It is just gone

I travel because I care a lot for the beauty of our world and I am often asked why I feel the need to do it all now. I am told I have all my life to see the world, that I shouldn’t feel like I am missing out on something. However, to be realistic, we don’t have time and I have already missed out!

A few years back I had made plans to travel to Syria to see the beauty and majesty of this ancient country, feel the magic of bustling souks, photograph thousand-year-old landmarks and see the smiles and happiness in peoples’ faces as they proudly walk down the streets of their cities and towns.

It breaks my heart in a million pieces that this plan fell apart due to personal reasons. So did the cities, the world heritage sites, as well as the people – they all fell apart.

And it broke my heart even more reading the four words “It is just gone” in a New York Times article, because that’s exactly what it is: Gone! None of us will ever see Syria and Iraq like it was. It does not exist anymore. It is simply gone.

Some people take pride in scars and say they tell stories, but in war, scars are just the destruction of stories, the destruction of lives, and the destruction of a connection to the past we try so hard to preserve.

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My blog post for UNA Tampa Bay: UNA Tampa Bay and Nelson Mandela Day

In a world where conflicts, terror, and suffering are featured on every newspaper’s front page, the Internet shows a small spark of hope today. Nelson Mandela Day is observed annually on July 18th and people around the globe are posting quotes from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate everywhere on social media.

Globally, people are speaking out about their vision to solve international and internal conflicts with a strategy that emphasizes diplomacy instead of combat and terror.

Even google.com has dedicated it’s doodle to this outstanding man, who, believing in diplomacy, shepherded South Africa from apartheid to a democracy. That won him the US Medal of Freedom in 2002.

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In honor of Nelson Mandela Day, UNA Tampa Bay invited its members and friends to join in for a free movie screening at The University of Tampa’s Reeves Theatre.The free movie screening followed a networking session with refreshment and h’ordeuvres and attracted about 30 guests, including members from Rotary Club and people who have lived in South Africa.

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The film “Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle” portrays the events that lead up to what South Africans have coined “Mandela’s miracle,” a strategy that led to a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democracy. It is driven by the notion that even the most terrible tyranny can be overcome through reconciliation.

The event was a great success, which fostered meaningful discussions and how people with different beliefs and cultures can live together peacefully. The movie also inspired a comparison to the horrific Israel/Palestine conflict. Nelson Mandela’s relentless diplomacy should be an inspiration for people struggling for freedom around the world.  We can only reflect on his work and legacy to strive for a better and more peaceful world.

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Nelson Mandela passed away December 5th, 2013, but though he is gone, we did not lose his exceptional example to work towards a peaceful coexistence without bloodshed and pain.

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Interview mit feuermauer.org

“Der Gedenkdienst ist eine besondere Gelegenheit persoenlich zu wachsen”

“Der Gedenkdienst ist eine besondere Gelegenheit persönlich zu wachsen”

Immer mehr junge Menschen entscheiden sich für ein Jahr im Ausland im Rahmen des österreichischen “Gedenkdienstes“- Männern wird der Einsatz als Zivildienstersatz finanziert, Frauen erhalten keine staatliche Förderung. Die Gedenkdienstleistenden betreuen während ihres einjährigen Dienstes Jugendliche, pflegen alte Menschen oder arbeiten in Archiven und Museen.

Die 24-jährige Studentin Melanie Pfeffer ist seit zwei Monaten im Floria Holocaust Museum im Gedenkdiensteinsatz. Im Feuermauer-Interview erzählt sie was der Gedenkdienst eigentlich ist, warum sie sich freiwillig dafür gemeldet hat und was ihre Aufgaben vor Ort sind.

Was ist der “Gedenkdienst” eigentlich? Wo kann man sich dafür anmelden?

Der Gedenkdienst befasst sich in erster Linie mit den Opfern des Nationalsozialismus. Gedenkdiener arbeiten an Holocaustgedenkstätten, Museen und Forschungseinrichtungen – und das weltweit. Interessierte füllen das Online Formular auf der Website aus.

Warum hast du dich dafür gemeldet?

Als Studentin der transkulturellen Kommunikation und Politikwissenschaft möchte ich als kulturelle Mediatorin agieren. In einer Zeit in der Globalisierung im Vordergrund steht und in Menschen mit verschiedensten ethnischen, religiösen oder geschichtlichen Hintergründen aufeinandertreffen, ist es besonders wichtig Aufklärungsarbeit zu leisten. Der Gedenkdienst und meine persönliche Einsatzstelle, das Florida Holocaust Museum ermöglichen mir über Gräueltaten die in unserer Weltgeschichte passiert sind aufzuklären und zu unterrichten.

Wie lange wirst du im Einsatz sein?

Da ich als Freiwillige im Einsatz bin werde ich von Anfang September 2012 bis Ende Februar 2013 am Florida Holocaust Museum im Dienst sein. Mein Einsatz endet für mich jedoch nicht mit meiner Heimreise nach Wien. Ich hoffe den Gedenkdienst auch noch in Zukunft kräftig unterstützen zu können.

Meine Arbeit hier erstreckt sich über ein großes Aufgabengebiet. Am Florida Holocaust Museum nehme ich an regelmäßigen Schulungen über neue Ausstellungen und neue Lehrmethoden teil und bin auch sonst voll in das Museumleben eingebunden.

Zuallererst bin ich das Verbindungsglied zwischen Gedenkdienst und Florida Holocaust Museum.

Die Aufgaben im Museum erstrecken sich über Beratung, geschichtliche Recherche und Übersetzungen von Dokumenten aus dem 2. Weltkrieg, Unterstützung der Dozenten bei Museumstouren, Planung und Umsetzung von diversen Events, Event Fotografie und Fotografie von Ausstellungen und Design.

Besonders bereichernd ist die Mitarbeit am Leadership Council, eine freiwillige Gruppe von einflussreichen Personen aus der Gemeinde welche das strategische Soundingboard der Vorstandsmitglieder darstellt. In der Arbeitsgruppe „Technology Planning“ sammeln wir Ideen für die Zukunft des Museums in der digitalen Welt.

Des Weiteren kümmere ich mich um ein von mir initiiertes Projekt: Die Zusammenarbeit mit der United Nations Association Tampa Bay Chapter.

Wie sieht ein typischer Arbeitstag aus?

Abgesehen von der morgendlichen „E-Mail-Lesen-Routine“ gibt es keine Routine. Jeder Tag im Museum bringt etwas Neues.

Welche Tipps würdest du jemanden geben, der kurz davor steht einen “Gedenkdienst” zu absolvieren?

Der Gedenkdienst ist eine besondere Gelegenheit persönlich zu wachsen. Mein Tipp ist sich immer ein Ziel vor Augen zu halten. Man sollte sich die Frage stellen was man während des Gedenkdienstes an der jeweiligen Einsatzstelle erreichen will.

Wie sind die Reaktionen der Besucher auf deine Tätigkeit?

Die Reaktionen der Besucher sind durchwegs positiv und die Wertschätzung der Gedenkdiener im Florida Holocaust Museum ist sehr groß. Die Besucher sehen mich als eine Repräsentantin für Österreich und wie Österreich die Vergangenheit aufarbeitet.

Um das originale Interview auf feuermauer.org zu sehen bitte hier klicken.
 
 

Why I love photography

Sometimes people ask me why I am so passionate about taking pictures. If they wanted to have a one-sentence answer, this was definitely the wrong question to ask.

I have always been a curious person, and taking a closer look at things was always in my very nature. Photography has given me an opportunity to capture the world through my eyes and make people see what I consider stunning, what attracts my attention, and what touches my heart.

Photography constantly changes how I see the world. Going out into the street and being able to see colors, shapes, architecture, flowers, people, and happenings no one else pays attention to makes the world a bigger place for me. As a photographer, you have access to viewing the world from various angles—a different perspective of beautiful.

I have always been an adventurous person. Photography challenges me to change perspective—not only while taking pictures but also in viewing the world. Isn’t it always about perspective? Everyone sees the world around them a little differently and has another perspective of the world. To me, it is the most interesting thing to get to know as many perspectives as possible.

In a world which is governed by stress and speed, photography has given me a possibility to take a step back and inhale the presence of a special moment. Photography opens up a whole new world for me—a world rich of smells, impressions, and sounds. Photography ignites the passion in me to truly immerse myself in my surroundings.

I have always been a person who was very fond of memories. Photography gives me the opportunity to truly indulge in the present while capturing the future past. For this moment, when I capture pictures, my thoughts are focused only on this perfect moment I find myself in. There is much more beauty in everyday life than one might think. Beauty is omnipresent in places and in people. We just have to take a closer look.

I have never been the traveler to buy ridiculous little statues to put somewhere or who has to have something typical of the country travelled to. Rather, for me, the best souvenir is a photo, because it can contain so many personal feelings. Photography stirs emotions: cheerfulness, contentment, nervousness, motivation, or sympathy. Photography connects me to the people around me.

But what I value the most is that photography allows me to be myself. Photography inspires me to travel to places I have never been and try things I have never tried. Photography makes me smile on days when I need it.

Photography is my passion.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt

My Heart, My Life – in Genoa, Italy

“Living in Italy, enjoying Mediterranean air and cuisine, and experiencing the Italian way of life.” For some people it will always be a dream, for me this dream came true for five months.

I did my semester abroad in the beautiful city of Genoa (Italian: Genova). The Università degli studi di Genova was the place where I pursued my academic goals and the city and its surroundings was my playground when it came to one of my greatest hobbies: Photography.

Now you know why I am posting pictures of Genoa and other cities in this area.

Enjoy.

A travel story – Postcards from Tuscany

Dear travelers, photographers and Italy-lovers,

Last weekend I got to travel around Italy a little more. I left Genova, the city I currently live and study in, and took the train down south to Tuscany. Equipped with my camera, an empty SD card and two full batteries, I got on a train to Pontedera where I met with my friends Silvia and Giulio. I spent three days with both of my wonderful friends I had the pleasure of meeting in San Diego, California in 2006. San Diego was the city we all fell in love with and it was also the city where they fell in love with each other. Only 5 years later they are now engaged and have a wonderful little girl of six months, called Gemma.

The Italian hospitality is something everyone will experience once they travel to Italy. You’ll be given so much food which tastes so amazing that you won’t be able to stop eating. Italian hosts will also go out of their way to make your stay as memorable as possible.

On Saturday afternoon they took me to see the small town of Lucca, which is well known for it’s Renaissance-era city walls. Strolling through the city, you can see and feel the Medieval influence. It’s an enchanting place one must see on a trip to Tuscany. It’s an incredible feeling walking on the city walls and thinking of just how old everything is. Even though it was the end of November, we were blessed with incredible weather for the whole weekend.

Sunday we took a day trip to Volterra, an important historical Etruscan center. Volterra might also ring a bell for Twilight-fans. It’s an important place in the books written by Stephenie Meyers. Volterra as the home to the Volturi.
Aside from being mentioned in the Twilight-series, Volterra has much to offer. The town is up a hill and the view is dazzling. I will always remember the feeling I had overlooking the ample hills covered in light fog and illuminated by the warm and comforting autumn sun.

Monday was the day I left, and on my way home I stopped by Pisa. I was walking around the sweet town, which was quite empty during this time of the year, considering that “The Leaning Tower” is the most googled sight in the whole world (according to an Italian guy who randomly started talking to me while I was taking pictures—-yes, this will happen to you when you travel around Italy by yourself… as a woman who doesn’t look so Italian).
The most interesting thing you can do in Pisa is eating ice cream and watching people trying to get funny pictures with the tower. It’s just incredible how stupid a person can look, if watched from the right angle.

In a nutshell: If you ever get to travel to Italy, don’t miss out on these picture-perfect places, even though famous cities like Florence and Siena are talked about more often on travel and photography blogs.

Enjoy my photography!

Arrivederci,

Melanie