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The World Cup and New York’s Global Community

Posted on July 17, 2014

This month, please welcome our guest blogger, the one and only Šara Stranovsky, our outstanding Assistant Director. She has eloquently shared her ideas about this year’s glorious World Cup.

The World Cup!

The 2014 World Cup brought on a range of feelings this year, from heated social debate to impassioned wins and losses.  From the get-go things were heated; socio-political questions were raised about the priorities of government spending and stadium costs in Brazil… then drama ignited on the field with referees’ close calls, players’ graceful scores, and “field theater” in the form of over-the-top somersaults and injury-knee-grabs. Aside from the political, socioeconomic, and soccer-specific happenings that occurred as part of the World Cup, we can also reflect upon some of the community-building aspects of the games that took place off the field, and right on the streets of New York and Brooklyn! The World Cup, for some people, became a needed excuse to serve as global citizens, and that sure goes along with our cultural manifesto here at Bilingual Birdies.

In the book, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich explains that street festivals, parties, and gatherings bring people together and create communal joy because they invert the social order of some kind. For example, kids love Halloween because they get to be someone else, finally have permission to eat copious amounts of candy, and stay out after dark! While the World Cup isn’t Halloween or Carnival, the order of things was changed in subtle meaningful ways.

Let’s look at Wall Street. We know the scene: Morning. The stock market numbers are ticking away endlessly. Everyone is looking at their watch power-walking to their offices clad in a tie and full suit, multitasking as people speak with their bluetooth headsets to invisible clients while juggling a coffee from a nearby food-truck. There seems to be an unspoken rule that you cannot talk to anyone! During the World Cup, these unspoken rules started to change. The “order” changed. Full suits were sometimes interspersed with sports team colors, international tour groups intermingled with shop owners and finance employees as they took “cigarette breaks” to watch television sets from the street. People were gathered on the street to ask one another who was winning, for whom they were rooting, and these rigorous cut-throat streets became a delightful playground.

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Within house parties and bars across Manhattan and Brooklyn, the World Cup was an excuse for people to take advantage of how international our city has become and to revert our focus away from the United States as a dominant powerhouse. “Oh my gosh, look at all these people gathered outside and singing! With all these songs and dancing, it’s like I’m back in Mexico!” one patron exclaimed. A stranger nearby heard this and responded, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about going to Mexico, any recommendations?”  Suddenly people were exchanging travel stories, discussing their mixed heritages, and world rhythms seeped into the bustle of fast New York life. The World Cup was the excuse for it all.

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So while the World Cup occurs every four years, we certainly don’t need an excuse to propel the growth of the global citizen! This is why I believe so strongly in the company, Bilingual Birdies. We teach our kids to be those adults that will  start conversations about other places, value the rhythms that bring people together, and share their own stories about borderlessness. So keep those conversations going, the music playing, and and let’s be grateful that this is New York where the city never sleeps!

-Šara Stranovsky, Assistant Director

Ph.D. in Culture and Performance Studies.

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