Anne Frank House

Most young women will remember reading Anne Frank, the diary of a young girl, when we were in high school. It always struck me as so unfair, them being cooped up for so long, being caught after surviving for years, and then her dying a month before the concentration camp was liberated.

Visiting the house in Amsterdam was something I am glad I have done. It wasn’t as emotional or heartbreaking as I imagined it might be, but I think partially that’s because it is so busy, and not everyone is respectful, and the noise prevents you from getting lost in the experience.

The layout is tasteful; the original decorations were up in the rooms. Photographs show what the rooms look like when they are full, but they stand empty now, making room for the line of people to snake their way through.

After you leave the two floors where the eight people hid, and move into the rest of the museum, there is a presentation on what happened to them after they were caught, and a brief glimpse of Bergen-Belsen. Of the eight, Anne’s father, Otto Frank is the only one to survive.

The most poignant moment for me was the diary. Anne Frank’s diary is open, encased in protective glass and on display. When you read the book, you understand it is a diary, but it’s not until you see the pencil writing on the unlined pages, with the plaid cover, that it really hits home.

The museum is worth the visit.

On a cold winter night, we lined up for an hour in the wind to get into the museum. The understanding is that it closes at 7 p.m. with the last time you can get in at 6: 30 p.m. We made it through the door just before the cut off.

Turns out you can buy tickets online through the website to go in after 7 p.m. (and eliminate the wait).

Pro tip: check the website and book a specific time to go.

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You are what you eat – waffles?

When I am at home there are a few things I like to do – work out, eat right and drink lots of water.

Wouldn’t you know – I have done the same things since arriving in Belgium – just replace walking for working out, waffles for eating right and beer for water.

I hope the miles logged while spent exploring will do their bit to counter the fact that I currently believe the four food groups are waffles, frites, chocolates and waffles, wait did I mention waffles?waffles

Seriously, the Belgians know a thing or two about amazing waffles. Unlike the plain “Belgium waffles” at home, the batter from the ones here are sweet enough to be perfect without any topping (just like the locals do it) or you can mess with perfection like many tourists and add Nutella, strawberries, whipping cream etc. etc. etc.

Then there are the frites, you’ll notice I call them frites, it’s an effort not so much to blend in as to make myself feel better at having fries for 3 of 4 meals when I initially arrived (I’m just pleased they don’t serve frites with breakfast or it would have been 4 of 4). They are fried not once, but twice (adding to their healthy quality) so they are nice and fluffy, and served with mayonnaise. I don’t even eat mayonnaise on my sandwiches (I couldn’t even spell it without the help of spellcheck), but apparently they take frites from great to amazing!

And of course chocolate… there are so many companies that make chocolates: Mary, Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini, Jean-Philippe Dacis, … and one’s you would recognize like Godiva. It was all good until I realized you could get a Nutella-flavoured chocolate layered with marzipan. It was like opening Pandora’s Box. I’ve sampled dark chocolate truffles, and light caramels, milk chocolate with hazelnuts, and white chocolate with almonds.

Mussels and friesI haven’t changed my entire diet to carbohydrates – fortunately, there is some protein too. Did you know that Belgium is famous for mussels? I didn’t, but I do now…and you order them by the half-kilo or all-you-can-eat. And, naturally, they come with frites.

So, excuse me please, it’s evening I need to go for another walk. Does anyone want a waffle?

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Serial

As a journalist (or team of journalists) you know you have done well when other organizations start writing stories, doing interviews and making videos to add to or further your story.

It can be frustrating (especially when someone agrees to talk to the new interviewer and not you), but mostly it shows that you have had made waves.

This is how Sarah Koenig, and the rest of the team of Serial, must feel as newspapers run opinion pieces, Subreddits are created, a main character gives an exclusive to the The Intercept, and the website Funny or Die perfectly captures what I believe production of the final podcast was like.

If you have not yet heard the Serial podcast, then set aside a couple of hours for season one (and by that I mean about 12 hours over the course of a week). Listen to is while you do dishes, as you make dinner, for a bit before bed (then run about 45 minutes and episode) and follow the story of the death of Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the man, Adnan Syed,  (a teenager at the time) who was convicted for her death. The thing is, as you hear the story what seems so straight forward, really isn’t.

There are days where I believe Adnan was unfairly convicted and others where I think he is exactly where he should be behind bars at Maryland Correctional Facility. It makes for addicting radio – the catchy theme music, which worms it’s way into your brain, doesn’t help break the addiction.

Just as a side note: As addicting as the radio program is – I could never imagine taking my interest and let it develop into a place where I would harass any of the people who shared their views and memories of that time. I learned that this has started to happen, while reading some of the other interviews being done (one person, the key witness Jay, who didn’t want to talk the Serial team). Apparently some people have started showing up at the house and taking pictures of the families. Not okay.

The series was initially launched on Oct. 3 – it’s “one story told week-by-week.”  The entire thing, all 12 episodes, is online. It is a spinoff from the radio show This American Life on NPR.

I’ve finished the series and now all that is left to do is wait for the email telling me the second season has started.

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It’s ugly – Fighting in hockey

In an arena half full – I was surrounded by adults cheering for teenagers fighting. It wasn’t controlled fighting, like karate, MMA, or boxing, but the fighting that comes with anger and frustration.

We don’t let teens drink until they are 19, and drive until they are 16, because the system says they are too young for that, but we will let teenaged guys fight for our entertainment.

This kind of fighting, in normal circumstances, we would stop, discourage, and punish as assault, but because it is part of a hockey game, it seems to be okay. Sure there is a brief timeout, but largely it is allowed.

I find it disgusting to see a 40-year-old man catcall and cheer as a teenager heads off the ice with a bleeding, possibly broken nose. The fight happened early in the second period, the team that was losing took to fighting back instead of playing harder. The crowd cheered them on. The fighting continued largely for the rest of the game.

The pregnant woman sitting behind me said, “This is the reason I don’t want my kids to play hockey.” Her partner was loudly cheering the fighting. So fighting in hockey is not good for your kids, but okay for the kids of someone else?

All and all I find fighting in sport barbaric. Well any sport that fighting isn’t a part of that is, I don’t have a problem with boxing or martial arts etc. It shouldn’t be a part of hockey at any level – but especially not junior hockey. It takes away from the sport. What about sportsmanship? You don’t see basketball, football or soccer players fighting or if they do, there are serious consequences.

But my anger isn’t at the hockey players or even the coaches really; it’s the cheering of the crowd that angers me. It feels like we haven’t moved so far from the Romans in the coliseum. Thumbs down.

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Prevention and treatment through music

Please watch (at least a couple of seconds of) this video.

All the people on that stage are from Uganda, they are healthy, happy, and on ARVs. All of the women were born HIV positive.

You would never have known unless I told you.

The music is all written, directed and produced by the man in the video, a Ugandan DJ called Moses Supercharger. He works with HIV positive youth and writes music about the HIV epidemic – songs include Adherence, Stepping Up The Pace, and Real Lover.

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