BERLIN MEETS AUSTIN/TEXAS
Part I – Our Friends from LASA/Austin, Texas visiting us in Berlin
Report about the exchange in LBJ’s and LASA’s student newspaper Liberator
Like every other year, a group of students from Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin, Texas, came to Berlin in June. They attended Herder High together with their German host partners, gave presentations on various aspects of life in Austin and Texas in our English classes , went on field trips (Reichstag, Berlin Wall Museum, GDR Museum, „Berliner Unterwelten“) and spent four days in Prague. Germans and Texans had a lot of fun together at the Kookaburra Comedy Club (English Comedy Night), at Shin’s Karaoke and in DISATI Climbing Park.
This year the focus of our exchange was on aspects of multiculturalism / cultural diversity in cities such as Berlin and Austin/Texas. In order to learn more about the different cultures that shape our life in Berlin our Texans partners visited the Turkish Market at Maybachufer, participated in a discussion with one of the imams of the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Wilmersdorf and toured the Vietnamese Dong Xuan Center (which is supposed to become the seedbed of Berlin Asiatown) in Lichtenberg.
In a joint workshop with their German partners our friends from Texas finally reflected on their experiences, which resulted in the articles below:
This exchange trip to Johann-Gottfried-Herder Oberschule has opened up opportunities for both American and German cultures to mix at a young generation. In this way, both communities are allowed to flower and diversify through each other. The cities of Berlin and Austin are very similar, in that they are both very Liberal, and interact with immigrants to a great extent. The cultural diversity found in both Berlin and Austin can be adapted to and learned from. In Austin, a large Hispanic population is prevalent, and in Berlin you can find a large Turkish population. Während beide Städt viele Ähnlichkeiten haben, gibt es viele Unterschiede. The opportunity to explore the large historic goldmine of Berlin, and the likewise trip to the musically cultured Austin will expand and diversify ties between the US, and Germany through the two coolest cities found in either country.
The JGH School is very fortunate to have the GAPP Program in their grasp because it allows chances for learning outside of the containing classrooms that students are used to. While the students are very capable of mastering the English and German languages in the schoolrooms, they are restricted from fully understanding the culture and society of American and Germanic cities. Like stated before, Berlin is known to have a large immigration population present from surrounding countries, and a city such as Austin is very similar to this due to the Hispanic migration, also stated above.
In addition to the immigrating cultures, students who are lucky-enough to have the GAPP Program are able to indulge themselves in the rapidly changing languages, learning advanced slang and adjusting to different pronunciations. Austin is a extraordinary area to obtain these due to the immense amount of music that flows through the city causing growth in the city’s culture and population. Berlin is another massively diverse place to obtain this knowledge due to the fact that this city has become such a large, international home to many, including the Texans that came on this trip.
Basab and Evan
Multikulturelle Integration in Berlin
Taking part in a foreign exchange trip warranted contact between our culture and others. It began with a trip to a mosque; a place of worship for Muslims. We were given a short tour of the building and told of the many aspects that Islam is associated with, including the core pillars of belief. Although time intensive, these practices are kept up with by German Muslims. The Imam of the Mosque spoke about how liberal his Mosque in Berlin was in comparison to Mosques in other parts of the world, such as his homeland of Pakistan. There were not many practicing Muslims that lived in the area, but he said that they have integrated quite well into everyday life in Berlin. In accordance with the beliefs of Islam, Muslims feel it is their duty not to judge others for their sins, but just to practice charity and live their lives to the best of their ability. An example of this that we saw was the Turkish market, with Muslims and Berliners interacting together, which was an interesting cultural experience for us to see.
However, the situation for Vietnamese integration is in stark contrast with the integration of Muslims. Our brief experience with the Vietnamese community in Berlin left us with the impression that their culture is much more secluded. Though there is a noticeable presence of Vietnamese students in schools, the majority of the Vietnamese people live separately in their own areas. This leads us to conclude that the cultural integration of the Vietnamese into Berlin’s society was less successful for reasons we were not able to fully comprehend in the short time we were there. Regardless, the ability for cultures to integrate is a very real possibility for anyone to accomplish because of how open and accepting the German people are.
Während der Teilnahme an einem Schüleraustausch zwischen Berlin und Austin wurde uns der Kontakt zwischen unserer und anderen Kulturen ermöglicht. Anfangs haben wir eine Moschee besucht, ein Kultplatz/Gotteshaus für Muslime. Wir wurden mit einem kurzen Rundgang durch das Gebäude begrüßt und man erzählte uns von den vielen Aspekten des Islam, einschließlich der Grundpfeiler des Glaubens. Obwohl sie zeitaufwendig sind, werden diese Praktiken von den deutschen Muslimen gehalten. Der Imam der Moschee sprach darüber, wie liberal seine Moschee in Berlin im Vergleich zu Moscheen in anderen Teilen der Welt, wie seiner Heimat Pakistan, ist. Es gibt nicht viele praktizierende Muslime, die in der Gegend leben, aber er sagte, dass sie ganz gut in den Alltag in Berlin integriert sein. Im Einklang mit den Überzeugungen des Islam, fühlen sich Muslime verpflichtet, andere nicht für ihre Sünden zu verurteilen, sondern nur Nächstenliebe zu praktizieren und ihr Leben zu leben, um das Beste aus ihren Fähigkeiten zu machen. Ein Beispiel dafür war der türkische Markt, auf dem Muslime und Berlineraufeinandertrafen. Dies war eine interessante kulturelle Erfahrung für uns.
Allerdings ist die Situation für die vietnamesische Integration im krassen Gegensatz zu der Integration von Muslimen. Unsere kurze Erfahrung mit der vietnamesischen Gemeinde in Berlin hat uns den Eindruck vermittelt, dass ihre Kultur viel eher im Verborgenen ist. Zwar gibt es eine spürbare Präsenz der vietnamesischen Schüler in unserer Schule. Jedoch lebt die Mehrheit der Vietnamesen getrennt in ihren eigenen Gebieten. Dies führt uns zu dem Schluss, dass die kulturelle Integration der Vietnamesen in die Berliner Gesellschaft weniger erfolgreich war, aus Gründen, die wir in der kurzen Zeit nicht erfassen konnten. Unabhängig davon hat jede Kultur eine realistische Chance sich in Berlin zu integrieren, weil die Deutschen sehr offen und tolerant sind.
Chris, Eytan, Laura, Gesine
-Projekt des Deutsch – Amerikanischen Austausches Berlin- Austin –
Bei unserem Austausch in Berlin lag der Fokus besonders auf der multikulturellen Gesellschaft dieser Stadt. Um mehr über die Vielfältigkeit und die verschiedenen Kulturen zu erfahren, führte es uns zu Berlins ältester Moschee und dem türkischen sowie dem vietnamesischen Markt Berlins.
Am Dienstag den 11.06.2013 trafen wir uns mit unseren deutschen Austauschpartnern und Lehrern vor der Ahmadiyya Moschee in Berlin Wilmersdorf. Beim Betreten der Moschee mussten wir unsere Schuhe und Hüte ablegen um unseren Respekt vor der islamischen Glaubensstätte zu demonstrieren.
In der Moschee wurden wir von einem pakistanischen Imam willkommen geheißen, der zu unserer Verwunderung ausschließlich Englisch mit uns sprach.
Er erklärte uns die grundlegenden Prinzipien des Islam und die 6 Glaubensartikel. Außerdem sprach er mit uns über die Gründe aus denen viele Türken nach Berlin immigrieren. Sie hoffen hier auf ein neues und besseres Leben und Arbeitsplätze.
Für uns war es besonders interessant den Islam aus einem anderen Blickwinkel zu sehen da es in den U.S.A aufgrund der Terroranschläge sehr viele Vorurteile gegen Muslime gibt. Nach dem Besuch in der Moschee hatten wir einen positiven Eindruck von dieser Religion und haben viel Neues gelernt.
Der Türkische Markt am Maibachufer war überfüllt, laut und bunt. Wir sahen verschiedene türkische Spezialitäten und Kleidung. Einige von uns probierten das in Berlin entstandene türkische Gericht ,,Döner-Kebab‘‘. Auf dem türkischen Markt spiegelten sich allerdings auch die Probleme der türkischen Integration in Berlin wider. Wie der Imam schon erwähnt hatte, gibt es viele Türken, die sich von der deutschen Gesellschaft abkapseln, indem sie sich weigern sich an die deutschen Gewohnheiten und Sprache anzupassen.
Der Tag hat uns viel Neues über die türkische Kultur gelehrt, da es in Austin kaum türkische Mitbürger gibt.
Am nächsten Morgen erkundeten wir den vietnamesischen Markt in Lichtenberg, das ,,Dong Xuan Center‘‘. Im Vergleich zum türkischen Markt waren hier Hallen, in denen mehrere vietnamesische Geschäfte waren. Der vietnamesische Markt erinnerte uns ein wenig an Chinatown in Austin, daher waren wir nicht sehr überrascht. Auch im Dong Xuan Center konnte man allerdings sehen, dass es Teile der vietnamesischen Bevölkerung gibt, die sich von der deutschen Außenwelt abgrenzen.
Abschließend kann man also sagen, dass die Integration dieser beiden Bevölkerungsgruppen differenziert zu betrachten ist. Es gibt sowohl gut integrierte als auch völlig abgegrenzte lebende Immigranten.
Jack and Forrest
Exploring the Impact of Various Cultures on Berlin
One of the goals of our exchange program in Berlin is to learn about the various cultural groups and their lives. We have visited many cultural centers and gained knowledge and impressions about their experiences in Berlin. We have learned about Islamic tradition, Vietnamese, and Turkish communities.
The first multicultural experience of our group in Berlin was the visit to a mosque. We were welcomed by the Pakistani Imam who explained the key points of the Islamic beliefs and answered our various questions. He also talked about the traditions associated with the mosque. He was very respectful of our questions and was thorough in his answers, even if they did not quite line up with what we ourselves believed.
On the same day, we also visited the Turkish market at Maybachufer and got a taste of the Turkish community. There were colorful booths lining both sides of the street, selling wares that ranged from fabric to food. It was very crowded, with people milling about throughout the stalls. All of the vendors that we talked to were extremely nice and accommodating. Both the fruit and ready-made food were delicious. Germans and Turks alike shopped in the market. Afterwards, we stopped at a Lebanese and Moroccan restaurant. The schawarma was exotic, but was also a little similar to döner, which we had eaten previously.
The morning of the next day, we visited the Vietnamese Dong Xuan Center. There were multiple large warehouses separated into different shops selling food, clothing, and other wares. There were many hair and nail salons. Because we visited at such an early hour, the market was relatively empty and most shops were closed. There were also many Turkish shops in the market, and Germans were looking through the wares. There were interesting smells, and there were many colorful displays.
Throughout our various visits we also experienced different levels of integration. At the mosque, the Imam spoke of his trepidation at entering Berlin and being afraid of different treatment because of the color of his skin. He explained that his fears turned out to be unfounded and he was accepted into the community wholeheartedly. We also saw people from various cultures at the different markets that we visited, noting that the immigrants and born Germans seem to mix without much thought. Generally, there are more Vietnamese people in the East and more Turkish in the West, and they are the two largest immigrant populations in Berlin.
So far, we have enjoyed our trip to Berlin and themulticultural excursions we have been on. There is so much to see that we won’t be able to see it all, but we hope to come back in the future.
Ly, Lia, Emma, Mihera
Was ich bis jetzt von Berlin sagen kann ist, dass multikulturelle Integration sehr erfolgreich ist. Viele ausländische Gerichte, Traditionen und Ideen prägen Berlins Kultur. Aber natürlich gibt es immer Differenzen zwischen verschiedenen Kulturkreisen. Jedoch habe ich das Gefühl, dass es in Austin mehr Konflikte zwischen ethnischen Minderheiten gibt als in Berlin. In Austin ist Gewalt ausgeprägter als in Berlin.
Es gibt viele Gründe, warum sich Menschen dazu entschließen nach Berlin zu immigrieren. Einige fliehen vor Bürgerkriegen oder politscher Verfolgung aus ihrem Land. Berlin ist ein großer Anlaufpunkt für Immigranten und auch der Staat gibt ihnen viele Möglichkeiten, sich ein neues Leben aufzubauen.
Es gibt viele Ähnlichkeiten zwischen kultureller Integration in Austin und Berlin. In Austin leben Texaner und Hispanics dicht nebeneinander. Trotz allem haben die Migranten immer noch ihre eigene Gemeinschaft. Das kann man mit der türkischen Bevölkerung in Berlin vergleichen. Auch hier gibt es Stadtbezirke, wie zum Beispiel Neukölln oder Wedding, in denen viele Migranten ihr Zuhause haben.
When you think of Germany, you think of its stereotypes. You think of men in lederhosen, the famous beer, the small strawberry stands, and of course the mountains of sausage. Rarely do people considered the other diverse cultures.
Although most people come to Germany to experience German culture, there are many other cultures to appreciate in this diverse country. In Berlin alone, the Turkish community contributes to the character of the city in drastic amounts. One example of this is the Turkish market. Little shops and stands run down the whole market selling everything from exotic spices to the locally well-known Döner. However, anyone familiar with how thoroughly other cultures are integrated in America can see that the Turkish community lives alongside the Germans, not with them.
In Texas, many cultures are present and incorporated into the mainstream one. The Mexican community, for example, has extended deep into every Texan’s daily life. One exchange student, on the eve of their trip to Germany, said they were going to miss Tex-Mex food because “it’s just like, normal food here. It’s not exotic or anything, it’s just what we eat every day. You go to restaurants that aren’t Tex-Mex at all, and they give you a basket of chips and salsa.” The level of integration is also evident from the amount to which Texans take Mexican culture and build on it. Tex-Mex isn’t simply Mexican food, it’s Texan-Mexican food. While Tex-Mex shows the integration of American culture with minorities, the Turkish live in parallel to the Germans. This is evident from the Turkish Market, where the majority of costumers and shopkeepers are Turkish, with Turkish food, clothing and products, with very little German culture present. While many of the Americans from this trip visited the Turkish market for the first time, so did the Germans. The culture of this minority is exciting and has presence in Germany, but it is not integrated yet. There is no Turk-man or Ger-Ish there is only Turkish and German, but there is hope that one day, the Turkish and German cultures will mix possibly making something as exciting as Tex-Mex.
Maddie K., Audrey, Horst
Part II: Berliners in Texas
We, 22 students and two teachers from Herder High, spent three weeks in Austin and Big Bend, Texas. During the first and third weeks we attended classes at Liberal Arts and Science Academy together with our host partners, gave presentations about aspects of life in Berlin, visited the State Capitol, the Bullock State History Museum, the UT Campus and many more sights in the afternoons and inbetween we spent five days in the Southwest of Texas (Big Bend State Park).
In order to learn more about the guiding topic of this exchange – „Multicultural Texas“ – we joined a guided tour at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and participated in a workshop on Hispanic art at the Blanton Museum. Our involvement with selected pieces of art (sculptures and paintings) created by Hispanic artists enabled us to gain new insight into the life of the Hispanic population group in Texas and learn more about the impact of their traditions and culture on Texan society.
Thanks to the library of LASA our students were able to put their experiences into words in a joint workshop with their Texan partners on one of the last days of our stay in Austin:
¡Viva el arte! – The Hispanic Reflection of American Mainstream Society
Bones connected to pennies through a spine of communion wafers – at first glance an impressive piece of installation art. But what is the deeper sense of this figure exposed in the Blanton Museum of Arts in Austin/Texas?
For the majority of the world’s population, America is the country of freedom, equality and tolerance – not least because of the “American Dream” as a life model. But on the other hand, Hispanics have experienced the negative sides of life in the United States. Not only the different lifestyle itself but also the journey into a “better life” – in other words the immigration process or even worse the illegal crossing of the border – is critically reflected in Hispanic Art.
October 3rd: the GAPP 2013 group consisting of 22 German exchange students and their teachers Mr Wappke and Mr Heinrich enter the prestigious Blanton Museum on the campus of the University of Texas. Their attention is immediately caught by a life-sized statue, showing a weakened woman carrying her baby sitting on the shoulders of her husband while crossing the Mexican-American border. Wrecked with pain, this little family is looking for a way to escape the poverty in their home country and they are apparently ready to risk everything for a life in the U.S. Created by the grand-son of the depicted family, this piece of art is not only showing the attractiveness of a life in the States but also the difficulties of approaching that because of the limited legal possibilities to do so.
Bones connected to pennies through a spine of communion wafers – after a few minutes of silence in the square surrounded by black curtains the group starts to bring the intention of the author into question. After controversial discussions we came to the conclusion that the artist is criticizing the materialistic society of America. He implies that money that has been gained on earth is finally worthless in heaven, where everybody is equal.
Leonie, Franziska, Christopher, Felix
¡Viva el arte! – The Hispanic Reflection of American Mainstream Society
During our exchange we learned a lot about multicultural Austin especially about the Hispanic influence.
We visited a cultural centre called Emma S. Barrientos, where we could learn about the history and the feelings of Hispanics expressed in their art. The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is dedicated to Emma S. Barrientos who was involved in founding and supporting the cultural center. Our group was split into two smaller groups and our tour guide showed us different exhibitions. The first exhibition was an art gallery called An Awakening by José Francisco Treviño, who originates from Mexico. The painting styles that Treviño used were very different, because they showed samples of Treviño’s art created by him at different ages. So we could see his development through his life. His art was very touching and all of us enjoyed it a lot. In his art he expressed the sadness of his people, the blossoming of his country and culture and the dreaminess and fantasy of his own personality. We could see that Treviño misses his home country even though he left it on purpose. At the cultural center there were also other changing exhibitions. One was a project of a Hispanic woman who tried to encourage Hispanics living in Austin to express their travels to the USA in a sculpture that they could create on their own. The sculptures were very abstract, colorful and fantastic. In addition to that our tour guide explained to us the form and the development of the building, which was very interesting.
In our opinion the Emma S. Barrientos is a good place for Hispanics to exhibit and to admire their culture. And a good place for Non-Hispanics to get to know the history and the feelings of Hispanics.
Johanna, Zarifa, Isabell, Ly
The Hispanic Community in Austin and their Impact on Culture and Everyday Life
First we want to talk about our experiences at LASA High school. LASA is located at the LBJ building in order to improve the education level in a socially disadvantaged neighborhood. This has proved to be a challenging task due to the ethnic background of many students of LBJ. Quite a few of those students have recently immigrated to America. Based on our own observations and talks to students at LASA, we noticed that there are many Hispanics and African-Americans at LBJ. Although they are in one building, there is a strong division between the two High schools, for example LASA students mainly join classes on the second floor whereas LBJ students are taught on the ground-floor. On the other hand this division is not noticeable when it comes to sports events like football games and the marching band. Then you can feel an enormous school spirit, no stereotype-thinking and all ethnical borders disappear. On the Football field they all fight together and cheer for the Jaguars, which is the Football team of both schools.
Secondly, we want to mention our own experience with public transportation of Austin, Texas. We were using the bus system to get around town. Busses are mostly used by people who cannot afford a car because daily tickets are very cheap compared to Berlin. While you have to pay only $1 for a daily ticket here, in Berlin it costs about $10. It is conspicuous that many ethnic minorities use public transportation. In Berlin usually people do not talk to each other in public transportation and here in Austin many people tried to start a conversation. This seemed to be something new for us which can be considered as annoying or as friendly and open-minded.
We learned that Austin is one of the most liberal and democratic parts of Texas. That might be a reason why we recognized that the younger generation is often very open-minded. They respect and tolerate ethnic minorities without any prejudices. We were happy to see that there is no exclusion at all and the students were really tolerant. Furthermore, there are also people who have a critical view on multiculturalism because the neighborhood around the school – dominated by ethnic minorities – is a hot spot of social discord and a scene of crime.
To sum up, you cannot clearly judge whether cultural diversity has a positive or negative impact on everyday life in Austin, Texas. We did not experience enough to deliver a judgment because we got to know good and bad things during our stay.
Laura, Gesine, Eli, Hong, Maxi, Hung Anh
Hispanic Culture and its Impact on Southwest Texas – Terlingua
Hispanics in the Southwest of Texas
While walking across the cemetery in Terlingua, you will notice that most of the names on the graves are Spanish. You cannot overlook the fact that Big Bend area, especially Terlingua, is intensively connected to Mexico and its culture. Since the Mexican cult of the death is very different from the European, we were really impressed by the beautifully decorated graves. But why did the Mexican culture had and still has such a significant impact on the Southwest of Texas?
Terlingua is located in Brewster County near the Rio Grande close to the border to Mexico. The name of the city is deduced from the yellow mineral terlinguaite. Indeed the geological nature of Big Bend area is dominated by terlinguaite and the basic mineral for quicksilver, cinnabar. These natural resources were discovered in the late 19th century. To mine the precious minerals, workers were needed and therefore Mexican families came to find employment. Therefore Terlingua became a vibrant mining town in sparsely populated Brewster County around the turn-of-the-century. The population of Terlingua increased from 200 to 2000 inhabitants within two decades. The Mexican workers were not well paid and you could say they were exploited. They left Mexico with the intention of having a better life, but in fact many of them died miserably because of the toxic quicksilver and bad working conditions in the mines.
Indeed, the former mining town has become a ghost town and the mining business has disappeared, but the influence of the Mexicans is still visible in everyday life. Driving through Brewster County we met many Hispanics and saw Mexican food in supermarkets and restaurants. Many sign postings are written in Spanish and sometimes we did not feel like we were in the United States, but in Mexico.
Finally, when we left Brewster County we also experienced one of the most sensitive problems concerning the Mexican-American relations. The issue of illegal immigration of Mexicans is a big deal, especially along the border, for example in Brewster County. At the border patrol check point we were more or less politely asked to show our passports. Many Mexicans leave their homes to work in the US illegally. Above all, the Republicans are pre-dominantly against this, which is why border controls are really strict.
To sum up, Mexican and US American culture, history and future are definitely connected because of the events in the past 200 years and both sides have to face up to that fact.
Friederike, Svenja, Mihera, Anja, Ngoc, Daniel, Toni
Berlin and Austin/Texas – comparing multicultural cities
During our exchange we had the possibility to compare two multicultural cities, Austin and our hometown Berlin. On the one hand both cities are liberal and tolerant toward different cultural backgrounds. On the other hand we noticed that Hispanics in Austin have better possibilities to integrate into society than Turks and Vietnamese have in Berlin.
Laura, Hung Anh, Mihera, Franzi, Daniel
During our stay in Austin we experienced that there is also a big multicultural diversity as there is in Berlin our hometown. People from different ethnic minorities are also accepted and integrated into everyday life. The things we noticed are that public transportation system is mainly used by people of the lower classes. In Austin there is more living space available than in Berlin and that is why different groups of people can spread out further which facilitates social segregation.
Felix, Eli, Toni, Jojo
Although Austin’s city structure differs greatly from Berlin’s, we could recognize numerous similarities concerning the multicultural societies of both cities. The impact of the Mexican community can be compared to the Turkish influence in Berlin when it comes to popular dishes, stores and even festivals like “The Day Of The Dead”. However, our impression is that the separation of ethnic minorities is more present in Austin as you can see in the city’s high schools and different neighborhoods. Berlin appears to be more diverse to us. Nevertheless we had a great time in Austin, learned a lot about American and Mexican culture and are thankful for that unique experience.
Jelena, Maxi, Christopher, Friederike, Anja, Isabell, Zarifa
Austin and Berlin are both multicultural cities, but this characteristic appears in different ways and extents. The capital of Texas is mainly influenced by Hispanics and Mexicans – and here especially the language and food. Furthermore, it seems like the Afro-American population is well integrated. In comparison, Berlin has more different ethnic groups. There is no single culture that has influenced the city’s character as profoundly as in Austin but you can feel different cultures in everyday life, such as the Turkish Doener Kebap as typical Berlin food.
All in all, multiculturalism becomes more evident in Berlin because of many different ethnic minorities and parts of their cultural heritage while American and Mexican/Hispanic lifestyle seem to be intertwined in Austin, where we could experience the “Texican culture”.
Gesine, Hong, Leonie, Ngoc and Svenja
Collage created by Maxi, one of the participants.