On Friday, September 2nd, the Center for West Europe Studies sent Modern Greek Language professor Heracles Panagiotides to the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to present to 200 Naval Officers as they prepared to take troops overseas. In addition to this discussion, Dr. Panagiotides was joined by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Rice University’s Baker Institute Fellow for Kuwait and an affiliate faculty at the Jackson School, and Mari Wilson, a Japanese Language Interpreter at the Department of Social Health Services. Together, the three presented on Greece, Qatar, and Japan, providing critical information to navy officers preparing for deployment to these regions.
Dr. Ulrichsen spoke first, providing details on the social norms of Qatar. His overview included language training, protocol for social situations, and instructions regarding gendered interactions. He was followed by Ms. Wilson, who gave an interactive presentation on Japanese cultural taboos. She spoke of the historically tense relationship between the U.S. and the Okinawan people, and urged the naval officers and their troops to be mindful of the ways in which they treat locals in the area. In addition, she gave an interactive language session using call-back methods to help instill some useful terms, which kept the crowd quite engaged.
Finally, Dr. Panagiotides gave a presentation on Greece. His lecture focused on the ways in which the Greek language is already deeply rooted in our own American culture and civilization. “You speak Greek already; you just don’t know it,” was the theme of his presentation. Beyond this, he discussed some of the tensions between Greece and Turkey, and looked at the ways in which the Church has stepped in to help with the migrant crisis where the government has failed. His presentation also included Greek phrases, and emphasized the hospitality and welcoming nature of the community.
The presentations provided the group with information and resources to help guide them in their responsibilities overseas. One of the naval officers described the importance of the event as he thanked everyone for their participation. “Hopefully this information will help us all be better prepared to enjoy not just our active duty, but also our time off base. Part of the importance of this training is being able to communicate and participate in local cultures.”