24 August 2008

My International Music Video Debut

The port in Hamburg (Germany), along the Elbe River, is massive - like the guts of a city with big shoulders - and yet fairly accessible to little people like you and me. It is a lively tourist destination, a popular venue for local events, and a fitting companion to the city's saucy Reeperbahn district.

When I was there in August, that ship from Monrovia (pictured above) was in one of two dry docks across the Elbe from the Landungsbrücken metro station, which is sort of the pedestrian's gateway to the harbor. You can transfer from the metro to a ferry on the same ticket and ride up the river past the dry docks to the beach at Neumühlen. If all that is not cool enough, you can take an elevator down into the ground and walk under the Elbe through two tunnels to look at Hamburg from the other side. Not so very long ago, cars, loaded with shipyard workers, used to take larger elevators down into the ground and drive through the tunnels, too. Now note just how small the white van is compared to the Monrovian ship's propeller, let alone to the ship itself.

I was in Hamburg in August with 10 teenagers from Tapa to participate in (another; my second in two years; ssshhhh) international youth exchange. The host organization was Weltenlos e.V. , and the name/theme of the youth exchange (or, jugendbegegnung in German) was Europe: Your Roots. Your Targets. Your Actions. Youth from Sliven, Bulgaria, population 110,000, and Ancona, Italy, population 102,000, as well as Hamburg, population 1,800,000, joined us country bumpkins from Tapa, population 7,000.

The beauty of an international youth exchange - well, I think there are many, especially for the teens in a relatively small and backward town like Tapa and a relatively poor and under-developed country like Estonia. Of course I really enjoy riding the inter- and intra-city trains in Germany. Truly, the Estonian passenger train service (as hard as it tries) is just one step above horse-drawn carriages compared to German rail service. Yet I get more of a kick out of seeing young people, particularly my students from Tapa Gümnaasium, grow, adapt, blossom, branch out, connect, mature, etc. over a 10 or 14 day period. At first, it's within the Estonian group. Gradually, it expands into other country groups. After a week, a couple of kids have enough self-confidence in themselves and their English that they come to feel right at home with the whole group, with the youth and the adults alike.
Although Hamburg was about as damp and dark as Estonia (IT'S AUGUST FOR GOODNESS SAKES), the kids heated the place up by creating their own multi-lingual music video All Is Love, with a young man from Tapa in the leading role and a young woman from Tapa one of the principle singers (and I thought all Estonians were shy). My close-up in the video, unshaven and all, comes at 6.37 by the way.