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Josh Misner, PhD

Mindful Living in a Distracted World

Stories of Hope: Balancing the Scales of Morality

WARNING: This post contains Nazi emblems and imagery of graphic violence.

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Last night, I couldn’t sleep. Each time my head hit the pillow and my eyelids fell shut, all I could see were the images from Auschwitz, while my imagination ran roughshod with  nightmarish stories emerging from the shadows of the past.

Moments like this were made for melatonin.

Today’s quest was to continue our exploration of the stories from the Holocaust; however, our agenda remarkably contrasted with that of yesterday’s, for today, our destination was Oskar Schindler’s factory. Continue reading “Stories of Hope: Balancing the Scales of Morality”

Grappling with Grief: A Day at Auschwitz Birkenau

Hubert, our beloved Polish taxi driver who picked us up from the airport and offered to chauffeur us to Auschwitz the following day (despite it being his day off), greeted us this morning with a friendly smile and wave. He kindly drove us to a BP, where I managed to get Stacie the iced coffee she’s been craving since we left the states, and we were then on our way to the one-hour commute to the town of Oświęcim.

Watching the lush green forest whiz past our taxi van, I started spacing off. I thought of this being the very ground our grandfathers and great-grandfathers tread upon, equally unprepared as I to witness the sights waiting for us at this most infamous extermination camp. I thought about their fervor and delight when it came time to volunteer to go to Europe to fight the forces of fascism and oppression, and then I contrasted that with the images I see of today, those of the rising swell of white nationalism and neo-nazism, bearing many of the same symbols as the flags that once flew over this parade of horrors. Continue reading “Grappling with Grief: A Day at Auschwitz Birkenau”

Arrival in Krakow, Feeling the Weight of History Bearing Down

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Upon checking out of our hostel/apartment in Reykjavik, we were picked up by an airport shuttle by a young Polish man with a stunning haircut (hint: his head was shaved, just like mine and half the other men in Poland). Upon finding out that our next major stop was Krakow, his eyes absolutely lit up with joy, exclaiming, “MY HOME COUNTRY?!?”

Upon hearing this news, our driver began talking about all the things to see and do in his home country, but when he asked where we were going and we told him Krakow, his joy suddenly turned somber. This man seemed reluctant to call Auschwitz by its name, referring to it as “the unspeakable place” instead. He lamented the reputation of his beloved Poland as being tarnished by the last 80 years of history there, reminding us that there are hundreds of years of storied history to explore in addition to that most fateful and terrible series of events for which it is known. Continue reading “Arrival in Krakow, Feeling the Weight of History Bearing Down”

16 Hours in Bergen: A Lifetime of Memories

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Three years ago, we had to say a tearful goodbye to our beloved exchange student, Maria, as we passed her back to her wonderful parents, Kristin and Bjørn in Seattle. We threatened promised to visit them in Norway at some point, and yet, following through on that seemed impossible for so many years. Continue reading “16 Hours in Bergen: A Lifetime of Memories”

Skogafoss, Reynisfjara, and Seljalandsfoss: Iceland, Day 3

Day 3 began with my eternal quest for good coffee, but sadly, Iceland fell a bit short here. Granted, the hotel coffee is decent, as long as you like it simple, but it’s no 16-ounce, triple shot tiramisu latte from my favorite coffee stand back home in the PNW.

Following breakfast, we hopped a giant, well-appointed bus headed for the south coast, staffed by the most wonderful tour guide, who seemed as intrigued by our culture as we were with hers. The day held MUCH rain in store for us (more than Seattle and northern England combined, actually), but despite the dampness, our first stop at Skogafoss was awe-inspiring. Continue reading “Skogafoss, Reynisfjara, and Seljalandsfoss: Iceland, Day 3”

Mud Masks, Rotten Shark, and Giant Schlongs: Iceland, Day 2

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Day 2 was off to a significantly better start than Day 1. After a full night’s sleep, we woke up to a reasonably decent hotel breakfast before hitting the road in a bus, headed for Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon (pictured above).

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Donning our volcanic silica mud masks and helping ourselves to some complimentary beverages, we allowed our tension and worries to effortlessly melt away into the volcanic hot spring water. Yes, the water really IS that blue, and the pool was expansive enough for us to go find our own little niche for some peace and quiet.

On the way back to our hotel, however, our bus took a detour through downtown Reykjavik, where we noticed the following curiosity: Continue reading “Mud Masks, Rotten Shark, and Giant Schlongs: Iceland, Day 2”

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