What follows is a rundown, of the 2011 summer, by LuLing Osofsky, nonfiction MFA candidate here in Wyoming. I have to say, there’s some exciting stuff here, especially compared to my summer, which was nice but so quiet. Thank you, LuLing, for adventuring enough for the both of us.
Poland: I went to Auschwitz three times. Auschwitz was actually comprised of many camps, it was a network of camps, for labor, for headquarters, for extermination. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was where the gas chambers and crematoria were. As the Soviets approached, Nazis blew up the crematoria to hide evidence of mass exterminations. The crematoria are now large crumbling piles of brick, like fallen monsters that have imploded into themselves, gnarled metal pipes twisting out in every direction, fingers pointing everywhere to blame. It’s grassy now, the grounds surrounding the crematoria, and I picked some wild strawberries, and ate them. Afterwards I was like, oh shit. What if there was the ash of dead Jews in the soil nurturing these little strawberries? I had eaten about five or six.
France: I picked wild blueberries, raspberries, sour cherries, in a tiny mountain village in the Alps. I made compotes and jams and hiked austere mountains and rappelled over rushing rivers. I was basically Heidi, except I also went to the Tour de France.
Hungary: Buda! Pest! A river runs through it.
Lebanon: Not to be a jerk, but honestly, you haven’t eaten hummus unless you’ve been to Lebanon. Life without Lebanese hummus will never be the same. Sorry, Israel, but yours just doesn’t compare.
Jordan: If anyone is reading this, GO TO PETRA. OMG. WTF.
Israel: I interviewed a Holocaust survivor. I was so nervous. How do you speak to someone who has been through the Holocaust? We told jokes. But not about the Holocaust. My research basically went upside down when my interview subject, an 85 yr old still-working sports columnist, at Israel’s largest circulating daily paper, survivor of Auschwitz, told me that everything I thought I knew about the subject of Jewish boxers at Auschwitz was “lies, lies, lies.”
Romania: I went to a small town on the border of Moldova, where my great-great grandfather was the rabbi’s assistant in the Jewish community there. There was one synagogue, built in 1871, and I visited it. It was boarded up, but the caretaker let me in: full of dust, broken glass, an old wooden chest holding kippas and prayer shawls, yellowed papers strewn on the floor, beautiful stained glass, and a stray gas mask lying there too. Apparently kids had broken in because they heard it was haunted; homeless people had broken in to find warmth. I wanted to send my grandfather a postcard from this town, Vaslui. But it wasn’t the kind of town that had postcards made for it.
Also two old gypsy ladies read my palm. One said: You went to an awesome party.
Another said: You have a blonde enemy. Only throwing the chicken bones will save you…
Throw those bones, friend!