Studying Across Europe: A Vulcan's Tale

A UH Hilo student’s journey across different parts of Europe

Staff Writer Breandain Clarke

Editor’s Note: This is an ongoing editorial column.

Imagine having a feeling deep in your chest, a feeling that something is utterly wrong. On the day that Mari and I were supposed to go to the London Bridge, we decided not to due to sharing that feeling.

On that day, Nov. 29, 2019, there was an attacker on the London Bridge who killed two recent Cambridge graduates, as well as injuring three others. The attack ended with his own death. The assailant was held down by several civilians that took action. Soon after, the attacker was shot dead by the police, and was later identified as Usman Khan, who had been recently released from prison last year for being convicted for “terrorism offences.” Along with the deaths of recent Cambridge graduates, Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, three others were severely wounded and had to be hospitalized.

The attack was just before 2 p.m., when we had previously planned to go. We were surreally horrified and deeply saddened with the outcome of this grotesque event and honestly shocked about how we had shared a feeling that practically saved us. It saved us.

I am not saying that we would have been necessarily attacked, but to have to actually experience that? It’s beyond words. My heart and Mari’s heart go out to the victims of that day, as well as their families.

Having lived nearly a decade in Hawaiʻi, I was not used to an event such as this, although who is really used to event of a murderer stabbing two people to death. I have always had the luxury of living somewhere that stabbings are rarely heard of happening. Though Hawaiʻi is not a perfect place, as no place is, Hawaiʻi is a much safer and tranquil place than most.

The next day, we decided to go back to Scotland a little earlier, and leaving London with our condolences – after only two days. We each paid the additional 60 pounds to change our flight, but we no longer wanted to be there.

Less than two weeks later, we came back to the Czech Republic for the holidays, and I was able to experience a different country’s Christmas that involved several layers of clothes, Christmas day carp dinner, and getting to know the lore of Baby Jesus.

Arriving on Dec. 13, the city of Prague was was decked out in colorful decorations, and at the old town square was their Christmas market. A large Christmas tree stood at the center of the market, and countless festive lights were strung up from one end of the market to the other. People walking around at a night market with a tall lit up building in the background

There were several vendors selling tea, coffee, and warm mulled wine. There were also various food vendors selling the traditional Czech dessert called trdelnik (pronounced tra-del-nik), and it is seriously one of the best baked goods I have ever eaten. This whole market really reminded me of the local farmer’s markets in both Hilo and Makuʻu, which is located right before Pāhoa.

The same night we went to the Christmas market, we also went to see an orchestra play scores from various films such as “Harry Potter,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Star Wars,” “Home Alone,” and several other films and even video games.

Sitting among the many enjoying the joyous music, my mind went back to all of the Ho'olaule'a events I had the privilege to experience at UH Hilo (see page ), and how I felt the same as when I was attending them. Hawaiʻi is a place where music is constantly being produced and performed regularly. Music is more than just a combination of various instruments for people in Hawaiʻi; it is a true lifestyle and a way of life.

In Czech, they celebrate Christmas on Dec. 24, and this was the day that I ate carp for the first time. Leading up to the dinner, Mari would tell me that if I didn't like it, they would make another dish for me. She would tell me how worried she was that I wouldn’t like it.

After a certain point, I found myself becoming scared of the infamous Christmas carp. After living in Hawaiʻi and having many dishes of locally caught fish and other oceanic creatures such as opihi, when it came time to have the carp dinner, I thought it was delicious! I turned to Mari after my first filet and asked her why she was so worried I wouldn’t like it. Laughter was shared at the dinner table, and after finishing our dinner, it was time to open our presents and time for me to learn about Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus is the Christmas figure in the Czech Republic, and is said to be the one who brings the Christmas tree and presents in while the families go out for a post-dinner walk. We finished out the beautiful day watching a Czech Cinderella film from 1973 Mari and her family watched every Christmas titled “Three Wishes for Cinderella,” which I thought was so adorable. Apparently it is a film that many in Czech watch during the holidays. I was truly honored to be a part of their holiday traditions and will always remember my first Czech Christmas.

I hope that everyone had a great holiday break and you got plenty of time to rest and recharge for spring semester. It’s here, and summer will be here sooner than we expect it to! Until the next article Vulcans – stay safe, hydrated, and never take for granted a single moment in your life as it is fragile and fleeting.