International Togetherness

Joy to the world

All the boys and girls now

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea

Joy to you and me – Three Dog Night

I can’t listen to this song if I’m driving; I start clapping my hands, shaking my hips and before you know it…put it this way, I don’t listen to it while I’m driving. This is one of my happy songs, to me it sings about the togetherness of our planet. And what better time to listen to such music when certain leaders of certain countries, mine included, can’t stop talking about what keeps us apart, what make us different. One of them, sporting an outlandish haircut, is even prepared to turn words into action and build a giant wall to keep out those “bad hombres”. I believe that the heads of former East Germany, said something very similar about their pet project wall – and how did that turn out? Let’s just hope that The Hoff is still up to the task of tearing it down. Some of us had thought that his desperate search for freedom was coming to an end but apparently not. How sad it can make us, but we must not give up hope. After all, it springs eternal does it not?

I feel lucky, I don’t need to look far to find this hope. As I sit in the warm embrace of Speakeasy’s reception area, I feel that hope in spades. And if you’ll allow me, I feel “Joy to you and me”. Too far? I don’t think so. We have already spoken about community and experience at Speakeasy, and what brings us together. For me there is a key to the unity here: we are international. We are a multi-culture of staff and students. Our differences are what’s important, they don’t divide us – on the contrary! At Speakeasy we couldn’t be further from a wall; in fact, it was thirty years ago last November that that monstrosity in Berlin was torn down and brothers and sisters from both sides of the divide rushed into each other’s arms, in loving embrace. I don’t think it’s too far to say that I feel that embrace here. We are the multiculture.

My favourite thing to witness at Speakeasy – and I am proud to say I see it every day – are students from completely different parts of the world, with completely different belief systems, finding their way through their new language, and watching as they relish the challenges and discoveries they make together. They become part of what I want to start calling the Internation. Some of our students would have never crossed paths if they hadn’t come together at our school; a school that is more than a school – it is a place that unifies different cultures. A place that needs no David Hasselhoff to save us from the divisiveness of our small world – although he would, of course, be very welcome if he turned up. Actually, that would be awesome for one of our many afternoon activities – An Afternoon with The Hoff! Wie geil ist das denn?! I digress once more.

We are all in this together and our connections with each other underline the necessity of an international sphere. And it is this atmosphere that I feel as soon as I swing back that door of ours and walk into Speakeasy, where I engage and learn about the culture of others – I am connected to this international community of brothers and sisters. It makes me think once more of Carl Sagan, who described our world as a dot, a pixel; where we must reflect and “think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely indistinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings […] how fervent their hatreds. […] To me it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another.”

We cannot allow misunderstandings to tear us apart. If we listen a little further back in the aforementioned Three Dog Night song, we learn that the lead singer is good friends with a bullfrog named Jeremiah. And yet, despite being such good friends, he goes on to sing: “I never understood a single word he said/ But I helped him drink his wine.” At Speakeasy we obviously encourage an understanding through language but the point of the song shines through: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you are welcome, and we are friends united by our common humanity. Plus, wine always helps (insert winking emoji).

Joking aside, a bit of booze will always encourage conversation to flow. Our Schmooze & Booze nights are evidence for this. We wouldn’t be living up to the great Speakeasy name if we didn’t provide our students with such an evening once in a while. I hasten to add that not all our student mixers and activities are hosted by London’s driest and finest. A stand-out for me was when our Internation of students came in to their own at our fun-filled Green Sauce Tasting Day (Hessen’s favourite herby sauce dip – a real treat). Everyone was so excited to immerse themselves in the region’s delicacy. This day, in some ways, couldn’t be more German (or Hessisch, I should say) and yet the flavour of the event was, unmistakably, international. Along with Green Sauce from some of Frankfurt’s favourite Apple Wine houses, our students brought in their own Green Sauces – with a twist! Accompanying the German standard, we were treated to a Thai version, a Turkish version and even a Brazilian version. What better way to celebrate such a German tradition than coming together with brothers and sisters from all over the world and bringing in new flavours and inspirations?

There is still hope in this world – don’t ever forget that. Enjoy and relish the multi-culture around you. Come and have a cup of coffee with us and see for yourself. And like me, feel privileged to be a part of an Internation. And, because I like to end on a cheesy line, feel “Joy to you and me”!