Work Will set You Free

The ironic words that rest at the archway entering the infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz, in southern Poland.


My trip there was exactly what you may expect from a place so rot with terrible history – depressing.

Yet, it serves as a necessary reminder of the terrible things that humanity somehow continues to do to each other. WWII was not the first nor has it been the last sight of human suffering. Atrocities continue in places such as North Korea, Syria and have taken place in countless places in Africa , most famously in Rwanda. And yet the world in 1945 screamed “never again”.


Yet it has happened again- and the world has done little to stop it. But realistically, how could they? The UN condemns acts of atrocity, international NGOs do what they can to alleviate suffering and the US plays big brother when it is in their best interests.

The ironic thing, is that the crime of the Nazi’s is forever repeated in western schooling. We have remembrances, walks and are taught about it from 9-12th grade. But what I found so terribly ironic – is that while WWII was terrible – and thank God we won – it is by far NOT the worst example of humanity (think Rwanda and North Korea).

The difference is, it happened to “us”, The western world. We, who espouse democracy, freedom and all those rights I hold dear. We messed up (well, Germany did – and don’t ever mention it to them, they will forever apologize for the mistakes of their forefathers and become severely embarrassed and ashamed).

DSC00604We – the western world – were shocked at what we could do when faced with racism in its purist form.

While walking the terrible path that many before me had walked, I thought how this example of human suffering so shocked our western thoughts. The difference between this example and others is how closely it hit home.

I ask you to think on this. Ask yourself if you pay attention to things happening in far off lands that do not necessarily affect your way of life. If not, maybe you should wonder why…if it was one state/country over would it make a difference? Your relative/friend/neighbor?

“Never Again”

That is how it starts. With you. Do not wait for the government to do something – Be the Change you Want to See in the World.


Picture: End of the train that led to Auschwitz. There were no further stops.


To Become a Nose

We all have them, but only about 200 people in the world properly use them.
A Nose can be equated to a sommelier, a connoisseur of scents. This individual can literally identify every scent in a perfume bottle as well as hundreds more. To be a true Nose one must go through a rigorous training having the ability to pair and mix scents to achieve some of the worlds oldest and most prestigious perfumeries.
I had the pleasure of visiting such a place on a trip to Grasse, France; the home and birth of perfume. Located in the hilly countryside of the southern province, Grasse is exactly the idyllic town you would imagine.
Going there gave me a greater appreciation for the true art of scent. It takes nearly 1 ton of flowers to make just 1 ounce of perfume oil! Further, most factories stick to their classic methods developed in the late 18th century and retain their dedication to quality.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, you too can become a Nose. Simply train yourself to identify the 10,000 smells that the human nose is capable of detecting – and you got it.
(Or you can be like me, appreciate true art when you see it, then leave the rest up to the professionals)

Cultural Impressions

Have you ever been to South Africa? Talked to a South African? White or Black?

In all my traveling about, I have met several South Africans – none of which have been black. Yet, we are talking about an African nation here where 90% of the population is native to the reign.


In traveling to this particular country, I have never felt so uneasy to be white in my life. If not for the knowledge of the history of oppression the white population had imposed on the native population, than for the extremely high crime rate of the nation. According to a UN study conducted in 2005, South Africa ranked as one of the top countries in the world for rape and murder. This fact is compounded by the widespread epidemic of AIDS and extreme inequality of wealth between the top 10% (who are mostly white) and the impoverished 90% (who are mostly black) – which many would argue is the reason for the extreme culture of violence.

Upon landing in Johannesburg, one of the first things I noticed was the bared windows and walled up homes with shards of glass surrounding the living compounds. To say this is unnerving is an understatement. Lucy, a friend I met on my travels, explained that growing up they could not play outside or walk to school because it was too dangerous. Instead, families spend their times on buses or within the walled up compounds of their homes – that is if they are well off enough to have a home.


Picture: Soweto, a shanty town in Johannesburg of roughly .5 million

Regardless of its notorious reputation, I did not experience anything more than uneasiness while walking about Johannesburg or surrounding areas (solo I might add), but I did experience something else that I did not quite expect while making the obligatory trip to the apartheid museum.

Lost and attempting to find my way, I pulled up to a gate guard and naturally asked for directions (locked doors and cracked windows of course). Instead of answering my question he tilted his head and asked where I was from. ‘America’, my response.

He gave me a look  I will never forget.

It was a look of inherent respect, one I had never before received for just stating my nationality. He then promptly put his hand my car, keeping his steady gaze and shook my hand. ‘That way,’ he pointed. And away I drove.

This moment is forever branded in my mind and has yet to be replicated. I don’t know if it was the recent election of President Obama (which I think was a large player), or the large respect for the values of the country. Regardless, that one moment will stand out among the others as one I will never forget.


Upon being told in late April that I would need to cancel all my vacation for the summer and spend two months in the sweltering heat of Montgomery, Alabama – I blankly stared. After recovering from the fact that I would need to cancel my Running with Bulls trip and tell my poor sister that she would need to navigate Harrogate, England without me…I started to think of the two month training as less of an order and more of a paid vacation back to America.

It had been two years since I had spent longer than a week back in the states. A fact that I honestly did not think much of until I stepped off the plane in Atlanta (aka Hot-lanta). I do not know what it was, possibly the upfront, slightly pushy nature of the TSA staff directing us to immigration or the fact that one lady boldly complimented my shoe choice (Brit’s don’t really do that) or possibly it was the diversity of the airport that made me really feel at home. England is lovely, but they don’t have the raw, boisterous, straight forward nature of an American that you just can’t help but love. I was so excited I nearly hugged everyone that greeted me with a “hello” and “this way”.

But lets get more to the interesting part of the story – why, may you ask, did I get sent to Alabama?

In the Air Force they have something called Squadron Officer School or SOS. This two month training (sometimes 5 weeks, other times 8…the Air Force can’t decide how long to make it) is meant to instill every Captain (officer in for about 6/7 years) with leadership principles as well as test them through a series of obstacles and “team leadership problems”/ TLP’s.

Sound like fun? Actually, it is a Hell of a lot of fun. I basically get paid to run around in the morning jumping through hoops, climbing walls or playing some sort of dodge ball game called FLEX (field leadership exercise…we love our made up acronyms)


FLEX demo (also known as Icarus):

I consistently look around at what I get to do through the military and the Air Force and wonder how I get paid to do these things. Yes, SOS does take you away from home for 2 months and forces you to learn about communication and leadership principles (FRLM) well as forces you to play fake games that are supposed to test your leadership ability..but it is basically two months where your schedule is 9-3pm with half of that time spent outside solving puzzles.


Picture: Project X – A series of obstacles involving limited resources, a lot of water and high walls.

Dos Gringos, SOS:

Of course there are always those people that find it a waste of time (which they have a point with our hard working 6 hour days and 2 hour lunches), but I ask you, if the Air Force is spending thousands of dollars to invest in training you to be a better leader and giving you two months to reflect on this ability – why not take it?



On this 4th of July I find myself back in the United States for the first time in 2 years.

While it has been amazing living overseas for those 2 years, there is just something about coming home to celebrate my countries birth that gives an extra special sentiment only understood by those who have lived away from home for so long.

While explaining this to my Scottish boyfriend, he made an interesting point: Have you ever wondered what other countries celebrate their independence? England does not celebrate nor understand the concept of an Independence Day – because everyone is celebrating their independence from them!

True for nearly every European country, we have a unique perspective as a former colony, and current world power. While we are by no means perfect, it is amazing to see the patriotism seen on our birthday, celebrated through BBQs with neighbors, friends and relatives. Never before had I stopped to think how unique this celebration is to the modern world where ancient powers take for granted their years of history and dominance.

Today, while at sitting on the beach, drinking a beer with those whom I love, I appreciate for the first time the 4th of July.