On the Road Again

2008-graduation-with-banner

Beckie, Kaeri, and I at our high school graduation! I used to have really curly hair!

Hello wanderers!

It would seem that about every two years, I get the itch to go on an adventure. Usually, these trips line up with a milestone in my life – a graduation, a major birthday, etc. And every time, I justify each trip by saying “it’s probably my last chance…”

I think it’s important to say yes to opportunities as they come along –  if you have the chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do, or go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, then why not say yes? But I’ve also come to realize that it’s never really your “last chance” to do something – so many of my trips in the past have been motivated by the “well, it’s probably my last chance” justification, but I’m beginning to think that if you want to do something, just make it happen (duh, right?).

Here’s a recap of my “last chance” trips over the years:

  • When I was in university, I had opportunities to do some extraordinary travel for school – real “once-in-a-lifetime” trips that I couldn’t pass up (I promise they were educational!). I got to go on a UN Study Tour to Ottawa and New York and sit in on incredible workshops from speakers around the world, as well as a real Security Council assembly (to this day, this was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had).
  • Following the UN Study Tour, I took a course in South Africa, came home for a month, and then hopped back on a plane to Africa – this time, to Zambia (remember that story about borrowed pants?! Yep, same trip). It was the craziest, busiest summer of my life, but I had the best time and all that travel just got me hooked on adventuring. To be honest, I thought going to South Africa would be my one and only chance to go to Africa – it’s funny how things work out, because I certainly didn’t expect to go to Africa twice in one summer!
  • When I was about to finish my degree, I thought my traveling days were coming to an end – my best friend and I planned our India/Spain/Germany extravaganza, thinking it was “our last chance to travel together”. I thought I’d return from our trip and jump right into a job and be an adult for real. However, post-grad life didn’t turn out quite like I thought it would…
  • Within a year of graduating, I knew I wanted to go back to school. I worked to save up for my studies and got my travel on!
    • I went to Osheaga in Montreal because it was “my last chance to see Mumford & Sons” (I hope that isn’t true!).
    • The following summer, right before I began my CreComm journey, I dragged my lovely mom and cousin Hayley across Europe because I thought it truly was “my last chance to travel”. I thought CreComm was it. Once done, it was adult time for real.

Well, dear ones, with another graduation on the horizon (only a few months to go!), this summer really does look like “my last summer to go on a major trip” (I can seriously justify anything!)…so I decided to take this summer off and go on another adventure!

I’m so excited to be traveling with two of my favourite people – my best friend and travel buddy Kaeri (who gets bitten by the travel bug as often as I do!), and our friend Beckie (this will be her first time across the pond!). We’re starting things off in London and then trekking it across Europe for 5 weeks, just 3 girls and some backpacks. I can’t wait!

beckie kaeri and katrina at rempel wedding

Beckie, Kaeri and I at Kaeri’s sister’s wedding a couple of years ago. I’m so incredibly excited to be traveling with these girls this summer!

As our travel plan starts to emerge and solidify, I’ll keep you all updated on where we’re going and how we plan on getting around – follow along for some great tips!

Thanks for following me on my planning journey – 2016 will be an exciting year.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

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The Mockingjay Effect

How the Hunger Games is transcending into the everyday…

Hello readers!

Last Saturday, my friend Kaeri and I embarked on our annual Christmas shopping adventure. It’s something we have been doing for almost 10 years (yeah, that doesn’t make me feel old…) and I look forward to it every holiday season – it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions!

Because we rarely see each other any more (I’m not really blaming CreComm, but I might be just a little bit), not only did we get some shopping in, but we also decided to hit up Cineplex Polo Park to see Mockingjay: Part 1, the latest instalment of The Hunger Games.

I read the books before the movies were made and while I didn’t love them, I have to acknowledge that Suzanne Collins has worked some brilliant concepts into her series. When I first read the books, I read them through the lens of my degree so I couldn’t help but analyze the political and revolutionary elements of the series. However, watching the most recent movie last weekend, I looked at those elements through a CreComm lens.

Here’s something that stood out to me:

The Propos
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Hunger Games series, seen most prominently in Mockingjay Part 1, is how everything in Panem is highly produced. The Hunger Games themselves are a reality TV show where the audience is encouraged to vote on their favourite competitors and encourage donors to send them care packages based on how well-liked they are. And Katniss as a symbol of the revolutionary movement = highly produced and marketed as something to sell. She’s a commodity to be controlled and sold. It bothers me so much. And as much as I know that Collins did this as a social commentary and as satire, I can’t stand it. And this has made me take a critical look at how advertising and and public relations can be used maliciously to contort messages and control public opinion and societal values. Crazy. So here’s a reminder to be aware of what messages you’re sending when you create campaigns. And to be aware of what your clients stand for.

Lastly, the Mockingjay Effect:
Mockingjay has been banned by one theatre company in Thailand because protesters have been using the three-finger salute from the books in peaceful protest against the military that organized a coup in early Spring of this year. This gives me chills. I love that pop culture has the power to trickle down into our every day lives and inspire change. I think it’s so cool that a symbol from a book has become a vital symbol in a real movement and is creating dialogue and awareness about a social justice issue. Usually, real events inspire and inform books, television, and film. We get our ideas from true stories because the craziest stuff happens in real life. However, this is a really cool example of give and take. It’s refreshing to see pop culture influence reality in a positive and fascinating way.

giphy.com

giphy.com

For more information about what’s going on in Thailand, check out these links:
Bangkok Post http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/444270/apex-drops-mockingjay BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30140596
BBC Blog: Fact and Fiction Collide http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-30216289 

I love it when literature makes you think! It always should! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas – this may be my last post until January, but who knows, I may surprise you with a little literary fun over the break.

Happy reading,
Katrina

 

Why I went to Sachsenhausen

I am currently reading Jody Picoult’s The Storyteller.

My friend Jessica, a fellow lover of literature, recommended it to me this summer. She told me it was her favourite book written by Picoult and she also warned me that it was an intense read. I’m grateful that she gave me the heads up because this book revolves around the experience of a Jewish girl, Minka, during the Holocaust – any book that talks about war, genocide, or crimes against humanity, let’s face it, make me really sad.

The book deals with the complex issues of abuse and forgiveness, and while I only finished Part 2 last night, some of the scenes I have read so far have been heart-wrenching. I don’t want to ward you off the book because it is important and beautiful and well-written, but it does deal with difficult subject-matter.

Reading The Storyteller has brought back memories of a trip I took two years ago. I was traveling with friends of mine and while we were in Berlin, Germany, we decided to visit Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp located about an hour from the city centre. We could have gone to visit nearby castles or the Reichstag (Parliament), but all of us felt that it would be important to visit the camp.

Context: I had just finished my university degree in Human Rights, and in my last year of school, I had taken a course on Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. All of us have German ancestry. We had to go.

We took the train to Oranienburg and walked to the camp museum and memorial. The weather was terrible – it was windy and cold and we kept thinking it would storm. The gloominess amplified the atmosphere of despair at the camp. I can’t really describe the feeling of being there – it was terrifying, sad, grotesque. I will never forget that visit.

While Minka, the girl in The Storyteller, didn’t spend time at the concentration camp I visited (she was a prisoner at Auschwitz, then at Bergen-Belsen), every time I read a scene detailing Minka’s experience, I think of Sachsenhausen.

As we draw closer to Remembrance Day and as governments around the world make difficult decisions regarding ISIS and other threats to human security around the world (conflict in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, political unrest in Hong Kong, and the Ebola virus crisis, etc.,), I think it is important for us to remember the Holocaust and other past atrocities. We always say “never again” and we always say that this time, we’ve learned how to be better. The concentration camps left standing in Europe as memorials and museums are there to remind us to be better. Here’s hoping Canadians can demonstrate that we have learned from past mistakes, and that we are a better people.

Read The Storyteller. Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Be kind to one another.

Happy reading,

Katrina

To learn more about Sachsenhausen, visit the museum and memorial website: http://www.stiftung-bg.de/gums/
*All pictures below are my own.