US Olympic Gymnastic Team Wins Gold All Around for the First Time Since 1996

Congratulations to the US Olympic Gymnastic Team on winning last night! I had to wake up at 4 AM to see them compete. What a competition. This is the first time the team has one all around since 1996, that is 16 years ago! They all did an amazing job! I can’t wait to see them compete individual all around. But I am hoping to see some changes after this Olympics with the coding – for example Jordyn Weiber gets 4th behind Ally Raisman and Gabby Douglas but doesn’t get to compete all around because she is the third American to make it? Number 33 gets to make it, but not her? I just think, this is the Olympics – where the best of the best compete – and you are taking away the best because they are from the same country? It doesn’t seem right. I really wish the judges could change that, but since it is for all sports, that would be a HUGE consideration to change for the all the competitions.

I must add that McKayla Maroney did the most perfect vault I have ever seen. Just thought I add that to the mix, she contributed her part (to the maximum of her capability). Outstanding performance!

Looking at the girls, lately I have been really missing the gym, and I think it is time. I think I want to start gymnastics up again. I’m 5″2.5 so I’m still a good size – the gymnasts were even 5″3 at the Olympics – and I’m willing to work as hard as ever. I think right now, I will start really trying to stretch, build my upper, lower body strength, strength my back and stomach, and just try to get the endurance and strength up to get back into the gym. I still need to call my coach – who is currently judging at the Olympics. I want to get in shape, call my coach to see if she will even accept me back (which I really hope because I did win 14 and under nationals when I was 12 – my last competition – for them before I got sick), and then we’ll see from there. I definitely am keeping school my first priority. But no decisions have been made, although I am really leaning towards picking gymnastics up again – I really believe I have a shot if I can work hard and be focused. I finally went to see a neurologist at John’s Hopkins (what a coincidence, because I might be doing the John’s Hopkins Youth program online for my math course – I’m taking the test tomorrow – since my school won’t let me skip into pre-calculus next year) and it turns out I have migraines called Chronic Daily Migraines. The neurologist gave me medicine to take everyday as well as another type of medicine when it gets really bad. It is suppose to kick in soon (it takes about 2 months)…so we’ll see how it works, I’m really hoping this time everything turns out okay. On the contrary, I will have these for the rest of my life – he said that in a few years it would probably go down to having 2 bad episodes a month.

But with all this information, and for me to finally not be in the dark anymore, I feel like I have control. I was ripped out of place, I wasn’t ready to leave the gym when I had too. I know in the beginning I felt that it meant I should move on with my life and focus on a new path. But what if it was to redirect me to still continue school – not just being home schooled – as well as going to the gym? All I know is I’m confused, I miss the gym, I wish things could have worked out differently but they haven’t so I need to work with what I’m given, I’m thankful that it isn’t something worse, but I can do something now…I’m just at a fork in the road and need to decide which way to go. I’m also asking one of my friends, whom I met at a gymnastics camp 2 years ago (we still keep in contact although she lives in New Jersey. My mom even drove down there while we were in the States last year to go see them for lunch), about what I should do . She knows exactly what it is like to be a gymnast. Ultimately, it is my decision, so I need to see what I feel is the best decision and look at what I can do.

Author’s Festival; The Attic

The author’s festival is a writing competition at our school. We have three days (each with 1 hour and 20 minutes – not including time at home) to write one 200 word creative story. This was my final project that I came up with:

THE ATTIC:

Constant streams of sunlight bleach my chestnut, brown skin. Tucked away in the corner of the musty attic, a thick layer of dust veils me. Scratches, the scars of time, imprint my skin but also my soul, reminding me of the one who could make my strings sing. My mere presence once enticed her to play my taunt strings for hours, until we both could play no more. Instead of sunlight, the spotlight poured over us. Gentle but firm fingers danced along my neck. As the vibrant melody crescendoed and her bravado quickened, I felt her heart race. My heart sank through my strings and hers through her fingers. Together our rich mellow tones cascaded across the room. Tzcaikovsky wrote his concerto for us. For hours I yielded myself completely to her as she did to me. The energy we give is replenished with the rich melodious tones that bring heaven to earth and fill us until we can meet once more. The attic door creaks. Moments pass. The door closes and all is still again. I will wait. Years add to my rich tone and she will be pleased with what she hears when she returns. I will wait.

Goodbye for Now

I know I haven’t written in a long time. I have finals coming up, so I am really busy. I think for now, I should just stop blogging. Things have happened because of this blog, and I don’t think sharing my thoughts and feelings to the world is necessarily a good thing, although I do enjoy blogging and reading sweet comments and having followers. For now, I am going to try to keep a diary. I think personal things, such as thoughts and feelings, should be kept private. Just like gossiping should not be spread or spoken. I may come back to blog when I feel the time is right, but for now, I feel as if it is just hurting me and I need to focus on my finals. I appreciate all of you, and I will come back when I’m ready. Thanks for everything you all have done for me!

Holocaust Story

This is what I’m planning on doing for my Hebrew project. I’m currently translating it to Hebrew. I basically wrote the letter as if I were the holocaust survivor writing to a close dear one. Enjoy:

To My Dearest Cousin Tom Vager,

It’s been awhile since the last time I have written you, but there is so much I must share with you.

My family and I are currently in a two bedroom apartment in New York. I definitely miss my old friends and life back in Danzig, but I think the German community of refugees here is helping me and my family transition. Every Saturday all the refugees that fled Europe meet up. By hearing the stories of these “fellow suffers”, it allows me to realize how good luck has played in my favor over my life. These constant meetings help me cope with missing my old friends. I’ve made plenty of new friends in New York, which is also helping me take my mind of what’s going on in Danzig.

Mom is suffering the most. She is depressed and starting to smoke even more than usual, which says a lot since she is a chain-smoker. Also, she drinks over 3 cups of coffee a day. I think she is having a hard time with the fact that we had to sell everything, and now she gets no help at home anymore. I still ponder on how she, despite her depression, makes our meals and cleans the house and keeps our family together. She is a real trooper.

Just writing about Danzig, makes me miss the very place. I used to wake up every morning, lying in bed listening to my parents play chamber music – my dad on the violin, and my mom on the piano. Then, when my dad escaped to Poland, we started to sell everything we owned. I still remember that terrible day when a high ranking officer, with his shiny good-looking uniform, took our grand piano. Striding into our apartment, he acted as if he was a “man of culture.” My mother’s and sister’s valuable treasure, was taken for almost nothing. My sister cried, but there was nothing she could do. That was the most frustrating thing I have ever had to face during the war – watching evil occur right in front of your eyes, but you are unable to do anything about it.

My family and I always wanted to go to America. It was a dream to us, and now we are here in a tiny apartment. Back in Europe my parents talked about fleeing. It began when rumors reached us about what the Nazi’s where doing in other countries to the Jews. It was not until children were beaten on their way to school, my Jewish classmates and I in a German school were harassed, and the Nazi’s took away all the Jewish doctor’s licenses – including my father’s – did we decide to leave. That was when my dad, in the middle of the night, crossed over the border to Poland. My mom, sister, and I started selling and packing our things in preparation to leave also Danzig. Legally, the League of Nations protected Danzig, supposedly a free city. However, Nazi’s still had some control. Having the League of Nations on our side made conditions okay – certainly not as bad as other places in Europe. Jewish lawyers and doctors started getting arrested because they continued to practice their professions. This convinced us to escape to Poland. My dad went first, and we followed two weeks later.

While in Poland I was able to make connections in London to get an apprenticeship. As you know, I use to play violin. I was very interested in learning how to make them. So, the apprenticeship, I thought would be a great advantage to learn how to create violins. I was able to get an apprenticeship visa, while the rest of my family stayed in Poland. I was 16 at the time. Luckily, one of my aunts was there. So, I stayed with her for a week before I found a place for myself. This apprenticeship turned out to be a great disappointed. The violins were imported from China and then just repaired and sold for a much greater price. Two months after my arrival in England, a freighter stopped by for the day. My family was there. I went to visit them while they stayed in London for the day. My landlord came with me too. He met with an immigration official. They were good friends because they attended the same lodge. So, while they talked, my landlord was able to convince the official to allow my family to stay in London with me without them having visas. The freighter that my family went on was destined to go to France, and 6 months after my family arrived, the Nazi’s had taken control of France. Every day I think to myself of how good luck after good luck helped my family survive. I was placed in an internment camp earlier during my stay in England. However, it was quite nice since it was on the Island of Man (located on the Island Sea) where big hotels stood. This was where all the interns, such as myself lived. Then, the Germans took over. They placed all German speaking Jewish men in these hotels – since we were presumed to be spies. They didn’t even have the decency to put my dad and me in the same building. However, my dad, after one week, was able to escape the camp because he was diabetic and the Germans would not tolerate providing food for diabetics. I was able to escape after 10 weeks. My family and I all lived in London together. Often, air raids attacked the city every night from the Germans, and one time the bombing became so severe, that a bomb exploded on our roof. Luckily, the air raid shelter protected us, but we were trapped until the following day when emergency crews dug us out. My family and I, with the help of one of my dad’s former patients (who was the head of a shipping line), were able to get visas to America after 2 years of waiting.

The boat ride from London to New York was very difficult. First off, there was no passenger service. So, my family (mother, father, sister, and I) had to cram into an officer’s cabin. We had to travel in a convoy since German submarines lurked in the water, preparing to attack any ships carrying passengers – mainly Jews. Our trip, during the middle of winter, took 3 weeks before we reached America. The whole time during our journey, I kept my recommendation from London safe. I went to a branch in New York and gave them my recommendation, so that I could hopefully learn how to make violins. I got the job, which turned out to be another disappointment. There were no instruments, but instead, sheets of music. They assigned me the job at the type writer to print music. I was never happy there and went through a whole list of other jobs. But all the while, I still continued playing my violin – the only meaningful possession I still had of my childhood. By the time I turned 19 years old I was told about an orchestra in Texas searching for musicians. Although it was far away, I traveled and preformed for them. No one was as shocked as me when I heard that I had made it. Joining the orchestra was my first professional job. After 3 years I became tired of playing for them. It’s no fun to have a director constantly telling you what to do. So, I quit, and applied to Juilliard.

Here I am, my 4th year in Julliard, and finally writing you. It’s taken me awhile to cope with reality, adjust to new situations, and be able to share what I’ve been through. About 2 years ago my friend asked me to start the Lasalle String Quartets. It took me awhile to think about what I really wanted to do, but I decided to join. The quartet consists of 2 violinists, 1 cellist, and of me, the violist. The two other violinists were both German Jews. One of them fled to Israel to escape the Holocaust, while the other suffered 3 years in various concentration camps. Unbelievably, he continued to play his violin. While listening to the terrifying stories of how Nazi soldiers treated him and many others, I began to rethink of my position and see how luck really played on my side. I had won the ultimate gamble between living in New York and going to Julliard, or dying in a concentration camp in Germany.

Our quartet has become quite well known now. We have traveled everywhere. We have played in Israel 3 times, in South Africa, Japan, but mostly in Europe. I plan on visiting you and your daughter soon. Though making records here in Cincinnati University in Ohio and teaching younger students keeps me busy, I still have time to travel. I wish to play with your daughter, just as we had together back in London during the black outs. I remember having just enough light to play a Sonata – her on the piano, and me on the violin.

The other day, I saw a girl in Ohio who had come to the university. She had been studying medicine in Switzerland to become a doctor. She had come to Ohio especially because of the river to swim. But when she found out that the river was polluted, there was no way for her to swim the water. I met her through a group of mutual friends. She says that she plans to go back to Israel, but I doubt it. I hope she stays here, and continues her studies in the US. She is a really special person.

Looking back on everything that I have written, the greatest thing that I have learned in my lifetime is the importance of luck. If I had to tell generations to come about the Holocaust, it would be on but one matter – luck. Luck has stuck by my side this whole time. Luck has saved me, has saved my family, and protected us from evil. Without luck, I would probably not be alive today. I carry luck with me. You too, Cousin Tom, have luck for you live in California, far away from the evils that once reined in Europe. Remember, luck changes everything – for good, or for bad. In my story, it is for good.

Yours Truly,
Peter Kamnitzer

Documenting the Holocaust

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, I’ve been really busy especially since it is the end of the year and we are starting to take all the final exams. I am starting on my project for Hebrew class which will have a final in the form of a project. She has been very lose, in terms of what the final product has to be. The theme is based on the Holocaust and documentation. How can we document the stories of Holocaust survivors so that people can remember? We watched this amazing documentary called “One Paper Clip at a Time.” If you have not seen it, please go and watch it. There is something really special about this school in Tennessee. We watched this for a inspiration to start with our project. I was totally mixed as what I wanted to do. I wanted it to be unique and special, but at the same time still be a practical way of remembering the Holocaust. My idea did not come until the last minute during Hebrew class today when we needed an idea. For this unit, my high school classes is actually going to help direct one specific Humanities 8th grade class (which is interesting since I am in 8th grade, but belong to the Hebrew class) into interviewing and documenting the story of 6 Holocaust survivors that are coming to our school. This is done every year, but only in a certain class, which I am not apart of. So, I’m lucky enough to be able to experience face to face contact with these survivors. However, there is a time once a year, besides this event, where one Holocaust survivor is invited to our school to talk about his or her story, as was mentioned in the previous post about the story of a 5 year old girl in the Holocaust. People are dying, so the primary sources from this event is diminishing, so we as students need to record and document this data in a special way for future generations.

My idea for the Hebrew project was to make a letter. If the Holocaust survivor I will be interviewing could have sent a letter during the time of the war, what would he/she say? If they were in a concentration camp, what was going on? How did people act? Who were the good people that helped midst the situation? I want the letter to contain details of everything that was going on. This letter would represent the Holocaust survivor’s story but as if it was during the time of the war. If he or she could have sent a letter during that time to a loved one, this would be the content in the letter.

I think it will be a powerful representation of one story among thousands of others and my Hebrew teacher was in awe. So, I will need help, but hopefully I will be able to pull it off. I can’t wait until they come to really listen, first hand, to their stories. Unlike many of my friends who have grandparents that are Holocaust survivors, I don’t. I am willing to listen to their stories, and hopefully others – like all of you – can listen to them and take them to heart to tell future generations. This was a tragic event that happened in history and the world, in any country, should never let happen again. Innocent people do not deserve to die, and I think we all have learned valuable lessons. But these heart wrenching stories, must be documented and shared.

Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yesterday we had an important one hour assembly for the Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was the first assembly where high school, middle school, and elementary school (only 5th grade) were all together. We watched a movie that was put together of the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders that went to Poland. This a trip in which all high schoolers (except ninth grade) go on to look at the remains from the Holocaust. The movie was so powerful. One Catholic girl on the trip said, “Once Jews marched on a trail leading into the woods. In rows of 5 they walked. Each one walking up to a ditch. Then, a Nazi soldier shot them down – one by one – and each one after a shot fell into that ditch. And here we march on the same path into the woods. Going to the destination they went before they died. But at the ditch we prayed and sang. I watched my fellow classmates walk with an Israeli flag covered over their shoulders as we marched.” There were just so many horrors and hearts broken as the children went to the Poland Trip. They saw how close a normal pretty town was right next to crematoriums. They found ashes and also piles and piles of shoes and bags that were left behind while the Jews were taken.

 

Then, the next part of the program the high school boys choir sang 6 Million in Hebrew. Of what I remember 6 million Jews were killed, 1 million kids, 2 million Catholics/Christians, and 1 million others.

 

A guest speaker came to talk to us, and it turns out she was a holocaust survivor. She said to us – a very optimistic woman – told us she didn’t want to fill our hearts and minds with bad things and memories but to tell us about few special people that were braved and had saved her life as well as others. She told us two stories, which I will try to explain as best I can.

She lived at a convent as a young girl. She was 5 at the time of the Holocaust. Her parents had wanted to go to Israel before the war, but her parents were able to get a shop and business going, so they didn’t. Her mother always told her pretend you don’t know or understand anything because she spoke both Hebrew and Polish. She said that it was better to be stupid than to say something stupid. She had also died her daughters hair from black to blond and told her to pretend your tired all the time so that no one would see her black Jewish eyes. Her father was killed while she was at the religious boarding school, but she did not mention what had happened to her mother. When her hair started to grow out and her black roots started to show, the nuns thought it was part of the devil and they started to pray for her. There was a young priest at the church and he came up to her and said in Hebrew, “You don’t have to worry. I will protect you.” She then asked, without knowing what else to do, “How do you know?” The priest said that in her sleep she started to cry out Abba, Emma (Father, Mother), Ani rotza lalechet ha bieta (I want to come back home). She never spoke in her sleep again, after hearing the news. Sometimes, though she would wake up in the middle of the night and see that the priest was beside her bed. She felt safe. The priest helped her pass her classes at school too, since she was finally able to get out of the mindset that “she doesn’t know or understand anything” even if it was simple. One day though, a Nazi soldier took the priest away, and she never saw him again. It turns out he had helped other Jews and disguised them as Christians. The soldier had asked who she was and the head mistress told him that she was an orphan that they had taken in out of charity. At this point in the war, since it was the beginning, they were only looking for people that were resisting, so for that time, she was safe.

The second story was when she was 7 years old. All the Polish people had to evacuate where she was living. So, all the Polish, including her convent had to march to the train station. The head mistresses daughter (16 years old) loved her like a sister. She begged her mom to let her come with them and that they would take care of her. The 16 year old had a boyfriend that had gotten shot on his side. He told her (the holocaust survivor) that they were both in trouble and that he would take care of her. The head mistress gave her two heavy bags to carry on the march. She was afraid if she let go of the bags, since they were so heavy, that the mistress would leave her behind. The town was being destroyed, so if she were to be left behind, it would mean certain death. The 16 year old girls boy friend saw her struggling and told her to let go of the bags and leave them behind. She did what she was told. She was so exhausted and worn out from the march, that she could barely walk. The boyfriend picked her up and they started walking. In the middle of the journey, she felt that her skirt was wet. She looked down, and saw that it was red. She realized that him carrying her, had made his wound open again and was bleeding. She begged him to let her down, but he said, “shh, no. Just put your head on my shoulder.” By the time they got to the train station, he put her down next to him, and he laid down with the support from a wall. There was a soldier nearby. Then, the boyfriend had a pistol that fell out of his pocket. The Nazi soldier saw him and the gun, and took him. They went around a corner and she heard 2 shots. She never saw him again.

To this day, the holocaust survivor can not look at boots because her height at the time of the holocaust only looked at boots and guns that the soldiers carried. She told us that we are the future, and we are here to make it better. She is telling us her story, for us, to lead a better life. I think this is really something, but I wish I could have heard more. In May, my Hebrew class (for the first time) is going to work with another middle school class that are doing a section on “living history” to talk and interview five holocaust survivors. So, I will definitely take notes and write their stories for all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunger Games?

Right before Spring Break finished, two of my friends (Angolan and Russian/Israeli) and I went to go watch the Hunger Games. Everyone has been dying to see it they haven’t already seen it a couple of times. So, we had to pre-order our tickets the night before so that we could go see the movie.

I never read the books, however the movie was pretty good. Throughout though, I keep wondering to myself why? Why would they have a game where children kill children? My mom says it’s like the Romans – where they have animals kill people. I think it is a interesting concept. My humanities teacher was talking about how the book is really not that well written and that his 6th graders could write better. I have different views because I know others really love the book but some do not. I tried reading the first page of the first book and of the third. There was nothing really that hooked me into reading the book. But, I’m going to try to read it in my free time as well as the summer. I’ll give my own reviews on the book, but they did an excellent job with the movie. So, I’ll definitely watch the second and third movie when it comes out in the years to come.

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