Building Bridges Across Oceans

The world is shrinking daily as news travels at the speed of electrons. People still long for face-to-face conversation and understanding, however.

People’s worldview is shaped by their life experiences. Mine was shaped by a seven week high school summer study program in Krefeld, Germany and European bicycle trips in 1981 and 1984.

When in Krefeld, I asked Manfred, the teenage boy in the family I stayed with, when he would come to visit America. He said he would ride his moped across the ocean when the bridge was built. That was probably his polite way of saying never, because no one in his family spoke much English.

Germany at September 24 meeting, 7-9 p.m.

The USA Melting Pot club will meet at the Troy Public Library Monday, September 24 from 7-9 p.m. First generation immigrant Hardo Barths, originally from Cologne, will speak on German culture, food, and geography.

It should be especially interesting since Germany has reunified following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Many Americans have some German ethnic background or speak a little of the language. Everyone is invited. 

The language part of his presentation will include the first public reading of a new word-by-word English translation of Heinrich Heine’s famous Loreley poem. It’s a classic siren song about a beautiful maiden luring sailors to their death on a scenic but still-dangerous section of the Rhine River (the Mississippi of Germany).

USA Melting Pot

This new club is unique in building and crossing bridges between ethnic groups, which already have their own individual clubs. In the past four months, we’ve had meetings on Chinese culture and bicycle touring, India’s culture and canoeing, Korean culture and camping, and held a potluck picnic at the Troy Historic Village.

Club Purpose:

  • To help newcomers assimilate into the USA and mingle with all ethnic groups
  • To celebrate ethnic background & cultural identity, including American culture
  • To provide a forum for conversational English
  • To encourage face to face dialogue in our increasingly technology-dependent world


For more information, visit www.USAmeltingpot.org or read the article about our June meeting (India and canoeing).                                                                               

Please Pass the Word

Please forward this information to others who may be interested: schools which offer German classes, German clubs, etc. A flyer for posting on bulletin boards at work, school or church is attached.

Future meetings

October 18: Brazilian culture and soccer

November 15: program TBD

at the Troy Public Library Meeting Room, 7-9 p.m.

Summer of 1977

I have a special interest in this month’s meeting since I’ve been brushing up on my German lately, which had been gradually forgotten from lack of use. I’ve used it occasionally at work with our German counterparts at Opel in Rüsselsheim, also along the Rhine.

Krefeld is along the Rhine in northern Germany, north of Cologne and the former West German capital of Bonn. We memorized the Loreley poem in German class that summer and went on a Rheinreise past St. Goar after six weeks.

A girl on the boat saw my Purdue jacket and asked me if I went to school there. I replied, “No, …  but …  my …  sister …  does.” It was really cool to have my native language be difficult to speak, since I had only written letters home about once a week. I had even dreamed in German a few times.

Some other students came up and spoke fluent English, so I knew they hadn’t followed the rule about not speaking English. They missed the blessing, though. I broke plenty of rules as a teen and still hurt people sometimes as an adult, but I’m glad I followed that one.

Since then I’ve traveled to Germany several times and enjoyed it, but never had the immersion experience again since I was always speaking some English during the trips.


Some Chinese-American friends and I started the USA Melting Pot club for the purposes mentioned above. I’ve had a life-long interest in travel and languages – quite a turnaround from an eighth grader who thought, “I’m going to be an engineer; Purdue doesn’t require a foreign language.” (Now they do.)

By the way, if you see Manfred Beuer, tell him, “die Virtual-Brücke wird gefertigt.” (The virtual bridge is being readied.) If he comes to visit, we’ll show him all the great things to see in Michigan.

There are plenty of German-speaking people here with the auto industry. He’ll have to come on an airplane, though; even the best engineers can’t build bridges across oceans.

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