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The Crystal Tree
At the center of creation there is tree made of crystal
No one knows where it came from
And it’s grown so tall no one can see it’s top
But it continues to grow
And it will probably never stop
People carve into the tree
The make sculptures and pictures
Engravings to reflect and refract
Scattering the light into rainbows
And it is beautiful
But sometimes a scar is put into the tree
Sometimes by mistake
For someone chipped too hard
Or in the wrong place
And sometimes by malice
By those who wish to steal crystal from the tree
To fill their own greed
Or those who sabotage the work of another
These scars are ugly, hideous beyond measure
Sometimes it even buckles under it’s own weight.
We try to erase them, but we cannot
As the trees keeps growing
And they are always just out of reach
Some try to hide the scars
Others try to make them look like
They were part of the art
Some try to work twice as hard to make up for them
And sometimes the scars just go so high they are forgot
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Well, it was only six months, now I'm back (it just took over a year to write this journal entry because I'm so slow). I'll get into the details of all that next journal, here I'm just going to cover Germany, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

So, Germany. On the way to Ethiopian, my family stopped for a week in Germany. Aside from the layover in Frankfurt (there I had some problem with one of the security guys because I didn't know the name of the place I was staying at the time), we spent the whole time in Germany in Bavaria, though we did stop in Austria a few times. While there we stayed at a resort in Schliersee that my parents bought a deal with while in Bali. The first day we stopped at this recreation of a traditional Bavarian village there. Thing I liked most were the animals, there was this one cat there that get disappearing and reappearing like cats do, and children liked playing with it, like children do. I also think they had a peacock in their barn. There I also learned that sheep naturally have long tails, we just dock them because we suck. For dinner we ate at a local Hungarian restaurant, and I got schnitzel because it's the best. In the evening we stopped at this park/playground thing, and there a woman just changed her swimsuit in front of us, which I guess is to say "welcome to Germany." :P (Lick) The next day we drove out to Neuschwanstein and the neighboring village. On the way over, we stopped at Aldis to buy some stuff for lunches, they had these neat bread vending machines. First we saw the castle where Ludwig II grew up in. There someone asked about what happened to the government after Ludwig, the tour guide said "afterwards we became a republic...than Hitler happened..." and she was all embarrassed. We had lunch in the village, bought some knickknacks, bought some brats. Turns out currywurst are just hotdogs in curry and thus a disappointment. Then there is Neuschwanstein. Not only is the castle beautiful, but the landscape and view is just gorgeous. I kinda wish the place would just get finished. There was also a museum for Ludwig's royal family in the village. Some classifiable mental illness or autism spectrum disorder clears runs in the family, not only Ludwig, but also many of his relatives like Empress Elisabeth of Austria clearly had something. That's all I remember that day.

Next day was our first day in Austria. The first think we went to was one of those historic salt mines which funded Salzburg, and some prehistoric man was found there. It's notable for these slides that were used back in the day. There is also this really pretty underwater lake in the middle of it, there a new technique was pioneered for harvesting salt that involves dissolving it into water and then evaporating the water out, this greatly increased the salt yields. After that we visited this museum about the Celts in Germany, didn't know there where Celts there, I thought they were British. One funny thing they had there was a toy astronaut in this time line of artifacts dug up in the region and when they originated from. They also had a lot about trepanning. There was also a recreation of a Celtic village either next to the mine or the museum, I don't quite remember which. We also visited the church where Silent Night was composed or something like that. The coolest thing we visited was this once palace in the evening, Hellbrunn. The thing that palace is known for is it's extremely intricate fountains, many of which power automatons.  We got a tour through the place, and the first thing that was shown off was this table with a bunch of chairs that the prince entertained his guests at. Well, actually, it was mainly for entertaining the prince, as the key feature of the table where the chairs, each of which has a fountain spout in it in which to give the guest a surprise enema. We then toured the gardens and palace, which had a ton of cool water-powered automatons. There was always some point where the tour guide would ambush the group with hidden sprinklers, the prince was a real troll. After that we climbed up the stone theater, this large amphitheater carved out of the rocks in the forest on the hill, and it was really good. There were also lots of these little brown frogs hopping around the theater. Last thing we did in Austria was stop at the Sound of Music pavilion. On the way back, we stopped at this archaeological site with Neanderthal caves and Roman villas. It took us awhile to find them because we initially mistook this other cave across a canyon for it. To get to the caves, you had to climb up this hill, and that was fun. 

The next day, we went to Nordlingen, a medieval town that this has it's wall. While there, we visited several museums, mostly on German history. One was the museum about some crater, but unless you could read German there was very little to get out of it. The coolest thing about the town was really the wall itself. It encircled the entire town, and has several different section from different time period. One thing I noticed about the town is there are lots of different colored pig statues throughout it, some could only be seen from the wall. For dinner we got kebabs from a restaurant there, it's a bit of a goal of mine to eat kebabs in as many countries as possible. The next day we went to the concentration in Dachau, that place was chilling. The image the stuck in my mind the most was a line of brown toilets in one of the housing blocks. The first time I was in Canada, we stayed at this one hotel were there was a stall with two toilets in it and we made jokes about it, this is the same type of thing, only it's not a joke anymore. It just sums up the Nazi attitude, it's like "hey, we gave them toilets, we're progressive!" while ignoring how dehumanizing it is. The statue for the memorial is very haunting, no way someone who wasn't a survivor would have come up with that. There were several more heartwarming and less disturbing memorials in the back dedicated to various groups like Catholics. We only looked through the museum briefly due to time constraints, it was a general holocaust thing, but one thing important to keep in mind is most the people in Dachau were NOT jews, it was the first concentration camp and originally used for political prisoners, mainly poles and slavs. They had a little thing on Viktor Frankl so with my interest in psychology I fangasmed. After that we visited Linderhof Castle, another one of Ludwig's palaces. The place is immensely gilded in an almost horror vacui manner, and full of mirrors, the ultimate symbol of vanity, it's just striking. Inside was gilded piano created for Richard Wagnar, but he never came to play it, leading to the "Wagnar-Sempai, please come play in my castle!" inside joke. There were also lots of cool things in the castle grounds, like a hunting lodge taken from one of Wagnar's plays, and his actual man cave with cool lighting and a swan boat. Pretty sure he was gay as well as autistic. In evening we went to this other resort in Schliersee at the top of a mountain because the have a toboggan course down the mountain, though we also jumped on their trampolines like hooligans. I seemed to be the only person who didn't crash my toboggan on the way down. 

We went back to Salzburg the next day. This time we spent more time in the actual city. If I recall correctly, this was the same time as this huge musical festival, so stuff for that were all over the city. First we visited all the famous churches in the city we could, what I remember the most is one had a painting with a triangle with the tetragrammaton on a white triangle in the place of God. The graves around the churches were also pretty cool, they all had lots of decorations. After that we went into the catacombs, which I found disappointing as they were really shallow catacombs. Next we went to 
Hohensalzburg Fortress and spent most the day there. It's a massive fortress which sets ontop the massive hill in the center of the city. Inside we learned about all the sieges on Salzburg like the peasants rebellion or when Napoleon took over, but the fortress never fell, it's really impregnable. I remember there was a tree in the courtyard in the middle and either the pigeons and squirrels were quite funny. At one part they had a bunch of torture devices on display, including the pear of anguish and several animal masks. We also toured one of the guard towers. Last thing I recall was this room with these weird puppets, and at the bottom is a chamber full of coins people dropped which is apparently cursed or something. In evening we just looked around the city. We briefly looked at Mozart's house, but we didn't go in because the line was way too long, and it's just his house. For dinner we stopped at this whole-in-wall place which served currywurst, but of a much superior quality. Rather than just being cut up hotdogs in curry, it's a full sausage in a bun with curry instead of mustard as well as other flavors. They gave their dogs their own name, but I forgot what it was. The place has a reputation on Traveler Reviews, and for good reason, it's delicious. I remember that evening our wurst at this park with sculptures, and I remember sitting down right at the crotch of this statue of naked women. :P (Lick) 

We spent our last in Munich. The first thing we saw was the majestic Rathaus with it's animated display. One of the first things we did in the city was visit the English Garden, meaning in contrast to French walled garden's it's an open part with lots of trees, it was kinda labyrinth like. On the way over we passed one of the best living statues I've ever seen. The coolest thing in the park was the canel, which notably has many people surfing at one point in it. For lunch we stopped at the local market, mainly seeking this special meat sandwiches which is basically just like a huge hunk of spam between two slices of bread, it's way better than it sounds. I also got a fresh fig and gooseberries because fresh figs are delicious, and I've never had a gooseberry before (figs are better). After lunch we went to 
Nymphenburg palace, on the path leading up to it are many mysterious stone spheres. It's MUCH larger than any of Ludwig's personal palaces, but not anywhere near as ornate. Still has a lot of cool pictures. Behind the place was a garden and a pond full of all sorts of geese and duck, including Canadian geese and these ducks which looked like they were wearing metal helmets. Other than seeing the palace, the other only thing I remember was seeing this toy museum with the first teddy bears in it. Also snails. There was one display of robot toys, and I found it funny that right in the middle was a golem. The next day we went to Munich airport and flew off to Ethiopia.  

So, Ethiopia. It's quite a place. The first thing I noticed was of course the airport. It's a rather small airport, but for the most part it's adequate. I was they had a bit better restroom facilities though. It took forever to get out of the airport because even with diplomatic passports they didn't have enough lines to deal with the amount of people coming in. We eventually got through, were this cool guy in a trench coat picked us up and take us to our temporary house. It was late into the night by then, so get to properly see what Ethiopia was like until the next day. 

The temporary house was a large and beautiful home (it even had a fairy circle in the garden!), and while it was generally adequate, it lacked internet, and as it was only the temporary house there were no plans to get internet for us while there. So the next day I went with the children to their school so I could leech of the internet there. So that was the first day I really got to see Ethiopia.  I guess it's like a cruddier version of Indonesia, which is in turn a cruddier version of Brazil, which is a cruddier version of the US. All the buildings in Ethiopia are pretty small, with the larger buildings many concrete skeletons can be seen with poles sticking out the sides. Many of the roads are dirt, and the paved ones are filled with potholes. The streets are constantly full of people and animals, especially sheep and goats, but donkeys and cows are also common. All the schools I've been to overseas have had open campuses, and the Ethiopian school ICS is no different. On their soccer field were a bunch birds which looked like ducks, but then one of them turned out and it turned out it was actual an ibis, which I called not-ducks from then on (the species is wattled ibis). There was also this cool white bee thing on the table I was setting at while internetting. In the afternoon I went to the embassy for a security seminar I had to before starting work their the following day. For lunch before the seminar we had Ethiopian food at the embassy cafeteria, it's pretty good. The best is when they have tibs, seasoned meat chunks and injera (fermented pancakes made from teff flour and the best form of bread). Once the cafeteria had "meatloaf", but it was actually kofka, so much better than I was expecting. The security seminar was sufficient to scare everyone for about a day, and then everyone just forgets about all the risks. Just stay away from crowds and protestors get shot. 

Life in Ethiopia for the first month mainly consisted of playing La-Mulana at home, work at work, and taking advantage of internet whenever I could. Damn La-Mulana is hard without internet, game just isn't fair. The actual work for the first month was pretty damn boring, just clerical stuff like filing papers and shredding them, so La-Mulana was definitely the highlight. I did shred some pretty cool papers though, like one about a guard who saved the lives of several Americans during the communist revolution (Derg) and was applying for a special visa, and all the amusing protocol for Y2k. I feel slightly guilty for those two. Eventually I did manage to win La-Mulana, I'm proud to say I never abused the cattletrops for invincibility. Hell Temple is way too hard though. After that I moved onto Binding of Isaac, by the time I left I had beaten It Lives and gotten Satan down to like four hits (I've seen beaten him since coming home from mission).  Every Friday I'd go with my parents to the market they add outside of the embassy. One women sold these really good samosa things filled with curry and seitan. 

About a month in we moved into our permanent home. It's....something. The thing has eleven split levels, it's pink and has green windows, it's shape is indescribable, and the outside designs can't really be placed to any classifiable architectural style. This is someone's "masterpiece". The architect not only has gaudy tastes, but clearly had no idea how to construct the interior of a house, as the electrical wiring was nonsensical, the plumbing wasn't much better, the positions of the doors were weird, and the drawers had no runner. As plus, it did basically have a bathroom on every floor. Around this time I got my position switched from HR assistant to the motor pool, and then I actually started to do some pretty interesting stuff. First I had to fact-check the invoices and signature sheets for when Obama visited Ethiopia. That was pretty boring, but the way some of the secret service agents signed there names was pretty amusing. The more interesting project was taking an inventory of all the cars in the embassy and making sure their id numbers were correct. Some of them were very hard to find, and I had to go offsite. I also sat in on an investigation about fuel fraud once, and learned that the CDC is terrible for misusing the motor pool vehicles. The most interesting thing I during this time period was visit Arba Minch with a group from the embassy. 

My mother and I went from our household, and ahead of time we had to start taking malaria medicine. On the first day of the trip, we all met up at the embassy, and then we met up with one of our guides and all got the same bus to the airport. Some of the other people I also remember coming were the embassy psychiatrist, and this twelve year old boy adopted from West Africa. From the airport we drove through Arba Minch, which we learned meant forty springs, to the resort/hotel we were staying at. It was a very outdoors place, all the rooms were these little hut things. At the hut which acted as lobby we had a great view of the local rift valley. They also gave us there very good drinks made for lemon grass, if anything is worthy of being called nectar, it is that. We stayed at the place for two or three days, I forgot the exact chronology but I'll try to lay it as best as a I can. I think after unpacking the first we did was eat lunch, were I got I think it was lamb, but lots of people got these fishes where there was the whole fish upright and these stands and people pulled flesh off of them. Then I think the first place we went out to was the Dorze village and a Dorze guy joined the party as our guide. One of the main things they are known for are there huts, which look like an elephant head. There was this one kid who had made a pretty contraption made out of sticks and cans which he was pushing around. I think the first thing we saw was the market place, where there was a ton of people selling stuff just all out in the open, sitting down on the slope of the mountain. The clothes the people wore were extremely colorful, it was a rainbow of people. Many of the people were wearing donated western clothes, but it blended right into the local fashion. People just had piles of stuff on tarps, like spices. One woman was smoking this huge wad of tobacco, and one women in our group tried it and was overwhelmed. After that we went to the honeywine house, where most the men were, and it was super creepy. It was just a dark place filled to the brim with drunk guys, there was hardly room to stand. Next we went to the guys house, which was one of the aforementioned elephant-head huts. He had a dog and a cat which were there, and his family was behind the place. There we were shown how they make these pancakes things from the false-banana plant, enset, and tried some of it with honey and chili sauce. Being fermented, it was vaguely like some sort of cheese, but it had these fibers in it. With the condiments it was palatable. I also ended up buying a string instrument from one kid that was basically useless as an actual instrument, but makes for a good decoration. I think that's all we did that day. In the evening I played La-Mulana, I beat Baphomet and solved the labyrinth TWICE while I was there (because I stupidly overwrote a save file I meant to keep).

Next day we focused on wild life rather than culture. First we went to this national park. First we passed a bunch of weaver bird nests and then we got to the lake. There we got on a boat. On the boat trip we saw many crocodiles, and a few of the much more dangerous hippos. We had picked up a ranger with a semi-automatic gun mainly in case the later went aggressive. Eventually we landed on the other side of the lake, and then we went on a hike. The main goal of the hike was to find Zebras, and we did find them, as well as some gazelle. We also found a zebra skull, and this one kid put it on top of a stick because that's what you do with skulls. Unfortunately, the skull had to be kept in the park by Ethiopian law. After that we went to a crocodile farm, they farm crocs for their skin. They had a museum there, it had hippo skulls in it for some reason and they are WAY scarier than croc skulls. We then looked at the crocs, they had one breeding pair, and like fifty million other crocs of various ages before they get past the age of utilization for skinning. Back at the hotel there the playground was full of warthogs rummaging around in the dirt. My mom and I went swimming that afternoon, we were the only white people in the pool. Apparently the place is a popular tourist spot for Africans. We went to the top tourist restaurant for dinner and got tibs and injera and other Ethiopian food. The day after that we left. 

Before long work ended. While there, I ended up getting called to the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission after lots of talk because I managed to botch my chances of getting a real mission very good with the BS I gave during an assessment. I was trying to get into the two transfer option to avoid the MTC, but I went too far so I couldn't even get that. The FCHHM sounded like an okay substitute at the time as the desired result was never going to happen at that point. Ha. Ha. Ha. Fuck that place. Well, as a result to be called to go there just a month after receiving the call, I decided not to apply for a job as a computer assistant at the embassy as I was instead going to use my final month to get all my things in order before I went. 

The most notable thing that happened during that final month was a family trip to Egypt. We spent our first day in Cairo, which is an pretty impressive as well as extremely sandy city. Yeah, Giza and it's pyramids have been swallowed by the city, which is significantly younger, but Egypt's history didn't end with the Pharaoh's, and it's Islamic era is just as interesting. We did see the pyramids though pretty much first thing after meeting up with our guide and getting falafel (unlike Lebanese falafel they made from fava beans rather than chickpeas, and they are REALLY good), and I have to say they are much more impressive in person, the "steps" are absolutely massive. Our guide also managed to sneak us into the Great Pyramid and that was much more interesting than I was expecting, they're very dark and contrast greatly with the outside. Inside of the tomb chamber was almost a spiritual experience and we sang dissonant harmonies there as the resonance is spectacular. Next we saw the Sphinx, which actually looked more crude. Apparently it was just made as an afterthought to use up the leftover stone.  After that we went to a papyrus shop, and they had some pretty school stuff. Apparently there is some art school there which sells their stuff there. I noticed one person really liked painting horses. We also learned how to differentiate real from fake papyrus by looking for the fibers of the reed and saw the production process. At some point we got kebabs for lunch, as our quest is to eat kebabs in as many countries as possible (so far I've got US, Brazil, Germany, England, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, UAE, and Egypt).  We went walking through downtown Cairo, which was designed by the same person who designed downtown Paris so there is a lot of similarities, I think it's nicknamed "Paris in Africa".One place I was particularly interested to see that we went to was the Mohammad Ali Mosque (not named after the boxer, but an Egyptian sultan), which I had studied at university previously. It's inside of the citadel of Saladin, who lived in Egypt outside of the crusades and basically founded Cairo. Apparently it's the largest citadel in the world. Later we went to the old bazaar, which is the oldest of it's sort in the world. It's an interesting multi-leveled place, kinda feeling like an mall, only open to the elements. 

That was the end of our first day in Cairo, but we returned there at the end of the week. Most of the week though we spend in at a resort in Hurghada, having a slightly less hectic vacation than usual, but still going out and seeing a lot of stuff. There were a lot of Russians at the resort, one of the people working there insisted we were Russian, not American, and started speaking to us in Russian despite us speaking English before. One day I was swimming at the water fort thing and this Russian girl/woman asked me where I was from (I think in Russian, but I understood), and I think at one point I did my patriotic duty and dumped water on her head. Being a resort, there was all-you-can-eat food, but most the restaurants served more or less the same stuff, which got boring after awhile. They did have fresh dates, which are probably the one fruit that is better dried, and I had liver for the first time. It looks like a steak, but feels like marzipan and tastes like an iron bar. We did go out a few times to see various things though. One day we went out on a boat on the Red Sea and went scuba diving, it was probably the best place I've ever gone scubing or snorkling in. One of my favorite days we went out into the desert and road atvs and dune buggies, then went to Boudin village and looked at their cultural displays for tourists and road some camels (the girls who lead some of them were bickering). One guy had several snakes, either as pets or for collecting their venom, and we learned this one species of snake is called the children's snake because it's apparently non-venomous or something and children play with them. The biggest trip we made was driving out to Luxor with a caravan (to protect us from raiders as they still exist). Luxor is notably different, the people have darker skin there than Northern Egypt, it's much hotter, and the Nile banks almost look tropical. First thing we saw was the Temple to Amon Ra at Karnak, then we spent $70 to go to this dinky little island with bananas and a crocodile, my parents were very upset with the price and how little there turned out to be on the island. Next we stopped at this stone carving shop, where my parents put their haggling and walking-away skills at use to not to ripped off again. The most interesting thing we saw that day was the Valley of the Kings. It's easy to see how it took so long to rediscover them once you see the landscape, it's incredibly mountainous, labyrinthine, and harsh. The tombs are full of ancient Greek graffiti, which I found to be extremely amusing. Human nature really doesn't change. Last thing we saw was the Temple of Hatshepsut. Outside of it the petrified stumps of the two trees which were originally planted there still remain, and they are the saddest thing. After that my parents argued with our tour guide and got a partial refund, and all I could think was how money corrupts because the money was not worth the bad will. 

Our final day was spent in Cairo again. The morning was spent at the National Museum, it had lots of neat stuff, but nothing I haven't seen something similar to in another museum. King Tut's mask was broken at the time because someone dropped it, we saw a bunch of royal mummies, and their figure collection Set was most associated with the head of hippo, because fuck hippos. Our guide took us to one of his favorites restaurants for dinner because we demanded local food and he showed us his favorite dishes. They were very good (though there was a kidney in one of them), but I regret eating one pepper, no amount of yogurt or baba ganoush could quench it's fire. In the evening we went to an old part of the city which had pretty much every architectural style of mosque in row, so I geeked out. My favorite is the Mamluk, though the Ottomans are also cool. One other neat thing there is that they have the oldest public fountain in the world or something like that, which is super significant for a city in the desert were water is life. And that was it. I think it was less than a week after that before I left for Ethiopia for the mission. Despite being six months rather than three months, I promise the next journal will be much shorter because I already wrote most of what happened in letters to my parents so it's already documented, I'll mainly just focus on the emotional parts and other details I left out. I plan on writing a memoir about that experience someday. 

 

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4dawinz Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey! Thanks for all the favs. :b
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Timelapse11 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2017  Student General Artist
Thanks for the fave! :)
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Thanks for all the favs :)
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Thanks for the Fav:D
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RetroGalicia Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday, Ganondox ! From Galicia (SPAIN) to the world, keep it up the great world, sir and CARPE DIEM! <3 ;3

Gali
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Thanks a lot! 
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RetroGalicia Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
You're welcome! X3
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