Oct 242016
Adventures of an Election Observer

My reason for being in Ukraine became abundantly clear in a rundown bar on a Sunday morning in Odessa. I was serving as an international observer at Ukraine’s first parliamentary election after the Maidan Revolution had toppled the corrupt, Putin-puppet president eight months earlier. My observation partner, Kevin, and I had started the day early, […Read more]

Sep 152016
Welcome Back to Osthofen

From the very first email, I felt my ancestral town of Osthofen reaching out to welcome me. The email was, of course, not from the town itself but from my guide for the day, Ursula Feile from the tourist office. Her cheery note: “We’re so excited you’re visiting the town of your ancestors. We’ll show […Read more]

Aug 112016
The Art of the Squatty Potty

In travel, not all toilets are created equal. Some are much less equal than others. Of course, I am referring to the squat toilets found in many parts of the world outside of North America. Some can be gleaming porcelain fixtures, while others are nasty holes in the ground (and lots of variations in between). […Read more]

Aug 082016
Traveling Into History

Guest blogger Laura Schott is a recent college graduate who took her first-ever trip to Europe to visit her ancestral lands of Germany and Norway. In the midwestern United States, one can expect to find people of two origins: German and Scandinavian. My fiancé and I, both from Fargo, North Dakota, and both recent University […Read more]

Jul 302016
A Village of Quiet Charm

My 1999 visit to Gräfenhausen (origin of my Billigmeier family) epitomizes what not to do when visiting an ancestral town. I showed up there one afternoon, completely unplanned. I stood on the street, looked around, didn’t talk to anyone (didn’t actually see anyone to talk to), took a photo of a building that looked important, […Read more]

May 302016
Revolution is Coming

There was joy. There was singing and dancing and borscht. There was violence and death. Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution was a complex progression of populist protest, community gathering, and deadly serious revolution that cost people their lives. Counting Sheep, the interactive “guerrilla folk opera,” brilliantly portrays Ukrainians’ hopes for a better future as they stand up […Read more]

May 012016
Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Broken Foot

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are the most dangerous. I survived petting a lion in Zambia and driving through crazed Athens traffic. But I was done in by my hotel door in Bosnia. In my own defense, it was an exceptionally high door threshold that you truly had to step over, sort […Read more]

Apr 242016
The History of the Schott Name

There are several theories for the origin of the name Schott. The one described by Johann Schott von Schottenborn in 1587 is that Schott ancestors originated in the town of Schotten in Hessen, Germany. He describes how his branch of the family left Schotten and settled first near Eisemroth, Hessen. They were smelters and forgers […Read more]

Mar 092016

I am an idiot. In the space of about 18 hours, I participated in two demonstrations (one in pouring rain), tweeted about both, participated in a Twitter storm (an online protest), wrote emails to my senators and congressional representative, and prayed for Nadiya Savchenko. Nadiya is a woman to admire—a pilot who was the first […Read more]

Feb 172016
Pilgrimage to Maidan

“I’m dying.” –Tweet from a 21-year-old volunteer medic, Olesya Zhukovskaya, February 20, 2014. This update was the first thing I saw in my Facebook feed that morning two years ago. I’d woken up determined to cut back on my obsessive reading of news about Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution. Since the day in November 2013 when brutal […Read more]