Friday, December 31, 2010

Berlin- Awesome and Terrible

I never recounted my experiences from my last 2 weeks in Europe, I am disappointed I didnt put my thoughts in writing while they were fresh, my mind is constantly running at top speed (not going anywhere, top speed in circles) and I cant even remember my thoughts from 5 minutes ago, 5 weeks ago is long gone. On that note, I have tried keeping a journal of sorts with me at all times so that I can write down thoughts I have or interesting things I see or hear, I will often think, "na, I dont need to write that down, I can remember that," and so it is gone forever, or sometimes I will write like a little reminder, just a code word to start the thought process in my mind again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. And sometimes I will use the person I am with as a notepad and present my thought to them and then I can ask them later what it was, or the conversation that proceeds makes it a significant enough event that I remember it later. Kari is lucky enough to be my notepad pretty often, and every now and then after some capricious cerebration comes to to surface she asks where it came from and it is quite fun sometimes to trace back my string of thoughts to something real that triggered it all. I will try to write it down next time something like that happens.

I was talking about Europe, and how I should have put my experiences to paper sooner. I met a guy named Ryan, the coolest Pirate in Santa Cruz, who sold me a beautiful old Raleigh bike and from my email he clicked the link to this blog, I saw him a couple times after that and every time he encouraged me "keep documenting your life man." I try, Ryan. My return from Europe has been full. Full of travels, decisions, people, adventures... wait... I didnt talk about my final days in Europe. Berlin! This city was awesome and terrible, awesome because of its history and terrible because of its history. We happened to be there during the celebration for the 20th anniversary of German reunification which filled the streets with carnival rides, food vendors, and thousands of people. We went down the Unter den Linden on our Fat Tire bike tour (we did one in Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, annnd London) early in the day and saw the stage and vendors and things being prepared among the Brandenburg Gate. Now that is no ordinary piece or architecture right there. As one of the first places we stopped in Berlin, I was amazed to hear the history of this one spot. The gate served as the entrance to the city since the 1700s and during the war it was one of the Berlin Wall crossings, right on the line. But before that, a couple hundered years ago when NAPOLEON and the French took over Berlin, he stole the horse and chariot and took it to Paris. NAPOLEON! Of course the French were defeated 10 or so years later and the chariot was restored. How cool is that? We went on exploring and the amazing history never ceased thoughout the city. The Berlin Wall, an event that will be remembered forever, it happened in my lifetime, and there it was right in front of my eyes. There are so many interesting things to say about all of this I cant go into it all, theres a story behind the rounded top on the wall, half a mile down the road is "Checkpoint Charlie", directly behind me is the only remaining Nazi building in Berlin (which remains despised as it houses the German equivalent of the IRS), there is just so much history everywhere, and amazing architecture. We saw and learned about historic churches, palaces, parks, we saw bullet holes from WWII battles, and numerous remnants of the destruction caused in the war. WWII was obviously a prevalent part of the experience, it was amazing to see how huge of an impact the war had, and still has on the culture. Sure the US was in it, but in Europe they were IN it, and throughout my entire trip the war would come up in conversation and explanation.

Berlin is home to one of the worlds prominent Universities, Humboldt University, which sits in the heart of the city. Educated here were impressive names like Max Plank, Karl Marx, and a guy named Alfred Einschteim that seemed to impress people. In from of the university was a square that held two identical churches with an interesting history of their own, but in the middle of that square was a reminder that even an institution of education such as this with such a proud history has dark marks which must also be remembered. A plate of glass stands out in the middle of a cobble stone square and under the glass there are white shelves lining an otherwise empty room. A nearby plaque offers a brief explanation and a quote. "That was merely a prelude. Wherever they burn books, eventually they will burn people too." -Heinrich Heine, 1820. This was the site where on May 10, 1933 Nazi students took 20,000 books from the university that were not in compliance with Nazi teachings and burned then in a pile in the square. The white shelves in the inaccessible room are big enough for 20,000 books as a memorial to the burnings. They acknowledge the history that has passed through the town, the good and the bad... and the absolutely terrible.

We experienced the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, when I say terrible, this is what I mean. The memorial is housed under ground, and above it is a field of 2,700 stele, which are huge concrete slabs, covering 4 acres. The slabs stand on rolling little hills and vary in height across the field so that when walking through you will at one moment be looking out over the stele and the next be standing in the dark with concrete towering 10 feet over your head. Below, in the memorial, the information is presented as a continuation of the stele above, sometimes as a hanging continuation of the stele containing information about a person or family and their struggle for survival in concentration camps or in hiding. One room was nothing but glass rectangles on the ground reflecting the stele above them, back lit to show letters from Jews being taken to camps, being held in camps, or desperate attempts to reach people who were already in camps. It was... well you can imagine. It was interesting to think how other people were experiencing the information, some people walking through crying, did they have some tie to those lost in the Holocaust? Maybe it was out of shame? How did the Japanese tourists take it in? Are they taught the history as freely as we are in the US? Standing there next to an Asian couple in my head for a second I felt like a local and that I was standing next to tourists and felt slightly ashamed of what we were looking at, then I remembered I wasnt at home, the US helped stop all this, I felt much better after that, that is not to say that I think Germans should feel personally ashamed of what happened, it was just a weird experience.

Oh goodness, by brief write ups never end up very brief do they. Quickly, the reunification celebration was great to be a part of, the kind of local cuisine is Mediterranean, like baba ganoush and falafel and stuff, weird, and the German public transportation system is the best in the world. Next, I am off to Barcelona.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unfamous Rawlings Christmas Letter

For those of you not fortunate enough to be part of the Rawlings Family Holiday Card Mailing List, we have kept up the classically tacky tradition of writing a letter to summarize our lives since our previous installment. Yes, we know it is a Holiday faux pas, in fact we embrace that fact, and our loyal following insists that they enjoy receiving it every year, and so it comes without fail, on fancy paper, joined by a family picture and postmarked from Santa Claus, Indiana. And now you have the privilege of reading it as well, and though you are not quite getting the full experience, I hope you enjoy.


Rawlings Family Christmas 2010

Hey everbuddy! Hope this letter finds you all happy, healthy, and omnipotent. It has been another big year for the Rawlings, and an interesting one for me. Most of the year has been the same ol stuff. Lots of soccer, playing and reffing still. I started doing High School games this year, which has been an interesting experience. The big exception was a change in jobs. My KY work visa ran out, so I took the Operations Manager position at a new company, QTR Inc, in Evansville. It was a gut wrenching decision to leave my friends at Custom Resins, and a challenging start at QTR, but it is a great company with solid growth and potential. Well, we’ve still been able to get the boys to write their updates, so as long as you haven’t grown tired of the endless stream of family and friend’s newsletters, read on!

Becky: I lead a pretty mundane life compared to everyone else in the family. I am still working my school nurse job at Bosse High School and my admission nurse job at St. Mary’s Hospital. I spent a lot of my summer break in West Virginia and Pennsylvania helping and visiting family. I doubled my garden space this year but the bugs got most of my squash. Seems squash bugs are are most prevalent in this area of the midwest. We are still eating fresh tomatoes from the garden though. My new project is finding a good, used car before the end of the year. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Mark - The year started off with nothing but photography: photography jobs, photography classes (my first!), work at the studio... what else are you going to do when it’s cold?! Speaking of cold, during Pittsbrugh’s snowmegeddon I did a photo project on Pittsburgh parking chairs that got some local attention and is now featured on the wikipedia page for parking chairs! Then my class ended, my photo jobs dried up, and I was jobless. Taking advantage of this joblessness I visited Brendon out in Santa Cruz for a week of west coast debauchery and succeeded admirably. Lucky for me I immediately found a good paying dream job leading bike tours in and around Pittsburgh. This included things as small as leading groups of summer camp kids around the trails of Pittsburgh on day trips, to 350 mile journeys between Pittsburgh and Washington DC (I did this trip many times over the summer) and everything in between. In between bike tours I worked on two farms, one 70 miles outside Pittsburgh (quite a ride), and one about 8 miles outside the city. I did mostly infrastructure work on both of these including building a large greenhouse out of most recycled wood and quite a few rock paths and patios. As summer faded I spent more and more time at the farms and less time on the trails, and I also moved into a nice old house on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh overlooking downtown and the surrounding hills. As soon as the bike tours ended I joined an old friend Phil on a cross country adventure that took us from west to eat by way of Salt Lake, Yellowstone, Badlands, Minnesota State Fair, Apostle Islands, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Erie sailing on Gottalife, and a visit to the farm Gillian was working on for our one year anniversary. It was a pretty spectacular way to cross the country (8 National Parks AND we skipped the great plains). To finish up the year I made another boat delivery down to the Bahamas, we saw lots of whales, a Great White Shark do a full breach, and all kinds of other exciting things like a spinnaker explode, sonic booms, and 40 ft seas. Due to breaking too many sails we had to make a three day pit stop, and to brighten spirits after beating the snot out of ourselves in 7 days of upwind sailing (gentlemen never sail to weather!) my girlfriend came down and brought good weather with her. She joined us on a beautiful gulfstream crossing and we cruised through the rest of the Bahamas at our leisure. This brought us back to a cold wintry Pittsburgh just before Thanksgiving where I plan to start hibernation soon. With no winter jobs and plenty of money saved from the summer I’ll be taking time off in the winter to catch up on photography projects and learn a couple new skills (welding and woodturning are at the top of the list). Another winter project is remodeling my website, which I expect to be getting up and running around February. You can reach me as always at OR or just if either of those don’t sit right in your stomach.

BRENDON- It’s a frosty Philadelphia fall morning. Six AM and I’m returning from a grueling shift of toy sorting at “R Us”. Unable to sleep I sit and think about the big decisions I have ahead of me. A glimmering white angel pops up on my shoulder. I am not getting enough sleep. “Do the sensible thing,” She says, “Make yourself a home, find a real job, you have had your adventures, now settle down and make a life for yourself.” As I ponder her immaculate wisdom I am joined by a writhing mass of pasta and meatballs levitating over my other shoulder. “Forget that sparkly chick!” The Flying Spaghetti Monster proclaims, “Go have some fun, follow your wonderful girlfriend around the country, she will be done with school in a year, have fun while you can. Besides, you have a letter to write for the Holidays, what would you say?!” It is hard to disagree with that logic, but I am still torn. As I think, the FSM extends his noodly appendage and strangles the angel on my other shoulder. That settles that, I am going on an adventure.

And so it was. I finished my time in Philly (and at Toys R Us, whew) and continued across the state to Pittsburgh, where Kari had her first placement. Kari had two three month internships left to graduate with her Masters in Occupational Therapy. It turns out it is tough to get a good job for 3 months, so I wound up stuffing papers in envelopes and filling ink cartridges, it wasn't so bad though, I love that city and being with my friends and family. Our cross country drive was next on the agenda, and when April came around we set off with a car full of junk and a mind full of California dreams. Through Dallas, Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas, we made our way to home in Santa Cruz with our 3 new housemates we found on Craigslist, luckily they turned out to be 3 of the awesomest dudes you'd ever hope to meet. There is nowhere in the country like SC, with a general laid back attitude and a trust and respect present through the community, it was great to be a part of it for what time we had there. I immediately bought a board and got into surfing, SC has the best surfing in the country and I loved it, I finally got a hang of it... just before I left. The job search was brutal, after giving up on anything biology I landed a job in tech services at the Beach Boardwalk amusement park, working on anything with a computer involved, CCTV, audio, telephones, so much more... it was pretty crazy, and I loved it, working on the beach all day with a great group of guys around people that were just there to have fun. I ended up spending 6 months there, staying to finish the season at my carnie job while Kari finished her last 6 weeks of school in Philly. The people I met and experiences I had in Santa Cruz I know will stay with me for a long time, but my time there had to come to an end. The adventure continued as I left SC for a backpacking tour of Europe. My two friends and I left in the middle of September for Europe where we traveled for 2 weeks, and on the day my friends flew home Kari flew in and the two of us continued for another 2 weeks. Ready? Amsterdam and the bicycles, bustling streets, “coffee” shops, canals, street performers, and women in windows with red lights... The Swiss Alps and snowboarding on a glacier in 50 degree weather, and the little ski village and the parties they throw, Milan and the best pizza I ever hope to eat, Rome and the immensely impressive architecture, Vatican City (I saw the pope!), and everything is so old! Munich and Oktoberfest, and the beer, the trip to the Monastery, and the beer, the beer, and the beer, and Kari! Prague and the castles, the clubs, the museums, and the astronomical clock, Berlin and the history! the Wall, and the 20th anniversary of German reunification, Barcelona, the beaches, the Spanish Inquisition, and Montjuic, Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the French Revolution, the art, the bridges, the buildings, London, the people, the Palace, the buses, the markets, the airport... home... I'll just keep it going, Kari and I took a little trip when we got back to check out possible places to live, so, LA, the sprawling extravagance, the peeeeople, Santa Cruz, the friends, the citywide Halloween party, Denver, the mountains, the city, the job opportunities... the Uhaul, the drive, the apartment, the new home. What better place to be for the holiday season than nestled in the Rockies. We are just getting moved in and are finally settling down for a while, it is nice to have a home, and I am sure that sparkly chick is happy too. So, I am a Denverite (Yes, still a Steelers fan) and we have a two bedroom apartment, the 2nd is for you when you come out to hit the ski resorts. As always, you can fill in the gaps by reading my blog at, or email me at Happy Holidays!

Alan: Welcome back everyone to the wonderful world of Mark and Brendon showing off. I left you guys last year in the magical location of Clearfield, PA, the home of my lovely almost 1 year girlfriend. This 2 lettered young lady and I went into our previous semester with a new wind, and it was flipping freezing man. It was a pretty tough semester, my favorite class of course was biochemistry.. Bet you don't know how your body digests food, how does that make you feel? But in all seriousness it was my second semester of humanities with an amazing professor. The beginning of the semester was coupled by one of the most snowful winters EVER. With that, I took all my friends to Seven Springs to ski with Brendon.. I guess we are but a smidge compared to european vacations and international shenanigans. Our other fun trip was a weekend in our wonderful nation’s capital. We stayed at my friends Aunt’s house just outside the city and rode the metro into the city, I felt so.. urban! Of course we toured all the monuments, and i elbowed the President in a game of basketball. No pain no game Prez! I woke up in a strange room with a single hanging light and a horrible headache, the last thing I remembered was black suit yelling THE PACKAGE IS DOWN! What is with him being called “The Package” anyway? I digress, we went through a couple museums and saw a thrilling documentary of the life of Sardines.. What exactly counts as an “Ocean Adventure” to those people is beyond me.. that's false advertising in my book. We had a fabulous time in D.C. the highlight of which was the Spy museum I think. Once I apologized at the YooHoo Summit and was pardoned, we thanked my friends family and were on our way back to school. The semester flew by and in the end, to keep the metaphor going, I had the wind at my back and it was smooth sailing. Did I mention I was on the Dean’s List Sea? Summer was upon us, and parting was such sweet sorrow as I bid farewell to Mo-town and my fair maiden. I traveled to the mysterious flats of Indiana with the hopes of finding a new summer job. As fate would have it, a technician at my Dad’s plant just had knee surgery so i was called upon to fill the void. It just so happened that the void was from 6 PM to 6 AM. So this summer i transformed from Alan to OWLan. The nocturnal lifestyle isn’t all that bad once you live it for a week or so. Our vacation was going to California to visit Brendon and Kari in Santa Cruz. This was the first time I had ever seen the west coast. No one told me that the water was coming from frickin Alaska though! I had to at least get one body surf in before I was thawed 500 years in the future, yes there are jetpacks, but no cute trash compacting robots! It was exciting to see San Fran and drive “The One.” The coast was amazing. Not to mention I got to see the origins of the Olson twins when they were still innocent little girls. We even tested the cars power steering down Lombard Street. Our other tangent was a trip to Monterrey where we lived it up in the city and toured a very interesting aquarium. This time I’m not being sarcastic. It was a very cool place. Sadly our visit had to end and it was back to the nightly grind. It wasn’t long before I returned to WV and moved into my new place here to live with my cousin Tim. Before school started I made a couple trips to see old friends in Pittsburgh and up to Clearfield once more. Before I knew it, Chemistry was upon me, and it was back with a vengeance. It’s like it is gunna be my job or something, you know what I mean? This semester has been another tough one, only a couple weeks left, and I eagerly await the results. I look forward to this break and seeing everyone again. Happy Holidays everyone! May the Noodle be with you!


Now wasnt that beautiful? And keeping in the spirit, I thought I would share with you the tree topper I created after a jolt of inspiration by a pasta colored length of garland hanging in the store.

Take a moment to appreciate His Noodly Appendage as it gracefully dances with the boughs.Happy Holiday everyone!