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During our stay in Manhattan we visited the American Museum of Natural History basically to see the dinosaur and mammoth skeletons (my husband’s favorite). Before visiting the museum we had breakfast at Café Europa. As we sat at the table waiting for our orders to arrive I was struck by the number of different languages spoken (French, German, Spanish, etc.) in such a small space. It was simply due to the fact that New York is a city of immigrants in a country of immigrants, but it is also due to the fact that New York is a city for tourists from all over the world more so than London, Paris and Rome (judging from my limited experience, I acknowledge). Sitting in the cacophony of many languages I felt as if we were placed in the “Tower of Babylon,” not in a negative sense but in a positive sense. It was interesting to observe people from different places speaking in their own languages. The people there mostly appeared to consist of parents and their children, exhibiting slightly different manner of relating to one another. I inferred that family as an institution is alive well in most parts of the world.

After having breakfast, we went to the American Museum of Natural History. The place was packed with people from all over the world, it seemed. The dominant demographic of the museum was the school-age children; they were accompanied by their parents and supervisors. Since there were so many people we had to wait in a long line to purchase the admission tickets. I wondered if this amazing popularity of the museum was due to the recent releases of “Jurassic Park” and “Night at the Museum” movies. On the other hand, I also thought this phenomenon of a packed “scientific” museum with many families showed the perennial and universal love of parents for their children: the parents want their children get ahead in their society by encouraging them to develop an interest in science in this technology-driven world.

We saw the grand collection of gigantic dinosaur and mammoth skeletons at the museum (which, in fact, we had seen several times in the past). But, what fascinated me most in this visit was a special exhibit concerning the creatures living in the extreme conditions. The highlight of this special exhibit was a living organism called the tardigrade, which can survive at extreme conditions, even in space, by shutting down its life system temporarily mostly by folding themselves up as small as possible (a more extreme form of hibernation, I’d say). The tardigrade, which looks like a weird creature in a space suit, may help humans explore ways to survive very lengthy space travels, such as one that requires hundreds years to travel.