Putting Life on Hold: Teaching English Abroad

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Market in Seoul. Photo by No Machine.

Adam Rozalowski

My decision to move to South Korea and teach English was a knee-jerk reaction to something that I was not too acquainted with as a fresh-faced relatively successful 22 year old college grad: failure. I had just spent the last 4 years preparing for what I really wanted to do and then when I actually go to do it, I didn’t like it.

My student teaching experience went nothing like I expected and it left me reeling. In retrospect, I probably watched too many teacher movies. That’s the problem about these teacher movies, they make them about the very few that actually succeed in inspiring students, no one sees the failures who end up as overly educated baristas at Starbucks. What most people don’t realize is that even the ones that are idealized in these movies, their personal lives completely fell apart. Robin Williams gets canned in Dead Poets Society, Jesse Escalante, in a twist of irony, face plants on a flight of stairs in Stand and Deliver and Ryan Gosling turns to hard drugs in Half Nelson. That option certainly didn’t appeal to me, but I had to do something. I wanted to get away, maybe travel a bit, but I had just accumulated so much debt that it seemed impossible. I began researching teaching English abroad. I was desperate. I filled out a few applications, did some skype interviews, watched a lot of Anthony Bourdain No Reservations; and to everyone’s surprise, even my own, 2 months later I was in Ansan, South Korea.

I took a job at a small, private, after school English academy. Classes were small, I taught grades K-5, and besides one hellish kindergarten class, and that little devil “Jake-uhh,” it was an easy way to make a living. In the beginning I really wanted to forget about life and student teaching and anything else that reminded me of getting a “real” job, and all of those other things that come with being an adult. The only thing that I wanted to do was explore; not only places, but who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.

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Admiral Lee Statue in Seoul. Photo by Ian Muttoo

I will always look back on Korea with nostalgia because the places I visited and the people I met made me realize that the “go to school, get good grades, get a degree, get a good job” story was outdated and that life was not that scripted (thank goodness!). I could not have learned this lesson in a more enjoyable way.

My students soon began to call me “Dora the Explorer” because I was always going somewhere during the weekend. I drank more coffee in South Korea than I ever did. I often found myself coming back home from a trip early Monday morning, sleeping a bit and then starting the work week. At the time I had absolutely no idea that I would spend a total of close to 4 years in this country so I was not wasting any time, besides, at the time I felt like I had all the weekends in the world. At the same time I met one of the coolest people I will ever meet, Warren Kim (or as we liked to call him ‘Bubbles’ or ‘Warren G’).

Warren was a 30-something Korean who quit his job in the corporate world and started a hiking group for fun, this group became a kind of weekend family for me for the next year or so. Warren was a lively fellow with a round face, chubby cheeks and large glasses – always a smile on his face. A few months after starting his trips he was taking groups of about a 60-100 people on trips all over Korea. There were a lot of English teachers in Korea at the time and this was a great way for them to see the country. After my first trip to Jeju Island, I was convinced.

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The beautiful Jeju island is a favourite area for holiday makers. Photo by Yoo Chung.

I remember sprinting to the number 4 line subway to make it in time for the 11pm departure from Seoul to Mokpo, a city on the southern tip of Korea where we would make our departure for the famed Jeju Island. I arrived just in time, meeting up with Duncan, a crazy Canadian I had met at a local language exchange cafe; besides him however, I didn’t know anyone.

Duncan was the kind of guy that would make his Korean language exchange partner teach him phrases in Korean that went something like this: “I looked out the window and saw a penguin water skiing in Canada socks across the Han River.” He was always the life of the party and that is why I liked him, and that is why I hated sitting by him on the way back to Seoul. He would always start drinking hard during our final dinner and then dancing during karaoke until he worked himself up into a sweaty, smelly mess.

We got on the bus, it was quiet, it always was in the beginning. We drove through the night and arrived at our destination 6 hours later.

In Mokpo we boarded a huge ferry. I noticed the Korean passengers, in groups of 15 to 20, were carrying what seemed like equipment worthy of an Everest summit. I felt unprepared for the hike we were to go on the next day.

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A waterfall on Jeju island. Photo by Douglas Knisely

The ferry was very basic. It had large rooms with commercial tile flooring. Before we could even sit down on the floor the Koreans had 6’x6’ mats sprawled out everywhere. These people were mostly in their 40s and on, many were older retirees. The rooms in the ferry were about 75 feet by 50 feet and there were many of them. We took a walk and as soon as we reached the hallways all of the rooms began to take up various smells of soups; kimchi-jjigae, sun du bu-jjigae or tofu in red pepper paste, or doenjang-jjigae, a soup made from fermented soybeans. To our surprise the Everest bags were filled not with climbing equipment but with food and cooking stoves, and of course lots of booze. The different smells of red pepper, seaweed, fish, fried zucchini filled the different rooms where the now red-faced Koreans sat drinking Jinro soju, a type of Korean rice vodka (which is actually the number one selling alcohol in the world!). For me, this was an entirely new way to travel.

Koreans are generally reserved people, but about an hour after departure, we heard some chanting – groups were playing Korean drinking games – the social lubricant at work. We were observing a rather rowdy group of retirees. All of them red in the face, all of them wearing hiking gear, and all of them grinning. One man looked over at Duncan and I and asked the standard 3 questions we would get from just about every Korean. “What is your name?” Duncan replied, “Duncan, like Dunkin Donuts.” That was his go to explanation as these donut shops are everywhere in Korea. The old man smiled and said “ahh, where you are from?” Chicago and Vancouver. The man yelled “OK! very good, America very good, Canada very good! Come.” He padded the place on the mat next to him where Duncan and I sat. Duncan and I tried to say something in Korean “한국 종아요, we like it here, we came just a months ago.” The woman to our left begins to pour shots to everyone and puts two in front of Duncan and I. The group starts chanting “Baskin-Robbins-thirtyyy-one, 1, 4, 6, 9” then came our turn, everyone stared at us. We got a quick lesson “add 1,2,or 3 to the last number.” The person that gets stuck with 31 drinks a shot. Somehow, Duncan and I became the targets and we quickly had to down 3 shots each. I couldn’t believe these people in their 70s and 80s were playing a college dorm drinking game and were ganging up on us so that the number 31 would land on us. There were smiles ear to ear from everyone in the group. For many of them this was their first interaction with foreigners and they were excited to share their booze with us – we were even more excited to drink it. I looked over at Duncan, we were thinking the same thing. We haven’t even stepped foot on Jeju Island and already we were having a blast!

We arrived at Jeju Island at around 1pm and jumped on a bus. Warren always managed to somehow attract what seemed like the coolest people in Korea for his trips. He eventually formed a sort of clan that would go on all of his trips. The trips were cheap (I don’t think he even made any money from them), well-organized, and Warren’s goofy lines in broken English always made the bus a fun place to be. My favorite was his line for letting the bus know we are stopping for a bathroom break. “Ok guys, so there is a bathroom, go do something there.”

The next day we visited Mt. Hallasan, the now dormant volcano responsible for the creation of the island 10,000 years ago. The volcano is 1950m tall, the highest peak in South Korea. It has a gentle slope for most of the journey up and the sights of the island from the top are beautiful. Hiking was always a treat as you could use the time to get lost in your thoughts. The views and beautiful nature surrounding you were positively inspiring. I started to think about my student teaching experience less and less, and became focused on enjoying my time here and growing as a person. I liked it so much, soon enough I also became a groupie.

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Lake at the top of Hallasan. Photo by Mass Ave 975

The air got cooler and cooler as we reached the top. The closer we got, the wind picked-up. It stung the cheeks bringing out color. While taking in a deep cold breath, you still could get a hint of the fresh ocean surrounding the island. Snow began to appear near the peak. As the bright sun shone down on it at just the right angle, it radiated a prism of colors like tiny concentrated rainbows beaming at you.

We reached the top and found a crater. Our group of about 60 people began to reach the top in intervals. We high fived each other and Warren took out a bottle of maekolli, a Korean rice wine that is often known as a farmer’s drink, in order to celebrate. We got a special Jeju brand that was made of mandarins which grow all around the island at lower altitudes. In celebration we also took off our jackets and sweaters and posed bare chested by the peak’s signpost for pictures, this was definitely one of Duncan’s bright ideas. The Koreans at the top stared at us laughing, it was like we were a zoo attraction or something.

While sitting with my maekolli , the most even layer of clouds began to cover the north side of the island so that when you faced north, it looked like you were on a peak above a puffy row of cotton balls. We were literally above the clouds! Whatever problems I was going through before, I was now separated from them. It was like being in heaven.

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Mt. Hallasan. Photo by GPL.

The next day we visited a Mongolian horse show. Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan used the island as a logistics point as he loaded horses onto ships and tried to invade Japan, it was unsuccessful but the ancestors of those horses remain. We went mandarin picking. We even visited a penis park and a sex museum with thousand year old paintings of Indian orgies and the history of sex in Korea (the explanation for this being that this island is a popular honeymoon attraction).

The dinners are what I will remember most. When you ask any traveler what they remember most about Korea, they will always tell you it’s the food. Each night Warren picked out a special restaurant representative of the region. On Jeju it was wild boar, crab and abalone, a large sea snail. Koreans usually serve a main dish surrounded by a number of side dishes (the better the restaurant the more side dishes). Anything from caramelized anchovies, seaweed, pickled asian radishes and other vegetables and the obligatory kimchi, a fermented cabbage spiced with red pepper paste – and these you could get refilled free of charge!

We sat in long rows sitting on the floor along two long tables. The large pots with the main dishes cooking on portable stoves in the center of the table in front of us. I noticed the abalone still wiggling around in its shell but Warren assured me that it was normal. It was unsettling, but I’ve had lobster cooked live so I thought what’s the difference. We started with the side dishes, then ate the abalone and crab soup. It had a light broth but it was spicy and excellent with kimchi added to the broth. Everything was new; new food, new people, new places. I was enjoying myself and learning so much.

This was the way my life looked for the next year. I used the workweek to recover from whatever trip or excursion I was up to on the weekend. The lady at the Tous Le Jour cafe on the first floor would greet me not with a “good morning” but, “so where did you go this weekend?”

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Buddhist temple on Jeju. Photo by dknisely.

When I got my first contract extension, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Time flew by so fast I had no idea I had been in Korea for 11 months already. I had traveled 3 weekends out of the month. It was time to take a break. Instead of “tripping”, I did some solo hikes in the local mountains just to soak in everything that just happened in the past year.

In the meantime, before I could even make up my mind about re-signing at my first job, I got a job offer from a friend’s referral at a top 20 company in Korea, a company with over 100 schools and in the process of implementing a tablet based curriculum bypassing paper altogether. This was definitely a step up and in a few short months I would end up at the headquarters as part of a research and development team.

I was consumed by my new job. I eventually caught up with Warren after about 3 months later but it wasn’t the same. The extended family I was used to was nearly all gone. Many of them going back home after their year was up, and others moving to different cities in Korea. It was not the same. My priorities were not the same.

I was annoyed by all of the same questions that just a few months back seemed necessary and interesting: “Where are you from? Where do you teach? How is your school? Why Korea? What’s your plan after?” etc. etc. I had heard it all and seen it all before. Most of all, the feeling that I had all the time in the world to travel was now a relic I would leave behind with the old me. I was on to a new beginning imbued with a new confidence and excitement.

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Seoul at night. Photo by CC.

I appreciated Warren, Duncan and all of the other friends I had met that year but I knew it couldn’t last forever. I was now aware that life is more than a rat race and had met so many people that were 30 and still didn’t know what they were doing, they just lived in the moment. There were more ways to live life than just one. I didn’t feel like I needed to put life on hold anymore. I soon began to carve out a new path imbued with a new feeling of excitement and confidence.

I look back at the moment I had decided to come to Korea. I was filled with anxieties and uncertainties and had no idea what it would bring, but I am sure glad I did.

Click here for more by Adam Rozalowski.

Click here for more on Culture.

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90 Minutes a Slave

Adam Rozalowski

Edited by Eoghan Hughes

Photo credit: Conner Prairie Website

Four figures wearing fur and carrying large wooden rifles slung on their shoulders stood around a campfire laughing loudly. As we approached single file I could make out only a log cabin, surrounded by a thick forest, the 4 figures, and the campfire, but barely anything else. It was late November, and Central Indiana just had its first snowfall of the season. The snow crunched under our feet as we lined up, still single file, in front of the log cabin. Our owner motioned to the four figures as they approached slowly. Before they arrived, our owner warned us to answer any questions with a “yes sir” and “no sir” and to keep our heads down, we were not allowed, under any circumstances to make eye contact or lie about our what skills we possessed. For the next 90 minutes, I was to be a runaway slave on the Underground Railroad, and I had no idea what those ninety minutes would entail. I was at the mercy of total strangers. My only task: to follow clues and to escape into the freedom from which I had only minutes ago taken for granted. I wondered if I would manage to escape, judging by the silhouettes of the characters I was about to meet, it would not be easy.

“Bucks! Take a step forward!” A young girl made the mistake of doing so.
“If you could drop a baby outta ya, then you ain’t no buck! What are you stupid!
Now get back against the wall.” One of the figures, a giant of a man just under 2 meters tall wearing a wide brimmed hat and a fur coat approached me.
“What are you looking at! Don’t you look a white man in the face. Put your head down now! What do you do?”
“I’m a carpenter” I replied. (I worked as a carpenter for my dad’s remodeling business for a few summers and I felt my knowledge about the topic was adequate.)
“If you’s a carpenter then what is a plane used for?”
“It makes the wood nice and smooth sir” I replied.
“If you’re goin’ round using a plane, then let me see your hands”
I took my gloves off, a yellow light from the fire, dancing around with the unpredictable wind, reflected haphazardly against my now freezing hands.
“There ain’t no calluses on there and you ain’t no carpenter! You lying to me boy?!”
Immediately I felt an urge to defend myself. Even though these calluses were not from woodworking, I had calluses sticking out from the rest of my palms like exclamation points at the ends of my fingers from lifting weights ­ but I soon learned that arguing was no use.
“Get down on your knees, now!”

The ground was nearly frozen. I thought for a second, was this guy serious? My hesitation sparked another burst of angry commands. Soon, a mixture of mud and snow slowly gave way as I felt my now soaked and muddy knees (and my favorite pair of jeans) sink deeper and deeper into the mud next to the glow of the fire a few feet away. The men now divided our group into separate lines. The scene was chaotic. I couldn’t look up, but I heard the forceful commands from every direction. I expected to get tied up, I didn’t, but regardless, where would I run? What seemed like acres of dark forest surrounded us. For a second, I thought this was it, I would never get out again. I knew this was all a re­enactment, but still, I felt a deep­seated injustice being done to me. I hated those guys already and even though we were just getting started, I wondered if I was going to be one of the lucky ones and make it to freedom. I was on my knees, I didn’t know the terrain, and the slave traders carried meter long rifles: the odds were stacked against me.

 

When I read the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park website I was sceptical: “90 minutes can last a lifetime.” The webpage guaranteed “you’ll walk away with a lot to think about.”

Follow the North Star is an interactive historical experience. Along with a group of 17 others, I was to be a runaway slave on the Underground Railroad; a network of trails, hiding places and people, established to help slaves escape north to free states or to Canada.
The year is 1836 and the only source of light are campfires and lanterns with candles inside of them. We are in a thick forest on the outskirts of a free Indiana town, in the distance I can see faint lanterns lighting up the windowsills of the homes which we would soon seek help from ­ we were told that on the Underground Railroad this was a sign people were willing to help.
We are divided but taken to another cabin where we hear our next orders. “Move this pile of logs to that pile and don’t even think about stopping until you hear us say so.”
Indiana was supposed to be a free state but slave traders like the ones minding us proved that Indiana was no safe haven. The importation of slaves into the US was officially abolished in 1808, which only meant there was now a limited supply. To those slave traders, we were worth a lot of money.
“Get a move on it! Get them logs over on that side.”
We hustled back and forth, getting in each other’s way. Gravel crunched under our quickly shuffling feet.
“Get off the road…. hurry up…..stay in line.” The orders kept coming: disorientation reigned.

 

As a former history teacher, I was intrigued by the idea of taking part in an experiential activity rather than learning from the traditional history book, or passively watching a documentary. The director of the park claims that “this hands­on experience can lead to a much higher level of learning than takes place from studying a textbook for example.” During one of my last curriculum and development classes during the senior year of my BA, a colleague tried to recreate the Underground Railroad on campus. We must have looked ridiculous, walking around campus blindfolded, holding hands and trying to get to our next destination. I remember that I left this particular experience thinking, “what a great way to teach history!” but it certainly was not a “90 minute
experience that lasted a lifetime.” Therefore, I walked into the experience at Conner Prairie expecting something similar; I was wrong.

 

The slave traders looked, talked and even felt like the real deal. Soon enough we would learn that the rest of the historical re­creators were every bit as real.
We continued to move the logs from one side to the other.
“Hey, pssssst. They’ve gone back by the fire” said an older man, accompanied by his daughter.
In fact, they did, with a bounty of $500 on our heads, I figured this was a chance to get away. For a second we all looked at each other, we were lost in more ways than one, the old man and his daughter were already heading towards the town, with a feeling of helplessness, we followed. We soon crossed the bridge leading to the town, a sign that read “The Union. It must and shall be preserved” hung on the top of the post and lintel structure, making the experience even more real.
We were now far away from the campfire. I felt like I wanted to blow up the bridge behind us so that we can be sure the slave traders won’t catch up to us.
We followed a road but it was dark. We aimed for the only visible marker, what looked to be a barn painted stark white.

 

“Who goes there!”
A lady that looked like she came out of the painting Whistler’s Mother approached us. She wore a long black dress with a white cloth on her head. She was one of the local residents. Soon her 2 daughters joined her.
“What are you doing here?”
“Where is father?”
“What should we do?” The 3 women took turns voicing their dislike.
They took us inside quickly ­ but with a certain hesitation. We were now hiding in their barn but the tone of their voice was enough to let us know how they felt about us.
“Put your head down and don’t look at us!”
(I was getting used to having my head facing the ground and found myself doing it even at the Quakers home, where we were not expected to do so.)
These women looked at us like cattle, not important enough to be helped, and dangerous enough to be got rid of from their property as soon as possible.
At first I really thought they would help us, but really they themselves were in the same precarious situation; trapped in a system created by greed and immorality that they just so happened to come in contact with. It wasn’t the only moment in history that people would get swept up by dubious forces and would forget to stand up for what is right. On the way to the Quakers, as we shuffled down the dirt road, figures hunched, I thought about what I would have done if I was in their place?
You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I began to realize the magnitude of these uncertain situations that people were placed in, the environment that was created, how could you act any different than what the system wanted you to do? The next character we met, was a victim of this system, representative of another group of people affected by the abomination that was slavery.
Jebediah was the character that stuck with me the most because he represented the precarious situations that humanity is too often confronted with. Calm at first, Jebediah was someone I thought we could trust. He showed empathy at our condition, we were cold, hiding behind a barn (some of us even soaked, especially around the knees), nowhere to go.
In an earlier life, he was a talented carpenter in Charleston, South Carolina. A respected man who earned a bountiful wage, but soon lost his job to slaves who did the work ­ for free. On his journey to the North, a free market society absent of slavery where he could charge for his services, his daughter took ill and died. His wife also passed during the journey, according to Jebediah, from grief. In the middle of this story, Jebediah began to change his behavior.
“Don’t you look at a white man in the eyes you cattle.”
Jebediah worked himself up and began to hear voices from his late wife. He was clearly a drunkard, delusional, mentally unstable, corrupted by the system.
“Don’t worry honey, I am going to take care of you two, don’t worry.”He said ­ to himself.
“You think I’m going to help you ­ for all that you’ve done to me? You took away my wage, and now I am going to get my money back ­ by turning you in!”
He told us not to go anywhere but who knew what would happen if he returned. Clearly he wasn’t all there, and we took advantage of this.
We ran like hell, and soon found ourselves in the home of a Quaker family who piled us into a 5x8m room. The door began to shake with a vengeance. It was Jebediah, and he now had a rifle.
“I know they are in there old man, open up or you will regret it! I’ve got one of your kind here.
One man from our group exclaimed, “my daughter, where is my daughter!” In fact, his teenage daughter was no longer in our group, we looked at each other with fear and disappointment. We were supposed to act together and leave no one behind.
My buddy whom I brought along, Suade, looked at me, puzzled, “should we do something?”
“Like what?”
He returned my question with a blank stare.
Jebediah’s now crazed words vibrated against the foggy, single pane window of the Quaker’s home.
“I’ve had enough of you old man!” Jebediah shouted.
We heard what sounded like a young girl’s helpless scream. The father looked terrified ­ and then, a loud gunshot vibrated in everyone’s ears. At that moment, I was in 1836, in Indiana, running away, and Jebediah was hot on our heels. I was lost in the moment. Again my thoughts overwhelmed me. Would I survive? Would our group make it to freedom?

 

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Conner Prairie Website

I thought about the time I visited Auschwitz. “ There were so many prisoners, why didn’t they just rebel? Run away?” As a 20 ­something year old European, and a former teacher of history, I was bombarding myself with questions. Many of my students had the same questions after we watched bits from The Pianist, a movie about Jews trapped by Nazis in a Warsaw ghetto; why didn’t they just join forces and rebel? Or run away? It is easy to ask that question when you are sitting in a classroom, or a movie theater eating popcorn. It is a different story when Jebediah is following you with a rifle ­in a land you know nothing about. How could you make any decision when what you have to go on is next to nothing; new terrain, strange people, I was at the whims of historical time. I thought I knew history, what it was that really happened, but at that moment, I realized that only NOW I really only began to understand. I’ve visited Auschwitz twice, but it took coming to Conner Prairie to understand why something like the Holocaust could have happened, and why people acted the way they did.
I thought about making a decision, being decisive, saying to my group, “let’s take this trail, maybe we can lose him if we take this way……” But at the same time, what if he was there, and it was I who led my group back to captivity, or maybe even death. I stayed silent. At least one person spoke up, “let’s go this way.” It was the old man who lost his daughter. I was glad someone made a decision. The rest of the group was silent, we just followed. At this point, I felt like we may be close to “freedom” but Jebediah was still out there.

 

For slaves on the Underground Railroad, that was the least of their worries. Children crying, wet and cold winters without the luxury of campfires, dogs, wolves, starvation; these are just a few of the obstacles runaway slaves faced on the journey to freedom.

I thought back to the advert that drew me here: “you will walk away with a lot to think about.” The re­enactment wasn’t even over and already I had a million thoughts running through my head. I expected to learn something about the Underground Railroad, I came away with a lesson in hegemony, group psychology, empathy, and
indeed as the director claimed “a higher level of learning” than I could not have been able to ascertain from just reading a book.

 

A dim lantern, facing the outside into the street, that was the clue we were looking for and somehow we managed to escape the crazed Jebediah. Was this it? Did we make it?
The last stop on this re­enactment was a relief, but also an eye opener. Although we managed to outsmart the crazed Jebediah, out of the 18 people in our group only 3 survived. The last re­creator, an older soft spoken woman spoke to us from the porch of her home. She was the “soothsayer” who predicted our future (based on historical statistics). Suade, myself and another young man were singled out. She spoke to us with a gaze from the top of her cabin’s porch.
“Young men are the most likely to take risks, they are strong, and therefore they were most likely to make it to freedom.”
I felt relief.
She pointed to others. “You will die crossing a river. You 5 get caught and are brought back to Mississippi. Your child cries and are found by Jebediah and shot.”
I felt relief, and then a pang of guilt; I made it and the others did not.
After a final wrap up and discussion, we learned that the old man and the daughter that was “shot” were plants put in our group by the park to make sure everyone was ok (some people can’t handle it). We were “on the run” for an hour and a half and that was enough to inculcate in us a feeling of inferiority, a feeling of helplessness, a complete disorientation and uncertainty that paralyzed us. We all shared our impressions about how we felt then, but I know that mine will stay with me for much longer.
As an educator, the experience taught me that there are some things that are difficult to learn by simply reading about them. You may know about the “what happened” but the emotions, motives and decisions of the people involved may be difficult to understand. I found this experience to be worthwhile because it was successful in conveying to the participants exactly these elements. I learned the meaning of slavery; a complete loss of agency and systematic inculcation, marked by a feeling of inferiority. This experience made me think about the importance of “coming to terms with the past.” This is something that is still an ongoing process in Europe, in some parts more than others. I thought about my experience at Auchwitz, the experience of watching 12 Years a Slave with my Euroculture program mates at our annual research conference. I also thought about the resurgence of movies dealing with the less attractive European past. Movies such as The Pianist, and more recently the Oscar winners Ida and Son of Saul from Poland and Hungary respectively. The persistence of this topic fulfills a need for many people in the central and eastern part of Europe to properly come to terms with these tragic events; something that the region could not do under authoritarian communist governments.
This tragic history is more recent than the history represented at Conner Prairie. Therefore, I will stop short of suggesting that something like this should or could happen at places like Auschwitz, it may be too early or simply it may be too sensitive of a place for such an undertaking. I do want to point out however that the need for coming to terms with the past is very real for many people, groups, even nations. Movies and museums provide us with a framework with which we can discuss the past. They provide characters and names that people can use to reference past events and situations. They provide physical and non­physical arenas for discussions ­and in many cases arguments. Movies however do have their limits, after all, without further discussion they are just objects to be consumed passively. Therefore, we should be aware of the need to come to terms with the past, and also consider best practices of doing so.

 

Watching 12 Years a Slave with a large group of my classmates was a powerful experience, but it could never replicate my Conner Prairie experience. The moment my decision making center shifted from my brain to the viscera that occupied my gut will be something I will never forget . I finally knew what it was like to have no control, to be a part of a situation, a historical concoction of power and its abuse, that I hope never happens again: in the US, in Europe, anywhere.

The opinions expressed in this essay do not necessarily represent the views of The Euroculturer.