"The reality is the policy you have in place is only as good as the culture surrounding it.": January Update on MSU, the USOC, and USAG.

“‘The reality is the policy you have in place is only as good as the culture surrounding it,’ she said. ‘And it’s only going to be as effective as the hearts of the people who have to implement it. And so how you message on abuse, how much you demonstrate that it matters is by how you handle it. That is what really changes the culture.'”

Shamus, Kristen Jordan. 2020. “Rachael Denhollander: MSU is ‘Actively Reinforcing the Culture’ that let Nassar Thrive.” Detroit Free Press. Available here.

Need to catch up? You can read my last post here.

Another year, another update on the fallout from Nassar’s abuse. #surprisednotsurprised that the institutions that allowed the most prolific sexual abuse predator in the history of American sport continue to struggle to change culture and policy.

USA Gymnastics has found a new National Training Center, which shockingly includes medical tables out in the open, as opposed to the dusty table in the backroom of the Karolyi Ranch. I guess even the simple steps are something to give them credit for, although at this point it seems like we should be wayyyy beyond this.

Survivor Amanda Thomashaw attends a Michigan State University Board of Trustees meeting in December 2019.

A new book, Start By Believing, has brought a number of scathing documents to surface and I hope this will help put former CEO Steve Penny behind bars for good. Again, not surprising to find out how much he knew and covered up or that the person who smuggled medical records from the Karolyi Ranch was working at the organization up until December of last year.

Michigan State University, in their apparent steadfast mission to keep on being terrible, has continued to refuse to release the over 6,000 documents requested by the Michigan Attorney General’s office. Klages and Simon are still denying they knew anything about the abuse on campus, statements directly in contradiction to evidence collected by police.

The most positive development in this “hey let’s hold enablers and abusers accountable” long game is the recent raid of John Geddert’s home and gym (the photo at the beginning of this post). Former USAG Coach of the Year, Geddert has been under investigation for years for not only physically and emotionally abusing athletes, but also protecting his long-time friend Larry Nassar, who molested potentially hundreds of girls in Geddert’s gym.

Let’s get into it:

Michigan State University:

  • While John Engler resigned as interim president of MSU over a year ago, he has yet to agree to be interviewed by Attorney General Dana Nessel for her investigation into how the university allowed Nassar’s abuse; Engler has stated that he thinks the AG office is “biased against him”. Due to the university’s indemnification policy, they are still paying Engler’s legal fees, including $207,000. Engler made a number of controversial comments during his tenure including asking survivor Kaylee Lorincz, “if I wrote you a check for $250,000, would you take it?”
  • In December, Attorney General Dana Nessel stated that the investigation into how MSU handled Nassar’s abuse throughout his years at the university is at an “impasse” as the Board of Trustees has continued to withhold several thousands of documents from police. The university has cited attorney-client privilege as to why they are not required to hand over documents. Five of the eight university trustees have stated that they will review the 6,000 documents requested and “consider” releasing them to the AG’s office. Nessel responded:

“It’s unclear how the trustees can say with certainty that the information contained in those documents is not relevant to our investigation. In fact, the depth and breadth the university has gone to in withholding those documents only increases our fervor to obtain them.”

LeBlanc, Beth. 2019. “Nessel Clarifies: Nassar Investigation at ‘Impasse’ with MSU.” The Detroit News. Available here.
  • Four board members voted against the independent review which would have included the documents requested by the AG’s office.
  • Former MSU president Lou Anna Simon’s attorneys are planning to ask a judge to dismiss the four charges against her in relation to Nassar’s abuse at Michigan State. Simon is charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors of lying to police. She that while she knew of the 2014 Title IX investigation into Nassar brought forward by Amanda Thomashaw, but did not know any specifics behind the complaint. This directly contradicts evidence found by detectives that show Simon discussed Nassar and the investigation into whether he sexually abused Thomashaw in 2014. He was later cleared of the charges.
  • Former Michigan State University head coach Kathie Klages has a trial date for February 10th; she faces two charges of lying to police. Klages denied knowing of sexual abuse allegations made against Nassar, including two accounts brought forward by gymnasts in 1997. During her time as head coach, Klages forced her athletes to sign a card supporting Nassar and told the mother of a survivor that the 30,000+ images of child pornography found on his home computer were planted.
  • This week Rachael Denhollander criticized the lack of change in culture and policy at MSU as the university has yet to complete an independent investigation into not only how Nassar was able to abuse hundreds of girls on campus, but also how multiple complaints were dismissed by the administration:

“MSU is consistently messaging that they care about money and liability more. And in that case, they’re going to be completely ineffective at actually changing the culture. They’re going to be ineffective at communicating to survivors that there is a safe place to speak up. They are going to be ineffective at communicating to their own employees, that abuse reports have to be handled properly. Because essentially their messaging is that if you do mess up, we’re going to cover for you because it would be too expensive if we don’t. They’re actively reinforcing the culture…

I have even less hope for USAG than I have for MSU, if that’s even possible. It is the same set of problems. USAG has not taken the most basic steps. They have yet to identify even one mistake that was made. They have yet to identify one abusive coach, one abusive dynamic that should not have been allowed to flourish. They still have people working for them who actively covered up for Larry.”

Shamus, Kristen Jordan. 2020. “Rachael Denhollander: MSU is ‘Actively Reinforcing the Culture’ that let Nassar Thrive.” Detroit Free Press. Available here.
  • A woman has filed a lawsuit against the former MSU medical resident Michael Phinn further citing the lack of oversight by Michigan State leadership. Phinn was sentenced to five to fifteen years in prison for sexual assault (among other charges) after two women testified that he used his lab coat to expose himself to them and forced the women to watch videos of himself masturbating. The lawsuit also names Michigan State and former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, William Strampel. Strampel was Phinn’s (and Nassar’s) supervisor and was criminally charged for neglect of duty and sentenced to one year in prison last August.

USA Gymnastics & The United States Olympic Committee:

2012 Olympic Head Coach John Geddert
  • Amy White, a USA Gymnastics staffer who, under direction of CEO Steve Penny, removed medical records from the then-National Training Center, Karolyi Ranch, is no longer working for the organization. The notice in December 2019 did not state whether White had been fired or left the organization voluntarily. In a statement to the Senate in 2018, Kerry Perry–who replaced Penny as CEO–testified that the documents were given to Penny after White removed them them from Texas and brought them to USAG headquarters in Indianapolis. The national team met at the Karolyi Ranch every month and many gymnasts state they were abused by Nassar there.
  • The book Start by Believing (John Barr and Dan Murphy) was published this month and included a number of previously unreported documents relating to the Nassar case. Most damning are the documents that show then-CEO Steve Penny was aware of Nassar’s abuse earlier (and in more detail) than previously thought. He stated that gymnast Mckayla Maroney “felt no therapeutic effect but felt [Nassar] was getting sexual gratification” by abusing her under the guise of medical treatment, specifically penetrating her in Japan (2011), London (2012), and Belgium (2013). The document further states that USAG attorneys Dan Connolly and Scott Himsel offered Penny a choice:

“‘We can tell the full story of what we’ve learned thus far,’ the attorneys wrote in an email obtained by the authors. ‘We think it is highly likely that would become a media story and prompt Larry to sue for defamation… Neither Dr. Nassar nor USAG wants the attendant negative publicity at this time.'”

ESPN. 2020. “Book Reveals New Details of How USAG concealed Nassar Complaints.” ESPN Online. Available here.
  • Remember that Penny did not first alert police–a requirement of Indiana law–but instead hired Fran Sepler, a workplace harassment investigator, to interview gymnasts about the complaints against Nassar. She interviewed 2012 Olympians Maroney and Aly Raisman, along with Maggie Nichols, a 2015 World Champion and current gymnast for Oklahoma, about their abuse. Maggie is one of the first elite gymnasts to come forward when her coach overheard her discussing how uncomfortable Nassar made her feel at a national training camp.
  • USA Gymnastics has again postponed hearings related to complaints made against coach Maggie Haney. Haney, the owner of MG Elite Gymnastics, coached 2016 Olympic Champion Laurie Hernandez, along with a number of other elite gymnasts including Jazmyn Foberg (who now competes for the University of Florida) and current national team member Riley McCusker. The three year case began when eleven allegations of emotional and verbal abuse were made against Haney. Hernandez no longer trains at MG Elite, but McCusker, a 2018 World Champion and one of the front-runners for the 2020 team, still trains with Haney. Both Haney and McCusker were at the National Training Center this month.
  • Child sexual assault charges against former USA Gymnastics Athletic Trainer Debbie Van Horn were dismissed this January. Van Horn worked closely with Nassar for years at the-then National Training Center: Karolyi Ranch. Nassar called Van Horn his “neck” that kept his head on and further said she was “the single most influential person in the history of sports medicine for the sport of gymnastics”. Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championship silver medalist, stated in her victim impact statement that Van Horn was in the room when Nassar abused her at the Karolyi Ranch. In addition to Van Horn, four others have been criminally charged in relation to the Nassar abuse including former CEO Steve Penny, who is facing charges of evidence-tampering, also in Texas.
  • USAG has named The Gymnastics Company as the new training center for the women’s program. The 42,000 square foot space in Indianapolis replaces the Karolyi Ranch as the official training site for US elite athletes, who meet at the location each month. One change from the secluded Karolyi Ranch is that the therapy tables are set up in plain view of the gym, rather than in a back room, which Nassar used to conceal his abuse of athletes.
  • While USAG’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy may have stopped the investigations and payouts to survivors, a recent article by The Washington Post found that USA Gymnastics has paid attorneys $1000+ per hour which:

“rank as extremely high for a bankruptcy of this size involving sexual abuse victims. Three lawyers have billed more than $600,000 individually in the first year of the case, according to a review of legal bills filed in court, part of more than $7 million in legal fees approved, by a judge, on a preliminary basis.

To some attorneys and victims, the rising legal fees are prompting concerns about how much will be left for victims when the case is over.”

Hobson, Will. 2019. “While Larry Nassar Victims Wait, Lawyers Cash in on USA Gymnastics Bankruptcy.” The Washington Post. Available here.
  • On Tuesday, attorneys representing survivors motioned to dismiss USAG’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Representatives stated that the survivors and USA Gymnastics are not any closer to settling mediation disputes and legal claims. USAG filed for bankruptcy in December of 2018, an act that halted all legal investigations (including the organization’s depositions) and the USOC’s decision to revoke their status as the national governing body for the sport. If approved, this request for dismissal would force USA Gymnastics to “confront the lawsuits filed in courts across the country and could also be exposed to new ones.” According to the filing, there has been no progress in months between USAG and the athletes suing the organization.
  • On January 21st, law enforcement raided the training center and home of John and Kathryn Geddert. John, the 2012 Olympic Head Coach and owner of Twistars gym, was accused of mental and physical abuse of athletes before being suspended by USA Gymnastics in 2018 and has been under investigation for two years. His gym was one of the locations Nassar used to abuse gymnasts, often playing the “good guy” counterpart to Geddert. Makayla Thrush, a former athlete at Twistars, spoke about Geddert’s abuse and enabling in her victim impact statement in 2018:

“Do you remember the time you got so mad at me? I don’t even know why that’s just who you are. You threw me on top of the low bar, ruptured the lymph nodes in my neck, gave me a black eye, and tore the muscles in my stomach. You told me to kill myself not just once but many other times, and unfortunately, I let you get the best of me because after you ended my career I tried. John you never even called me by my first name.”

Murphy, Amy. 2020. “Update: Police Raid on Twistars and Home of Former US Gymnastics Coach.” Fox 47 News. Available here.
  • In addition to Thrush, a number of other athletes have stated that Geddert knew of the abuse. 2012 Olympic Champion Mckayla Maroney also stated that she told Geddert while sharing a car in 2011 that Nassar was molesting her. In The Girls, multiple gymnasts told similar stories of Geddert walking in on Nassar abusing them while cracking jokes about their breasts and other body parts.
  • Rita Wieber, the mother of 2012 Olympic Champion and former Twistars gymnast Jordyn Wieber, released a statement 24 hours after police raided Twistars, stating: “I was encouraged to think that there is still a chance justice is going to be served.”
  • The attorney representing a number of survivors published this statement on the raid:

“On behalf of the hundreds of Larry Nassar victims represented by our team, I applaud the actions of the Michigan Attorney General and the Grand Ledge Police Department. The search of John Geddert’s home and Twistars offices is long overdue. Geddert was the handpicked by USA Gymnastics, the USOPC and the Karolyis to coach our 2012 Olympic Team. Every member of the Fierce Five was sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar under his watch. It is now time for search warrants to be served on USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee so that Nassar’s victims and the public will finally discover who within these organizations actively concealed Nassar’s crimes.”

Dolinar, Elise. 2020. “Larry Nassar Victims’ Attorney Issues Statement on Raid of John Geddert’s Assets.” NBC 25 News. Available here.

On a positive note, last year I read both The Girls (Abigail Pesta) and What is a Girl Worth? (Rachael Denhollander) and I highly recommend both if you’re interested in learning more about the topic.

Currently:

Reading: The Testaments (Margaret Atwood)
Watching: The Good Place Season 4 (Netflix)
Listening: Scene on Radio (Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University)

"Give Your Square Life": Stockholm, Sweden

lovely lovely Stockholm

Stockholm ❤ I was only in Sweden’s capital city for roughly six hours–not nearly enough time–but thankful to spend a gorgeous day in the “Beauty on the Water”.

While in Örebro I took the train from the central station to Stockholm. Forever the thrifty person I am, I booked the two hour trip on the older train (about 30 Euro) and it was great option. Even the discounted train (as the lady who helped me said: “You know it’s the OLD one?”) was super clean and efficient. I caught up podcasts and finished Not that Bad by Roxane Gay, which was one the most powerful books I read in 2019.

Gamla Stan (Old Town)

My limited time in Stockholm meant I had to prioritize what I could visit–I felt a little piece of my heart break as I eliminated stops off my list–but I was able to see a good deal of the city and one of my absolute favorite places I’ve ever visited: Rosendals Trädgård.

This was also one of my first solo trips and it was fun traveling on my own. Picture a lot of intentional wandering, coffee stops, and as always, a long trek to the city library (because of course).

Stockholm is an incredible place with tons of beautiful architecture, history, and lovely green spaces. I’m so thankful to have spent the day here, especially during the summer, when the capital has up to 18 hours of sunlight per day.

Where are we?

The first inhabitants of the area that is present-day Stockholm moved here after the Ice Age (around 8,000 BC) and Old Town was constructed by the Vikings in 1000 CE. Founded across 14 islands, the city is connected by 57 bridges, earning the nickname “Beauty on the Water”; the name Stockholm is derived from the words stock (“log” in Swedish) and holm (meaning “islet” and most likely referring to Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm).

 St. Gertrude’s Church in Gamla stan

After working for years in the sustainability field in Charleston, one of the most interesting parts of visiting Sweden (and especially Stockholm) was seeing sustainability practices in person (skip ahead to fika pictures if you don’t want to read my nerdy-sustainability ramblings).

Named the European Green Capital Award by the EU Commission in 2010, Stockholm has the distinction of being Europe’s first “green capital”. The landscape, location, and population growth of the city provides unique challenges to Sweden’s sustainability goals.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)

Known for its green spaces, which make up 30% of city’s area–the other thirds being urban and water–Stockholm utilizes a “community planning” system that:

“focuses on enhancing or altering the production and consumption of society that is normally left up to the market to determine. Planning is about formulating strategies to improve the quality of life for Swedes and the quality of the natural environment. Planning and environmental policies focus on this ‘dual’ purpose of urban development patterns and green space preservation–crafting guidelines and policies to ensure that humans are close to nature and that natural areas maintain their ecological functions.”

Nelson, Alyse. 2018. “Stockholm Sweden: City of Water.” Landscape Australia. Available here.

As a country, Sweden has committed to reduce GHG emission by 40% by 2020 and zero net GHG emissions by 2050. They also implemented the Swedish Environmental Code (1999) which:

“requires that an environmental impact assessment be carried out before permission can be given for an environmentally hazardous activity. This assessment takes into account the impact on people, animals, soil, water, air, the landscape, and the cultural environment.”

The Swedish Institute. 2018. “Sweden Tackles Climate Change.” Sweden Official Site. Available here.
Djurgårdsbrunnsviken, a bay of Saltsjön, was used for Olympic rowing and swimming competitions during the 1912 Summer Olympics.

My priorities included visiting the Old Town, Rosendals Trädgård, the Stockholm Public Library, and seeing the views from the water. While I had a small time-frame in Stockholm and chose to walk through the city, I’m sure you could hit more on your list by using public transportation (and a chance to see the world’s longest art gallery); I just love walking and enjoying new places on foot.

Here was my journey: Norrmalm (Centro) → Gamla stan → Djurgården → Östermalm → Vasastan (north of Norrmalm) → Norrmalm (Centro).

The Sites:

Old Town (Gamla stan):

St. Gertrude’s Church (Sankta Gertruds kyrka) is located in Gamla stan and is dedicated to Saint Gertrude (626-659).
The German guild of St. Gertrude was founded in the 1300s by German merchants living in Stockholm.
The Old Town is known for its different shades of gold seen throughout the area.
Stockholm’s Old Town is one of the best preserved European historic districts, thanks in large part to the pedestrian-only streets here.
The Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas (Sankt Nikolai kyrka) is the oldest church in Gamla stan and was founded in the 13th century.
The Church has been the site of a number of important Swedish historical events including weddings, funerals, and coronations.
The Grand Square (Stortorget) is the oldest square in Stockholm.
If I had more time I would have loved to tour the Nobel Museum and Library, which included an exhibit about Martin Luther King, Jr. while I was there.
Fun fact: the Nobel Prizes in physics, medicine, literature, and chemistry are awarded in Stockholm every December but the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo each year.
The Square’s well was designed by Erik Palmsteft. Land elevation caused the well to dry up in 1856 but today the landmark is connected to city water.
The Stockholm Palace (Stockholms slott) is the official residence of the Swedish monarchy and includes 1400+ rooms (600 with windows).
Construction started in 1697 amd was completed in 1754.
The House of Nobility (Riddarhuset)
French architect Simon de la Vallée began planning construction for the building but was killed by a Swedish nobleman in 1642, just a week after work began; his son, Jean De la Vallée finished the work in 1660.
Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm and the former medieval abbey for the city. It is located on Riddarholmen, an island close to the Royal Palace, so not technically Gamla stan, but I was able to catch a view of the beautiful church on my way to the Old Town.

Rosendals Garden (Rosendals Trädgård):

Rosendals Trädgård is one of my absolute favorite places I’ve ever visited. Home to one of the most sustainable cafes in Stockholm, the property features a number of gardens, an orchard with over 100 apple trees, and greenhouses. Reader, I was in love.
Previously modeled after the Royal Horticultural Society in England, the garden also housed a training school that closed in 1911. Today the main purpose of the space is to “present biodynamic (organic) garden cultivation to the general public” through lectures, courses, exhibitions, and let’s be honest, awesome looking dishes.
The bakery on site is AMAZING and includes a number of breads and treats. The building on the left and behind the raised beds was the “drop off station” where customers brought their plates and serviceware once finished with their meal. It made my heart happy to see such clearly labelled instructions and zero contamination between recycling and composting, even during the lunch rush. This is a pretty serious operation that the patrons also respected.
One of the old greenhouses is now used as a shop.
The space includes Trädgårdsbutik and Plantboden, two shops where customers can buy supplies and fresh produce grown on the property.
With plenty of places to sit and walk, I could literally spend all day (or the rest of my life 🤔) here.
A wonderful friend who studied in Uppsala University in Sweden recommended this amazing place to me. Thank you Erika ❤
Near the orchard.
The original orangery.
♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

Walk through Djurgården:

This was about a 45 minute walk (one way) but totally worth it, even with my limited time-frame.
Statue of Jenny Lind: Known as the “Swedish Nightingale”, Lind was one of the most highly respected opera singers in the 1800s. She also toured the United States with P.T. Barnum; a fictionalized account of their relationship was part of the plot of the film, The Greatest Showman (2017).
“The Lady Working for Peace in the World” was built by the Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Sirishov is a villa near Rosendal’s Palace with some parts of the house dating back to the 1760s.
The view from the other side of the bridge including the Nordic Museum.
The Nordic Museum (Nordiska museet) was founded in the late 1800s and includes the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden from 1520 to present.
The museum contains over one million objects.
The Blue Gate (blå porten) is the entrance (or exit) to the Royal Djurgården (Kungliga Djurgården).

Östermalm:

The largest district in Stockholm, Östermalm features many of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Oscar’s Church (Oscarskyrkan) is one of Stockholm’s major churches and was built in 1897.

Stockholm Public Library (Stockholms stadsbibliotek):

Stockholm’s Public Library opened in 1928 and is known for its tall rotunda.
The Library was recently named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries by Conde Nast Traveler. I also spent time having fika here and it was a lovely break before catching my train back to Örebro.

Drinks & Shops:

Forever packing my lunch:

Here’s the thing: I’m forever packing my lunch and snacks. I was a “brown bag” kid in school and that has definitely continued into adulthood. Because Sweden is more expensive than other countries–and their grocery stores are out.of.this.world–I packed a couple of sandwiches for this trip. Hi beet hummus, spicy mustard, greens, and veg options!
Östermalm is a beautiful place to sit and eat your packed lunch while catching up on podcasts.

Sara’s Art & Coffee:

As soon as I arrived in Stockholm I had to stop for fika in Gamla stan. Sara’s Art & Coffee is an adorable cafe offering coffee and treats. Source.

Rönnells Antikvariat:

Specializing in rare books and literary merchandise, Rönnells Antikvariat is located near the National Library of Sweden and the Mikkeller Bar in the Östermalm district.

Slow Fox:

I loved this graphic design / music / bookshop in Gamla stan.

Mikkeller Bar:

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the Mikkeller Bar in Stockholm but it’s at the top of my list of places to visit next time. The Dannish microbery originally used “cuckoo” and “phantom” practices; instead of operating as their own facility, they collaborated with other brewers to make experimental beers. Source.

♡ Skål

Nationalmuseum Skeppsholmen Konstbiblioteket & Arkiv
Wandering Gamla stan
View from Rosendalsvägen

Currently:

Reading: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (Casey Cep)
Watching: Succession Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: The Provability Gap (NUT Radio)

Deruny & Varenyky: Kyiv, Ukraine

Great Lavra Bell Tower

Last spring (I know, I know, I am soooo far behind on posts AND in what world is it already 2020?!) Chris and I had the opportunity to tag along with our friends, Heather and Chris, to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Always at the top of my Dream Travel Destinations List, I was so excited to help plan our short trip. We had roughly three days in the country, and including our trip to Chernobyl (post to come, I promise), this left about a day and half to wander the capital.

Near Podil

Get ready because this post is going to be looooooong and a little heavy on the political, historical, and yes, grammatical side (and wayyyy too many pictures). As a PoliSci nerd who studied Russian history, particularly the influence of the Soviets on Ukraine and the Baltic states, I can’t help but discuss many of the topics I’ve researched in the past that I finally was able to see the effects of in person (still can’t believe it).

To be honest, it has taken a long time to really reflect on our few days in Ukraine. The history, vibe, and culture of Kyiv is so difficult to put into words; it was definitely a lot to process and ingest considering my background (and as a person who leisurely reads books like Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union in her free time, my nerdiness knows no bounds).

Hermione gets me

We opted to stay in the historic neighborhood of Podil, a quick Uber ride into the center of the city. Kyiv also has an expansive metro (including the deepest station in the world at 10.5 meters below the ground #yikes) so you can easily move from different areas of the capital. When getting into our Uber at the airport, Heather and I quietly air-exclaimed-in-delight that our driver was listening to the Neverending Story soundtrack, clearly one of the highlights of the year.

Ballerina dancer statue (wood) created by Constantin Skritutsky.

Kyiv is extremely affordable (roughly 35 US cents for a train ticket or $2-6 per Uber ride) and the food is amazing; you can easily find a Ukrainian, Georgian, or Eastern European dinner for less than $10 USD. Happily for us, we were able to find #allthefood while we were there.

Another view of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Unfortunately, it was a little rainy and chilly while we visited, but thankfully we were able to see as much as we could in the small amount of time we were in Ukraine. Mostly everyone we met were friendly and spoke English; while I remember some Russian–and the language is similar to Ukrainian–the most important words to learn are деруни (“deruny” meaning potato pancake) and варе́ники  (“varenyky” = dumplings similar to pierogi). I’m only being half serious here, but for real, learn those terms because these dishes are on point in Kyiv.

Enjoying our walk through Podil (check out that ORANGE RAINCOAT)
📷: Heather

Where are we?

Kyiv is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine. The legend goes that the city was founded by three brothers and leaders of the Polyanian tribe of the East Slavs: Kyi, Schek, and Khoryv. Each brother established his own area on a hill and this together became the formation of the city; a nearby stream was named for their sister, Lybed.

Another view of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

One of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, Kyiv has a complicated history and plays a vital role in the region. Enjoying relative independence until becoming part of the Tsardom of Russia in 1667, the primarily Christian city fell increasingly under Russification in the 19th century; a greater number of ethnic Russians moved into Kyiv, resulting in a domination of Russian speakers in the city. Following a period of prosperity after the Russian Industrial Revolution, the city was the center of a number of conflicts including the German occupation in WWI, the Russian Civil War (1917-1922), and the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. The leadership and status of Kyiv changed sixteen times in two years (1918-1920).

Abandoned building near Podil.

Ukraine became one of of the founding republics of the Soviet Union and was under Soviet occupation from 1921-1991. While an increase in Ukrainian population and culture migrated back into Kyiv and the city became a scientific and industrial center for the region, a number of events devastated the country including the Great Famine of 1932-1933 and Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937-1938.

The Great Famine is known in Ukrainian as Holodomor (Голодомо́р в Украї́ні: “to kill by starvation”) and millions of people died during this time, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians. Scholars believe the man-made famine was created by Joseph Stalin as a way to either shut down the Ukrainian independence movement or an intentional policy by the Soviets to eliminate the Ukrainians; many consider the unreasonable quotas implemented on Ukrainian farmers and peasants should be considered genocide. While an exact number is impossible to determine, it is estimated that between five and ten million people died during Holodomor. The Ukrainian government recognized the event as genocide in 2003 and was finalized by the Kyiv court of appeal in 2010.

Kyiv is also known for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster (1986) that took place 100 km from the city; northern winds moved radioactive debris north and the capital remained mostly safe from the accident.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Ukraine declared independence on August 24th, 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but issues with Russian influence remain. In 2013, protests against the Ukrainian government’s decision to decline signing an agreement with the European Union (instead furthering ties with Russia) took place in Kyiv’s Independence Square. Nicknamed Euromaidan, the movement resulted in more than 100 deaths and 2,500 people injured. These protests against corruption, human rights violations, and abuse of power led to the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution and the removal of President Yanukovych from power.

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

And for a little political grammar nerdiness (skip ahead to the potato pancake pictures if this bores you):

Why am I using the “Kyiv” spelling instead of “Kiev”? The latter version–the translated Russian word for the city–has been the more commonly used spelling by the West. Kyiv is the transliteration of the name from Ukrainian and established by their government as the official spelling in 1995. As the country is no longer under Soviet occupation, many are opting to use the preferred spelling of the Ukrainians–as we should–rather than the Russian pronunciation.

“There’s no reason other than old colonialist inertia to continue using a Russian spelling for a Ukrainian city name,” Dr. Shevchuk said.

Zraick, Karen. 2019. “Wait, How do you Pronounce Kiev?” The New York Times. Available here.

Full disclosure: correctly spelling the capital city is a challenge for me. I studied in the United States and most of my academic work focused primarily on Russian influences on Ukraine, so of course I’ve always spelled the city as Kiev.

While we’re on the topic, let’s try to stop referring to Ukraine as “The Ukraine”. English speakers have historically added the “the” as a way to refer to the country as “the borderland” part of Russia, rather than its own entity. Incorrect both grammatically and politically–Russian and Ukrainian languages do not even include definite articles–if we want to correctly refer to the Eastern European country bordering Russia, Ukraine (solo) is the right pronunciation. Using “the” is disrespectful to Ukrainians as it is seen as a denial of independence. #decolonizelanguage

Kyiv is unlike any other city we’ve had the opportunity to visit. I absolutely recommend taking a trip to see the amazing buildings, unique landscapes, and experience the history (and let’s real, the cuisine) of the city.

The Sites:

Kontraktova Square (Контрактова площа):

Kontraktova ploshcha (Square of Contracts) is the central square in the historic Podil neighborhood.
Pretty amazing to walk out of your apartment and see these beautiful buildings.
Monument to Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny, a Cossach Hetmanm, built in 2001.
The Pyrohoshcha Dormition of the Mother of God Church was established in 1132, destroyed by the Soviets in 1935, and rebuilt in 1988.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (КиєвоПечерська лавра):

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is an absolute MUST visit in Kyiv and is also known as the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves.
Founded in 1051, the monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and over 100 monks still live there today.
Visiters can book a tour either online or on-site (we purchased ours at the Lavra) and includes a tour of the underground caves. This was also the only real conversation in Russian I had while in Kyiv and the older woman who sold us the tickets referred to Heather and me as “sweet girls” ❤

It’s an incredible tour, but also very small quarters. Okay for me at 5 ft, but not as easy for the Chrises. Poor Shaw basically blocked the entire entrance to the caves as we started descending the stairs. It is a very tight squeeze with people moving in both directions.

The caves are corridors that included living quarters and underground chapels for the monks. A number of catacombs and mummies are also under the monastery and we were able to see a couple on the tour.
The Lavra has a number of buildings including the Belltower, Dormition Cathedrial, and eight churches.
View of the city from the entrance.
Cemetery with a view of the Motherland Monument.

The Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War (Музей історії України у Другій світовій війні):

Just a short walk from the Lavra, the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War is a huge area commemorating the German-Soviet War. It was opened by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1981 and is one of the largest museums in Ukraine with over 300 THOUSAND exhibits.
This monument, near the end, is named “Crossing of the Dnieper”. The Battle for the Dnieper (1943) killed over 500,000 people (counting the number of deaths on both sides).
The museum includes a TON of armaments and machinery used by the Soviets after WWII.
Originally named the “Museum of the Great Patriotic War”, the parliament of Ukraine changed the name to its current “National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War” in 2015.

This change was a part of a greater law that banned all Nazi and communist symbols –including street names and monuments; the term “Great Patriotic war” was also outlawed.

The Motherland Monument (Батьківщина-Мати):

One of the most famous buildings of the Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, the Motherland Monument is 102 meters (335 feet) tall and can easily be seen from across the river. Construction began in 1979 and was opened in 1981 (again by Brezhnev). The building of the monument was controversial as many felt that that the materials and funds would be better used in other areas. The cost is estimated to be over nine million rubles (in the 1970s).
Today the Motherland Monument remains controversial; when Soviet and Communist symbols were outlawed in 2015, WWII monuments were excluded from the policy and the statue was allowed to remain as-is, complete with the state emblem of the Soviet Union on her shield.
📷: Heather Shaw

Taras Shevchenko University & Park (Київський національний університет імені Тараса Шевченка):

Taras Shevchenko Monument. Shevchenko is one of the most famous Ukrainians and known for his art, writing, and ethnography.
Shevchenko Park is the smallest park in the city.
The trees have eyes.
The original “Red Building” of Taras Shevchenko University.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral (Собор святого Володимира):

St. Volodymry’s Cathedral is the mother cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and named for Prince Vladimir I of Kyiv.
Under Soviet occupation the cathedral remained open and tourists were able to see a working Orthodox Church.

Independence Square (Майдан Незалежності):

Independence Square (Майдан Незалежност) is the central square of Kyiv. The Independence Monument was built in 2001 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Independence of Ukraine and stands at 61 meters (200 feet) tall.
The Square was the site of the start of Ukraine’s independence movement in 1990 as well as most political rallies in the city. Non-political events also took place here until the Euromaidan deaths in 2014. A memorial for those murdered–The National Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred Heroes and Revolution of Dignity Museum–is located here.
View of the Square today.
A photo of the 2014 Euromaidan Protests

Saint Sophia’s Cathedral (Собор святої Софії):

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral was built in the 11th century and includes a bell tower and the House of Metropolitan.
The name of cathedral stems from Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia cathedral and is dedicated to Holy Wisdom, not a saint named Sophia.
The cathedral fell into disrepair following the pillaging of Kyiv in 1169 and Mongolian Tatars in 1240. It was further damaged in the 1500s when Poland and Ukraine attempted to unite both Orthodox and Catholic churches. While repairs were made and the cathedral improved, Soviet anti-religious campaigns of the 1920s almost had the buildings destroyed in favor of a park.

Today, the complex is a secular museum of Ukraine’s Christianity, with no religious services held in the space.

St. Andrew’s Church (Андріївська церква):

I am so bummed to not have my own picture of St. Andrew’s Church during the daytime. The beautiful Baroque church was built from 1747-1754 and sits at the top of the Andriyskyy Descent.
Source

Golden Gate (Золоті ворота):

The Golden Gate of Kyiv was the main gate for the city in the 11th century. The building was dismantled during the Middle Ages and rebuilt by the Soviets in 1982.
The rebuilding of the gate for the 1500th anniversary of Kyiv (!!!!) came under controversy as no images of the original building existed. Many felt that the reconstructed building should be torn down with only the original ruins allowed.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Podil East India Company:

The Podil East India Company is a small craft bar with an amazing Indian-inspired menu in the Podil neighborhood. So basically, all my favorite things in one location.

Craft vs. PUB:

“No water, only beer.”
Right next to Podil East India Company is the small and well-stocked Craft vs. PUB. Always a fan of underground beer spots, we enjoyed a couple of beers before heading out to the see the sites. I had the Mango IPA by KF Brewery (Ukraine).
Source.

Drunken Monkey:

Yet another underground pub, Drunken Monkey has a great selection of beer, cocktails, and an awesome menu of snacks. Highly recommend the appetizer plates after a long day trip to Chernobyl. I tried KF Brewing’s Naked Pug (because of course I did).
Bonus: The Drunken Monkey is a quick walk from OMG Ice Cream (see below).
Source.

Coffee in the MISTO:

I really enjoyed Coffee in the MISTO. Located in Podil, the shop is adorable, with a cat theme and small snacks available to purchase with your coffee.
Always appreciate a vegan sandwich on dark bread.

Holy Beans Coffee Company:

The motto for Holy Beans Coffee Company is “a pretty food coffee company” which of course I appreciate. We stopped for coffee and dessert-for-breakfast before touring the Lavra.

OMG Ice Cream & Coffee:

Honestly one of the best ice creams I’ve had in Europe (truly a top honor considering the amount of ice cream I consume in each city), OMG Ice Cream is located in Podil and makes homemade and seasonal flavors. I tried the pistachio and it was lizziemcguirewhatdreamsaremadeof.gif
Source.

Kanapa:

I can not say enough about Kanapa. Located near St. Andrew’s Church, this restaurant specializes in Ukrainian cuisine. Their menu includes a map of where their ingredients are procured, so obviously I was immediately sold.
This was my starter: pumpkin with goat cheese, hibiscus powder, and basil butter.
Followed by double varenyky with mushroom powder.
SO GOOD.

O’Panas:

We also stopped for (a HUGE) Ukrainian dinner at O’Panas, located near Taras Shevchenko Park. The restaurant is decorated in traditional fare and boasts an amazing menu with a ton of great local wines. Our server was wonderful, respectfully tried to listen to my broken Ukrainian, and didn’t judge us (at least to our faces) when we ordered 30 dishes.
Mushroom dumpling soup  🙌   🙌 
Not pictured: cabbage rolls that smelled like heaven.
Hi, this is just my casual deruny with cheese and porcini mushrooms + my varenyky with potato and mushrooms. Clearly I was feeling mushrooms this day.

Seriously, can’t recommend O’Panas enough.

❤ На здоровье

Raincoat game STRONG
“Життя без науки – смерть”
(“Life without science equals death”)

Created during the French Spring Festival (2013) by French muralist Julien Mullen (Seth) and Ukrainian artist Vladimir Manzhos (Waone), this mural is located on building 2 of the Mohyla Academy.
One of my favorite spots of our trip ❤

You can also download a Google Map of all my favorite places here.

Currently:

Reading: On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (Naomi Klein)
Watching: Watchmen (HBO)
Listening: In the Dark Season 2 (APM Reports)

“It was more of the same”: November Update on MSU, the USOC, and USAG

“The only way you’re going to change this culture of abuse is to start putting behind bars the people who enabled and covered up that abuse.” –Robert Allard, an attorney who has represented a number of sexual abuse victims in several Olympic sports.

Reid, Scott M. 2019. “Justice Department, IRS Investigating USOPC, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming.” The Orange County Register. Available here.

Need to catch up? You can read my last post here.

Lou Anna Simon in court (2018).

Right now the biggest update in the fallout from the Nassar sentencing is the continued shirking of responsibility by Michigan State University; the institution has not only hurt the state investigation into the enablers and policies that allowed the abuse, but have also failed to actually accept responsibility and create change to stop sexual assault from occurring on campus.

“Attorney general Dana Nessel’s office has requested more than 7,000 documents from MSU in its investigation into how Nassar assaulted hundreds of patients on MSU campus for almost 20 years. The investigation looks at who knew what and when, but the office asserts that MSU has ‘stonewalled’ the investigation at every turn. Currently, MSU retains around 6,000 of the requested documents claiming attorney-client privilege.”

Nichols, Anna Liz. 2019. “One MSU Trustee is not Enough: Sexual Ause Advocates Call on Governor to Step in.” Michigan Advance. Available here.

Bryan Tarrant, a parent of a survivor, hoped that the display of luminaries in front of the East Lansing Library–one for each of the hundreds of girls and women subjected to the former doctor’s abuse–would help demonstrate the need for support and policy change by current MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr.

‘But, as he anticipated, Tarrant left disappointed with the talk.

“It was more of the same,” he said. “We still want MSU to come forward and do the things we’ve been asking them to do all along.”‘

Johnson, Mark. 2019. “Nassar survivors met with MSU President Stanley. They left disappointed.” Lansing State Journal. Available here.
Luminaries lighting the front of East Lansing Library. More than 500 were lit to remind Michigan State University of the effects of sexual abuse.

Let’s get into it:

Michigan State University:

  • Michigan State University set the record for most rapes ever reported by an institution of higher learning on their (required) Clery Act report. Reporter David Jesse notes that “there were 933 reports of rape and 137 reports of fondling attributed to Nassar in 2018 on non-campus property”.
  • Last month the US Department of Education charged MSU with a $4.5M fine for the university’s failure to comply with sexual assault and discrimination standards as set by the federal government in the Clery Act. This is the largest fine ever administrated under this policy. The DOE found that Michigan State failed to properly classify incidents of assault, compile and publish accurate statistics, issue warnings, and notify authorities. June Youatt, the Provost for the university, immediately resigned.
  • In September, four trustees–Dianne Byrum, Brianna Scott, Joel Ferguson, and Melanie Foster–“stalled and blocked an independent investigation into MSU’s handling of the [Larry Nassar] scandal”. Last year Michigan Attorney General Special Independent Counsel William Forsyth called for this investigation after the university continued to block meaningful inquiries into the institution. The Board continues to refuse to release at least SIX THOUSAND DOCUMENTS related to Nassar.
  • Last week, an Ingham County judge denied requests to suppress evidence against former MSU Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages. Klages has been charged with one felony and one misdemeanor count of lying to police. She has not yet been charged with being a generally shitty person–remember that she forced her athletes (many also survivors) to make a card supporting Nassar. She also threatened gymnasts to not file charges against the doctor.
  • Michigan’s Attorney General’s office has repeatedly requested an interview with former Interim President John Engler about his involvement in the Larry Nassar case. Engler faced harsh criticism for his disrespectful treatment of survivors, lack of transparency, and failure to create meaningful policy following the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon. Engler resigned after the Board of Trustees threatened to fire him.
  • Former President Lou Anna Simon has been ordered by Eaton County District Court Judge Julie Reinke to stand trial for two felonies and two misdemeanors for lying to police about when she first knew of the allegations made against Nassar. Simon, whose court costs and attorney fees are paid for by the university, denies the charges. Her attorney stated: “They already destroyed her life. What more do they want?” To which I have to say, get.the.fuck.out.of.here.with.this.nonsense. Engler also received a $2.45M retirement salary.
  • Ronan Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill discloses that Kroll, the firm used by Michigan State to handle Title IX sexual assault allegations, was also employed by Harvey Weinstein. MSU worked with Kroll in 2018 and was later fired by the university.
  • In October, Board of Trustees member Nancy Sclichting resigned due to the university’s lack of transparency. She was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December and was welcomed by campus advocates–both Democrat and Republican–as she was seen as a representative without a large connection to Michigan State. Sclichting stated:

“… I joined the board to help change the attitudes and beliefs of the legacy board members towards the extraordinary young women who have survived sexual assault by Larry Nassar, and to support the survivors in every way I could… During the last year, though, it has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU board chair [Dianne Byrum], legacy board members and some newer trustees.”

Jesse, David. 2019. “MSU Trustee Schlichting Resigns, Cites Frustration with Secrecy on Board.” Detroit Free Press. Available here.

USA Gymnastics & The United States Olympic Committee:

  • Transfers of funds made by USA Gymnastics are currently under investigation. The organization moved millions of dollars into “linked” accounts prior to legal action taken against USAG by survivors of sexual abuse. According to Rachael Denhollander, in previous years USAG channeled roughly $100,000 annually into the foundation, not millions. It is important to note that USAG filed for bankruptcy before moving funds and survivors are not able to access any money from this foundation.
  • Leslie King, the Vice President of Communications for USAG, was seen pushing the 👑 Simone Biles toward interviewers following a competition at the World Championships this October. King, who helped cover up Nassar’s abuse to the public, was also one of their employees to receive a 2019 bonus while the organization is in the midst of bankruptcy.
  • A positive update: The Game Over Commission, established by Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA, is creating the first comprehensive database of documents related to the Larry Nassar case: “We wanted to make sure everything was not just going to disappear. We want to preserve all the information and and make sure it is accessible by the public.”
  • The US Department of Justice is investigating several sports under the umbrella of the US Olympic Committee for their handling of sexual abuse allegations. USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo, along with the USOC, are currently under review. Athletes have testified before a grand jury in DC and both California and Indiana (home of USAG) have opened their own inquiries into these governing bodies of sport.
  • In addition to the investigation of the USOC and USA Gymnastics by the US Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service is also in the middle of a federal investigation into the finances of USAG, along with USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo.
  • This fall, USA Gymnastics hired 2012 Olympic Alternate Anna Li to serve on the Athlete’s Council for the organization; Li and her mother, Jiani Wu, faced allegations of emotional and physical abuse of young athletes, leading to Li’s resignation. In October it was revealed that USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung knew of the abusive reports before naming Li to the Council, allegations she previously denied. Emails sent in 2017 show that USA Gymnastics knew of the reports but in August of 2019, Leung denied that the organization was aware made against Li and Wu.
  • USA Gymnastics has filed a request for a 60-day extension to its bankruptcy exclusive period. The request states that the organization “does not expect it will have a plan soon that sexual abuse victims and other parties in its bankruptcy can support.”

USA Gymnastics again benefited from its athletes at the World Championships held last month. Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in history (male or female) and the team won more medals than any other country.

Again, they achieved this in spite of these organizations, not because of them.

Currently:

Reading: How to be an Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi)
Watching: Catherine the Great (HBO)
Listening: 1619 (The New York Times)

“On a Clear Day I can See Forever”: Örebro, Sweden

The beautiful Örebro castle.

This spring I had the amazing opportunity to visit Sweden! Always at the top of my list, I jumped at the chance to travel with Chris to Örebro, the seventh largest city in the Scandinavian country (including immigrants from 165 countries)! Unfortunately for Shotshchild, he had a ton of extra work to do, but fortunately (and guiltily) for me, this meant an extra few days wandering around the lovely city of Örebro.

The city is absolutely beautiful; Örebro has a ton of green and walkable spaces, super friendly people, and so many vegetarian food options available. Get ready for a ton of pictures and recommendations.

Oh, and a castle on the water too. NBD.

One of my favorite things about Sweden and Swedish culture is Fika. When we first moved to Hungary, Chris told me about this break for coffee and sweets that his Swedish colleagues enjoyed each day (and encouraged Chris to join). This morning/early afternoon time to share a beverage and snack with friends is essential in Sweden. For many, this “state of mind” is imperative; its a time to relax, refresh your brain, and socialize with your co-workers.

The correct way to pronounce this beautiful ritual is simply Fika (“fee-ka”) but as I am American and butcher all things, I always exclaim “FIKA TIME!” whenever I feel like it’s the appropriate moment for Fika.

What a way of life. My friend Ashley, who visited Örebro the week ahead of me, scoped out the best place for Fika in the city. She didn’t disappoint with her recommendation! We visited Gamla, located in the open air museum, for a vegan Swedish ball and coffee. So good!

Another great part of this trip was embracing a slower lifestyle. This included reading in the hotel lobby on rainy days #livingmybestlife

We stayed at the Clarion in downtown Örebro and I can’t recommend this space enough. The hotel is located in the perfect location and has a beautiful lounge area. Their breakfast was AMAZING–I unfortunately forgot to snap a picture of all their choices–and an amenity I was thankful for as the sun rose super early while we were visiting. I also shared breakfast with a wonderful Danish man sporting a Santa beard who told me allthestories about his life.

Each floor of the hotel included its own Book Share!

Örebro is one of my favorite places we’ve had the opportunity to visit; I also had one of my bestdaysever while in Sweden: long walk through an art installation, visit to the public library, quiet time in the cemetery, a stop at a Middle Eastern spice shop, and wonderful Indian cuisine for dinner. Just. Amazing.

Where are we?

Located in the heart of Sweden, halfway between Stockholm and Gothenburg, Örebro is positioned on the River Svartån. The city’s name derives from the words bro (bridge) and ör (bank); Örebro is known for its castle, which was built on an islet in the Svartån.

A walk through the center of the city.

Örebro is also famous for its old town and the beautiful spaces near the river. Luckily, I happened to visit during a ton of festivals and holidays including the National Day of Sweden 🇸🇪 and high school graduation. Graduations are a huge event in Sweden; parents held up signs and flags for their students and tons of graduates were piled into trucks, celebrating in the streets. Super cool to see.

The OpenArt festival was also taking place while I visited Örebro (for real though this was the best timing ever) and exhibits were constructed all over town. OpenArt is Scandinavia’s largest biennial festival that “revolts against traditional urban spaces, encourages creativity, and gives us the opportunity to experience the city from completely new perspectives”. The festival included over 100 pieces.

This “Plastic Monster” was created by students in 2018 to bring awareness to the effects of the carcinogens from plastics on animals and humans. The piece also included information on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area three times the size of Sweden that is made up of plastic waste. Sweden is currently aiming to become a zero-waste country.
A piece by Czech artist David Cerny: “[the] pink tank becomes an elegant pacifist protest against state violence and a reminder that democracy and freedom of expression do not come without cost, but must be fought for.”
Constructed by Elsa Tomkowiak: “All the environments she invades are the support of a prolific pictorial work that raises the question of our relationship with reality.”
View from underneath the piece.
A street fair taking place the day before we left. We missed the beginning of the fair because we were watching John Wick 3, but no regrets on that decision.
Street art by Sego that combines organic life with fantasy images.

The Sites:

Örebro Castle:

The defense tower is the oldest part of the castle and was built in the late 1200s. The entire structure was rebuilt in 1900.
The castle is famous for its legendary ghost. In 1434, Engelbrekt Engelbrektson (that name though!), the leader of the Engelbrekt Rebellion against the Kalmar Union, lived in Örebro Castle. He was buried in St. Nicholas Church after his assassination in 1436. Karl IX then took over and became so jealous of Engelbrekt’s hero status in Örebro that he dug up his body and buried him in the castle walls. Now Engelbrekt’s ghost wanders the halls of the castle to this day, although we didn’t see him when we toured (boo, pun intended).

Olaus Petri Church:

The Olaus Petri Church opened on the Fourth Advent Sunday in 1912.
View of the Church from across the street.
OpenArt installed a piece (“Estrogen Bomb”) by the Guerrilla Girls in front of the Church.
❤ this

Wadköping:

This beautiful open air museum is just a short walk from the city’s center and includes houses and farms from the 1500s. There are a ton of cute shops and don’t forget to stop for Fika!
Wadköping also includes a number of museums and is next to the City Park.

Stadsparken:

The sites of Örebro, carved into a tree trunk.
Voted Sweden’s most beautiful park in 2004, this area is perfect for quiet walks and exploring the beautiful plants in Sweden.
My favorite reading spot in the park.

Oset and Rynningeviken:

Just outside the city is the Oset and Rynningeviken nature reserve. Only a 45 minute walk or an even quicker bike ride, this is an absolute must see while you’re in town.
The park was probably my favorite place in all of Örebro.
This area was previously a military site and then a dumping ground for tons of waste. In 1968, the landfill closed and the military use ended; the nature preserve was created and is now a beautiful place between Örebro and Lake Hjälmaren.
I was incredibly lucky to walk this trail with our wonderful friends Ashley and her husband Pete, and the amazing Rodgerson family: Bri (who runs the lovely Home Base Hungary Blog), her spouse Derek, and their three kids, Beau, Didi (left), and Willow (right). So fun to spend a day at this beautiful park with this fun crew!
📷: Bri
Willow took a particular liking to Chris (“Cwissssss!”) and had the best quote of the week: “Well does being around kids now make you want to have kids!?” So funny! Willow and Didi were also a solid breakfast crew–I knew I never would have to eat alone!
📷: Bri

Other Sites:

Wandering the river
Corner of the downtown area and enjoying all the walking streets.
Rudbeck Upper Secondary School’s Main Building
The city library
Norra Strandgatan was built in 1891 by architects Fritz Ulrich and Eduard Hallquist. Originally used as a bank. the manager’s son, Hjalmar, lived in the second floor of the building. As a child he began writing Solivro, “the inspiration for his most widely read book Markurells i Wadköping, where Wadköping is a fictional city with Örebro as a model”. This was also the main editorial office for the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper before opening as the Hotel Bergen (current use today).
Nikolai Kyrkogård (Nikolai Cemetery) was opened in 1806.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Fratelli:

This cute little restaurant offers a number of pasta and pizza dishes. I ordered the mushroom ravioli and it was amazing!

Chandani:

We can never say no to Indian! Chandani is a great restaurant with outdoor seating. We both ordered curries and of course Naan bread, and enjoyed it all. One of the best parts of Örebro was the number of international restaurants in just the small downtown area.

Mocca Deli:

Nachos and coffee, does anything scream “ashlyn” more than this?
A super cute spot, Mocca Deli offers a ton of veg and meat options including nachos (of course) salads, and pizzas.

Örebro Saluhall:

Located right across from the hotel, the Saluhall is an awesome option for lunch or dinner with a group of friends. The food court includes over six restaurants with all types of cuisine (Italian, American, Asian) for even the pickiest of eaters. I ordered lunch from Sallad& that included pickled red onions and beet hummus (I’m dead, bye).

Naturen Hus:

Photo via Totally Örebro.
We stopped for lunch at Naturen Hus on our stroll through the Oset & Rynningeviken nature preserve. This restaurant is an absolute must visit when in Örebro. I ordered the goat cheese salad and it was so incredibly fresh. The perfect meal for the prettiest view of the park.

Satin:

We made a special trip to Satin for lunch after our friend Ashley mentioned the restaurant offered a vegan kebab plate. It was AMAZING. All the vegetarian options in Sweden were soooooo good.

En Trappa Upp:

Located on the second floor of Pitcher’s, En Trappa Upp is a cozy bar with beautiful views of the water. They had a ton of craft beer options including Danish brewery Mikkeller‘s summer pale, K:rlek (meaning “love” which I of course had a heart explosion when the bartender translated the name for me.)

❤ you Örebro.

📷: Bri
Beautiful street art near the grocery store, where I fell in love with all the Swedish vegetarian options and bread choices!

Currently:

Reading: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Watching: The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
Listening: This Land (Crooked Media)

Heights & Ice Cream: Esztergom, Hungary

View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Danube.

This spring a couple of friends and I traveled to the Hungarian city of Esztergom. Known for its history and beautiful architecture, we had a fun afternoon exploring the old buildings and enjoying delicious food.

From left to right: Casey, Heather, me (and ice cream ha), and Kristin. Casey and Kristin moved back to the states a little after this trip so I’m thankful to have the opportunity to spend the day with them in this beautiful place.

Esztergom is known for its Basilica, which is both the largest church and tallest building in Hungary; this last piece of information was unbeknownst to me when I enthusiastically agreed to a mid-week adventure.

Here’s the thing: my fear of heights has caused me to bail many a staircase in Europe.

Me, realizing that we are in fact climbing this thing.

While there were a couple of tricky, anxiety-inducing moments, I not only climbed the Basilica, but even completed the outdoor walkway around the dome–a huge accomplishment for me! It helps to have supportive friends encouraging you to work through your fears.

That being said, I literally never want to be that high, walking around a huge dome on a narrow, outdoor path, absolutely ever again.

Backpack club!
📷: Casey

Esztergom is a lovely city with beautiful views of the Danube. We only visited for a couple of hours–plenty of time to walk through the Basilica, castle ruins, and grab lunch– but you could definitely spend the whole day exploring this city, one of the oldest in Hungary.

Where are we?

Settlements in the area have been dated back to the end of the Ice Age (!!!), about 20,000 years ago. In 901, the Magyars conquered the Pannonian Basin and the (mostly Slavic) people who lived there. The ruling prince of the Hungarians then named Esztergom his chosen home. Esztergom Castle was built and became the only royal palace in Hungary until the Mongol siege of the city in 1241. During this time, Esztergom was the center for the Hungarian state and religion. Over time the ruling of this area changed hands, although the city remained an important place for commerce and Catholicism.

The Sites:

Basilica of Esztergom:

The Basilica is the largest church in Hungary; its dome reaches the height of 118 meters, making it the tallest building in the country.
Construction on the Basilica started in 1822 and was completed in 1869.
Hungary’s first cathedral was founded at this spot by King Stephen I, who was also crowned here around the year 1000.
View from the Danube. See that little walkway around the tallest dome? I can’t believe I completed that entire route! Believe me, the handrail is not in the most put-your-mind-at-ease-that-you-won’t-fall-off condition.
Me, mentally preparing to climb these open stairs before the dome. YIKES. We climbed a total of 360 steps to reach the top.
📷: Casey

Castle Hill:

Built on the remains of a Roman Castrum, Esztergom Castle was commissioned by Geza I of Hungary and finished in the 1070s.
View from Esztergom Castle.
Whole portions of the Castle were destroyed during the Turkish Wars.

Bakócz Chapel:

The Bakócz Chapel (built in 1507) was only partially destroyed by the Turks. It is one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in Hungary.

Basilica Entrance:

Entrance to the Basilica

Mária Valéria Bridge & Víziváros:

Víziváros (Watertown) was built on the banks of the Kis and Nagy Duna (Small and Great Danube) and includes a number of historical sites including the Christian Museum and Balassa Bálint Museum.
The Mária Valéria Bridge connects the Hungarian city of Esztergom and the Slovakian city of Štúrovo across the River Danube. Named for Archduchess Mária Valéria of Austria, the bridge originally opened in 1895 but was destroyed both in 1919 and 1944.
The bridge was not rebuilt until 2001 due to issues between the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian governments. The European Union covered half of the costs through a 10 million Euro grant as a way to assist countries preparing to join the EU.
📷 : Heather
On the bridge!
📷 : Heather and Kristin
View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Mária Valéria bridge.

Restaurants:

Esztergomi Prímási Pincerendszer:

Prímás Pince is a gorgeous restaurant and wine cellar near the Basilica. We were able to order lunch without a reservation and the menu had options for vegetarians and meat-eaters. We shared the strawberry dessert and it was delicious.

Easy Living:

I completely forgot to take pictures of our ice cream, but Easy Living is a great little shop right on the Danube and next to a beautiful park. Our ice cream server took pity on our sorry Hungarian pronunciations.
📷 : Heather

This was a lovely trip to see more of Hungary and I’m so glad we had a chance to visit before Kristin and Casey moved back the US.

View from Esztergom Castle
Backpack crew ❤
📷 : Heather

Read more about Casey’s amazing travel adventures here. Kristin’s beautiful photography portfolio can be seen on her site.
Stay tuned for the Heather and Ashlyn podcast coming soon 😉

Currently:


Reading: Shut Up You’re Pretty (Tea Mutonji)
Watching: Unbelievable (Netflix)
Listening: Buried Truths Season 2 (WABE Atlanta)

Library, Pub, & Gymnastics: Stuttgart, Germany

Hi beautiful place.

This spring we traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to attend the FIG World Cup for my birthday. My first time in Stuttgart, the trip included three of my travel favorites: library, pubs, and a cemetery (plus bonus this time–my first elite gymnastics competition). I saw the queens of the sport (Simone Biles AND Aliya Mustafina) along with wandering this beautiful city.

Simone being a badass as always.

We stayed a little outside the very center of Stuttgart and I preferred that location over the touristy area of Schlossplatz. Our street had so many adorable restaurants and shops–definitely recommend staying near the Lehen neighborhood if you don’t mind putting in the extra steps on your Fitbit.

We loved our Airbnb! Woke up to fresh flowers each day.

Pro tip: Stuttgart (and Germany in general) has great public transport available and journeys are MUCH cheaper than an Uber ride (save that money for extra spätzle!) Our way home was pure Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: bus to the train station, train to the airport, plane to Vienna, car from Vienna to Hungary. All a part of the lovely adventure.

Hard to choose just one gif from this iconic film.

Where are we?

The sixth largest city in Germany, the area of Stuttgart is spread across a number of hills. Commonly described as “zwischen Wald und Reben” (“between forest and vines”) due to the close proximity of the Black Forest and the city’s numerous wineries, Stuttgart is definitely a walkable city with some elevation–getting those calf muscles working!

The Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church)

Stuttgart was founded in 950 AD by Duke Liudolf of Swabia (the root of the name derives from the Swabian word Stuotgarten meaning “stud farm”) for the purpose of breeding warhorses. Swabians are Germanic peoples native to the Swabian region of Germany, an area that is now present-day Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

Like most German cities, the population and physical landscape drastically changed during WWII. In 1933 the Gestapo occupied Hotel Silber, a site used to torture, detain, and transport political prisoners. The Old Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and in 1934, the Nazis began to arrest members of the Jewish population of Stuttgart; many were deported to the prison camp in Welzheim or to the Dachau concentration camp. From 1941-1945, more than 2,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Riga, and Izbica; only 180 survived the war.

Stuttgart was heavily bombed by Allied forces throughout the war. On September 12th, 1944, the Royal Air Force dropped over 184,000 bombs on the city. The attack completely destroyed Stuttgart’s center and killed 957 people. Overall, the city was hit by 53 bombing raids, which leveled nearly sixty percent of the city and killed 4,477 of Stuttgart’s inhabitants. Following the end of the war, the rubble in the city was used to build Birkenhopf, an artificial hill that is now the highest point in Stuttgart and a memorial to those who died during WWII.

We we only had a weekend in Stuttgart, but I think you could spend at least a week in the city and still not see everything on your list. I was bummed to miss the botanical gardens in Wilhema and the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, but incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see all we did during our visit.

The Sites:

Public Library:

The cube building created for Stuttgart’s Municipal Library was absolutely intentional: “the dimensioning and positioning, detached from their urban context, are a symbol of the significance of the library as a new intellectual and cultural center”. The nine story building was designed by Eun Young Yi and was completed in 2011.
The space is breathtaking to see in person! This is a shot of the “heart” a representation of the meditative center point.
I love this quote from the city: “In earlier years, it was a church or palace that marked the centre point of a town. But in a modern society, it is the significance of a place for individual knowledge and enrichment of experience that takes centre stage. And that is how the library gains more and more significance for society. “
Photo via Totems

Schlossgarten:

Loved taking a walk through this beautiful park in the center of the city! Definitely has some GoT Kingsroad vibes.

Schlossplatz:

Schlossplatz (Palace Square)
Neue Schloss (New Palace) was completed in 1807.
Charles Eugene moved the seat of power back to Stuttgart when he assumed the throne in 1744. The palace was built near the old castle in Schlossplatz.
Allied forces almost completely burned Neue Schloss to the ground in 1944, leaving only the facade. Reconstruction on the building began in 1958 and is currently used by the state government to house the State Ministries of Finance and Education.
Kunstgebäude Gallery featuring the the stag–the state symbol of Württemberg.
View from the Old Palace. Today the area is central to shopping, bars, and restaurants.

Pragfriedhof:

Pragfriedhof is the third largest cemetery in Stuttgart and opened in 1873. We walked the quiet area for about an hour.
The Jewish Cemetery is separate from the larger cemetery (on the outside portion of the fence above). In 1873, following the influx of the Jewish population in Stuttgart, the community was forced to find additional space after the Hoppenlau cemetery was full.
A quiet moment from the busy city, Pragfriedhof is a beautiful place for a break and learn more about the people who once lived here.

Stiftskirche:

Remains of a Romanesque church dating all the way back to the 10th century are currently the structures of the Stitskirche (Collegiate Church). Over time, the building changed and grew; following the end of WWII, the church was rebuilt after it was heavily damaged by bombing raids.

Karlshöhe:

The Karlshöhe area includes a large and beautiful park, along with coffee shops, restaurants, and historical buildings. St. Maria Church is one the highlights of this part of the city.
St. Maria Church was built in 1879. The towers barely survived WWII and were rebuilt in 1949.
Translates to “What’s happening?”
The Stadtlücken initiative is an awesome project by a couple of non-profits in Stuttgart that encourage citizens to be more active in “shaping spaces” within the city as the “city belongs to the people”. This underpass was the site of a couple of different workshops and street art displays while we visited Stuttgart. From their site: “It is a place of coexistence, exchange, culture and conviviality – a place for all, where everyone can contribute, use and shape. ” ❤ ❤ ❤

Restaurants & Pubs:

Kraftpaule:

Stuttgart’s first craft beer bar, Kraftpaule, has a huge selection of their own brews along with beer from all of the world. Their bar is modern and cozy, and includes a solid pub menu featuring nachos and sandwiches.

Ribingurūmu:

A little difficult to find initially, Ribingurūmu is an awesome ruin-bar-esque pub located a short walk from Schlossplatz. The interior is your grandad’s den meets sewing shop/library—obviously my aesthetic.
Photo via Geheimtipp Stuttgart
Also, pomegranates in a vodka/soda? Be still my heart!

Paul & George:

I love finding secret speakeasies! Paul & George is a gorgeous must-visit in Stuttgart. As always, the entrance is a little difficult to find, but worth the extra sleuthing. We both had the espresso martini (inching up the list to become one of my favorite cocktails lately) and one of their specials.
Photo via Julia
Nice to have a little fancy cocktail every so often!

Mata Hari:

Mata Hari is a spacious pub located in the center of Stuttgart. The interior has that same grandad den feel (you’re seeing a pattern here, I’m a old man at heart, clearly) but with a secret skateboard mini ramp in the basement. With both indoor and outdoor space, Mata Hara is a good location for late night (it does fill up quickly) and boasts a solid menu with both meat and veg options.
Photo via Yelp

Misch Misch Coffee:

Hailed as one of the best locations for coffee, we spent a few hours at Misch Misch for breakfast and to get a little work finished. The cafe is gorgeous and their coffee was great. On the smaller side, know you might have to wait for a seat, but with the motto of “let’s fill this town with good coffee” you can’t miss it.

Brauhaus Schönbuch:

Located right on the Palace Square, Brauhaus Schönbuch is a great stop for a solid German lunch or dinner. I ordered spätzle (of course) and Chris had the pork schnitzel.

Kleinigkeit:

We LOVED Kleinigkeit! This adorable cafe offers a small, but awesome breakfast menu (we both ordered eggs benedict) with really great service. They were booked with reservations when we arrived, but allowed us to sit outside and have breakfast. They fill up fast, so make a reservation if you can!

List Cafe:

List Cafe was our final breakfast stop before leaving Stuttgart. A nice cafe with both a German and English menu, we ordered eggs (mine with onion, Chris with ham) and salad. Both were great! Our server was so sweet and gave us extra chocolate “for the trip home” when she saw our bags.

Little Italy Stuttgart:

Hi, can I live here?
I know, I know, Italian food while you’re in Germany? But we couldn’t say no to our Airbnb host’s recommendation of two of her favorite restaurants: Little Italy and Sultan Suray (below).
We don’t have many authentic pizza options in Hungary so this was an awesome treat. Chris and I ordered bruschetta (the best) and pizzas. Best part? Our server wrapped our leftovers for our trip the following day. Loved this place and pizza for the plane.

Sultan Saray:

Here’s the thing: Chris and I absolutely love Turkish food, especially late night Turkish food. We actually had dinner at Sultan Saray twice #sorrynotsorry while in Stuttgart–the dishes are THAT good. They serve authentic Turkish options and a couple of international favorites as well; lots of dishes for vegetarians too!
Photo via Sultan Saray

Shops:

Leckerli Stuttgart:

We happened to randomly walk past Leckerli Stuttgart on our way into the center center. This adorable pet shop has everything from organic pet food and homemade treats to pet beds and bandannas. I picked up a couple of dog suckers, which Porkchop promptly devoured and Arya held onto for dear life.
Arya: “What is this treat and how do I keep my big brother from stealing it?”

Cosima Chiton:

I absolutely adored this little fabric and stationary shop! Cosima Chiton is located in the south of Stuttgart and sells unique sewing supplies, postcards, and writing accessories.
Photo via Prinz Stuttgart

Bonus: Stuttgart World Cup

We attended my first ever elite competition while in Stuttgart (best birthday present ever, Chris!) The World Cup was AMAZING and our seats were great. Unfortunately, my camera is terrible, so these potato-quality photos don’t really do the event justice. In an effort to practice mindfulness and being present, I also only took a a few photos. I’m always trying to document everything, so I tried my best to relax and enjoy the event in real time. I’m.so.glad.I.did.

The competitors included Simone Biles (USA), Ana Padurariu (Canada), Elisabeth Seitz (Germany), Lorette Charpy (France), Aliya Mustafina (Russia), Hitomi Hatakeda (Japan), Kim Bui (Germany), Zsofia Kovacs (Hungary), and Carolyne Pedro (Brazil).

Warm-ups prior to the start of the competition. Simone Biles (in blue) next to one of her coaches, Laurent Landi, Kim Bui (in red and white) with her back to the picture, Aliya Mustafina (in red, speaking to her coach), and Lorette Charpy (in blue) taking a turn on vault.

This competition was so fun to experience in person! Of course it was amazing to see Olympic champions Biles and Mustafina compete–Simone literally tumbles feet higher than anyone else and Aliya’s bars are one of the prettiest routines in the world–but also so cool to see athletes newer to the scene (Padurariu’s beam was fantastic and she looked as if she was having the time of her life, Charpy’s beam and bars were awesome, and the powerful Pedro finished her day with a great floor performance).

Biles (in blue) warms up on bars alongside 2016 Olympian Zsofia Kovacs (Hungary).

For me, I loved seeing the German athletes compete in their home country. Two-time Olympian Bui is still competing (and looking amazing, especially on bars) at AGE THIRTY. She is currently earning her Master’s Thesis in–wait for it–immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients, specifically engineering protein cells to combat the disease (!!). Elisabeth Seitz, a two time Olympian herself, rocked the arena on both bars and floor to take the bronze medal.

I’m also so thankful for the opportunity to see Kovacs compete in person. The sole Hungarian Olympian for Women’s Gymnastics in 2016, I watched her compete in Rio my very first week in Hungary (thankfully, the hotel we were living in was playing the Olympic Games). She’s had a couple of unfortunate injuries, but hoping to try to help secure a full team for Hungary for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the upcoming World Championships this October.
Aliya, the two time Olympic Champion on bars, gave birth to a baby girl in 2017. She is currently making her elite comeback and looking AMAZING. Her bars are all the heart in the eyes emojis.

❤ Stuttgart. So, so thankful.

The Neckar River
❤ ❤ ❤

Currently:

Reading: Every Day is for the Thief
(Teju Cole)
Watching: The Case Against Adnan Syed
(HBO)
Listening: Reveal: Lasting Impact
(Center for Investigative Reporting)

Simone Biles (Continues to be) The Hero We Don’t Deserve: August Update on MSU, The USOC, & USAG

“Larry Nassar … was far from a lone wolf… He was enabled by others and if they lied about it and if they obstructed the investigation, if they destroyed documents then they should be held accountable.”

Fitzpatrick, Sarah, Tom Costello, and Adiel Kaplan. 2019. “Congress: U.S. Olympic Committee, FBI Failed to Protect Athletes from Larry Nassar’s Abuse.” NBC News. Available here.

This is a continuing series of posts on how Michigan State University, the United States Olympic Committee, and USA Gymnastics are changing (or not) following the largest sexual abuse case in the history of sport in the US. Need a recap on how we got here? Check out my last post here.

As always, there’s a ton of developments to unpack, including just two weeks ago when a congressional report found that the USOC, USA Gymnastics, MSU, AND the FBI all “had opportunities to stop Nassar but failed to do so”.

I’ll be posting a review of the report, which includes damning evidence of both individual and organizational cover-ups, as well as prioritizing institutional protection over athlete safety, in a separate post.

Simone Biles at the 2019 US National Championships

These organizations are (still) failing at creating meaningful change. Just last week at the US Championships, where Simone “greatest of all time” Biles won her historic sixth all-around title (along with unveiling two of the most difficult skills in gymnastics history, tearfully addressed the short-comings of the USOC and USA Gymnastics. Both organizations failed to protect her from sexual abuse; she currently still competes under these institutions, who also make money off of her domination of the sport:

“But it’s hard coming here for an organization having had them fail us so many times. And we had one goal and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us…. How can we trust them?”

The Associated Press. 2019. “‘You had One Job’: Tearful Simone Biles Attacks USAG over Nassar Scandal.” The Guardian UK. Available here.

Biles shut down the Ranch, USAG trash CEOs, and continues to speak out against the organizations that allowed Nassar to abuse hundreds of children and women. The truth is that she doesn’t have to keep holding USAG and the USOC accountable–I can’t imagine the emotional and mental toll it takes to continuously do so while competing–but she does. Biles is providing a voice to the many who aren’t heard and because she is absolutely the best there is, forces people (and organizations) to listen. As Nastia Liukin said on day two of the US Championships broadcast: “Simone’s got enough gold medals at home. Someone give this girl a crown.”

Let’s get into it:

Michigan State University

Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr
  • In May, MSU named former Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley as the new president for Michigan State. He was unanimously voted into the position by the MSU Board of Trustees following the resignation of Lou Anna Simon in January 2018 and the term of controversial interim president John Engler ended. Stanley served on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors from 2014-2018 and the NCAA Division I Board of Governors from 2016-2018. Remember that last year the NCAA cleared MSU of any wrongdoing concerning Larry Nassar, as well as the abuse allegations made against the university’s football and basketball teams. His salary could include up to $5.3M by 2024; he started at the university on August 1st.
  • June Youatt, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at MSU, testified at former Michigan State University Dean (and Nassar’s boss) William Strampel’s court hearing. She stated that she:

“was aware of complaints about Strampel making inappropriate or sexual comments, but recommended he stay on as dean after confronting him about the alleged behavior… [She] testified Friday that a number of anonymous comments collected as part of the university’s five-year review process for deans ‘indicated that there had been some sexual comments made.'”

Gibbons, Lauren. 2019. “MSU Provost Recommended William Strampel Stay on as Dean Despite Complaints of Inappropriate Behavior.” Michigan Live. Available here.

June Youatt is still employed at MSU and continues to hold the position of Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs.

William Strampel (left)
  • In June, William Strampel was found guilty of misconduct in office, as well as two charges of willful neglect of duty in relation to his role as Larry Nassar’s supervisor at Michigan State University (he was found not guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.) This month he was sentenced to 11 months in prison. Strampel is the first person to be sentenced for his role in enabling Nassar.
  • Former MSU president Lou Anna Simon was charged in November 2018 with lying to police; her trial finished in July 2019. Eaton County District Court Judge Julie Reincke will announce a ruling later this year.
  • Kathy Klages, former Head Coach for the MSU Women’s Gymnastics Team, was also charged with lying to police for failing to report allegations of abuse against Nassar. Her case is still pending.

“MSU is paying the full costs of Simon and Klages’ defenses. The university is paying for half of Strampel’s defense, since only two of his charges related to the Nassar scandal.”

Banta, Megan. 2019. “Former MSU Dean William Strampel Sentenced to One Year in Jail.” Lansing State Journal. Available here.
  • On June 20th the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill to add athletic trainers and physical therapists to the state’s list of mandatory reporters of child abuse. This is the direct result of survivors pushing for legislation to create stricter laws for protecting victims.
  • Michigan State University has yet to respond to a January report by the US Department of Education. The report found that the institution continuously violated federal law that requires universities to publicly report safety issues.
  • In June, the MSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve an independent investigation of how the institution allowed Nassar to abuse women. MSU will hire an outside firm to conduct the research, specifically non-criminal actions, including the culture of the campus and administration, with the goal of:

“helping the Board of Trustees to identify who knew what about Nassar, how he was able to abuse and identify actions that might have involved neglect, violations of university protocol or other behaviors that need to be addressed.”

Kozlowski, Kim. 2019. “MSU to Launch Independent Investigation in Nassar Scandal.” The Detroit News. Available here.

Chicago-based firm McDermott Will & Emery will conduct the investigation. The decision was met with approval from Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly come forward against Nassar:

“It’s truly independent. MSU has not done an independent review of everything that’s happened. And they’ve worked directly with survivors in selecting a firm…that really emphasizes the importance of accountability and transparency and independence from the board… It’s exactly what we’ve been asking for, what I’ve been asking for, for the last three years. “

Wells, Kate. 2019. “MSU Promises New Nassar Investigation is the Real Deal This Time.” Michigan Public Radio. Available here.

USA Gymnastics & United States Olympic Committee:

(center three): Tasha Schwikert, Alyssa Baumann , and Jordan Schwikert
  • This May, three former USAG athletes testified to the Texas Senate committee to provide more time for for abuse victims to take legal action against their perpetrators, including institutions. 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Tasha Schwikert, her sister and national team member Jordan, and World medalist Alyssa Baumann expressed concern that the law needed to expand to include a longer statue of limitations, as well as the inclusion of legal action against organizations that enable abuse, a policy that was originally in the bill, but was quietly removed by Craig Goldman, who introduced the legislation. All three athletes were abused at the former National Training Center in Texas. Tasha, now a lawyer, stated: “I was just there doing gymnastics, trying to live out my dream of being an Olympian, and they allowed this child molester to abuse hundreds of gymnasts doing the same.” The bill passed in late May, now allowing victims of abuse to file lawsuits up to thirty years after they turn 18; legislation also included the provision allowing victims to bring charges against institutions as well.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, USA Gymnastics is now facing over $1 billion in claims from former athletes.
  • Former Olympian Terin Humphrey, a representative on the USA Gymnastics Athletes’ Council, was removed from her position following controversial comments on recognizing abuse in the gym. The Athletes’ Council is the voice of the gymnasts within USA Gymnastics.
  • Humphrey was then replaced by former 2012 Olympic alternate Anna Li, who, along with her mother Jiani Wu, is facing allegations of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse of athletes in her gym. Complaints filed with USA Gymnastics contend that the coaches screamed obscenities and pulled the hair of athletes. This week Li resigned from the position; Li’s resignation is the fifth USAG official to do so in less than twelve months.
Former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
  • Administrative costs for the US Olympic Committee doubled from 2017-2018, including a $5.2 million investigation into the organization’s handling of Nassar abuse cases and a $2.4 million severance provided to former CEO Scott Blackmun. Blackmun was notified of Nassar’s abuse in 2015 by former USAG CEO Steve Penny. An independent investigation found that Blackmun never disclosed this information to anyone at the USOC and failed to ensure the complaints were reported to law enforcement. The report also found that Blackmun put the interests of the institution over athletes, athletes that helped earn the USOC $323 million in 2018. The $2.4 million given to Blackmun is more than the USOC provided to fund SafeSport, the organization tasked with investigating abuse allegations.
  • In response to Simone Biles’ criticism of the organization last week, USAG CEO Li Li Leung stated that they “are working to foster a safe, positive, and encouraging environment where athlete voices are heard.” Yet, there has been little, if any, substantial policy changes or structures in place since Leung was hired.

“Denhollander said it’s ‘an incredible burden that none of these athletes deserve… it’s unconscionable,’ she said, calling Biles’ and her teammates’ circumstances ‘manifestly unfair.'”

Svokos, Alexandra. 2019. “With Nationals Underway a Year Before Olympics, USA Gymnastics Still Struggles to Earn Trust.” ABC News. Available here.

While many critics claim this is “just” a gymnastics problem–some even calling to end the sport–the issue is that perpetrators of sexual abuse are everywhere. It’s not a “Nassar” problem; it is a cultural and policy issue:

  • In May, Ohio State University found that a team doctor abused at least 177 men during his time at the institution. OSU staff knew of the abuse as early as 1979, but instead chose to protect the institution over athlete safety.
  • In June, former Olympic track athlete Conrad Mainwaring was arrested for felony sexual battery. An ESPN investigation found that the coach had molested at least thirty men during his time working at a high school in Los Angeles.
  • MSU physiology professor Robert Wiseman was suspended for six weeks after MSU found he had sexually harassed six women over twenty years. The first woman filed a report in January 18th and Wiseman was suspended over a year later. He finished his suspension on April 4th and has resumed his position at Michigan State.
  • US Champion Chris Riegel stated that he was sexually assaulted by his coach from 1973-1981; he reported the abuse to the USOC and USGF (the organization replaced by USA Gymnastics) but the reports were ignored.

Simone, and all of the other former and current athletes that have and continue to compete for the USOC and USAG deserve better. I can’t imagine competing and earning money for organizations that not only enabled abusers to assault athletes, but seemingly still are unwilling to enact tangible policies to address these issues. Less talk, more action.

Required Reading: Larry Nassar’s Digital Ghosts (Mary Pilon) available here.

Required Viewing:

Simone debuts the most difficult balance beam dismount ever performed: a double twisting double somersault

Currently:

Reading: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Watching: Dexter Season 2 (Showtime)
Listening: White Lies (National Public Radio)

North(ish) Scotland: Sterling Castle, Loch Lomond & Glengoyne Distillery

View from Stirling Castle

Last year while visiting Edinburgh, Chris and I took a day trip with our friends up to a couple of locations at the boundary and just beyond into the Scottish Highlands. While we had hoped to travel farther north, our time constraints in Scotland made a quick journey the best option for us. Our tour included Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and Glengoyne Distillery. Castles, lakes, and whiskey–is there anything more you need in life?

Loch Lomond

Nerd alert as I discuss the human-created and geological differences between the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland. The social science geek in me (of course) is (always) interested in the impacts of history and culture on landscapes. While the human-created “Highlands Line” is the divider between the Highlands and Lowlands, it isn’t a a static, distinct boundary, but instead changes as people move, cultures shift, and languages change.

Where are we?

Mainland Scotland is divided into two main regions: the Lowlands and the Highlands. The definition between the two regions is not clearly defined; while the Highland Boundary Fault cuts between the areas north and west of the major fault zone, exact boundaries have never been truly defined between the two regions. Historically and culturally, the division between the two areas started during the Middle Ages when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic in most of the Lowlands.

Stirling Castle

From the 15th century to the mid 1900s, language became one of the biggest divisions between the Lowlands and Highlands; Gàidhealtachd (typically the Highlands and Islands) is the Scottish Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland, although the Highlands form of Scottish English is spoken there today. Clan units governed the Highlands until the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and remains a source of romanticized culture (see: Outlander).

Loch Lochmond

The Lowlands include Scotland’s largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow; the Highlands are sparsely populated. While the Highland Boundary Fault does not necessarily define the line between the two regions culturally, it does play a huge role in the geology of both areas. The Highlands contains the majority of the mountainous terrain in the United Kingdom, while the southern part of Scotland is flatter, with less elevation.

View from Stirling Castle

You can spend weeks (or in a perfect world, years) exploring the Scottish Highlands. The landscape is absolutely beautiful, with so much to see and experience. We just crossed over from the Lowlands and our tiny sliver of the Highlands was one of my favorite days in the United Kingdom.

Stirling Castle:

Located on a giant volcanic rock, Sterling Castle is at a meeting point between the Lowlands and the Highlands.
While the castle dates back to the 12th century, it is believed that most of the buildings were constructed between 1490-1600.
Prior to the union with England, Stirling Castle was used both as a palace and fortress. Nearly every Scottish monarch until the Union of the Crowns (1603) either lived, crowned, or died here.
More than eight sieges have taken place here, the last occurring in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie was unable to take the castle during the Wars of Scottish Independence.
One of the major battles at the castle was Wallace’s victory over the English in 1297.
Hochschild sighting.
The Church of Holy Rude (pictured here in the distance) was founded in 1129 and is the second oldest building (only after the castle) in Stirling.
The National Wallace Monument can be seen in the distance. This monument was built for Sir William Wallace (yep, THAT William Wallace, although like all films in our youth, the movie is a lie compared to the actual story) and was built on a hill overlooking Stirling.

Loch Lomond:

Loch Lomond (Gaelic: Loch Laomainn, meaning ‘Lake of the Elms’) is a freshwater lake crossing the Highland Boundary Fault and located in the Trossachs National Park.
Loch Lomond is the largest lake (by surface area) in Great Britain and the second largest in Great Britain by volume. It also contains the largest fresh water island in the British Isles and was voted as the sixth greatest natural wonder in Britain (2005).
Kristin always getting the best shot.
When we visited the weather started out rainy and dreary, but later cleared up after we made the trek over to the water. It was a beautiful walk.
The loch was formed by glaciers between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago. People first began to inhabit the area 5,000 years ago, during the neolithic era.
The loch is featured in the popular song ‘the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond’, first published in 1841.

St. Mocha Coffee Shop & Ice Cream Parlour:

Quick stop for coffee (and a break from the rain) at St. Mocha Coffee Shop. This cafe is adorable with a ton of options for coffee and snacks. The space is small but absolutely worth your time if you can snag a table.

Glengoyne Distillery:

Glengoyne Distillery was founded in 1833 and located just at the start of the Highlands. While Glengoyne became “official” in 1833, it is thought that they were one of the Scottish whiskey operators that illegally produced spirits in the forests of the Highlands. Glengoyne produces Highland single malt whiskey, although due to the use of air rather than peat to dry the barley, their malt is “stylistically closer” to a Lowland single malt.
The Distillery is beautiful and the tour was informative and fun. So proud of Kristin for sampling her whiskey!

Incredibly thankful to experience a little slice of the Scottish Highlands ❤

Me fulfilling my lifelong dream of designing postcards of hills and graveyards.

I absolutely adore Scotland and can’t wait to visit again.

Currently:


Reading: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed by Men (Caroline Criado-Perez)
Watching: Years and Years (HBO)
Listening: The Scarlet E (On the Media)

“A Life Less Ordinary”: Glasgow, Scotland

View from the Glasgow Necropolis

I LOVE GLASGOW. This January we traveled to Scotland’s most populous city to fulfill our teenage dream of seeing Cake play a live show. Wintertime Scotland may sound intimidating, but so worth it.

Pro tip: If you’re cheap like me, traveling off-season is a great way to save money on transportation and accommodations (flights and apartments are usually a lot less expensive) meaning more funds for whiskey and postcards. We’re walkers–our favorite way to travel around a new city is on foot–so we definitely packed our winter-wear for this trip. For me, this meant double leg warmers and wearing something other than flats.

This is a really long post but Glasgow is too amazing to not discuss #allthethings. Get ready for a an extra intense history overview and too many cemetery pictures.

Why “a life less ordinary”? This quote was written on the floor of the entrance to Hillhead Bookclub, where we had dinner our last night in Glasgow. Is this also an excuse to reference Danny Boyle’s 1997 film starring Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, and Holly Hunter? Am I pressuring you to listen to the soundtrack that includes the best version of REM’s Leave? Yes to all those things.

Ewan McGregor is Scottish so I feel like this fits the overall theme.

Where are we?

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and known for its industrial landscape. While the origin of the name is under debate, it is believed that Glasgow is derived from Middle Gaelic, meaning “green basin”. The city has the largest percentage of Gaelic speakers outside of the Highlands and Islands. Although the indigenous language is not recognized by the United Kingdom or European Union, Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture and history.

Alexander’s School was built in 1858. I just love the building.

A great source of fishing, the River Clyde and the surrounding areas were settled by many different communities near Glasgow. In the 6th century, Christian missionary Saint Mungo (you know, THE St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in Harry Potter) established a church where the current Glasgow Cathedral stands.

The Gallery of Modern Art building was previously the mansion of slave owner William Cunninghame. He owned 300 slaves.

Walking through the Merchant City area, I was surprised to see a sign for Virginia Street; ever the pochemuchka (the Russian word for the one who asks too many questions) I had to learn more about the connection between the American south and Glasgow.

Many of the streets and buildings still bear the names of the Tobacco Lords, the group of merchants that made the most profits from transatlantic trade (and some owned plantations in the New World too) although there have been calls to hang plaques to tell the full story.

Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow’s most famous areas, is named for Andrew Buchanan, a Tobacco Lord during the 1700s.

Glasgow became a central trading port following the Acts of Union in 1707–the treaty that combined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland–and played a large role in transatlantic trade and slavery. A central part of the triangular route, much of Glasgow’s wealth was derived from slave labor:

“There are 19 recorded slave voyages which left from Glasgow’s satellite ports of Greenock and Port Glasgow over a sixty year period from 1706 and 1766 – with these direct voyages estimated to have carried around 2 to 3,000 people directly into slavery.

Yet Glasgow was far, far from being an innocent bystander in the slave trade.

The very reason the Tobacco Lords became successful – and why the city prospered as a result – was because they were able to monopolise the produce grown by slaves on the plantations of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, namely tobacco and sugar. So much so, in fact, that for 50 years from 1740 to 1790, Glasgow became the hub for the world’s tobacco – at times trading more than all the English ports put together.

A trade built almost exclusively on forced slave labour. ”

Williams, Craig. 2018. “The History of Glasgow and its Relationship with the Slave Trade.” Glasgow Live. Available here.
A store front in Merchant City, Glasgow. The “Tobacco Lords” built the area as a testament to their wealth.

While the city profited from slave labor in the New World, many Scots and the University of Glasgow played a large role in the abolitionist movement. Following American independence, Glasgow continued to grow during the Industrialized Revolution, which saw steel making, shipyards, and heavy industry further the development of the city. After WWII, economic decline led to de-industrialization of the city.

Glasgow is known for its architecture; there are a large number of historically and culturally important buildings throughout the city. During the Industrial Revolution, many of Glasgow’s red and blonde sandstone buildings were covered with a black layer of soot from industrial pollution and furnaces. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 and many of the city’s 1,800 buildings were restored to their original appearance.

In 2013 “People Make Glasgow” became the official motto for the city.

The Sites:

University of Glasgow:

Glasgow University Union. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world.
The University is taking steps to reconcile its connection to slavery. They published the Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report in 2018.
It took me a while to find the Cloisters (we actually stumbled upon them after leaving the Hunterian Museum). University of Glasgow graduations are held here.
The Cloisters can be seen in a number of TV shows and movies including Outlander and Cloud Atlas. I actually just saw Cloud Atlas for the first time this summer–thanks Bri!

The People’s Palace:

I loved visiting the People’s Palace! The palace was opened in 1898 in an overly crowded part of the city with the intent of providing a cultural center its inhabitants. The site features a museum and gallery of the social history of Glasgow.
Smudge, the celebrity cat of the palace, was “employed” in 1979 by the museum to control the rat population. In the 1980s, following NALGO’s (National and Local Government Officers’ Association) denial of her admission as a blue collar worker, she was granted membership to the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Trade Union. She passed away in 2000, but lives on through the plaque dedicated to her services.

George Square:

George Square was named after King George III and developed around 1790.
Originally a pasture and unpaved road used to bring cattle for milking, the area grew rapidly during the 1750s from the influx of wealth from cotton, sugar, and tobacco from the New World. It is now the principle civic square for the city.

Glasgow Cathedral:

The Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis are absolute must-sees if you’re planning a trip to Glasgow.

The Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow.
The University of Glasgow held classes at the Cathedral before it was established in 1451.

Glasgow Necropolis:

I know its incredibly morbid but I love visiting cemeteries. The Glasgow Necropolis is one of the city’s most famous sites. Between 1831-1851 over 50,000 people were buried here.
The Victorian Glasgow Necropolis opened in 1833 as an interdenominational burial ground.
The first person buried here was Joseph Levi, a Jewish jeweler.
Me right before I slipped and fell 100% in the mud. Classic Ashlyn.
Architectural historian and architect James Stevens Curl described the Necropolis as “literally a city of the dead”.
In typical Victorian style, the layout of the Necropolis is similar to a park, with multiple paths and 3,500 statues and sculptures.
The view from the Necropolis includes the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Ashton Lane:

Absolutely beautiful Ashton Lane! The street is lined with a number of great bars and restaurants including Brel, Innis & Gunn, and Ubiquitous Chip.

Glasgow Botanical Gardens:

One of my favorite places in Glasgow! The Botanical Gardens are over 200 years old and were established by Thomas Hopkirk, a Glasgow botanist.
Jurassic Park vibes.

More Beautiful Places:

Bath Street
Woodlands Methodist Church
View from Kelvingrove Park
St. George’s Place

Restaurants & Pubs:

Drygate Brewing:

Located right next to the Glasgow Necropolis, Drygate Brewing is a great spot for a beer after a day of exploring (or drying off if you fall in the mud and are covered in muck from head to toe like I was).
We had the Seven Peaks (IPA) and the Disco Forklift Truck (pale ale).

Innis and Gunn:

We loved Innis and Gunn! They had a great menu with a ton of vegetarian and meat options, plus good beer too. Chris ordered the burger (of course).
Halloumi fries with peanut sauce—so good! I love halloumi anything but this was the first time I had the option of this salty cheese in fry form (highly recommend). This is probably my second favorite Halloumi dish after I ordered a vegetarian kebab in Prague that included both halloumi AND falafel.
Thai fried cauliflower
Halloumi flatbread (you’re sensing a theme now right?).

Chinaski’s:

An amazing secret speakeasy in Glasgow, Chinaski’s is named for Charles Bukowski’s alter ego and the space is a small homage to the American writer. We LOVED this spot and had to order their truffle fries and macaroni and cheese along with our cocktails. Absolutely highly recommend!

Akbar’s Glasgow:

Akbar’s is a huge restaurant with an enormous menu. We stopped for dinner with the intention of heading out after but were so filled with good food (garlic and cheese naan bread?!) that we ended up calling it a night because nothing could top dinner. This (horrible) picture is their palak and paneer dish with a side of the amazing naan bread. SO GOOD.

Hillhead Bookclub:

The description for Hillhead Bookclub is one of the best you’ll find: a licensed land of milk & honey where the ping-pong is plentiful, the computer games are retro, the cocktails arrive in gramophones and the strawberry mojitos cost nought but 3 pounds. We went for dinner on our last night (sad face) and ordered sandwiches (amazing).
With double floors (including a top floor of just vintage games and pool), I really loved Hillhead Bookclub. I wish we could have tried their brunch but alas left before the weekend.

McCune Smith:

Named for James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree (he graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837), this small cafe was established by two brothers near the “old college” to showcase local and sustainably grown Scottish ingredients .
Chris and I ordered matching sandwiches: the Scottish take on a Reuben (mine veg and his with meat). So good! The ladies behind the counter were also arguing whether or not Merissa from the OC was a tragic figure and I almost just asked for a job application right then.
I just loved the atmosphere of this cafe. “A little history in every bite” is definitely a motto I can live by.

Artisan Roast:

Artisan Roast was our first coffee stop in Glasgow. The barista gave me a confused look when I ordered cold brew in January, but I wanted something cold after walking in my sweater+leg warmers+extra socks+boots. Their coffee was great and we loved the laid back vibe of the area too. They also plated “Cannonball” by the Breeders; a song I haven’t heard since roughly 1999.

Papercup Coffee Company:

Genuinely great coffee and an awesome brunch menu, we walked a solid mile and a half to Papercup because I read how they serve some of the best coffee in Glasgow. They were also playing the Juno soundtrack so extra bonus points for them! It’s a small space but totally worth the trek and waiting for a table.

++Special shout out to the Old Ship Bank pub in Glasgow too! We stopped by to use the bathroom and ended up hanging out with an older gentleman named James, a native of Glasgow, for hours. He told us about the history of the area, current politics, and his excitement for a date he had scheduled for the next day. The pub was awesome and just felt so Glasgow… that’s the only way I can explain the atmosphere. The entire space was filled with people who just returned from a funeral and, according to James, this is “typical” for natives of Glasgow.

Bookstores:

Voltaire and Rousseau:

Voltaire & Rousseau is located on the small street of Otago Lane, hidden behind old bicycles near the entrance. I. Love. This. Shop. While there may have been some kind organization when Voltaire & Rousseau originally opened, as owner David Yeats says, “things fall apart.” Virtually impossible to find a title you’re looking for, but I think the point of the shop is to feel like you’re actually swimming in a sea of books, an experience I can get behind.

I ❤ Glasgow

Moulin Rouge vibes

Don’t forget that you can download the MWA Map and have all of my food/pub/sites/bookstore recommendations with you whenever you travel.

Currently:
Reading: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay)
Watching: Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: Burn it all Down