Currently I am reading a book called Momo by Michael Ende. This is technically a children’s book, but the overall meaning it has stretches beyond the typical children’s book. This book was originally written in German which makes the meaning even more interesting to me. The main message revolves around time and how adults can so easily get wrapped up in work and prioritize not “wasting time”. The book basically tries and gives the message that taking the time to use our imaginations to tell stories or spending time with each other is what a life is really about. Looking specifically at the German culture, we know they generally have such a strong emphasis of efficiency and time. Knowing this fact, depends the overall meaning.
This photo was taken at The East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall in Germany. It is one of many paintings there that have political and social messages. Many of these paintings’ meanings are driven home by the fact that they are on the wall that separated East and West Berlin. While each of these paintings are photo worthy, “How’s God? She’s Black” stuck out to me. It was the only painting I saw on the wall that had an obvious feminist message that went against the assumptions of everyday life. In the image’s description, which I couldn’t fit in the original photo, explains how this piece was dedicated to the civil courage for the oppressed and brought light to how a black lesbian woman was almost gassed in a train station in 1990. This painting shows that women, regardless of color, are just as capable and strong, and should be respected in the same regard as men.
This painting, or graffiti might be a better word for it, does not need to be analyzed or examined by a specialist to understand the intended message. Four words are all that it takes to create the feminist meaning in this painting. “How’s God? She’s black.” These two sentences would be considered basic by an English speaker, but their juxtaposition exposes a strong feminist message to the audience that is hard to ignore, especially when the words take up half of the painting’s designated area. One of my favorite parts is the handwriting. It’s nothing special, even childlike, much like the sentences themselves. This gives off the impression that the idea that God is a black woman is plain and simple, just a normal idea.
Examining the first sentence, “How’s God?” shows nothing of real interest. How’s God? God is everywhere. God is great. God loves you. In my head, those are the typical responses, but the response of “She’s black” challenges the idea of who God is and his typical image. Is God a bearded white man? Or is God a black woman? God is constantly described with words such as all-powerful, righteous, strong, the ruler of the universe, etc. Throughout history, these words have had no association with either women or black communities, but this painting does just that. It forces the image of God to be a black woman who is powerful, divine, and strong. This painting challenges the way we view women, and it normalizes women in a “man’s role” using the most important job imaginable. The image of God being a white man is an assumption commonly accepted, but this painting demands that theory to be questioned.
The ideas put forth by “How’s God? She’s Black,” encourages social change by going against stereotypical ideas of gender and race. This painting identifies the assumptions of today and forces women and women of color to be seen in the same light as men, to be seen as equals. “How’s God? She’s Black” focuses on the images of race and gender, but in a sense, it gives the message we are all equal and can accomplish anything, which brings in the significance of the Berlin Wall. Men and Women, East and West Berliners, yellow, black, white, purple people… In the end, we are all human beings and we should be treated and respected as equals.
This past summer I took a German class in Berlin for a month. I really enjoyed this class as is was extremely different than another class I have taken before in school. It was made up of people ranging from 15 to 50-year-olds, which is extremely different from the 19 to 24-year-old range almost all my classes have been in so far. Another interesting aspect is that this class was taken in a language learning center and the students were taking the course because they truly wanted to learn the language. It is true that students in the university courses want to learn, but many times, courses are taken just to complete degree requirements. That being said, the vibes in this class were extremely positive and at times intimidating because everyone would spend a lot of time outside of class studying and practicing. At the end of the class though, my German level drastically went up.
In March, I went to an info session on the OU in Rio de Janeiro Study Center. This was a really casual event outside Dale, but it was fun to learn a little more about the programs offered in the study center and how that is different than the Arezzo campus. When I was talking with them, I wish I was staying longer at OU, so I could go to Brazil and have new experiences there as well. It is always great to see study centers become more known on campus. I know most people know about OU in Arezzo, but it’s exciting to see new locations gain attraction.
I think the study centers are a great idea especially for the students not wanting to go completely by themselves. I went to the OUA campus with PLC a while ago and was really glad I wasn’t on my own and that I had a group of Americans with me. I am glad OU is expanding their campuses to all over the world. This truly gives OU students the comfort of OU students and professor but still provides students opportunities to experience new things and get out of their shells.
For global engagement day I attended the Women, LGBTQ Persons, and Minorities Abroad. During this discussion, it was interesting to hear about their experiences aboard especially because I never realized the different ways people are forced to act to ensure their safety in different places. My study abroad location was in Spain and very different than the different locations some of these individuals went. One of the stories that struck me was when the student studying in Morocco had to hide certain traits about himself because being gay was not allowed. With the female student who studied in Africa, she couldn’t show her legs or anything of the sort in public. These experiences are very foreign to me especially with my study abroad experience.
When I compare my upbringing to my time in Spain, it is very different. Spain is extremely liberal especially when comparing it to the culture in small town Oklahoma and even more so with Morocco. It is crazy to think about the different spectrum over all the cultures of what is considered appropriate.
This past Spring break I was able to go to Germany and got to experience and learn about German culture. One interesting thing I learned was the different regional foods and drinks typical in the different states. I was in Darmstadt during most of my stay which is in Hesse and is about 20 min from Frankfurt. The most typical drink in this region is Apfel Wein, or apple wine. This drink is quite similar to white wine, but it does have a slightly different flavor. I am by no means a wine expert, so I can’t go into great detail, but it is rather good. I would recommend anyone try it if they have the chance. Apple wine is normally served in just a ordinary glass, which is very uncommon for the typical red and white wines. There are actually two different types that can normally be found in restaurants but the most normal is see-through and a little sweeter. All in all, a pretty decent drink and definitely worth a try if you are in Germany and especially in Hesse.
I went to the contra dance in Norman on December 1st. Contra dance is very similar to folk dance, and going to this dance was a little out of my comfort zone. The dances were a lot longer than anticipated and I was actually pretty tired by the end of it. I surprised by the technique and moves that were involved in it, and I think that was obvious because a couple of the regulars had to help me quite often. I am glad that I experienced a contra dance. I think it’s neat that they are becoming more popular in Oklahoma and it seems to make people happy. Participating a different tradition or norm from a different culture is always something you can learn a lot from. I don’t have any plans on going back to one of these dances, but I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in Contra dance.
I went to the fancy dance concert in Catlett and the Oklahoma fancy dancers performed during the first half and the Siberian Natives performed during the second. The performances were great and I learned many new things about their cultures. They had the opportunity to bring the Siberians here because of the program, Peer to Peer, which was funded by the embassy in Siberia. The goal of Peer to Peer is to bring people from two different sides of the world together and connect them by what they have in common, which is being indigenous people. This helps preserve their cultures. The whole concert lasted around two hours and there was singing, dancing, and playing instruments. They also got the audience involved and brought them on the stage to participate a dance.
The most interesting thing I saw was the Siberian throat singer. A week before actually I had learned about them in my Language Across Culture class and I was really surprised the sounds they can make with their throats. It is a super low sound that isn’t similar to anything I have heard before. Hopefully the clip I attached works and you can hear the sounds.
In the past couple of years, Canada has experienced some French-Only laws specifically in Quebec. The situation that caused such an uproar was when an Italian restaurant was fined for using Italian words on their menu… Little much don’t you think? This was later described as Pastagate. But this circumstance can be compared in many ways to the English-Only laws that have come about in the US recently.
Quebec’s government cares so much about things being in French because it is their heritage and culture. In the recent years, 50% of the new generation across Canada is taking English as their main language, which causes Quebec, a strong French speaking community, to make sure their heritage is preserved. This example involving Canada is different in comparison to The US because the culture and language Quebec is associated with the most is under threat. This is very different than the dominant use of English here. While that is an important difference, there are many similarities in attempting to make one language seem more important than others. As for Pastagate, I think they definitely took policing too far and I think the government knows they went too far as well looking at the reaction of the people. It is still policed more than it should be, specifically looking at the restaurant that is required to display French in a larger font than any of the other languages on his windows. It is always interesting to see how some regions want certain languages to dominate and the extremes they might go to in order to ensure that.
I feel like life has come full circle now because this semester I was assigned to tutor at my old elementary school here in Norman. I am even working with one of the teachers I was around all the time when I was at school there. This semester I was assigned to work with 2 boys once a week. I had actually worked with one of them before so that was kind of nice because we could just jump into things. I had found that his English had majorly improved since I had last worked with him, and he was doing better in school.
Since I have studied abroad, I have a new respect for these children who come to the schools not knowing any English. It was a struggle when I got to Spain even after years of studying the language and having others around me who couldn’t speak fluently either. I can’t imagine going into a new country as these boys have and probably their families as well. It makes me happy to help them out in anyway I can.