University of San Francisco, June/July 2008
Moses Expected Forty Days in the Desert: I Got Thirty-Five Days in Karlsruhe
The bible reports that when Moses led his people out of Egypt, he expected to lead them to the promised-land in 40 days. Well, not quite. Forty years was the order of the day. Instead of a leisurely stroll in the desert, the Israelites faced hardship, famines and wars on their trek to the “land of milk and honey.”
Now, fast-forward about 2,000 years, into a time of fast air travel, light speed communications and the almost commonplace intercontinental visits. No Moses in our story, but rather a distant relative making his trek to a foreign land. Not a trek of 40 years, or even 40 days, but rather 20 hours. No need for 10 plagues, parting of seas, climbing Mt Sinai or facing internal rebellion. Instead of hitting rocks for water, water, beer and wine served by aging angels of the sky. By Moses’ standards, our modern Israelite made his trek in the lap of luxury.
Upon his arrival, our modern traveler was welcomed by his new tribe – the leader being the mighty Joachim. Under his command, a group of friendly and talented troops including Andrea (with origins tracing back to a tribe that spoke in a tongue which mystified most listeners), Angelica, Barbara, Gerhard, Karin and Susanne and finally another visitor by the name of Karel-the-younger, from a land in the north famous for the development of Pilsner beer.
Perhaps it’s time to return to reality – usually a difficult task for me. To summarize, my visit to SZS has been an excellent experience. I have had a unique opportunity to work with a group of talented and dedicated professions whose goal in life is to help students with disabilities achieve their life dreams. Dreams that would not be possible without such dedicated people.
During my 35 days in Karlsruhe I was able to accomplish a number of tasks that certainly enhanced my knowledge and hopefully offered something of value to the SZS staff. Simply stated, some of the highlights of my visit include:
1. On day one attending an interesting colloquium on navigational tools for the blind given by Andreas Hub of the University of Stuttgart.
2. Meeting the SZS staff and learning the function of the center.
3. Meeting a group of visitors from Ireland
4. Having extended discussions with Joachim Klaus concerning numerous issues including strategies for writing joint funding proposals.
5. Visiting the Ilversheim school for the disabled
6. Visiting the Karlsruhe school for the visually impaired
7. Giving an informal presentation on Dyslexia to the SZS staff
8. Giving an informal presentation on the MathGenie to the SZS staff
9. Working with Karin Müller to translate the MathGenie’s speech table to German
10. Working with Lukas Smirek to finalize the details of his pending visit to San Francisco.
11. Making a formal presentation to the Informatik Department at the University of Stuttgart
12. Making an informal presentation of the German speaking MathGenie to students in the SZS.
13. Making a formal presentation to the Informatik Department at the University of Karlsruhe.
In summary, I consider my visit to Karlsruhe to have been extremely interesting and valuable. I can only hope that my hosts have a similar feeling about my visit.