The Popularity of Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton: An American Musical has been very successful as of today. While not being a hundred percent accurate to history, the musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, and how he immigrated to America, made friends, married, joined the revolution as the right-hand man to George Washington, served as the first United States Secretary of the Treasury under Washington’s presidency, dealt with his affair and lastly, his deadly duel. The founding father is also known as the face of the 10-dollar bill.

There are multiple factors playing into the success of the musical, the most obvious being the style of music. Usually, musicals in theatres were rather classic, but Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, was one of the first plays to introduce a hybrid of hip-hop, rap, pop and jazz to the classic theatre in 2015. In 2015, this was not completely unknown, but rather unusual as none of these musicals had major success like Hamilton. However, it seemed to have paid off, as it integrated these music styles into the world of musical and are now more commonly used. Signalled by the use of hip-hop and rap, the target audience of Hamilton is not your ordinary, upper-middle-class (and above) family, but the youth.

Another way to attract the youth to musicals was Hamilton’s publication to the streaming platform Disney+ in July 2020. At this point, Hamilton was only being performed in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The only other way to access the musical was either to solely listen to the soundtrack on streaming platforms like Spotify or to watch bootlegs on YouTube, which are not entirely legal and often of poor quality. With its publication on Disney+, the musical got more accessible to a variety of people and started to gain more success in other countries as well. It got so famous, that the play is currently being translated into German to be held in Hamburg in September 2022 (if the corona situation has calmed down by then).

Lastly, the musical is notoriously famous for its story-telling. It is not only telling the story of the founding father but the story is told by the American people. The Broadway cast is largely made up of actors who are African-American, Latinx, Chinese-American or of another marginalised ethnicities. While they tell what is called “white history”, the multiculturalism of the cast attracts people that feel represented by the musical and makes it interesting for people of many cultures. Yet again, this is seen as it is performed in Canada, Australia and, as mentioned before, currently being translated into German to perform, while being an “An American Musical”.

Author: Leonie Thomas

“La Isla Verde“

A fire-breathing giant awakens after 50 years of deep sleep

Have you ever met someone who told you about their cruel fate? No? I have. I was on a study trip to La Palma in September 2021 and on our flight home, a lovely elderly lady from Germany sat next to us and told us her story. The volcano’s lava had destroyed the little house she had had for decades, and she almost lost her dog as she was at a friend’s house when the lava approached. Luckily, she was able to save her dog; but in return, she lost most of her personal belongings.

Some general facts about the volcano

The Cumbre Vieja began to erupt on the 19th of September 2021 in its first eruption since 1971; the eruption is still ongoing. It’s important to note here that all volcanos of the Canary Archipelago are the result of a hot spot underneath the earth’s crust. Here’s where things get interesting: the Cumbre Vieja is not just one volcano. It is a large system of linear vents located on the southern half of La Palma. If you look closely at a map of the Canary Islands, you will notice that the islands form a kind of chain. The reason for that phenomenon is the interplay of the African plate and the hotspot. The African plate moves slowly north-eastwards but the hot spot doesn’t move, and this is how the different volcanos were built. A short side note here: The seven islands of the Canary Archipelago Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro are islands of volcanic origin.

Consequences

The most unfamiliar thing for us was the constant rain of ash. I have never experienced this before. If the ash got into your eyes, it was anything but comfortable. Due to the ash, the outdoor area of the hotel and several restaurants and bars were closed. The locals couldn’t even keep up with sweeping. However, the effects of the volcano that we witnessed were still only the milder ones. After we left with the ferry to Tenerife because the local airport was closed, the situation on La Palma worsened. We got off the island at just the right moment.

Now let’s talk about the more serious consequences. Lava that’s pouring down the western side of the slope is causing a lot of misery. Masses of ash cover big areas of the island and the damage already caused by the lava amounts to about 700 million euros. According to a report, more than 2650 buildings have already been destroyed. Another sad fact is that the volcanic eruption has already killed one person. Unfortunately, it’s unpredictable when the catastrophe will end since strong activity is still taking place in 30 kilometers depth. About 7000 inhabitants have already been evacuated. Additionally, the 1300-degree hot lava has already destroyed about 1100 hectares. This includes 211.19 hectares of banana plantations, 60.02 hectares of vineyards, and 90 hectares of farmland. It’s interesting to note that the island has grown through the lava. On the west coast in the south of the island, a new peninsula of about 25 hectares amassed. This clearly shows that islands can grow, namely through lava. For a long time, it was assumed that the vapors that are produced when the lava meets water would be poisonous. However, this was disproven by experts.

I am so sorry for the people living there because thousands lost their homes and big parts of the island were destroyed. Still, it was one of the most impressive and breath-taking destinations I have ever been to. I was privileged to see such beautiful places. It was just like paradise. And I mean… who has seen an active volcano in real life? That’s something I can cross off my bucket list.  

Author and Photos: Lisa Straßer

Afghanistan – Diversity At The Hindukush

When people talk about Afghanistan, the only images that appear in many people’s minds are those that are negatively associated with the country, mainly through the media – for example war, Taliban, corruption, lack of human rights, poverty.

These points prevail in reality, especially since the last months, when the radical Taliban came to power again. Many citizens tried and are still trying to flee, which shows that Afghanistan is a current topic and also affects the West.

One should not deny these prevailing conditions, but I can say from personal experience through my family that there is more to this country than just war, terror and poverty. However, many people are not aware of the country’s overwhelmingly positive qualities, and in general it can be said that little is known about the country.

Afghanistan is mostly located high in the Hindukush mountains and has 6 neighbouring countries including Iran, Pakistan and China. Its history dates back to the 10th century and continues to evolve today due to turmoil. The diversity of the country can be seen in its language, culinary arts, clothing and landscape.

©M. Atif Aryan

Due to the fact that many different peoples come together, there is significant linguistic diversity. There are about 50 different languages and about 200 dialects spoken throughout the country. 50% of the population speak Persian, 35% Pashto, 15% Uzbek, Turkmen, Baluchi and other dialects.

Afghan food is characterised by the use of various spices, most of which come from India and make the dishes seem unusual to Western palates, such as turmeric, curry, ginger, coriander, cardamom and aniseed. Of course, the dishes taste different depending on the region, but the principle of cooking remains the same. The most popular food among Afghans are the various rice dishes, including “Kabuli Palau”: rice dressed with carrots, sultanas and lamb. Besides brown rice, there is also regular basmati rice and yellow sour-sweet rice, which is usually cooked with chicken and certain oranges that grow exclusively in Afghanistan. The yellow colour comes from the “yellow gold” called saffron. Another popular dish is “mantu”: a kind of stuffed pasta with minced meat, tomato sauce and yoghurt. In addition to these popular dishes, there are also various sauces that are eaten with rice, such as “Sabzi Chalau” (spinach) or “Kofta Chalau” (meatballs). The national drink of the Afghans is green tea.

The traditional dress of the woman originates from the nomads and consists of loose-fitting cloth trousers (“salwar”) and a long-sleeved dress (“firaq”). There is also a kind of headscarf (“chodar”) to complete the outfit. The colour of the dresses can vary, but red is usually preferred. The dresses are decorated with colourful embroidery, small mirrors and beads, but can also be plain without embroidery for everyday wear. However, with the Taliban takeover, wearing the blue burqa has become compulsory. Men also wear loose-fitting trousers, a long top (“piran-tunban”) and another waistcoat (“waskat”). It is typical for the older men to wear a turban as a head covering.

Besides mountains, there are rivers, lakes, a national park (“Band-e-Amir”) and desert areas. Despite the different climatic conditions, the soil is fertile and melons, citrus fruits, pomegranates, mulberries and much more grow. Afghanistan and its diversity deserve to be talked about.

Author: Medina Younossi

Dannenröder Forst- resistance against highway A49

We’re heading towards the forest on a muddy path. Four people, making their way through the quiet forest, carrying a wooden palette between us. Our destination is the marked-out route of the new highway A49. As we are walking, the dense forest suddenly opens up and a giant gap can be seen, where the clearing has already begun. As far as your eyes can see, there is nothing but cut down tree trunks, fallen leaves, branches and broken remains of the protests that have been fought there. We are walking away from the graveyard-like place towards the trees that are next on the route. One of us climbs up one of the trees using two loops around the tree which he strains alternately. As soon as a sufficient hight is reached he pulls up the wooden palette und ties it around the tree with some ropes to create a small platform. It’s around six o’clock in the morning as we are leaving the forest. Another group of activists passes us. They will now climb the trees and platforms such as the one we just hung up. They will wait for the police who will arrive between seven and eight o’clock and evacuate the activists from the trees. What’s the purpose of it all? To win time. Time for a forest that can only be cut down as long as there are no people occupying its trees. Time for a forest whose days are already counted.

The clearing of Dannenröder Forst started in October 2020. The forest needed to go since the space is needed for a giant car infrastructure project: the new highway A49. Ever since the decision was made many protestors got loud. Demonstrations and legal campaigns took place, but all that didn’t help to change the situation and people started to occupy the forest. They build tree houses, planned, and organized legal protest camps next to the forest and contributed their whole life to the project. But why are so many people giving up their lives and luxuries of their regular routine to move into a forest in the middle of winter?

Dannenröder Forst is a healthy mixed woodland, some of its trees being up to 300 years old. Nowadays this is not a common thing and together with the huge area it covers, it is very important for plants and animals. That is also why it is classified as a nature reserve. Through its massive size it is home to complex ecosystems, which will be destroyed if the forest is cut in half by a massive highway. Furthermore, the forest is located on a water protection area. The ground water beneath it provides thousands of people with clean drinking water. However, the water will get polluted when the forest is gone or through the building and even more so the usage of the new highway.

In the end the whole project shows us how we keep destroying natural habitats even in such dire times. It is no secret anymore that the climate crisis will become a huge problem even for western countries- and yet our government decided to sacrifice a forest that was able to store CO2, for an outdated piece of infrastructure, that produces further CO2.

The last tree of the main clearing in Dannenröder Forst fell on December 8th, 2020. Some people were aghast, some outraged, some were weeping. As the last tree house falls so do their hopes for a better future.

Author: Linda Ruchti

Is veganism actually helping the environment?

afe to say that it’s more a lifestyle choice rather than a diet. It is a very controversial topic nowadays because many people don’t want to believe that meat and dairy production contribute to many problems we will have in our future if we don’t change something soon.

Veganism is a philosophy and way of life in which one does not use or eat any animal-derived products such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese or leather and it’s safe to say that it’s more a lifestyle choice rather than a diet. It is a very controversial topic nowadays because many people don’t want to believe that meat and dairy production contribute to many problems we will have in our future if we don’t change something soon.


© Marina Förster

There are many different reasons why meat and dairy are especially harmful for our environment. First of all, the grain feed used for livestock is the main cause of deforestation, which leads to the destruction of living space for animals and therefore resulting in habitat loss and species extinction. Furthermore, it comes with an extensive use of crops and water, which could be used differently and more efficiently to actually produce food for humans instead of livestock. On the whole, it is a big factor in the development of global warming because of the methane cattle produces, widespread pollution of groundwater, caused by runoff from agricultural areas and land degradation, which can be accelerated by deforestation. Food and land security are becoming a major issue because we won’t have enough food left in the future if we continue wasting our resources for meat and dairy production.

The question is, how does being or going vegan actually help the environment? It is safe to say that a plant-based lifestyle has a lot of other benefits but does it really change something for our environmental issues? The answer is definitely ‘YES’. By avoiding eating animal-derived products one can reduce their individual carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent. Moreover, the world could decrease its global farmland use by 75 per cent, which would lead to a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions and the recapture of wild land lost to agriculture, which has been the biggest cause for mass extinction. Water scarcity is another problem which could be tackled by consuming less meat, as growing vegetables and fruits require far less water than for example beef, which needs 15 tons per kilogram. By 2030 we will only have 60 percent of the water we would need left if we don’t rethink our food choices now.

It is important to mention that there are also environmental arguments against veganism but the ones for a vegan lifestyle predominate. Joseph Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use . . . It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Author: Marina Förster

Quidditch in Real-life?

Augsburg Owls and the Bavarian League

Quidditch is a fast-paced and full-contact sport that combines elements of handball, rugby, dodgeball and flag football. A quidditch cadre can contain up to 21 players. 7 athletes per team are on the field at any one time. It is played in coed teams with nor more than three players of the same gender on the pitch during play.

In 2005, it made its way into the real world when students in Middlebury, USA, found a way to adapt the sport from the Harry Potter universe to a world without flying brooms then, both the sport itself and its community are growing tremendously.

Quidditch in Germany and Augsburg

In Germany, the sport has become increasingly popular as well, especially in recent years. There are over 40 teams registered with the German Quidditch Association (Deutscher Quidditch Bund) or in development. The local team in Augsburg is called Augsburg Owls. The team was founded in 2015 and remains Augsburg’s first and only Quidditch team to this day. Besides taking part in the annual Bavarian League, which is one of the six leagues throughout Germany, the greatest success of the team has been the qualification for the European Quidditch Cup 2020, which was postponed due to the Covid Pandemic and is expected to take place in Limerick, Ireland in 2022. Furthermore, the team managed to win the Bavarian Cup, which was first held last month.

© Anja Volkwein

How to participate

For interested and curious students, the Owls offer a starter course within the sports program of the University of Augsburg. Additionally, so-called “Newbie trainings” take place regularly at their home club FC Haunstetten. So, if you want to discover the sporting world of Harry Potter beyond the books and movies, check it out and have a try at handling quaffles, bludgers and brooms. Your real-life Quidditch experience is closer than you might think.

Author: Anja Volkwein

Be Careful, Children! That’s a lot of Sodium!

Some facts about salt you may not know yet

A simple ingredient, salt is contained in most of the meals a person could have around the day. Sodium chloride is a rock, which makes it the only family of rocks regularly eaten by people. It could also be used as an effective cleaner in the kitchen or on bathroom appliances. With so many different applications, it’s not surprising that there are some things about salt that aren’t commonly known – so let’s have a look at some!

Salt, the answer to all suffering?

Kosher salt or kitchen salt can be used for cooking or cleaning. It is free of any additives, such as iodine. Iodised salt sounds chemical and dangerous but rather is a prophylaxis for serious health issues. Mixing a small amount of iodine in salt was a requirement in states like Switzerland, Austria, USA, and in the German Democratic Republic before the reunion. Today, in the reunited Germany the use of iodised salt is not legally required but many German households use iodised salt. Why is that? Due to the national iodine deficiency, which is no longer an issue, the WHO recommended only using iodised salt. Until today this type of edible salt helps a great deal in preventing serious iodine deficiencies and resulting health issues.

Be careful children, that’s a lot of sodium

What is often shouted out as a joke is not nearly as fun when it comes to health risks associated with a high sodium intake. According to the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), the average Indian consumes around 10g of salt per day. The recommended amount would be only half of that. But reducing the salt intake is often easier said than done. Since the taste for salt is acquired, one should only consume very little amounts from an early age. Fast food items like burgers or pizza are higher in sodium due to their serving size. Adding extra salt to meals like salads could be dangerous. Processed foods like salad dressings, pickles or ketchup are also extremely high in sodium. One might think adding sea salt would be healthier, but you’re up for a surprise. Sea salt and table salt roughly contain a stunning 40 per cent amount of sodium. When you’re trying to go for healthy seasonings, try garlic, pepper, herbs like oregano, sage, rosemary, or a little bit of acid like lemon juice or vinegar, which boosts flavour without adding sodium.

Did you know?

In ancient Rome, salt was so valuable that soldiers were paid with it. The Latin word for salt, sal, is the etymological root of the word salary. If a soldier did not do his job right, he was not paid in full which is the birthplace of the expression “not worth his salt”.

Only 6 per cent of the salt used in the United States is added to food. 17 per cent of the salt is used to salt the streets, so they don’t freeze in the winters. The 10-cm Don Juan Pond is the saltiest pond, with a salinity level of 40 per cent which ensures that the water in it rarely to never freezes.

Aside from some fun trivia about salt, there’s something else we can take away from this: even the most innocuous-looking everyday items in our homes can have a rich history.

Author: Katerina Bompodakis