Friday, August 30, 2013

Iraqi Visitors

On the eve of this Labor Day week-end where we unofficially bid summer adieu, I thought I'd use today's blog to look back at what was for me the highlight of the summer at Andalusia.  That event occurred July 20 when we welcomed to the farm seven Iraqi scholars and their host, Professor Gina Caison, from Georgia State University's English faculty. Their visit to Andalusia was coordinated through the U.S. State Department and the American embassy in Iraq as part of a three-year grant to help improve higher education in the areas of English language and literature (including American).  The grant was made possible through the efforts of Dr. Gayle Nelson and Dr. Ericson Friginal.  Under terms of the grant, the International Research and Exchanges Board paired GSU's Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language with professors at the University of Baghdad as a part of its University Linkage Program (ULP). Professors from Iraq spent two weeks this summer in Atlanta taking intensive workshops on one of three areas: literature, linguistics, and translation. The group came from the Universities of Baghdad and Erbil. They represented graduate students and professors from the Colleges of Arts, Education, and Languages. Pictured at the right are Esraa Jalal Al-Gawhari, Ammar Shamil Al-Khafaji, Ameer Chasib Furraih, Dr. Asmaa Makram Al-Sadoon, Dr. Saad Najim Al-Khafaji, Dr. Fareed Bahjat Qazzazee, Dr. Saad Kassim Sagher, and Professor Caison.  All of these participants have an extensive background in American and British literature, and it is certainly an understatement to say they were excited to visit Andalusia.  One exclaimed it was "like touching history."  While it is always a pleasure to show Andalusia to visitors who are enthusiastic to be here, it is even more so when those visitors have traveled half way round the world to see the place where Flannery wrote her novels and short stories.  Their enthusiasm underscores a point I've been making for a long time, and that is how Flannery in her quirky off-beat way is somehow able to span, indeed transcend, linguistic, cultural, and religious barriers that oftentimes separate people.  Finally, I want to thank Prof. Bruce Gentry of Georgia College for coming out here on a muggy Saturday morning for assisting me in a group tour I won't soon forget.
- Mark 

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