Kristine wanders

The musings of a wanderer......

Category: USA

Sacred Places

During my time in Prague we wandered around the Old Jewish Cemetery and it got me thinking about all the sacred places I’ve visited during my travels. Places where the ugliness of humanity once carried out unimaginable horrors or mother nature intervened in tragic ways, and the different ways people pay their respects and mourn for those that died. In the West we commonly lay wreaths. Have moments of silence or hold candle light vigils. We visit grave sights and place flowers. We bow our heads. We say prayers. Wandering this Jewish cemetery many of the tombstones had rocks placed on the top, or coins, or notes. Some of the notes said “Love from Italy.” Or Florida, or France. Many of the notes were folded in a way that the messages were kept secret. Sealed messages of mourning to honour the dead. I was really moved by this tradition of leaving behind something to acknowledge that we have been there, and that the persons memory is carried on by the living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember one of my first trips abroad and visiting Hiroshima and seeing the Peace Memorial at sunset. In 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped there and some 70 000 people were instantly killed. Today the bombed out remains of one building are all that remain and I remember the building being lit up at night which made the visit very moving and that there was an eerie calmness to the site. In my memories it’s silent except for the sound of the wind thru the nearby trees. I’m sure there were other noises, but all I remember was the light and the setting sun. Since then I have visited Ground Zero in New York City. I’ve walked the beaches of Sri Lanka years after the deadly tsunami that claimed the lives of nearly 37 000 people. When I visited back in 2010 nearly 6 years later parts of the coast looked like a war zone with only the cement frames of houses that were otherwise completely washed away. It was heart wrenching to drive through these small villages and meet people who had lost family members or even their entire family, their houses, and had no choice but to continue living on the coast- in many cases living off the very ocean that took so much from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember in 2010 when I backpacked thru Syria. Crossing by land from northern Jordan and driving up to Damascus the oldest city in the world. I remember feeling very safe while traveling there- my best friend and I taking public buses to the UNESCO sites of Palmyra in the northeastern part of the country near the Iraqi border and Crac de Chevaliers just outside of Homs. Both sites have been massively damaged in the Syrian conflict not to mention the estimated 250 000 Syrians that have lost their lives. Last year when I was in the Maldives there was a massive earthquake that hit Nepal, a country I had visited the year before. I remember exploring the alleyways of Kathmandu stumbling across tiny temples and statues amongst the hustle and bustle of such a populated city. Much of it was damaged during that earthquake in April 2015.

Palmyra in Syria

Crac de Chevaliers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years back I visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia where over 1 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970’s. 1 million. In my lifetime. I remember wandering the memorial site and crying. What took place there was horrific and barbaric. Processing it made the air feel thick and my chest feel heavy. It’s unimaginable. And yet it happened. In recent years it has become a tradition to leave a bracelet to remember the dead at the site of one of the mass graves. Rocks in Jewish cemeteries, bracelets in Cambodia. Different acts and yet the same meaning- to bare witness. To mourn for humanities evil. All of these sites have the same things in common. They are sacred. They instill the visitor with a sense of disbelief and an overwhelming feeling of despair. Apart from my reference to Sri Lanka and Nepal all these events are man made. The darkest parts of humanity did this. And it continues to happen today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post wasn’t meant to be depressing but rather to acknowledge the different ways around the world people pay their respects and remember the dead on the actual soil where nature and man has claimed so many lives. I also hope that it motivates you to learn about these dark periods of history and compare them to current events. To bear witness to what is happening around the world today. Lest we not repeat humanities mistakes. That we realize that a life no matter how far away or how different from our own is still a precious life. That it inspires you to get out there and see the world, as the world and climate are always changing and natural events can forever change the face of a place.

Thoughts on Home……

Earlier this month I traveled back to Seattle, the place I think of as my adult home and up to Canada to where my family is. Both hold very strong emotional ties for me, and after having not visited either since last October this trip was long overdue. This was in fact the longest stretch of time I’ve been away from home. I had been counting down the days coming up to this trip the last few months. I was super homesick, and couldn’t wait to surround myself with those I love dearly and who love me in return.

My visit to Canada was so needed, and yet a little difficult at the same time. Lots had changed in the year I’d been away. Lives had changed. In the couple months surrounding me coming to Saudi my parents had decided to part ways. Each starting different lives in different addresses. The family home was sold. Granted I hadn’t lived in this home in like 15 years, but mentally it was the place I would go when and if everything fell apart. It was my safe haven. The place I knew I would be welcomed and cared for unconditionally. And it no longer exists for that purpose. I was immensely nervous how I would fit in. If there would be room for me. If I would feel out of place. As it turns out there was space, both physically and emotionally for me to fit back in to the mix. I shifted my time between my mom and pop’s places, and spent a night surrounded by family at my brother’s. I caught up with old friends, many who I’ve known my entire adult life. I treated my mom to an early Christmas present and we escaped to a luxury spa for the night where we drank wine overlooking the snowy hills that flowed into Okanagan Lake. It was a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Seattle was spent running what felt like a million errands and a majority of the time sitting on my best mate’s couch, wine in hand thankful to have some much needed catch-up time. I felt honoured that so many people went out of there way to carve out a slice of time in their busy lives to see me. Truly. Even now that I’ve been back a week my heart is huge and I’m so thankful to have so many great friends. Many I’ve known for years, some only in the last couple years I spent in Seattle. Thanks to modern technology I can easily keep in touch with them and connect whenever we find ourselves in the same geographical locale. It’s pretty awesome. So thank you- you all know who you are!! To those of you I missed- I promise to see you next time I’m in town….whenever that may be…..

So now that I’m back here in Saudi Arabia, I feel myself split in three pieces. The part of me that lives in Saudi and loves adventuring around the world.  A part of me that misses my old urban life in Seattle, where so many of my dear friends are. A place where any day of the week you can find a double happy hour, and there’s always something going on.  And then the part of me that will always call Canada home, regardless of the number of years I am away. I think Pascal Mercier sums it up perfectly with the following quote “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find only by going back there.” Wouldn’t you agree?

 

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