Our perception of other cultures cannot be merely based on what we see through the construed lense of the mass media. We have to go out into the world, meet and understand people on a personal level. This is a pervasive theme in the Western world, that we are somehow superior to others and they should come to us, speak our language, and act like us. This is conceited stance to take. Rather, we must embrace the diversity of other cultures, and allow them to show us new things. Everyone from my Deutsch language class at the Colón Language Institute hails from a different country, besides Wolfgang and I. This map gives a better handle on the breadth of the diversity in the class. Each star represents a person from that country.
I’ve quickly become friends with them all even in this short weeks period. It has been very easy to make friends here; everyone has so much to offer one another. (Much thanks to my new friend Vinnie for the unicorn towel and proper hair care techniques). I’ve even been able to sharpen up my Espanol language skills communicating with those from the Spanish speaking countries. They make up around half the class, putting the few English speakers in the minority. Because of this the teaching style is mainly written and gestural; English is used very rarely. It can get quite chaotic at times in class, with several language flying around as we try to understand what’s going on in our native tongues. At the beginning of the class there was a fill in teacher who could only speak French and Deutsch, so to answer our questions we had to rely on Ann-Marie who is trilingual, speaking English, Spanish, and French. It was quite undertaking using the chain of translation to try and ask questions and get answers from the teacher.
I must say it is quite strange being the minority here. I’m not used to all the inquisitive eyes viewing me as a stranger in foreign lands. It does seem like not many American students come to Germany to study abroad. Everyone at the University seems to be very excited about us being here though. Dr. Bernd Leitl, who is our contact here and also the director of the institute gave us the grand tour of the Geomatikum on Monday. It stands unassumingly one of the tallest buildings on the Hamburg skyline (~80m). The joint venture between the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Universität Hamburg’s Institute of Meteorology is contained within the building. The outdated facility is being replaced by a new facility which is under construction, similiar to the NWC in Norman. By far the most intriguing part of this places lies in its deepest reaches in the basement, where one of the last wind tunnels used solely for meteorological research exists. This is Dr. Leitl’s lair, he performs most of his research in the wind tunnel studying a wide array of topics, including wind power siting, aerosol dispersion, urban environment wind modeling. When we sat down to lunch in the break room, we got the chance to see the machine which mills styrofoam scale models of the land surfaces used in the wind tunnels. German engineering at its fines