#mauerfall30 countdown

As the 30th anniversary of the fall of Berlin wall approaches, I wish I was in Berlin to join in the celebrations.  I can just imagine how lively the city must be right now – well maybe I can’t because to me it was so lively even without the celebrations – the atmosphere must be electric as the city approaches this anniversary.  Since I can’t be there I decided to do my own countdown with a blog every day between now and November 9th on Berlin Wall, or some aspect of it.

Thousands of miles away from Berlin, in the most unexpected place – in the peaceful and leafy campus of Kennesaw State University campus there is a piece of Berlin history. A section of the wall, with a particularly cheerful graffiti lies on this campus.  Well, perhaps not completely unexpected because I’ve realized that Georgia has quite a few sections of the wall. Apart from the one on the KSU campus, there is one in Suwanee (which I wrote about previously), there’s one at the Atlanta International School  (I am so envious!!), the National Infantry Museum in Fort Benning has three sections of the wall on display in their Cold War gallery, and Freedom Park in Fort Gordon has two sections of the wall on display.

Berlin Wall Fort Gordon GA (image courtesy Fort Gordon Freedom park)

The wall in KSU was donated to the college by Chuck Clay who is a former senator of Georgia.  Mr. Clay’s grandfather, General Lucius D. Clay commanded the American forces in Europe after World War II and organized the Berlin airlift.  The wall was given to his grandson, Chuck Clay by a grateful city in 2000.  He donated the section of the wall to KSU in 2010. 

The bottom plank of the wall was in the East Berlin side.  It was included with the second generation wall after a soldier with a tank broke through the first generation wall and escaped into the West.  With this plank at the bottom, the wall would have fallen on the tank rather than on the other side. This stopped people trying to escape by breaking through the wall with cars, tanks etc.

The West Berlin side of the wall is where the original graffiti would have been found, and the graffiti on this wall is a particularly cheerful one.  The bright yellow, smiling sun or sunflower with almost perfect petals against the deep blue background is simply stunning and would have brought a smile to many West Berliners in the 1980s.  There seems to be some green grass at the bottom, and words that I couldn’t really make sense of.  The grey of the wall is visible on top where the white backgrounds paint ends, and I imagine there are many layers of graffiti underneath.

In this section of the wall, the East Berlin side also has graffiti, something that was obviously done after the wall fell.  The top scene looks like a gondola in Venice, with a covered bridge on top.  Below that there’s some interesting graffiti going on but unfortunately, I can’t make out what’s going on.  There are layers of writings though none seem fully visible.   

The students of KSU are fortunate to have this piece of history in their midst. For some it might just be a concrete sculpture that they walk past everyday on their way to class, while others may pause and reflect upon the history that surrounds this section of the wall.  For me the Berlin Wall with its graffiti holds endless fascination; for me each piece of the wall is art, history, end of World War II, rise of Communism, cold war, fall of Communism, freedoms denied, freedoms regained, families torn apart, families united, unbelievably brave East Berliners, even more unbelievable miraculous escapes, and above all the resilience of the human spirit that has yet to meet a wall it can’t bring down. 

Frank LLoyd Wright in Florida

Usonian House at Florida Southern College

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) is a uniquely American artist who created America’s distinct architectural style based on its vast open lands and prairies. The combination of a Midwestern upbringing, the launch of his architectural career in Chicago, and the building boom in Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 all propelled him towards architectural greatness – something his mother had predicted for him when she decorated his nursey with engravings of English cathedrals.

Fallingwater

Wright’s genius in blending nature and architecture is most fully realized in Fallingwater in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This incredible home was set directly on the water fall that the owners wanted to enjoy. On a larger scale he built the Guggenheim museum in the shape of a spiraling nautical shell. Those of us living in Central Florida, do not have to venture far to see the works of Frank Lloyd Wright – the largest  collection of his buildings on one site is right here in Florida Southern College.

In 1938, Ludd Spivey, president of the College reached out to Wright to help with the expansion of the college. Wright who had been wanting to build an entire community jumped at the chance. He designed 12 structures for this campus including a chapel, a water dome, and miles of covered walkways, collectively called “Child of the Sun”.

The Great Depression would have halted the construction of these buildings but for the ingenious solution that the college arrived at – students were used for construction labor in exchange for free tuition – a win-win situation during the country’s great economic crisis. When WWII started and male students left – the female students took over the task of construction.

Female Students carried on the task of construction on campus when the male students left for WWII

In 1975, this stunning campus with its concentration of Wright architecture was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (Images courtesy of FSC site and fallingwater.org).

Georgetown University & Cupcakes

At the beginning of summer vacation, I went to Washington DC with my sister and mom. After a busy end of school year full of projects and finals, it was a perfect break.  I’ve been to DC a few times, and after seeing the museums and such, I love to head over to the M Street area to get right in line for Georgetown cupcakes.  It’s always such a treat – and I think standing in line in anticipation of the cupcakes makes them taste that much better.

Georgetown.1
Georgetown University

This time, we decided to explore Georgetown University’s campus before heading down to get the namesake cupcakes. The campus was almost empty except for a truck company picking up tents – perhaps rented for graduation ceremonies the week before. I don’t know what it is about old University campuses – but they just radiate history – it’s almost as if time has stood still there while the world around them has moved on.  The feeling of time standing still was made even stronger by an empty building with no students and iPhones to bring us to the present.  And almost like a prop, on one of the old wooden benches that line the hallways of Healy Hall, sat a formally dressed young student hand writing something in a beautiful leather bound journal. I couldn’t have made that up even if I tried – the scene was so surreal.  And suddenly, I could see myself there, studying where so many have studied before me, studying simply for the sake of knowledge – what a privilege to immerse oneself in a quest for knowledge in a place like this for four years!!

Georgetown.9.

And this time the line was shorter, and the cupcakes tasted better than ever – a sign perhaps??

 

An Essay on America

LHPS

I meant to do this post on July 4th – but I was in camp with very little time to compose any thoughts.  But there is never a bad time for a patriotic post so I figured I would do it now.  Would be nice if something could unite us all and drive us out by the millions to celebrate the way the World Cup sent the French to the Champs Elyse.  What absolute fun to forget your differences briefly and just celebrate a well- deserved victory.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but we do have reasons to celebrate every day.  Towards that end, I want to share one on my sister’s college responses to a prompt about inclusion in America.  I think she answered it brilliantly.

“It was late – a lot later than we expected when the bus finally rolled out of the parking lot into a dark, and surprisingly cold, Florida night to start the trip back to Orlando. A proud group of LHP students sat in the bus that evening.  For two grueling days we had competed in a Speech and Debate tournament in Tampa and were taking home some hard-won trophies.

As most of my teammates drifted off to sleep, my mind started to mull over the question of acceptance and inclusion in a country that tries hard every single day to live up to its own promise to itself – and it occurred to me that this bus was the promise of America, the America that perhaps the founding fathers dreamed of. The driver – a man with a mission – led the way; behind him sat the coaches and chaperones, still chaperoning, navigating, and making sure we stayed on track. I could imagine the aged, ever-watchful gaze of the founding fathers upon them.

Behind them sat a vibrant, dynamic melting pot – a veritable “salad bowl” of students, a young team of various teenage years, of more ethnicities than any founding father dared to hope for, of individual dreams and common hopes. We were all recent immigrants or children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of recent immigrants. As our passions for our competition and trophies flared, our ethnicities faded – our common goal melted away the differences in our skin colors, our religions, our aromas of homemade food, and the accents of our ancestors upon our tongues.

I was keenly aware that despite every criticism, this bus – a microcosm of the world – could not have been rolling down a highway in any other country in this world. Perhaps it is naïve of me to equate this bus to the promise of America – but weren’t the founding fathers just naïve young men when they rolled down a revolutionary highway with nothing but a dream?

For four years, since I made my first competition piece on immigrants, and started to explore my place in America, I have waited to attend a course like the —. I am excited to engage, to share, listen and learn from others in my class. I am ready, and my generation is ready, to continue fulfilling the promise of America.”

I think her response is brilliant. I loved the comparison and the feeling of pride and belonging.