Going to California: An Unorthodox Spring Break (Part II)

We left off at lunch with Aaron and Emmanuel in LA. Aaron is a new acquaintance, though technically we went to Poland on the same trip almost three years ago. He’s a Wisconsin-Madison grad with a passion for civil rights work and bringing Holocaust-education to lower-income communities. I had the opportunity to meet him in Terre Haute, IN the first weekend of March, where he explained that he had recently been employed by CANDLES but was still living out in LA. I told him I would be there in a week’s time, to which he said, “Let’s meet up then! I’ll pick up Emmanuel.”

Enter Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a thirty-year-old film student and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. I had the opportunity to meet him when he spoke at my high school in 2014, but I hadn’t heard much from him since then and was excited at the opportunity to reconnect.


My parents, Emmanuel, and me from the high school days (photo credit: Danny Spungen)

So, while a torrential downpour raged outside, we talked about all manner of subjects and enjoyed a delicious spread of Korean BBQ. Since we still had the rest of the afternoon ahead of us and Emmanuel didn’t have class, he took us to Hollywood Avenue, where we turned into total tourists, as evidenced by the photo series below:




In short, we had a lot of fun together. But once the rush-hour traffic had dissipated and it was safe(-ish) to begin our journey toward Palm Springs, we called it a night and hit the road. Kristen has relatives in California who were kind enough to host us, and the next morning we headed out for our interview, not sure what to expect. But we did a good job, I think, and over the next five hours we spent speaking with this gentleman, we learned a lot.

Not just about history—and believe me, there was plenty of that—but about how one conducts an oral history. We made plenty of mistakes, and while I’m kicking myself in hindsight, thinking about how I should’ve asked more follow-up questions or not said “Mhm” the hundreds of times I did, I’m also so so grateful to have had the opportunity. As Professor Walke told me a few weeks ago, not many undergraduates wind up doing this sort of thing. So though the trip was incredibly nerdy, and though it had its stressful moments (LA infrastructure, I’m looking at you), it was one I would gladly take again. And yes, I’m saying that even as I transcribe several hours of interview footage. I would gladly do it again.