Category Archives: Language

Celebrating Spring

March 13th, 2014

spring

With nervous pleasure,
The tulips are receiving
A spring rain at dusk
––Richard Wright

Cultures around the world celebrate spring as a time of renewal, healing, and rebirth, moving from the darkness of winter to the much-anticipated light of spring. Whatever form of celebration this takes, it is a time of new beginnings and hope. A time to celebrate life.

Original peoples were in rhythmic harmony with natural cycles, and created seasonal festivals, to honor their connection and dependency on the natural world. It seems only obvious then, that people who later came to believe in dying and returning gods–– synchronized their celebrations of birth, fertility and life, with those of the original people, often at the beginning of Spring, the Vernal Equinox.

The word Equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), equal night, meaning a moment in time when the earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, but is aligned directly with the poles, and day and night are about equal in length. It is a global time of perfect balance.

Original people the world over understood that a state of balance was necessary for well-being and harmony, and knew that imbalance in nature or with the self was the source of illness or disease. To the Yoruba people of West Africa, “…disease is seen as a disruption of our connection to the earth.”

Spring is regarded as a time for healing, and cleansing, a much-anticipated occasion heralded by the appearance of tiny green buds, the first flowers poking through the still cold ground, and of course the winter-absent sounds of birds.

Birdsong and flowers are two mythically powerful avatars of spring in most cultures worldwide, and therefore it is not surprising that both are honored ritually in connection with celebrations of spirit, and of dying and returning gods.

Birdsongs

About three weeks ago, I was happily surprised when I realized that once again, I was hearing the sounds of birds. I had been tuned to a different, internal biorhythm––Winter, and had not even realized the sound was missing, and it made me walk around smiling all day.

At just about the same time, I read a poignant and bittersweet article titled” How to build a Perfect Refugee Camp” in the Sunday Feb.13, 2014 New York Times Magazine. It is a about the lives of Syrian refugees in Kilis, a refugee camp in Turkey near the Syrian border

One of many moving details that ran throughout the story was the presence and implied importance of Canaries in cages. They were photographed everywhere in their cages, inside and outside of most of the container dwellings, and the author often noted their presence, but without a real explanation.

I found that to be fascinating and have been trying to find information that could explain the origins of the tradition, of keeping Canaries, if in fact it was one…or is it rather a result of the heartbreaking situation they find themselves in. I began to think that perhaps the birds are there for another reason. A healing reason.

The sound of a songbird is at the same time elevating and calming, reassuring. We feel more at ease somehow, which means our lives are just flowing better, and we like that.

If some of us are lucky enough to hear the songs of birds interrupt and rise above the noise of a city or the noise of traffic, consciously or unconsciously, we feel better.

Julian Treasure explained that in his recent Ted Talk: The 4 ways Sound Affects Us,”… Most people find the sound of birdsong reassuring. There’s a reason for that. Over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve learned that when the birds are singing,” things are safe.” It’s when they stop–– that you need to be worried.” Maybe it is a tradition based on the healing wisdom of the natural world, and as refugees themselves, perhaps these Canaries sing to bring about harmonious balance––a beautiful coping mechanism that calms everyone down, giving them a reassuring space to heal from the trauma of war.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, the famous Argentine folk musician, was quoted as saying,” Music is a torch with which to see where beauty lies, “ and the music of singing birds is certainly that. Perhaps that is why the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in California, among many native tribes in California, chose to call their very important singing rituals, Birdsongs. These songs are very important to their cultures, and are meant to be shared in social gatherings. The songs tell stories, which unfold in a series of songs about migration, and life lessons. Both men and women participate, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of rattles.

Flower Fusion

The Yaqui Indians of the Sonoran Desert revere flowers, and view them as manifestations of souls. “Haisa sewa?” is a Yaqui greeting among men, which means,” How is the flower?”

In the springtime, the Yaqui perform their sacred duty of ensuring the existence of the world, by dancing the Deer Dance in Lenten and Easter rituals. After the Conquest, the Yaqui fused their original beliefs, synchronizing them to the Catholic Holidays, ensuring the survival of their ways. The deer dancers represent the spirit of the sacred deer who lives in the Flower World, one of the five worlds of Yaqui belief. Their rituals are conducted to perfect these worlds, and eliminate the harm done to them.

During these spring rituals, the sacred deer returns to this world, and the songs of the deer singer, are the voices of the deer, bringing mystical messages from their world. The return of the Deer spirit is syncretic with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, returning on Easter with divine messages from heaven.

For the ancient Nauhua people, Xochiquetzalli, the goddess of flowers and love, was the mother of their sacred dying and returning god Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. As a dual-natured god, Kukulkan’s feathers represent his heavenly abode, and his serpent body allows him to travel on the earth. The Quetzal bird’s iridescent green plumes were used in royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests.

The great pyramid El Castillo, or Kukulcán’s Pyramid, built in the center of Chichen Itza in Mexico, displays an astronomically symbolic reenactment, of the return of Kukulcán, as he descends to earth on the Vernal Equinox. An unusual shadow creeps down the northern stairway, appearing as a serpent, which finally unites with its stone head, which sits in the light at the pyramid’s base.

Tonantzin, Xochiquetzalli, and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all aspects of the great mother goddess of fertility, of life, and creation.

The ancient goddess Xochiquetzalli, (Flowery Plumage), gave rise to the pre-Hispanic belief in a “flower-woman”, who represented Mother Earth and fertility. She is celebrated on the Friday before Palm Sunday, in the Flor más Bella del Ejido (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) pageant, honoring the beauty of Mexican indigenous women, held in Xoxhimilco, Mexico. In the Náhuatl dialect, Xoxhimilco means,” place of the flowery orchard.”

In about 1570, Friar Diego Durán, who grew up in Texcoco, described the celebrations of Xochiquetzalli, ”… The dance they most enjoyed was the one in which they crowned and adorned themselves with flowers. A house of flowers was erected on the main pyramid . . .. They also erected artificial trees covered with fragrant flowers where they seated the goddess Xochiquetzalli… On this day they were as happy as could be, the same happiness and delight they feel today on smelling any kind of flower, whether it have an agreeable or a displeasing scent, as long as it is a flower. They become the happiest people in the world smelling them…”

As Christians honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with roses, and the Virgin of Candelaria with marigolds, the Nahua people honored Xochiquetzalli, singing Xochicuicame, flower songs. Xochitlahtoane (flower speakers), performed publicly. The songs were about flowers or related to rituals honoring Xochiquetzal, and were a channel to invoke a deity in an individual and personal way.

The most famous flower songs were those of Hungry Coyote, a ruler, and poet in ancient Mexico. One of his songs, The Flower Tree Song was sung during this Spring celebration in honor of Xochiquetzalli. Here is an excerpt:

“…Delight, for Life Giver adorns us. All the flower bracelets, your flowers, are dancing. Our songs are strewn in this jewel house, this golden house. The Flower Tree grows and shakes, already it scatters. The quetzal breathes honey, the golden quéchol breathes honey. Ohuaya ohuaya.

You have transformed into a Flower Tree, you have emerged, you bend and scatter. You have appeared before God’s face as multi-colored flowers. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Live here on earth, blossom! As you move and shake, flowers fall. My flowers are eternal, my songs are forever: I raise them: I, a singer. I scatter them, I spill them, the flowers become gold: they are carried inside the golden place. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Flowers of raven, flowers you scatter, you let them fall in the house of flowers. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Happy Spring!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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January 1964: A Retrospective

January 2nd, 2014

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As we start the New Year, we thought it would be interesting to look back and see what historical events took place on this month in January, fifty years ago in 1964. As you can see from the list below, in only one month, a great deal happened around the world, some of which continue to be part of the news today.

We hope you’ll find this retrospective interesting or at the least amusing in that history does have a way of repeating itself, from political unrest, revolution to diplomatic stalemates. It also chronicles some firsts, such as the announcement about plans to build the World Trade Center, the first female presidential candidate and the Beatles having their first #1 hit in the U.S.

January 1964

January 1st – In Africa, Federation of Rhodesia & Nyasaland dissolved


January 2nd – Failed assassination attempt on president Nkrumah of Ghana (though 2 years later in 1966, a military coup led to his ouster forcing him to seek exile in Guinea)

January 3rd – On TV in the U.S., the Jack Paar Show shows a clip of the Beatles singing “She Loves You.” To view the clip, click on this link:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ8RfymgO8Q

January 5th – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel


January 7th – Bahamas becomes self-governing
(and on July 10, 1973, it gained its independence)

January 8th – European Parliament accept Mansholt Plan

January 8th – U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson declares “War on Poverty”

January 11th – Panama ends diplomatic relations with US
 after the breakout of anti-US rioting that started two days earlier on January 9th

January 11th – U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry reports that smoking may be hazardous

January 12th – In Tanzania, revolution overthrows Sultan of Zanzibar, one month after independence Revolution

January 13th – Hindu-Muslim rioting breaks out in the Indian city of Calcutta – now Kolkata – resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

January 14th – Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1st public appearance (TV) since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. To see a clip of her TV appearance, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auVIO5zM8C0

January 18th – Plans for World Trade Center announced (NYC)

January 22nd – At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the Wisconsin Pavilion displayed the world’s largest cheese (15,723 kg or 34,591 pounds) manufactured

January 24th – 24th Amendment to US Constitution goes into effect & states voting rights could not be denied due to failure to pay taxes

January 25th – Beatles 1st US #1, “I Want to Hold your Hand” (Cashbox)


January 25th – Echo 2, US communications satellite launched

January 27th – Margaret Chase Smith (Sen-R-Maine) tries for Republican Presidential bid

January 29th – 9th Winter Olympic games open in Innsbruck, Austria

January 29th – Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” premieres

Kubrick
Film Director Stanley Kubrick

January 29th – Unmanned Apollo 1 Saturn launcher test attains Earth orbit

January 30th – Military coup of Gen Nguyen Khanh in South Vietnam

January 30th – Ranger 6 launched; makes perfect flight to Moon, but cameras fail

January 31st – The U.S. report “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer

Together, let’s help make 2014 a year of remarkable achievements and breakthroughs that promote the betterment of our global society and planet as a whole. Happy New Year!

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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Martin Heidegger’s Influence On “Riders On The Storm”

December 5th, 2013

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Heidegger’s Concept: “Geworfenheit” (“Thrown-ness”)

The song is a 60′s classic: “Riders On The Storm”. We’ve heard it a thousand times. But do many people know it may well be associated with the thinking of a modern German metaphysical philosopher?

Jim Morrison was a voracious reader; even his senior-year high school English teacher said he read more than any other student. Later in the mid-1960s, as an eager UCLA Comparative Literature student in Jack Hirschman’s legendary classes (Hirschman was brilliantly unorthodox), he wolfed down works by existentialist writers like Genet, Sartre, Camus, Antonin Artaud, and others. I majored in comparative literature as well, and read these very same authors.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) espoused a central concept he called “geworfenheit” (“thrown-ness”). It’s an ontological precept that states we are thrown into the world, a world we can’t understand or make sense of. Another perspective given by Toronto Psychotherapy Definitions describes it as: “the accidental nature of human existence in a world that has not yet been made our own by conscious choice.”

It is known that Jim Morrison knew and read Nietzsche and perhaps Heidegger too. The lines “into this world we’re thrown” (from “Riders On The Storm”) is identical to Heidegger’s notion of geworfenheit.

We saw this arbitrary “thrown-ness” in the classic poem by English writer Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach” (1851) which presaged the metaphysical phase shift from religion to evolution, from spiritual hope to brute existence, that came when Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859. Like Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest, Arnold’s lines are similarly bereft of metaphysical or religious optimism:

From “Dover Beach” — Matthew Arnold

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Similarly, in “Riders On The Storm”:

Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm…

Many of these themes turn up in Albert Camus‘ existentialist writings as well. In novels like The Stranger and The Plague, Camus questioned the meaning of existence in a world seemingly governed by randomness.

It was perhaps equally random and absurd that Camus should die in Paris in a car accident, a passenger in a luxury car called a Facel Vega en route to Paris from Provence to Paris. Camus, poet and theorist of the absurd, is supposed to have said that the most absurd way to die would be in a car crash. Morrison, died in a his bathtub in his Paris apartment of an overdose. You find more flowers on his grave in the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery than on other famous people buried there as well, such as Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Bizet, Chopin, and Molière.

Listed below are the lyrics to “Riders On The Storm”. Note, the use of the word “thrown” just as in geworfenheit.

“Riders On The Storm” – The Doors

Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah

Yeah!

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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3 Things I’ve Learned as a Transglobal Pilgrim

October 3rd, 2013

Transglobal

Learning by doing is one of the most powerful, and rewarding ways to enter into another culture. I studied the French language for 12 years before finally going to France, and it was there that the desire to “become French,” overwhelmed me. As an avid people watcher, I love to observe body language, gesture, facial expressions, and attitude. So, I perfected the art of mimic. I returned to the states and studied the language for another 3 years and when I could afford it, I took vacations in French speaking lands–– islands being my favorite.

Growing up in Los Angeles I also fell in love with the Mexican culture. It is inescapable in terms of cultural celebrations, holidays, and the coming and goings of daily life. As far as I am concerned, it is a necessity to learn to speak Spanish if you live in L.A. Of course you can stay on the surface, and observe others from afar, but what fun is that? To fully experience life in the multitude of Spanish speaking populations of the city, you have to do some cultural shape shifting.

I have found that my eagerness to relate is always well received and it opens up doorways to completely new and fascinating worlds hidden just under the surface of daily life. Ones that can make the most mundane trip to the corner store a richly rewarding experience.

I have only lived in Germany for about two years now, and I am trying to learn by doing, but I have not tried to mimic this time. I absolutely refuse to raise my voice 5 octaves when given the customary ciao––Tschüsss! Grown men over 25 go completely falsetto when saying it. Everyone does.

I do admit to a language deficit, but I always start off by saying, “Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut, Ich komme aus Kalifornien,“ my German is not so good, I come from California. By looking at me they just assume I am German, and they get a funny look on their face when I try complicated sentences, poorly. So, I’ve found that by offering an explanation up front, things usually go quite well from that point on. The Kalifornien always breaks the ice. The more fluent I become, of course the more I learn about how life here works. Here are three important things I have learned about my new land.

1. Taxi Cab Ride

The taxi cab driver that came to take us to my husband’s first doctor’s visit, post hip-replacement surgery, recently had a knee replacement himself. He came from Turkey a number of years ago, and spoke flawless German. I listened to the best of my ability as the two men exchanged stories and chatted in the front seat. It slowly came out that they had been at the same, quite famous Orthopedic Hospital for their surgery and recovery.

In addition, in Germany, everyone stays in the hospital for two weeks of monitoring and the beginning of physical therapy/ rehabilitation. The insurance companies pay, knowing they will still make a profit, because two weeks in the hospital in Germany is still cheaper than a second, more complicated surgery. It has been shown that 2 weeks of post-operative care, lowers the recidivism for most surgeries.

Wow–– It astonished me to learn that costs are structured, and social thinking dictates that absolutely everyone can get great care, and be given the exact same physical therapy and rehab, and go to one of the many “Wellness/ Rehab” centers throughout the German countryside.

On top of it, imagine that the Taxi Company in Bremen allows this recuperative time, and with full pay! Of course there are those who are privat versichert, those that pay for “Private Health Insurance” versus the Government mandated insurance everyone must have, the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung.

The privat patients do get priority with doctor’s appointments and surgery schedules, because the doctors and institutions make more money off them, and know they will always be paid without tedious Insurance Carrier negotiations.

The last time I was in New York I learned that the taxi cab drivers in the city all own and are responsible for their own cars, which was news to me, and I am sure that the Senegalese driver who told us that, did not have the opportunity to get the same medical treatment as his Turkish counterpart in Germany. I am pretty sure he did not get paid rehabilitation for a month in the countryside or a city clinic.
In Los Angeles, the taxi drivers are often educated professionals, immigrants from other countries. They are classically trained musicians, doctors and dentists from the Ukraine, Iran, India, or you name it. I am pretty sure that they also don’t have the opportunities for care that the taxi drivers in Germany have.

2. Ticket Revenue

Cities get inventive when it comes time to collect more revenue. In Los Angeles the car is still the dominant mode of transportation, however, the city is installing a very much needed rail system. The last time I was in Los Angeles, I took the first chance I could to ride the rail between Culver City and Exposition Park. I got a TAP card and happily passed on the traffic jams, and cost of driving and the exorbitant cost of parking. The Expo Line Phase 2, due to be completed by 2015, will connect Downtown Los Angeles and beyond, directly to the beach in Santa Monica. They still have to create an access system to get through the city to the Metro Rail Depots, but that will come. Check out the budding system : http://www.buildexpo.org/

But back to revenue. On the car dominant streets of Los Angeles, the costs vary; a jay-walking ticket – $191, a parking ticket-up to $68, a speeding ticket $210 and more, and let’s not talk about texting while driving.

First of all, Europeans would laugh in the face of police-person who tried to give them a jaywalking ticket, as it is done all the time. However, here, I am one of the few who cross against the light at a street corner! Everyone, waits for the light to turn green before walking, even when there are no cars around for city blocks.

Now that I live in a place with an amazing mass transit system, I have learned to never get caught trying to ride for free on the city trams, and definitely, not more than 3 times. Each violation costs 40 Euros and after the 3rd time it goes on record as a criminal offense. I remember thinking it was like our 3-Strikes Law in California. A bit over-the-top. The tram cost is 2,40 Euros one way for all destinations farther than 3 stops, so pretty much everyone pays, and the system runs great.

I know it costs more in Manhattan, something around $100 per offense. And the jury is still out in Los Angeles, as the whole inner-city rail concept is just now being brought back to life. At one time, Los Angeles had one of the most extensive light rail systems in the country, so I am sure the city will figure that out.

I learned by using the wrong, small piece of paper. I mistakenly used the receipt-for-the-purchase-paper (who knew?), paper-clipped together with the bunch of tickets my father-in–law had given me.

I stamped them in the machine inside the tram, as I had seen others do, and when the tram-police-guy came up and asked for my tickets, (the first and only time to date) I proudly handed him the stamped paperlet. He looked at them, gave a smug laugh, and told me they were Müll, trash. I was shocked, and tried to explain in my imperfect German that my father-in-law had given them to me, and I did not know the difference between them, so I did not think I used an invalid ticket.

It did not go over too well, trying to explain to him that I am not yet fluent with the language or the system. He asked how long I had been in Bremen and if I was a citizen. No, I am an American married to a German. Then he asked for my passport–– of course I didn’t have it. He did not like that answer, so I informed him I was a permanent resident and produced my card. He told me to learn German, and wrote me a ticket and admonished me not to develop a criminal record. Not fun. Public transport does not take kindly to fare evasion, it taxes everyone more.

Now that I am an immigrant, I just couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if I didn’t have my residency card…would it be something like not having your green card while Mexican in California? I think I will avoid that experiment.

3. The Market

Shopping for food is another way to begin assimilating into a new culture, and one that still comes with a bit of stress. In the markets, people are usually in a hurry, and everyone packs their own bags. There is no standing around while the checker or “bag-person” does it for you like in American markets, although we always packed our own bags in Los Angeles, much to the shock and appreciation of the clerk at the checkout stand. It seems only logical to help things move along.

In Germany it goes very fast, and between trying to pack my cloth bags, not break the eggs and translate in my head the amount the checker has just quoted me, I always break into a small sweat. Things can pile up quickly with the press of impatient shoppers breathing down your neck. You must learn to ignore them and pack with deftness and speed.

I remember the first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena on Arroyo Parkway in the 1970’, and until I moved to Germany I had no idea that it was bought by the German Aldi Nord Company, known here as Aldi. When I go to the Aldi discount market near us, I walk away with California Almond and California Walnut packages bearing the Trader Joe’s logo! However, I have to say, the Almonds are not as good as the California Almonds I get at the California Trader Joe’s. But it still makes me smile.

Buying food is different here. You absolutely have to go to the market every day, or every other day, max if you want to have fresh produce. The produce here does not last more than 2-3 days in the fridge. That is good on one hand, because you know with certainty that nothing has been done to prolong the freshness. It is bad on the other hand, because it takes more time, and is especially not fun in sub-zero temperatures to run out for lettuce and tomatoes.

Fresh Hummus here from the Turkish fruit and vegetable stand is utterly delicious and goes bad after two days, so I manage to eat it up. In the states, Hummus can last for a week in the fridge. Same goes for all dairy products.

Occasionally a piece of fruit, usually one out of season, will rot from the inside out. Aha! Evidence of being previously frozen. But I still prefer that to artificially prolonged food. I never understood why the Horizon Organic Half and Half lasted for a month? That just ain’t right.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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3 Things to Consider While Dealing with Culture Shock

August 8th, 2013

Geography of Twitter @replies

Jet lag woke me up at precisely 4:50 a.m. this morning and the stifling heat kept me awake. Today’s’ forecast was 37 C, but I could see fluffy clouds blowing in from the south, from the Sahara actually. It is after all, the world’s hottest desert. It would have to be, for its winds to deliver such heat, all the way up here in Northern Germany.

At about 5:30 I walked out onto our small 2nd floor balcony to watch the sunrise and enjoy the rare warm breeze. It made me think of the hot Santa Ana winds back home in Los Angeles, which seasonally blow across the city from the Mohave Desert in late September. The Spanish colonizers originally called them the Satanas (a term referring to Satan). Known today as the “Devil’s Winds,” they are aptly named as they seem to provoke unsettling emotions in humans and animals alike.

Hmmm, perhaps these hot Saharan winds arouse similar feelings of distress, I thought as the unusual sound of a man and a woman arguing loudly in Arabic drifted across the street. I realized it must be one of the new Syrian refugee families just recently arrived and I knew that although exacerbated by the heat, it certainly was not the cause of their distress.

Across the wide grass divider of our busy street is a post WWII large 1950’s, god awful ugly apartment building, taking up about 1/3 a city block which is home to a mostly immigrant population from Africa, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Turkey. Directly next to it, the City of Bremen converted an empty office building into emergency immigrant housing for Syrian Refugees. Germany has recently taken in over 10,000 Syrians, and the numbers are growing.

I began to try and imagine the kind of collective emotional pain and stress that building must be experiencing, and started to think about what it really means to abruptly find yourself forced to adapt to a foreign land in the most difficult possible of circumstances.

Around the corner, a late-middle aged woman supports herself by renting rooms to foreign students. The Chinese, French, Spanish, American, Japanese, and Korean students living there must also share some of the same issues of assimilating (or not) into their new land. I compared myself more with them, but I wondered what we all possibly, may have in common.

Here are three things that address issues which foreign students may find beneficial to consider, while keeping in mind that they are, unlike asylum seekers and refugees, there by choice.

1. Am I Becoming One of Them?

Living in another country, with radically different social customs, cultural practices, foods, and strange foreign languages can be described as challenging at best. Adapting and adopting foreign ways slowly and often reluctantly, some people have a better time of it than others. At the end of the day, cultural identity is really a question of each individual’s personal journey.

While trying to define one across the boundaries of different countries and continents, it is important to understand and accept that although you may begin the process of ‘cultural assimilation’ your core values really do not change. As immigrants, if we can soften around this idea and acknowledge that we will always be Syrian, American, or Chinese first, we will have an easier time trying on our new culture, without the burden of feeling we have to become it, no matter how long we plan to stay.

That is an entirely different thing than finding what we like or really dislike in our new land. If you are open minded enough, you might come to understand that what you judge about your new culture is always filtered through your primary cultural identity. Unlike refugees, international students have chosen to place themselves in situations that demand that they acknowledge not only their “otherness” but a certain level of acceptance, less they bury themselves in an isolated study/work experience.

This self -acceptance can help make the entire experience more harmonious, less critical, and less judgmental of our hosts, and ourselves for that matter.

2. I Speak English Now.

Of course it is paramount to be able to communicate freely and without hesitation. It is always awkward and embarrassing at first, to do the simplest things, like going to the market, the pharmacy, and god forbid, speaking on the phone. I never thought about it, but it may be even more difficult and more frustrating for foreign students in comparison to the refugee population. The refugees, after all are usually in groups, affording somewhat of a buffer zone against the immediate need to talk in a foreign tongue. Usually a young student ––in the case of Syrians who possess a high literacy rate, will have one person who can help translate for families and groups of individuals, to help start things off.

Students however are expected to have achieved a certain mastery of the host country’s language. There is no doubt that studying a foreign language can reap huge personal and global benefits. It is an almost instantaneous way of opening up to the world and its people, and it has the proven, added benefit of improving thinking and personal communication skills. And, in today’s global economy, that can only be an asset.

However, say in learning English, it is important for students to realize that it takes much longer to acquire “academic language” proficiency rather than conversational language proficiency. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, even though doing so may bump up against your own cultural comfort zone. Professors in most major universities are well aware of the “academic gaps” in the language learning curve.

Once you are over the shock of hearing a foreign tongue spoken 24/7, the best advice is to not take yourself so seriously, and not be afraid to make mistakes.

3. What About Money?

How will we survive this decade? How will we prosper, thrive, feed ourselves, and take care of our families in this increasingly interconnected pressure cooker of economic agendas and global resource challenges? It is almost impossible for university students to ignore this changing economic landscape when choosing a school or a topic of study.

Studying abroad is a wonderful way to open up to the world, and it prepares students to be open-minded, thriving individuals in our rapidly changing “borderless” world. And ultimately, offers them a competitive edge when engaging in international business or profiting from the mind expanding experience of being forced to look at the world through different eyes.

However, what happens if you find yourself living in a culture with different measures of success? Depending on the over-arching cultural and parental notions of success, whether in life or career many students today choose majors which they hope will bring practical and financial success.

In an interesting article on the Yale Daily News website, the staff reporter, Antonia Woodford discusses the concern the university has about the shift away from Humanities Majors towards Economics. Mostly, international students are not as familiar with “liberal arts” as the American students generally are. However, the concerns about finding a job after completing school, with a higher paying salary add to the pressure and seem to have become infectious in the student body as a whole. She quotes Moira Fradinger GRD ’03, director of undergraduate studies for the Comparative Literature Department, “…I can recall many conversations with students who say, ‘Shouldn’t I do economics, rather than literature? Their concern is mostly how they’ll be able to find a job after Yale, and whether they should follow the advice of their parents and major in economics… in an increasingly globalized world, knowing foreign languages and literatures is an “incredible asset” but that students often do not realize how widely they can apply these skills to jobs.”

Woodford also quotes Yale College Dean Mary Miller as saying that,”… taking just a few courses in a humanities field can significantly enrich students’ intellectual experience.”

http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2012/04/18/up-close-humanities-face-identity-crisis/

A Softer Landing

As the world grapples with ever increasing populations of immigrants; from international students to refugees of brutal civil wars, environmental disasters (man made or natural) or epidemics, many cities have found themselves dealing with the emotional strain on both the immigrants themselves and the societies they land in. Issues such as feelings of isolation and “otherness” of both students and refugees alike need to be on the radar in a big way.

As a footnote, I found a very inspiring news item the other day about the way the city of Augsburg, in the southwest of Bavaria, Germany has decided to tackle the rising issue of asylum seekers, which could potentially become a worldwide role model. The city of Augsburg has found a dignified way to address the social, personal, and cultural needs of its newest residents, by creating a grand experiment, aptly named the Grandhotel. It invited artists to create and live in one building alongside newly arrived refugees and help create a free-thinking, creative environment to help everyone deal with the culture shock, and find ways to lead a fulfilling life, while sharing the challenges of daily food and shelter. The result is a communal living experience, which is really worth checking out. Follow the link below and click on You can get it Here to read translations from German into English and Spanish. Perhaps it is the grain of sand in the oyster for all you Urban Planning students out there!

.http://grandhotelcosmopolis.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/seit-dem-24-10-gibt-es-das-konzept-in-einer-dreisprachigen-version/

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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Keepin’ It Eclectic and Worldwide!

July 18, 2013

Image

 

This week’s Rhythm Planet features a wide variety of new music from around the world in many different styles.  We feature some Brazilian classics from the band Azymuth and French bossa novista Nicola Conte’s new collection Viagem 5, some cool vibes to beat the heat with Joe Locke and Milt Jackson; we debut new albums from France’s Deep Forest, New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop, Malian modal blues from Samba Toure.  We remember the great R&B singer Bobby “Blue Bland”, who passed away recently, and there’s modern sufi music from The Shah Hussein Project, a mystery track from the German band Dirtmusic with a song inspired by Werner Herzog’s amazing movie Fitzcarraldo.  We wrap things up in a quieter mode with gorgeous new albums on the prestige label ECM, renowned for its pristine sound, production values, and acoustic music. These final four ECM albums are by saxophone virtuoso Chris Potter (warning: it’s jazz not for the feint of heart), German jazz pianist Julia Hulsmann gives a jazz treatment to a Manuel de Falla classic, “Nana” and finally two beautiful albums from Swiss singer Susanne Abbuehl and veteran English singer June Tabor, who makes her ECM debut.

Despite the moribund state of the music industry, it’s amazing how many good records are being produced these days, and many of the albums featured here might well go under the radar. That would be a pity, so I’m doing my small bit to get the music heard.  You may discover some you really like.

 

Rhythm Planet Playlist: 7/5/13

  1. Azymuth | Meu Mengo | Remixes & Originals | Far Out
  2. Neyde Fraga | Onda Quebrando | Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 5 | Far Out Recordings
  3. Joe Locke | Bittersweet | Lay Down My Heart | Motema Music
  4. Milt Jackson | The Cylinder | Ballad Artistry Of Milt Jackson | Collectables
  5. Deep Forest | Atali Wowo | Deep Africa | Big 3 Records
  6. Samba Toure | Be Ki Don | Albala | Glitter Beat
  7. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland | Farther Up The Road | The Anthology| Duke/Peacock
  8. Fat Freddy’s Drop | Silver And Gold | Blackbird | Fat Freddy’s Drop
  9. Shahram Shabpareh | Leila | Shahram | Secret Stash Records
  10. The Shah Hussein Project | Saiyyon Assi | The Shah Hussein Project Vol. 1 | The Active
  11. Dirtmusic | Fitzcarraldo | Troubles | Glitter Beat
  12. Chris Potter | Wayfinder | The Sirens | ECM Records
  13. Julia Hulsmann Quartet | Nana | In Full View | ECM Records
  14. Susanne Abbuehl | My River Runs To You | The Gift | ECM Records
  15. June Tabor | Near But Far Away | Quercus | ECM Records

 

 

 

“Please join me online and listen to my music show “Rhythm Planet” at http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/cl. Thanks!”

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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20 Facts About Turkey

June 07, 2013

Flag_of_Turkey

In light of the protests that have erupted in Turkey against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we wanted to share a few facts about this country situated at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. North of Turkey is the Black Sea and on its west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country.

The history and culture of Turkey is such that coming up with 20 facts out of thousands was an incredibly difficult task. We know that so much has been omitted for the sake of brevity. The list below is a primer to this country’s rich heritage.

1. Turkey is officially known as the ‘Republic of Turkey’.

2. The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

3. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary and constitutional republic.

4. Ankara is Turkey’s capital while Istanbul is its largest city.

5. It has a population of 71.1 million.

6. Of the 87% of the population that is literate 95% are male and 80% female.

7. The major religion of Turkey is Islam, while its official language is Turkish. Kurdish, Dimli, Zaza, Arabic, Armenian, Greek and Azeri are also spoken in the country.

8. Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents and has been the capital of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman for more than 2000 years.

9. The part of Turkey in Europe is called ‘Thrace’ (an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts), while the part in Asia is called ‘Anatolia’ (an area about the size of the state of Texas).

10. Anatolia is the birthplace of historic legends, such as Omar (the poet), King Midas, Herodotus (the father of history) and St. Paul the Apostle.

11. Julius Ceasar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

12. The oldest known human settlement is in Catalhoyuk, Turkey (7500 BC).

13. Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the two of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are in Turkey.

14. Turks introduced coffee to Europe.

15. Turks gave the Dutch their famous tulips.

16. Turkey has 94 State universities and 45 Foundation (Private) universities

17. Approximately 55,000 Turkish students go abroad annually for educational purposes.

18. Turkey has been sending more than 10,000 students a year to the U.S. since 2000 exceeding other European countries such as Britain and Germany.

19. Istanbul’s Robert College (established in 1863), is the oldest American school outside the United States.

20. Turkey provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts; the nut in your chocolate bar was most probably grown in Turkey.

Alan
Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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The Web-based Brain: Redefining Intelligence

May 30, 2013

pg 226 Our Brain

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” – Plato

How do we choose to measure intelligence, and what kind of intelligence do we value in society today?

On the Science page of the Huffington Post, the recent article, People Getting Dumber? Human Intelligence Has Declined Since Victorian Era, Research Suggests, stated, “Our technology may be getting smarter, but a provocative new study suggests human intelligence is on the decline. In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era.” Hmmm.

We currently measure intelligence with the understanding that each successive generation’s IQ will be smarter than the last, (The Flynn Effect.) It should stand to reason then, that each successive generation’s average IQ test scores would be higher. So why are our test scores lower?

There are two different types of intelligence which psychologists believe to be separate neural systems; Crystallized Inteligence, Gc. which is our ability to use skills, knowledge and experience we build over time as we memorize information, and Fluid Intelligence. Gf, which is the ability to analytically solve complex problems using logic, independent of acquired knowledge,

Recent scientific studies show that individuals trained on a video game could improve short-term memory skills, or working memory, i.e. the kind of memory you use to hold information and manipulate facts. If you improve your working memory– your Fluid Memory– from these computer games, the ability to solve complex problems increases, and it can be argued that we are actually increasing intelligence. Neurobiologists know that the brain has plasticity, and when stimulated, more “branching” appears at the “cortical” level, connecting different regions of the brain to one another; we make more fluid associations. Perhaps what looks to us now like stupidity, or a general dumbing-down may actually turn out to be a different sort of intelligence.

Dr. Gary Small, the Director of UCLA Longevity Center, proposes that we are at a major milestone in brain evolution, and clearly we are redefining intelligence. He states that it is important that we acknowledge the results of how we are searching and gathering information on the worldwide web. He says,” …what we may see with all the new technology is sort of a super brain which is evolving right now….”

Daniel Weinberger author of “Too Big to Know” says, “…we may be seeing the emergence of a type of Web-Form thinking, that is far looser, driven more by interest, less focused and reduced, and is more collaborative…”

Are current IQ tests a good measure of intelligence?
In December 2012, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for Smithsonian.com, “Are You Smarter Than Your Grandfather? Probably Not.” He explained the theroy proposed in political scientist James Flynn’s book ” Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Are-You-Smarter-Than-Your-Grandfather-Probably-Not-181842991.html

Gladwell explains, “Ultimately, Flynn concludes that human beings are not smarter—just more modern.” He begins with Flynn’s investigation into the character of the standard intelligence measuring tests. He explains,” the Flynn effect puts the average IQs of the school children of 1900 at around 70, which is to suggest, bizarrely, that a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded.” Harsh.

Flynn explores the nature of the tests, and explains that the IQ tests today want you to “classify,” thus children today “…picked up the habit of classification and use the vocabulary of science. They classify the world as a prerequisite to understanding it.”

Standard IQ tests have various subtests, such as “similarities” which ask children to find commonalities, or relationships. These showed significant gains, while the subtests that test arithmetical reasoning, had significantly smaller gains. Gladwell explains,”…In 1910, schools were focused on kids memorizing things about the real world. Today, they are entirely about relationships.”

The extreme intelligence of Autism
It turns out that the fastest growing trend in global IT companies is the hiring of autistic software developers. It is a proven fact that highly functioning people on the autistic spectrum display an extraordinarily high talent for both math and science.

The title of a recent cover story in the May 22 issue of Handelsblatt, Germany’s economic and financial newspaper, “Looking for Autism” caught my eye. The sub-headline was basically a disclaimer, stating that, lest you think that SAP (SAP AG, a large German, multinational software corporation which manufactures Enterprise Software – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterprise_software) has discovered its social conscience, in fact its plan to hire 650 Autistic workers by 2020 is actually fueled by the desire to take advantage of their special programming talents. Very Interesting.

In the highly competitive race for creative innovation in software development, most IT corporations have recognized that some of the most startling advances in IT technology are created in collaborations. But what many may not realize is that IT corporations such as SAP have discovered that development teams with one or more Autistic team members had the highest rate of team member satisfaction, and out-performed other teams by a large extent in terms of the rapid advancement in technology and innovation. Bringing together such diverse talents frees each team member to express and use their individual strengths to their full potentials, as the autistic members could most effectively and rapidly handle the intricacies of testing the software codes and other time consuming repetitive tasks, by rapidly finding mistakes.

IT companies have begun collaborating with social institutions such as Specialistern, based in Denmark (which now has branches in the U.S, Poland, Switzerland and Germany), Left is Right, in Sweden and Auticon in Germany. Specialistern describes itself as, “… a socially innovative company where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum.” Based on the particular skills of those Autistic individuals, Specialisterne, Left is Right, and Auticon, work directly with corporations to help autistic people find work with IT companies, who are willing to work with them in order to increase their competitive advantage.

In explaining this unusual partnership, Luisa Deplazes Delgado, the chief human resources officer at SAP says that both Specialistern and SAP believe that, “…innovation comes from the edges,” and, “…Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century.”

Interestingly enough, while training Autistic children how to use the computer, human resources trainers at SAP reported that they had a noticeably higher success rate using the Apple iPad, because of its simple user-friendly interface.
One could say that we have embraced our destiny by creating and participating in the global change brought about by the construct of the Internet, and the endless free-flow and exchange of information it offers. If we have developed and are continuing to evolve a Web-based form of thinking, we are in effect increasing our brain plasticity, or Fluid thinking. We are right on schedule, and as James Flynn would contend, we are “becoming modern.”

Why not begin to consider that we are in fact creating new societies, which could be said to function on a higher, and more effective level as proven by the SAP team models?

We might just find out that if we respect and embrace our innate differences, and create school models and working situations which are intuitively “fluid” we actually allow the strengths of each individual to reach their full potential, because….they are doing what they really want to do.

Read more:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/people-getting-dumber-human-intelligence-victoria-era_n_3293846.html

http://www.ibtimes.com/sap-recruits-autism-employees-spark-innovation-1275541

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Are-You-Smarter-Than-Your-Grandfather-Probably-Not-181842991.html#ixzz2UfxWubQh

Listen:
A web cast on the Science page of the Huffington Post called Reverse Intelligence. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, it is worth a watch. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/people-getting-dumber-human-intelligence-victoria-era_n_3293846.html

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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Dispatches from the 2013 APAIE Conference in Hong Kong

March 14, 2013

Hong Kong

There’s nothing like beating jet lag after a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles-San Francisco-Hong Kong, with a ride on the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island first thing in the morning for a meeting. It actually proved to be a relaxing way to get a start on the next two weeks as Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC and I make our way through Hong Kong at the APAIE Conference and then onto Tokyo, Japan, for a continuation of our discussions on the 2+2 model of US community colleges and universities and importance of international credential evaluations.

We met up with Angel Lau, Senior Advisor with Education USA, a service of the US State Department, at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. Ms. Lau had arranged for us to meet with Ms. Ellie Tang, Higher Education Adviser at West Island School, a multi-ethnic international school funded both privately and by government offering Grade 6 to 12 lower and upper secondary education. We learned that WIS offers secondary curriculum intended for the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC) International Diploma. Ms. Tang’s main concern was to help U.S. colleges and universities have a better understanding of the BTEC qualifications and their equivalence to the British General Certificate of Education Advance Levels. Ms. Tang was happy to learn that it is in fact through the actual credential evaluation process that U.S. colleges and universities will learn of the approximate educational equivalence of the BTEC qualification.

Our next meeting began with a lunch hosted by Mr. Peter P.T. Cheung, Secretary-General of the Federation for Self-Financing Tertiary Education (FSTE). We were joined by two members of the Federation: Professor T.S. Chan, Associate VP of Lingnan University and Professor Reggie Kwan, President of Caritas Institute of Higher Education, as well as Ms. Dorothy Hon, Senior Executive Officer (Projects) at the Federation. Both Professors Chan and Kwan shared with us their own personal experiences as international students at U.S. universities during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Professor Kwan, a graduate of Montana State University spoke fondly of his undergraduate and graduate years and his love of nature and American football. Professor Chan’s academic experience began at Whittier College in California and continued onto the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Our hosts all stressed the value of studying abroad and wished to see the same pathway opened for their students. They saw the 2+2 model as a cost effective approach to access U.S. higher education. We later presented the 2+2 model with an overview of the international credential evaluation process at a workshop hosted by FSTE to several of its institutional members. Our presentation was well received helping clarify some of the myths the attendees had about U.S. community colleges. The concept that students in the U.S. can complete two years of general education at the community colleges for a fraction of the cost of what it would be at a four-year institution and then transfer to a university to complete the remainder of their undergraduate education for the Bachelor’s degree is contrary to their counter parts known as “self-financed tertiary institutions” in Hong Kong. “Self-financed,” means that these institutions charge tuition that are, in fact, higher than fees charged by the universities. These self-financed tertiary institutions are seen as a last resort option for those unable to enter the university system with little upward mobility. Unlike the U.S. community colleges, completion of studies at the self-financed institutions in Hong Kong does not guarantee transfer credit to university degree programs. Seeing that Hong Kong students can look at the U.S. community colleges to further their education at the university level as an alternative is beginning to be seen as a viable option.

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a walk through the Night Market in Kowloon, Stanley Market, Victoria Peak (for a magnificent panoramic view of the HK skyline), and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. I’m happy that I had the weekend in between meetings and the start of the APAIE Conference to do some sightseeing before transferring to the conference hotel near the convention center miles and miles away from the city center.

At the conference, I served on a panel with Dr. Reza Hoshmand of Hong Kong Baptist University, Zepur Solakian, and Angel Lau (EducationUSA) discussing the 2+2 model and seeing how through Dr. Hoshmand’s efforts the 2+2 model has been implemented at HK Baptist University. We presented our session in the form of a round-table discussion and heard from attending colleagues from Australia, Poland, China, and Canada. Clearly, the U.S. is unique in its 2+2 model and making access to four-year universities possible through the community college route.

A walk through APAIE’s Exhibit Hall brought me in direct contact with the many Asian universities ACEI has been receiving transcripts from for evaluation. It has been a wonderful experience connecting with universities from S. Korea, Japan, Thailand, and China, to name a few.

Friday, March 15th marks my last day in Hong Kong. I’m scheduled for a site visit to the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I’ve had an amazing time in Hong Kong and at the conference. I look forward to continuing the exchange of ideas at the next APAIE Conference in 2014 to be held in Seoul, Korea.

I leave for Japan this Saturday for another round of meetings with educators. Stay tuned for news of my visit to Tokyo in next week’s blog!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Heroes, Activists, and Martyrs: Lending their names to the streets of Tehran

January 24, 2013

Tehran_Streets

When I heard the story of Granada, Spain planning to approve a measure to name a square in honor of the British punk band The Clash’s Joe Strummer http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/spanish-square-to-be-named-in-honor-of-the-clashs-joe-strummer/ I was reminded of the battery of street name changes that Iranian cities underwent immediately after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The changing of names applied not only to streets and boulevards but to schools, colleges, universities and any building or organization that carried a name resonant of the former regime and all those it supported.

Besides serving as a practical guide to find one’s destination, street names and place names in general, create symbolic connections with the past, or recent past by commemorating and honoring the contributions of historical figures, military heroes, political leaders, inventors, industrialists, and athletes. According to the cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky in Nation into State, “the United States has a long history of naming places, especially streets, after patriot heroes and other notables.”

I first came across the term “commemorative landscape” a term referring to “a wide range of material sites devoted to remembering the past,” in an essay entitled “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina,” by Derek H. Alderman. We can safely agree that one of the most common of commemorative landscape types is the street name. In most cases, reasons to rename a street, monument or building are primarily politically motivated, reflecting the mood and sentiments of a new regime and its antipathy or respect for the past. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its satellites quickly set about a mission of de-Stalinization by renaming streets and building that once honored Stalin.

Though my recollections and understanding of Iran are memories frozen the moment I’d left the country in June 1978, I still remember those streets in Tehran named after American Presidents like Kennedy Square, Eisenhower Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue and British heads of state like Elizabeth Street and Winston Churchill Boulevard. Yet soon after the revolution these streets were renamed to honor martyrs of the Islamic Revolution and religious leaders. Kennedy Square is now Tohid Square, Eisenhower Avenue (named after the American President who helped the Shah topple Mossadeq) is Freedom Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue has been renamed Mofateh Avenue. Winston Churchill Boulevard, the site of the British Embassy in Tehran, was renamed Bobby Sands Street after the Irish Republican Army IRA member who went on a hunger strike and died in prison in northern Ireland in 1981. Apparently the British Embassy changed its entrance to another side of the building as they didn’t want the address to be Bobby Sands Street.

Tehran_Streets1

But not all American names have been censored in Iran. I read an LA Times article about Tehran’s decision to name a street in honor of Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed while protesting against the demolition of Palestinians homes in the Gaza strip. The photo below is proof of the street sign, which also includes a brief profile of Rachel Corrie.

Tehran_Streets2
“Tehran street sign named after American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie”

Iranian colleges and universities weren’t exempt from the name changing fever that had gripped the country following the 1979 revolution. Autonomous colleges, like the College of Surveying, or College of Statistics and Computer Science, or College of Mass Communication were phased out, merged and consolidated into university complexes named after revolutionary martyrs and religious leaders. Universities too saw their names changed, especially those that were named after the Shah or his family. Aryamehr University, known as the MIT of Iran, is now Sharif University of Technology, named after a former student who was killed in 1975. Melli (National) University was renamed Shahid Beheshti University. Farah Pahlavi University was renamed after the prophet Mohammad’s daughter as Al Zahra University. And the list goes on.

I haven’t returned to Iran since I left in 1978 but what I hear from friends and relatives who travel back and forth is that the old street names seem to still exist in people’s memories and used colloquially. It’s not unusual for passengers hailing a taxi to give their destination with the current name but also add its former name as backup. “Take me to Freedom Avenue, formerly Eisenhower.”

There’s a strange sense of belonging that happens when one sees and recognizes a familiar street sign. The main street leading to our home on Lane 8, off of Pakistan Avenue in northern Tehran, was Abbas Abad Avenue. That’s how I remember our ethnically diverse neighborhood of small mom and pop shops, the bakery, dry cleaners, and a vast empty dirt lot soon to be a large housing development. Our next door neighbor was a French diplomat. Across the street lived an American family from Maine whose eldest son was my brother’s best friend and attended the Tehran American School. A few houses down were a Japanese family whose patriarch would take strolls up and down our quiet street in the afternoons in his kimono and wooden shoes.

Abbas Abad Avenue has since been renamed as Shahid Beheshti Avenue. I have no connection to this new street and all that it represents, but one thing that seems to have not changed is the international flavor of the district that has carried on. Today, Shahid Beheshti, aka Abbas Abad Avenue, is home to embassies and foreign firms. Do you have any stories to share of the street names in your neighborhoods?

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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