Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Stumbling Across A Painful History

Holocaust Memorial Tiles in Berlin

It was spring break. After spending two and a half months in Galway, Ireland, I set off to Berlin. I spent four days in the city before I stopped and looked more closely at the metallic stones I glanced dotting the street as I rushed to and from the tourist spots. I was stunned as I read the stones, realizing that all over the city small memorials dotted the streets, markers of those taken from their homes in the Holocaust. I immediately snapped a picture, and found myself taking dozens more as I took the time to stop and read everyone I stumbled across. The memorials were incredibly moving, and taking the moment to stop, to witness the significance of such a seemingly small thing, a cobble stone in the street, gave me an entire new way of seeing the city. As I appreciated the incredible city that Berlin had become since WWII, walking over the stones was a constant reminder of the past, a subtle nudge, almost subconscious, that pushed me to think, “never forget, never again.” It was a moral statement that for those who stopped to look at the stones and understood what they walked across, was a constant reminder of how the city should be, and the moral values it must always uphold.

When I returned to Ireland, I found myself noticing and pursuing information on small statues and monuments that I had walked past in Galway, but never really thought to understand. I soon found that in and around Galway there were monuments to remember the women abused and mistreated in the Magdalene Laundries, and for those who had been victims to other horrendous abuses of the Catholic Church. Slowly, as I walked past the monuments every day, no longer with ignorance to their meaning, I felt my view of Ireland changing.  I could feel how the monuments for those in Ireland who truly understood them and drove past them everyday, could provide the same subtle reminder as in Berlin, a constant undertone of morality that reminded the Irish to never forget about the wrong done by those who would claim moral authority over the country. Those monuments, even with the most subtle reminder, made their message heard when Ireland passed their referendum on Gay Marriage. The moral consciousness of Ireland had changed, due in no small part to the constant reminders, however small, that prompted the Irish every day to remember the moral failings of the past.

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