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Around the World With EAA

International Visitors Tent unites convention visitors from across the globe

By Laura Beck

July 24, 2018 - English is more than likely not the first language you will hear at the International Visitors Tent at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

It is the common language, but for the thousands of foreign visitors to Oshkosh there is more than likely someone at the tent who speaks their language. Volunteers are fluent in up to 10 languages other than English.

Volunteer Javiera Molina, 17, is from Santiago, Chile, and speaks Spanish and English. She has been coming to the Oshkosh convention for three years with her father. The first year she could not speak English, but now she’s fluent and officially volunteering for the first time.

“I like helping people,” Javiera said. She will be helping at the tent all week.

The International Visitors Tent is a meeting place for foreign guests, according to fourth-year tent volunteer Anthony Spain. Anthony hails from Richmond, Australia (northwest of Sydney), and has been coming to the Oshkosh convention for 25 years.

“Throughout the week it becomes a real friendship center,” Anthony said. The center promotes the vision of bringing like-minded people together who are focused on aviation, he said, with grassroots at the very core.

“It acts as a focal point, it brings people together,” Anthony said. Practical needs of visitors are also met: there are computers with internet access, dry-erase message boards, and lots of cool drinks and sturdy seats for guests. There is also a board where visitors are encouraged to write their home country and the number of people they are with.

Volunteers help guests with accommodation issues, passports problems, and health issues, and they have even helped parents find children who wandered off.

The center sponsors a barbecue, which more than 2,000 people attended last year, Anthony said. They also expect hundreds of people will participate in the international visitors parade Friday night, he said.

Australian Bill Babb, 93, was so anxious to see his friends at the center that he arrived to get hugs from Anthony and his wife before the tent was even officially open. The retired radio navigation aid calibrator is at Oshkosh for his 29th convention.

“I’m loving every minute,” Bill said with a grin. He saw a story about the Oshkosh convention 30 years ago in a magazine and booked his trip. Before he leaves his lodging at the local university each year, he books a room for next year.

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