Wandering and Discovering in the Cultural Gardens on One World Day - Justin Faulhaber
Having recently returned from living in Europe, where I was enamored of all the different cultures that came together in my city, I was excited for an opportunity to connect with other cultures right here in Cleveland. Like George and Michael, I enjoyed the naturalization ceremony and heartily agreed with the remarks about openness and inclusiveness, which are even more important today. Young students from Hawken School, which I attended, were on hand to sing America the Beautiful and say the Pledge of Allegiance. After enjoying a dance performance and the singing of a traditional Polish song called Do You Know My Country, I decided to walk around the gardens.
The first garden that I wandered into was the African American garden, which is still partially unfinished and will eventually include a beautiful water channel cascading down the hill. They were asking visitors trivia questions on various subjects such as entertainment or history. Having studied history, I thought that that category would be a cinch; I was stumped when asked who the first men were to reach the North Pole, one of whom was black. While a little research reveals that their claim is disputed by some, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, and their four Inuit companions have long been credited with this impressive feat.
Since I am learning German, I thought I should visit the German Cultural Gardens. There was a biergarten offering food and drink by Hofbräuhaus as well as a table from the Cleveland German Language School. I was happy to discover the school and I might take classes myself! It is always a joy to practice my language skills. The shaded garden is dominated by a large statue of noted German philosophers Goethe and Schiller.
Next, I visited the neighboring Hungarian Garden, where traditional Hungarian dancers and a cimbalom player were performing. There was also a man collecting signatures for a petition to reexamine the terms of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon that cut down the pre-WWI Kingdom of Hungary, which existed as part of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, to barely a quarter of its prewar size and left one third of ethnic Hungarians outside of the borders. This remains a sore subject for many Hungarians; at first I wondered if this man was a territorial revisionist. Upon chatting with him, however, I learned that one of the other stipulations of the treaty was the free movement of peoples. According to him, this has not been enforced and many family and friends have difficulty seeing each-other. Thus the stated goal of the petition is to reexamine this aspect of the treaty. While Hungary is in the European Union, some of its neighbors are not; until they join, this petition would like to use the Treaty as a basis for opening the borders.
Lastly, I noticed a park dedicated to Shakespeare in the British Garden. There were some actors from Akron’s Rubber City Theatre performing various monologues and scenes from the Bard’s plays in period costumes. I enjoyed watching them and started chatting with them during a break. I told them that I had been involved with theatre in high school and college and that I still remembered a certain monologue by Claudius from Hamlet. To my surprise and elation, they invited me to perform it with them for the next group of spectators!
After this, I walked around a bit more and appreciated the music and dance on offer in the Pakistani, Lebanese, and Indian Gardens. Sadly, the heat, humidity, and excitement had certainly tired me out and it was time to leave. I am already looking forward to next year’s event and I hope that it will be even bigger than this year.
by Justin Faulhaber