Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 4 • 1/100 sec
I’m going all serious on you again.
Earlier this week, I watched part of a documentary on how a North Korean man escaped from the concentration camp he had grown up in. He had watched his own mother and brother executed there for trying to escape, but eventually the desire to be free got to him as well. He and another man worked together to get out, and the other man was killed in the process. This type of stuff is still happening in North Korea.
I can assume that North Korea’s camps are very similar to Auschwitz, the Nazi camp we visited in Poland. Security there was extremely tight. In my photo, you can see a sign reading “Stop!” on a standard electric fence. Behind that, there is another barbed-wire fence with the top curved inward. It was also electrified. A third fence, the same design as the second, is next. Finally, there is a brick wall. Just by looking at it, I would guess it around eight feet high. If you look down the fence to the end, there is a small building with four windows. That is one of guard shacks, which were spaced along the perimeter of the camp. Guards would wait there for potential escapees, and try to shoot them before they reached the fence. In fact, our guide told us, prisoners would sometimes use the fence as a form of suicide, since the electricity was such a high voltage it would kill them. The guards tried to shoot the prisoners first, however, since they “did not like to clean up the mess” of someone being electrified.
Looking at all this, I did wonder how some people managed to successfully escape, as it seemed nearly impossible. According to our guide, some 802 attempted, but only 144 made it out alive (not counting all those liberated at the end of the war). I heard some found favor with dissenters who worked in the “hospital” and were snuck out. Some also escaped during work outings, but at high cost: for each successful escapee, ten others from their work team would be shot as a deterrent. Others were freed by SS guards who changed their minds about the Nazi agenda. As we walked around, I kept wondering to myself: If I was put in their place, what would I do? Would I try to escape or stay to protect those around me? If I did make an attempt, what would I try to do?
Put yourself in the prisoner’s shoes for a moment. How do you think you would handle this situation? Remember to pray for those still in camps today.
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/120 sec
“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important da — hold on, what’s that?” Our tour group stopped in the middle of Munich’s Marienplatz (open square) to gawk at the loud clock with dancing figures on the side of the New Town Hall. For about 15 minutes, we watched various characters dance and perform jousting contests, until a little yellow bird at the top announced the end of the show.
This clock, a part of Munich’s history since 1908, is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel (not the type of glockenspiel that’s a relative of the xylophone). It goes off every day at 11am and 12pm (as well as 5pm in the summer and a mini-show at 9pm). It contains 42 bells that play different tunes, as well as 32 life-sized figures.
Later, I found out that the characters in the show were acting out important times in Munich’s history. The top section depicts the 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine. Part of the 2-week party included a jousting tournament, depicted on the clock by a battle between a French & Bavarian knight (of course, the Bavarian always wins). You can watch a bit of this here.
The lower level is a group of the city’s coopers (barrel makers) doing the Schäfflertanz, a ritualistic jig popularly thought to have begun during the plague in 1517. Duke Wilhelm V ordered the dance be re-enacted every seven years to remember the deadly disease (the next live performance will be in February of 2019).
What’s the coolest clock you’ve ever seen?
I saw several tourists get scared half to death by these guys. The “Living Statues” of Europe have found an interesting art form that makes decent money, but it takes hard work! These street performers cover themselves with loads of body paint, then stand motionless for hours. Some like to surprise tourists when they aren’t paying attention. Others will perform an act when someone donates money, like this guy in Munich is doing. Some work in tandem, interacting with each other. Others only move when someone pays attention to them.
There’s no limit to what kinds of costumes or poses these actors come up with! On the Marienplatz, I saw this silver dude who tipped his hat at passers-by, and a lady all in white who became a working water fountain (try to figure that one out!). Around Europe and in some other parts of the world, there are many other examples. Apparently a group of these actors also frequents areas in New York City. One Spanish guy, called StaticMan, even held the Guinness World Record for motionlessness from 1988-1997 after standing still for more than 15 hours. I think that gives a new definition to hard work!
Have you ever seen one of these statue actors? What’s your opinion: is it art or just another way to make money off tourists? Let’s hear your thoughts!
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/1000 sec
In celebration of all the ice and snow outside my house, I’m thinking warm thoughts this week. A sunny beach in Japan is just the ticket! Yet, I was surprised to find this simple cross so prominently displayed in a nation that’s primarily Shinto, Buddhist, and secular. It’s not the only time I’ve heard of crosses in strange places, however. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- A cross hidden in a Buddhist statue, also from Japan. Usually this country is not known for persecuting Christians, but there have been times in its history when this occurred. Hidden symbols such as this one are more common in other nations, where religious freedom has not been realized.
- In the USA, the crosses are not so hidden. If you have traveled down I-70 through Illinois, you may have passed a nearly 200-foot giant white cross in Effingham. Another builder has made similar (though smaller) crosses throughout Tennessee next to adult bookstores, likely to deter potential customers. Finally, a former Marine and Methodist minister, Bernard Coffendaffer, built a series of three crosses along highways in 29 states. After his death, they were adopted by local people and churches for regular maintenance.
- Two of my favorite stories are conspiracy theories. One involves the Burj al Arab (Tower of the Arabs) hotel, the largest building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The British architects were accused of intentionally making it the shape of a cross, though it was supposed to look like a sailboat. Several rumors have circled around this controversy. Since you can only see the cross by looking at the building from the water, I heard photos from that angle were not allowed (though there are plenty available online). Also, some claimed that license plates featuring a drawing of the hotel were banned. This rumor was never verified. So is this really the world’s largest Christian cross, as some claim? Or is it just another theory designed to stir people up? I would love to hear your thoughts!
- The last “hidden cross” I found is a tourist attraction in Berlin, Germany. The Fernsehturm (TV Tower) was built in 1965-1969 as the tallest structure in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The socialist authorities that build the tower wanted it to be a symbol of the GDR’s strength during the Cold War. However, the atheistic leaders were surprised to discover that every day as the sun hit the tower’s pinnacle, a sparkling cross would appear. Even when the dome was treated with special paints and chemicals, they could not get it to go away. West Berliners nicknamed it Rache des Papstes (the Pope’s Revenge).
Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you ever discovered a hidden symbol that gave you hope? What about laughter? Did you see Jesus in a potato chip? Share your story in the comments.