start our day. After last night, we should all feel rested, but I don’t. It has been a long 10 days-so fun, but so long. Breakfast downstairs after everything was packed. All but a few of the things I brought I used…most I used more than once (socks …cough cough) so I am looking forward to going home and being clean.

After the yogurt, honey, butter, Nutella, bread, orange juice, and coffee were consumed, at 11am, we started our journey home (as all of us lovingly call it) to Bonn. First with a walk to the tram station down the road…all of us dragging our luggage. While waiting for the tram to arrive, I stood talking to some friends when I felt something forcefully hit my backpack and displace my coffee and me. I turned around and there was a wrinkled, dirty, bloody face with blank eyes quickly approaching the ground. I yelled like a little girl and got away as fast as I could. Some of the boys tried to help the bloody face up. Of course as all of this was happening, the tram arrived and we all hopped on (including the bloody faced man who proceeded to bleed onto his hands which then were used to stabilize him via the hand rails). An exciting start to the day.

We made it to the airport, waited for a few hours, and hopped on our short 1 hour flight back to Cologne. From there we took a train to bonn, and from the Bonn main station, I took my UBahn back to Tannenbush (home). It felt really nice to be greeted with a hug from Jurgen and a really warm smile from Uschi. It was 5:30pm. Bonn is home.

Dinner was great. I was so hungry. Some sort of meat and veggies wrapped in more meat with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts with cream and spices on it. To drink: water, chai tea, wine. For dessert: smoothie. I am fed well at here.

Skype, photos, videos, p90x abs on YouTube, revising my resume, looking for summer jobs, and working on a current job (for Timothy) occupy my time tonight. Not to mention writing about 15 days worth of exciting European life down so that I can remember it later. I don’t feel like sleeping.

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Lost Art – Saturday, Feb 11

We began the day with meeting Martin. The sleeping roommate in our room of 8 girls and 2 random men. After Martin proceeded to sit on his bed and stare while all of the girls got ready for the day, he decided to follow us downstairs, out the door, while we got lost trying to find somewhere to eat, to a restaurant, and sat at our table. Most of the girls felt uncomfortable. I tried to reason that may be it was a normal thing to do-when someone meets people in a hostel, they hang out, or people are just friendly. He seemed nice enough-old enough too. No weird conversation happened, and nothing bad happened at all. After he left us when breakfast was done, everyone was more positive about what had just happened.

All of the girls (Ali, Nikki, Jackie, Victoria, Sara, Lindsey, Callie, and I) went back to Sir Toby’s to meet up with the rest of the crew. We headed to the castle. The best part of the castle was the hike up. The rest was not that great to me, but I think that is because I didn’t take the tour. On the way down, I bought two small paintings from this old man. They were watercolors of the city- I fell in love with them. Some of us (Jackie, Nikki, Victoria, Rodd, Ryan, Nathan, Nick and I) stayed together the rest of the day. First we went toward the Charles Bridge-the walk there was beautiful. The buildings are old and gorgeous. The streets are narrow and not paved (actually they sucked to walk on because they were VERY slippery).

After the bridge, we walked around Old Town for a while and found a Cafe Coco where we stayed and had coffee and hot coco to warm up. I left my paintings there on accident, which I found out later. Looking back, I remember Ryan asking me what I bought and offering to show him-he said he would look at them later but if I had actually reached for the I would have remembered. It’s weird how those things happen.

We wandered through town into what we thought was the Jewish Quarter (because we passed a Jewish Graveyard) but I think it was the shopping district because there were tons of fancy stores like Louis Vuitton, etc. We made it to the center of old town and found a restaurant that Nick’s mom recommended to us. We met Jen, Ali, Sara, and Lindsey there. I had half of a greek salad (Nick had the other half) and a kids salmon with mashed potatoes.

After dinner, I wanted to go back to get my paintings from Coco’s so the boys walked me there. I went in and talked with the people for a while trying to really see if the art was lost or if the people didn’t care to find it. It was lost.

We ventured back to Sir Toby’s and spend the night playing “would you rather” in the hostel, quite loudly despite whatever time of night it was.

Today was one of my favorite days this week.

P.S. I just remembered probably the coolest thing I did this entire day. This morning at breakfast, wrapped in a yellow napkin, I put a hardboiled egg in my pocket of my ski jacket. It was there throughout the entire day. Whenever I remembered it was there, I brought it out excitedly and showed it to whoever was around me. I thought it was the funniest thing! And, at the end of the day in Sir Toby’s, with just a few cracks at the tip of the cold egg, I ate it. It was so cold that it felt like it had been a fridge.

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Sir Toby’s – Friday, February 10

Today we woke up in Dresden. Breakfast with the rude people downstairs was actually delicious. We had to be out of the hotel by 9, so we were-without Nathan. He was left behind as we headed to the VW factory which is the only place in the world that makes the VW Phaeton. They “hand make” the cars and then sell them for a ridiculous amount of money. The most expensive being 150something Euro…for a Volk’s Wagon…….no thanks.

My opinion on the whole thing is this: The factory was contained in very beautiful architecture with extremely innovative mechanics (including a moving conveyor belt upon which the mechanics/workers moved around doing their work in a specific time frame while always contained in glass walls like they were on display, a car port that was circular and many stories tall containing an elevator to bring the finished cars down to their excited owners, car lifts, and robots that bring parts to the workers by moving enormous boxes stocked with the proper parts for each car), and even a few women. I understand the idea behind wanting to make a luxury car out of VW, but I don’t like the idea of making a car “by hand” for the sake of making it by hand. I guess there is a niche for it, but I personally would never spend that much money on a VW. Although, I must say they were very nice-we got to sit in them.

After the factory, we had some free time which I spent in Starbucks relaxing. We then paraded down the street (18 of us – all but Diane) to the train where we went on our way to Prague. On the train I was one of the first in so I sat in a 6 person car and the boys joined me. We played Schwimmen (a card game) almost the whole ride there. I was the first one to lose, sadly. I’ll redeem myself.

We arrived at what we thought was the right station. Hopped of the train and freaked out. It looked like we were on the outskirts of town. We thought we were going to have to take a cab or hop on the next train. Luckily, we were at the right stop and just had to find our way to Sir Toby’s Hostel. With my luggage wheels jammed with snow, dirt and pebbles, to the point where I was basically dragging the carry on through the streets, we reached the Hostel. Checked in, changed clothes, pre-gamed, found our way back to the bus, and then made it to our destination-the first bar of the pub crawl. The night had begun. Open bar for 2 hours, lots of ….fun, and 4 more bars later the night was over. People in the group got to like each other more throughout the night, some did not make it to all the stops, others lost their wallet, some fell, two ended up lost outside by themselves, but somehow, we all made it back home safely. Tonight was great fun.

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The Nut Man – Thursday, February 9

Today was one of my favorite all around days so far. It was absolutely beautiful in the snow and everyone was acting like little kids while the snow fell and we walked around Dresden. It was awesome having everyone play like we were 6 years old together. In the beginning of our tour, a Nut Man (a man selling nuts) made a snowball and was playing around like he was going to through it at us. We went around to his truck and pretended to throw snowballs at him. Then he left his cart and gave us a thing of nuts! They were delicious!

We continued to walk around this town that had been 99% destroyed toward the end of the war. …I later spoke with Timothy (a friend of Pascal’s and Dominic’s) who told me about the 1000 bombers who simultaneously dropped bombs on Dresden. These bombs created a fire that came in on itself basically vaporizing anyone who was in it. They spoke nothing of this while I was in Dresden. But, like Timothy said, they speak a lot about the churches that they rebuilt. Its interesting…

After the tour, I went to lunch with Garrett, Sara, Ryan, Nick, and Jackie. It was nice to sit and talk with them. I love learning about everyone. After lunch, Jackie, Sara, and I went back across the bridge to shop a little bit. While we were shopping, I realized how little I know about shopping with other people. I am almost always by myself while I shop-never with girl friends. I think that’s because I haven’t really had many girl friends. I really enjoyed their company. We had a really good discussion about psychology and gossip. I like these kinds of conversations. I learned a lot.

After walking around, I went to Starbucks to try to talk with Pascal on my phone for a bit. Its so damn hard not being able to have a real conversation. I was getting very frustrated. I went back to the hotel for a 30 minute nap before dinner because I was getting depressed and frustrated with the lack of communication.

We went to dinner at the same place as last night, I showered, packed, checked the computers down stairs, and then went to bed. The adventure continues tomorrow!


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Ballet – Wednesday, February 8

Today, we left Berlin on a bus to Wittenberg. We went through a museum which had many religious artifacts and was in the house where Martin Luther and his family lived. This wasn’t as interesting as other things I have seen, but I appreciated being in a place where such a historic man lived and where he had his thoughts which changed history. I saw the church upon which he nailed his 95 thesis. The real church was destroyed, but this one is a new replica. Something that is not anything new-German was pretty fucked up from the war so tons of things had to be rebuilt. Anyway, Wittenberg is where the Protestant Reformation began. Very historical! And it was a beautiful, quiet little town. I really enjoy small, authentic towns like this. It was nice break after being in such a huge city. From Wittenberg we took a bus to Dresden-2 hour ride.

We were supposed to arrive in enough time to have an hour to get ready for the Ballet tonight. We ended up having 20 minutes. I felt like I was on America’s Next Top Model. In this 20 allotted minutes, I showered, washed my hair, shaved my legs, got dressed, did my makeup, blew my hair dry and did a good job, if I do say so myself!

The Ballet was beautiful. It was Sleeping Beauty. Ballerinas are amazing creatures-so skinny, poised, trained, serious, perfect, skinny. The music was wonderful. I sat in the very front row and felt so….mature and sophisticated. I loved it.

We all had pasta for dinner after the ballet and then went back to the hotel and off to bed.

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Hope – Tuesday, February 7

Today was my last day in Berlin. I spend the day with Ali, Garrett, Nikki, Victoria, Michelle, and Callie. We went to a museum in front on Checkpoint Charlie. I didn’t know what to expect except that today we would be learning more about the Cold War. It was a guided tour lead by a man who, we soon were told, was put in the prison I went to yesterday for two years. He was there in complete isolation for 2 years of his life. After those two years, he spend 7 more in a different prison. The only thing he did was help over 129 people escape from East to West Berlin. I think my jaw dropped when I first heard him tell us this. I was shocked. Initially, I just saw an old man with rotting teeth who had a job at this small museum. He was the man who opened the museum. His life was this part of history. He spend two years in complete isolation. The only human contact he had was with his interrogator and the guards. He heard just 5 things for two years- commands- stop, go, stand still, etc. Just five. He told us his teeth were rotting because he didn’t have the proper nutrition for so many years. I asked him how he was so positive after everything-he delayed in his answer but said that life goes on. I asked him if he regretted his decision to help the 130 people which lead him to 9 years of his life in prison. He hesitated a lot after this question. He said that he thought it was good thing to do. I could tell that he was very hurt by everything happened. I can imagine that what happened is still the center of his life-how could it not be? He told us stories about how people escaped-hot air balloon, airplanes, tunnels, kayaks, cars and other ways. He knew most of the people who’s escape methods were on display in the museum. His favorite means of escape was two brothers who were on the west side who build airplanes to save their brother who was on the east side. The put a red star on their airplane and the guards saluted them as the passed over the death zone. They successfully saved their brother. Our guide said he loved these men very much and said that they are very funny. At the end of the tour, I wanted to take the man to lunch and talk with him more. I asked him to lunch, but I don’t think he heard me. He gave us a copy of the newspaper from the day the wall fell and a book about his museum. I think he did this because we asked so many questions and were so interested in what he was telling us.

Reflecting on how he made me feel I can say that I felt sad for him. Amazed by him. Happy for him. I wondered what he went through, who he lost, how is life is now. I want to know more of his story. I don’t want his suffering to be forgotten. I think it is wonderful how he sacrificed some of his life for many others. It is so sad that it must be this way.

After this, we went to the Brandenburg Gate, then into the famous hotel where Michael Jackson hung his baby from the window. We actually went inside to see what the fuss was all about. It honestly was not very impressive. Im sure the rooms are, however. The guards at the front door were funny and made fun of the way we asked them if we could go inside. They said no photos, so I turned off my go pro. I have a video of this!

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Wall – Monday, February 6

Today, I went to Hochenhousen. A prison where the Soviets imprisoned people for various things-the people were mostly innocent- ‘“convicted” of different things and called Enemies of the State. People were put in complete isolation for years. They were interrogated. The only person they had any contact was their interrogator who they eventually began to trust-and shouldn’t have. The prisoners would be forced to say things that were not true about things they “knew” because the interrogators wanted more information from them. They had to be careful of what the said otherwise their family and friends would be in trouble also. I cant even imagine being in a place where I could not escape. Where I was not allowed to sleep, and when I was, it had to be on my back with my hands above the blanket otherwise I would be woken up. I cant imagine being locked in an outdoor cell with rain or snow pouring down on me while a guard with a gun stood above me, not knowing how long I would be there. What happened in Eastern Europe is almost not even imaginable for me. Its so hard to actually believe that people could be so inhumane to others. The blame was always passed on when everyone involved is to blame for not stopping anything. The crazy part is that these people, the guards of the prison, the murderers, and even the prisoners are still alive. I feel fortunate to live in a time when I have the possibility of talking with the people who lived during these times.

When I was in the prison, I felt more responsible for the wrongs that happen today. Like the Algerian War when the French citizens ignored what happened to the Algerians because of the French, I am as responsible for what happens in the world today. I can’t ignore the fact that wrongs like what happened during the Cold War still happen today. I want to be informed. I want to start my publication. Maybe this is how I will change something. Maybe this is what I am meant to do. I believe in it. I want other people to believe in it too.

After the prison, we went to the Purgamont Museum. This place was amazing. So beautiful. They had great Greek creations and many ancient things. I did not stay long (30 minutes) because I was on a schedule and had to go to the Jewish Museum.

The Jewish Museum is one of my favorite things that I have seen so far. Definitely. The architecture, not the items on display, is the most powerful thing I have seen yet. The slanting walls, the un-level floors, the branches from the main hallways, the empty space all conveyed a feeling of confusion, loneliness, nausea, and being uncomfortable.  Jewish history is uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable for the Jews for thousands of years and it is uncomfortable to talk about. The display cases along the branched hallways were made of glass. The glass was black with a clear opening to display whatever is inside. While you look at the objects, you can see yourself in the black part of the glass. Small details like this surround everyone in the museum as you become a part of the museum.

There was a large metal door at the end of one hallway leading to an outside room. The room had huge, cement walls that were probably 4 stories tall. The room was freezing cold. And dark. And quiet. There was only one stream of light coming from the upper right hand corner. It was just a slit. As I walked close to the light, it seemed to get further and further away. Going into the corner trying to reach the light, each step I took the temperature dropped. The corner seemed to never end. I wanted to turn around and get out. Entering the door initially, there is a ladder on the left. The bottom of the latter is more than 10 feet high and is too high to reach. The top of the ladder goes to nowhere. The room is completely closed except for the metal door where I entered and the slit of light in the angular corner to the right. Except, when I went all the way into the corner beneath the light, I turned around to look at the ladder. The light projected onto the latter a shadow which extended the rails of the ladder down so that it looked as if I were to go beneath the ladder again, I would be able to touch it and climb up. If anyone spoke in the room, the noise was blurry and nothing could be understood. The room was one of the most amazing and terrifying things I have ever experienced. I knew I did not want to be inside by myself. In fact, I did not want to be inside at all. I think the room was meant to symbolize isolation, imprisonment, hope, loss of hope, confusion, and suffering. It was absolutely brilliant.

Another part of the museum contained an otherwise empty room filled with noise. On the floor were 10,000 metal faces. Walking on them, a horrible noise is made. The faces have a voice. When no one walks, they are silent. Every person is either helping them have a voice, or participating by lack of participation…making them silent. It felt wrong to walk on the faces. I only did it so that I could take photos and videos. It was very powerful as well. The entire museum was such a work of art.

Kaylee and I were the only ones who stayed and wanted to walk through the rest of the museum. We began our tour and shortly into it, we were interrupted by one of the guys who works in the museum. He stopped us and we ended up talking with him for an hour. He smelled bad. He was smart and talked about life to us-complete strangers. I think he was very smart and that he would be an interesting person to get to know more. I had a feeling that he wouldn’t have a Facebook, but asked him if he did anyway so that we could stay in contact. Of course, he didn’t. Email is just as good. This is one of my favorite things about being away-meeting people. I love meeting people. Everyone has their own story and I love hearing the stories. I love trying to figure people out. How they think. So interesting to me.

Kaylee and I left after talking with Christoph. We successfully navigated our way through Berlin back to Hotel Alex and then to meet people for dinner at Lebanese food. I had a pina’ colada-DELICIOUS.

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Crowded Places – Sunday, February 5

Today we woke up in Berlin and began the trip with a pretty intense visit. We went to Sachenhousen concentration camp. There were 30,000 people who died there, not all of them Jews. It was emphasized that the camp was not built to kill people, it was a work camp. To me, this just shows how inhumane everything was-that 30,000 people could die working somewhere where death was not the intention. Clearly death was not prevented on purpose. I saw the barracks where the people slept. It was mostly men, but there were some women in the camp who were forced to work as prostitutes for the men who worked hard enough to be able to use the women. The barracks were just rooms with bunk beds. Tons of people lived in these unheated wooden shacks. 500 people on each side of the barrack had to share a bathroom within 30 minutes in the mornings before work. There were small closets, basically, where sometimes they would just cram a bunch of people in and there would be so many that they would suffocate and die. There was a barbed wire fence on top of a thick cinderblock fence all the way around the triangular shaped camp (shaped that way so one gunman could see everyone in the camp at one time). There was a sand area between the normal gravel and the cinderblock fence. If anyone stepped in this zone, the person would be shot and killed without warning. Sometimes people stepped in it on accident, others on purpose.

There was a part of the camp that they made into a museum where there were photos and different articles and objects from and about the camp. There was a wooden measuring stick that looked like it was used to measure height. We learned, however that people would be told to stand under it, facing away from it and a slit would open up and from behind the wall that the measuring stick was against, a man would point a gun at the person’s neck and shoot and kill him. They used these methods to dehumanize the horrible experience of killing hundreds of people each day. Even the sickest soldiers were warn down by killing so many people. This method made it easier on them-the killers.

There was also a gas chamber and a crematorium. The crematorium was only installed after an incident where bodies were being taken via large truck into town to be cremated and the truck crashed and there were bodies all over the street. People did not like this, and the murderers didn’t want this to happen again, so they built their own small crematorium.

The feelings I had when I was there. Well, the thing that comes to mind is that I felt like I had been there before. It is the strangest thing. I was not very shocked by anything (except the suffocating room and the measuring stick). I am not sure if it is because I have read and heard so much about it that there was not much new there, or if it was because I was numb to it. Im not sure. But I did feel angry. I felt sad for all of the innocent people. I think about how different each person would have made the world and how it cannot be changed. I am confused by it. It doesn’t seem real.

We were outside for pretty much 3 hours. It was snowing. Everyone was cold. No one complained. How can you complain in a place where people were slaves, where people suffered, where people were killed.

Oh yes, I just remembered. They build a hospital. A hospital where the doctors would perform experiments on people. They would cut someone’s hand or arm or leg and put straw in it and wait for it to rot. They would then begin amputating to see how much or how little of the body part they had to cut off. Other times they would do experiments with the cold. They would see how cold a person could get and test ways to warm him up…or not. Fucking disgusting excuses for human beings. To have no heart. I don’t understand.

After the heavy morning in the cold, we went to the German Parliament building. This was occupied by Soviet Russia. I didn’t find the building extremely interesting except for a few parts. There was a hall that had these mock boxes made from some sort of medal with the names of members of parliament on them. One of them was Adolf Hitler. His box had been kicked in.

At the very top, there was a glass ceiling. In the ceiling there was an opening where water could come through into a metal cone shaped thing and then the rain would evaporate and act as a cooling system for the conference room which was located just beneath. It was interesting to see the Parliament building empty.

After all of the events of the day, we went out to watch the Superbowl at a bar in Berlin. Pretty cool if I do say so myself. It was challenging finding a place to sit, but I spotted some chairs in a corner beneath a TV. Later on we got a booth that was as close as possible to the chairs we already occupied. I had the bar’s ribs-delicious. Had 2 beers during happy hour. Watched the first half of the game then went back to the hotel because I wanted to enjoy tomorrow. I had a great time. I really like the people I am with.

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Life – Saturday, February 4

Today was our first day in Berlin. We left Bonn at 8am to sit on the train until we arrived at 2. While on the train, I read about Terrorism (an article for class) for three hours. After I grew tired of this, I read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnage. I love this book. I only read it on the trains and public transportation, or sometimes before bed. The rest of the trip, my Kindle wouldn’t turn on so I couldn’t finish the last 10 percent of it. That was disappointing.

We arrived in Berlin and went on a bus tour which included some walking which I was unprepared for (clothing wise). First we saw the Brandenburg Gate. This place is merely amazing because it is the famous site where the Wall fell in 1989. It was cool to imagine all the happy people on that day. We also went to the site where Hitler’s bunker was and where he killed himself. It was a strange place because it was just a parking lot with apartment buildings around it and a playground on top of where Hitler killed himself. It sort of disgusts me to write that down. I don’t like his name. It is strange because writing this now makes him more real for me. I think for so long that this name, Hitler, has been an image, a thought, not a real person. Maybe because he wasn’t human. He disgusts me. What a disgusting, piece of shit! …..

After seeing where the ****** killed himself, we went to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews in the center of Berlin. It was beautiful and moving and artistic and big and cold. Walking through it alone, you could see other people for just an instant as they passed through the massive cement vertical coffins. The ground is not level, the coffins are not all the same. I felt lost walking through them. I could see civilization through them, but I didn’t look at it. I looked up and felt small. I looked down and felt big. It was quite. I did not want to stay there for long. I wanted people to not take pictures. The size of each cement block said something about the people. It said that each was an individual. That each had their own life. That each life was taken. There were so many. I thought of mass graves. I thought of the cold, lifeless hearts that murdered so many people because they were classified as Jews. I don’t understand it at all. How do people live with themselves knowing that they have taken someone’s child, brother, mother, sister, grandmother, future parent. I don’t get it. It almost isn’t real. It isn’t real.

We saw many old and rebuilt buildings. I don’t remember their names. We saw the memorial for the burned books. It was a hole in the ground between important buildings. It was an all white room with all white, empty bookshelves on all of the walls. It was beautiful and striking.

We finally made it to the Alex Hotel and went to dinner after that. I watched Inglorious Bastards with Jen, Jackie, and Ali for a while. I straightened my hair for the first time in a month. I felt beautiful. We went to bed after we all got tired. Today was big.

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