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Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
September 2, 1992     Hells Canyon Journal
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September 2, 1992

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Page 28 Hells Canyon Journal September 2, 1992 A Year in Austria Continued from page 27 for dasses that aren't available at Pine Eagle High School. What view of the world situa- tion --- what perspective --- did you gain while you were in Austria, which was different from what you had here? I feel a lot more "worldly." I feel like I know more, and it encourages me to learn a lot more because it made me real- ize how different other places axe. Staying at home you learn about other countries and you know they're different, but until you go to another country and actually experiende it, you don't quite realizehow different it re- ally is. I mean, all people have the same emotions and things like that, but the way people act, the things people say - those are different, and notjustbecause of the language barrier. Like sar- casm. Here in America my friends and I are sarcastic - we do it jokingly and everyone un- derstands. But I went there and I said something sarcastic, and everyone tookme seriously, and I would have to explain myself for half an hour. After I explained myself, nobody was offended, but I had to learn not to be sar- castic. It's things like that - the sights and the smells and the things you eat - everything. Do you feel, following your ac- quaintance with them, that they have the same sorts of misconcep- tions about us ? Definitely. I would meet people who would tell me they loved America, or they hated America -- most of them had never been to America, or if they had, just as tourists. I've had people tell me they thought all Americans eat at McDonalds three times a day, and our diets are so fatty, and it's just terrible. What other countries did you vi'sit while you were there? I went to Germany, to Munich a couple of times. I loved it. It was beautiful. Then during spring break my entire class went to Czechoslovakia, to Prague, for four days. It's abeau- tiful city. I also spent a clay in Belgium, in Brussels, and I think that's a beautiful city. During May, AFS sponsored a project week called "How I see your home." It was a photo week -- we spent the first three days with a professional photographer, go- ing all through a little town in southern Austria, and through the countryside, taking pictures of what we thought Austria was like. Then we made collages from our pictures, and we were on radio and TV, and talked about our experiences there. We had a really nice time doing that. Are there other experiences you 'd like to mention? One thingIlearned alot about when I was in Austria was the Nazis - not only the Nazis dur- ing World War II, but the Nazis today. I visited a concentration camp calledMauthausen-it was a death camp. They have a mu- seum there. There were records there of how everyone died. Al- most all of them wereliSted as heart attacks or lung disease.. Each country has a monu- ment there to commemorate their people who were killed. My Austrian father's uncle was killed there, for opposing the Nazis. I went there twice. I became even more interested when I re- alized how much Nazism is com- ing back. I would be in school (we switched dassroomsformu- sic and biology) and I would find Nazi symbols on the desks. I also found put, after I under- stood more, that some of the friends I had were Nazis. There's a very large Nazi party in Austria, and they're gaining power every day. They're a lot more popularthan the Green party, which is the environmentalist party. What do they stand for? What's their focus? They believe that speakers of the German language are the supreme race, and they're against all foreigners, all black people; they're against Jews. [The resurgence of Naziism] is very disturbing. In Germany just this last year the Nazi party managed to gain seats in the German parliament. Before this they didn't have any. I third< some of their growth might have to do With the fact that they're embarrassed by the history. It' very hard for them toadmit their society made such a large mis- take, so they want to justify it by thinking maybe theywere right. I'm not exactly sure. I don't un- derstand it that well. Why do these concentration camps continue to be so popular? What is the purpose in keeping them open to the public? The purpose is to let people know what really did happen. But the Nazis don't go, and they deny it. I have an American friend who was over there, and when her head teacher an- nounced theywere goingto visit the concentration camp, a few of the Nazi guys in her class re- fused to go, because they said it was just a bunch of lies anyway --- no one was really killed -- the Americans and the Russians just made it up. That's what they say. That was difficult for me, but it interested me, and I learned a lot about it because it was such a reality when I was there. I'm not saying that Austria is Nazi, be- cause there are Nazis every- where - in France, in Germany, in-America. It was said that last year 22,000 American youth joined white supremacist groups. Well, to end on a more positive note, would you encourage a lot more young people to apply for this type of program? Oh, yes--- Iwould encourage it more than anything --- it's the most valuable thingyou can ever do. I think learning another lan- guage is the most valuable thing you can ever learn. Do you think the cultural expe- rience was a more valuable part of it than just learning the language? They go hand-in-hand. You have to learn the language to really learn about their culture, because it helps you become a part of it, and really understand everything. 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