Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Shirley Griffith.
And Im Steve Ember. This week on our program, we tell about Nashville, Tennessee, and its efforts to recover from severe flooding.
The official nickname of Nashville is 'Music City, USA.' When people think of Nashville, they think of country music. The city is home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and many major record companies. But some of these famous places were seriously damaged by severe flooding earlier this month.
Rivers flooded parts of Tennessee after a record-breaking storm. More than thirty centimeters of rain fell on May first and second. The water swelled most of the areas lakes, small rivers, creeks and streams. Much of that water flowed into the Cumberland River, which flows through Nashville.
On May third, the Cumberland River measured almost sixteen meters, more than three and a half meters above flood stage. This is the highest level since nineteen thirty-seven.
The flooding caught most people by surprise. There were power failures, which made it difficult to warn drivers about flooded streets.
Hundreds of people were rescued by boats from their flooded homes. At least twenty-nine people were killed in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, either by floodwaters or tornadoes.
At least nine people were killed in Nashville. Cleaning up and repairing that city may cost a billion and a half dollars or more.
The water flooded some of Nashvilles best-known places, including the Grand Ole Opry House. The Grand Ole Opry is the heart of country music in America. Performances and music broadcasts have taken place there since nineteen twenty-five.
By the nineteen forties, 'Grand Ole Opry' had become the most important country music radio show in America. Roy Acuff was perhaps the most popular Opry artist of that time. Here he is with the Smoky Mountain Boys performing 'Wabash Cannonball.'
The Ryman Auditorium was home to the Grand Ole Opry until nineteen seventy-four. Then the show moved to the Grand Ole Opry House, fourteen kilometers east of the center of the city. The flood damaged the building and destroyed instruments, costumes, sheet music and audio tapes. The Opry was forced to move its shows to other concert halls.
Several other music theaters in the city were also flooded. So was the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. More than one thousand people staying at the hotel were taken to a nearby high school.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum suffered only minor damage. Objects from famous country music stars of the past were not affected.
However, many of Nashvilles current country music performers lost instruments and equipment when a storage center was flooded. Musician Brad Paisley said most of his guitars and equipment for his upcoming concerts had been destroyed.
Hundreds of other musicians also store their instruments and equipment there. Ben Jumper, the owner of the storage business, said he expected his losses would amount to tens of millions of dollars.
The floodwaters damaged or destroyed many other businesses and homes in the city. On May sixth, country music star Kenny Chesney posted a video on YouTube. It shows the floodwaters on his property. He asked for help for people affected by the flooding.
KENNY CHESNEY: 'This is my property here in Nashville, Tennessee. Ive got thirty-nine acres here and you can see its all under about ten to twelve feet of water. I live right on the river. I want to urge all of you guys to do whatever you can to help the people of Nashville. As long as Ive been here this is the toughest thing thats ever happened to this city and I want to urge everybody out there to give whatever you can as little as you can or as much as you can to give something because theres a lot of people really hurting right now.
'I lost a big portion of this property but theres a lot of people in this city who have lost their lives and their livelihoods. So please — toothbrush, toothpaste, two dollars, twenty dollars, two hundred dollars, two thousand dollars, whatever. It all adds up and it all goes to a good cause. Keep Nashville, Tennessee, in your prayers.'
Here is Kenny Chesney singing one of his hits, 'Im Alive.'
The music industry is supporting several disaster-relief efforts for Nashville. The Twelfth Annual Grammy Block Party and Membership Celebration was held May eleventh. It raised money for the Recording Academys new MusiCares Nashville Flood Relief Fund. This event helps local musicians in need.
The money will pay for food and clothing, transportation, clean-up efforts, relocation costs and medicine.
GAC, a cable television network for country music, broadcast a program May sixteenth to raise money for relief efforts. It was broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium which was not damaged by the floods.
The yearly CMA Music Festival will be held June tenth to the thirteenth. Half the money from the festival will be given to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for flood relief.
Famous citizens of Nashville are also organizing events. Singer and songwriter Kesha announced a flood benefit concert to take place June sixteenth. All profits will be used to help families affected by the flood.
Kesha said: 'Nashville helped shape me as an artist and as a person and my love for this city is beyond words. I will continue to do anything I can to help rebuild this city and support the families and animals who have been affected by this tragedy.' Last Monday, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill announced another benefit concert on June twenty-second. It is called Nashville Rising: A Benefit Concert for Flood Recovery.
Country music star Taylor Swift announced she is giving five hundred thousand dollars to help victims of the flooding. She made the announcement May sixth during a local television program to raise money for flood relief. That effort raised almost two million dollars.
Taylor Swift said: 'Nashville is my home, and the reason why I get to do what I love. I have always been proud to be a Nashvillian, but especially now, seeing the love that runs through this city when there are people in crisis.
Our program was written by Shelley Gollust. Caty Weaver was our producer. I'm Shirley Griffith.
And Im Steve Ember. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also post comments on our website and on our Facebook page at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
I’m Steve Ember. And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we explore the clear blue waters around the islands of the Bahamas to learn about the exciting sport of scuba diving. The word ‘scuba’ stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Knowing how to dive opens up an entire underwater world of coral, fish, and other creatures. Join us as we learn the basics of diving, talk to an expert, and say hello to a shark.
Imagine swimming in clear blue waters as you look at small, brightly colored fish and the striking shapes of coral organisms. The underwater world is quiet except for the sound of your breathing. When you breathe out, you see many shining air bubbles floating upwards towards the surface of the water.
Since humans are not designed to see and breathe underwater, scuba diving requires several pieces of important equipment. Scuba divers must wear a mask in order to be able to see underwater. The mask creates an air space that protects the eyes and nose.
Scuba divers breathe with the help of a regulator, which brings air to the mouth when they inhale. The regulator is attached to an air tank that is placed on the diver’s back. There is an extra regulator called an octopus, which is used in case of emergency situations.
Divers also wear a BCD, or buoyancy control device, to control how much they float or sink. A pressure gauge device tells divers how much air is left in the air tank. Or, a dive computer can calculate how much air is left as well as a diver’s depth and the length of time he or she can stay underwater.
Divers wear scuba fins on their feet to help them move easily and quickly through the water. Many divers also wear a wetsuit in order to stay warm underwater.
To learn how to use all of this equipment, it helps to go to dive school. Becoming a certified diver requires taking three series of lessons. New divers must learn about the physics and safety of diving. And, they must practice diving skills first in a closed water area and then on actual beginner dives. Several organizations offer official diving certifications.
Scuba diving for fun first became possible with the development of the Aqualung by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in the early nineteen forties. In the United States, articles in popular magazines about Cousteau and his underwater exploration methods helped bring attention to scuba diving. Because of the cost of the equipment, diving did not become a widely available sport until years later.
Taking diving classes and becoming certified are important for knowing how to dive safely. For example, you need to know how to put a regulator back in your mouth if it falls out underwater. And, you need to know how to clear your mask if it fills with water.
There are many other safety issues to consider when diving. For example, when going down deeper in the water, a diver must be careful to equalize the pressure in his or her ears. This is done by holding the nose and blowing very gently. Otherwise, the extreme pressure from the surrounding water can cause damage to the middle ear and sinuses.
Decompression sickness is a major concern for divers. The deeper a diver goes, the more pressure the surrounding water puts on the volume of the air inside his or her lungs. And, the deeper a dive, the more nitrogen gas goes into the diver’s blood.
For safety reasons, a diver must measure the length of his or her dive based on its depth so as not to exceed a safe amount of nitrogen absorption.
When divers rise to return to the water’s surface, they must continue to breathe and rise no faster than the air bubbles around them. For very deep dives, they must stop and decompress at certain levels. This way, the highly pressurized air in the diver’s lungs has time to leave the body before it expands. If a diver rises to the surface too quickly, he or she can become extremely ill with decompression sickness, also known as ‘the bends.’
Another important aspect to diving is having a ‘buddy’ system. By having a diving partner, you can watch over one another and help each other if there is an accident.
One important diving rule is to never touch any of the sea life. This rule is both to protect the diver and to protect the underwater environment. For example, there is a reason fire coral received its name. This kind of coral causes a painful burning feeling if touched. A diver could also be cut by touching a sharp piece of coral.
Coral may seem hard like stone, but it is actually a very fragile organism. It can be damaged if divers touch or stand on it. In order to protect the beautiful coral reef systems, divers must treat them with care.
TITO BALDWIN: ‘I think everyone takes a different experience away from diving. I think what they love about diving could be the color of the ocean, could be the peacefulness, it could be a gamut of things. Everyone is different.’
That was Tito Baldwin, a rescue diver from the Bahamas who has been diving for almost thirty years. He has done everything from diving to explore underwater shipwrecks to dives eighty meters deep. It might not surprise you to know Tito Baldwin’s favorite place in the world to dive.
TITO BALDWIN: ‘Anywhere in the Bahamas, because the Bahamas is probably the most beautiful water. The further south you get away from civilization, past Georgetown down to the Plana Cays, Hogsty, Little Inagua where it’s untouched by humans. It’s just vibrant, alive, colorful, fish everywhere. You get some pretty good extreme diving. You’ve got good walls, you’ve got good tunnels and caverns, there’s wrecks. Everything you could possibly imagine.’
We went on a shark dive with Tito Baldwin in an area of the Bahamas called the Exumas.
The dive site known as Danger Reef is just south of Indigo Island. The water there was very rough. But, once you flip backwards off the boat and enter the water, you enter a calm and colorful world.
The main purpose of this dive was to see the many Caribbean reef sharks that gather in this area. These sharks have a rounded and short snout and big round eyes. They eat mainly bony fish. A fully grown female Caribbean reef shark measures about two to three meters, while a grown male measures one and a half meters or more in length.
It is very exciting and a little bit strange diving among the sharks. You feel as though you should be afraid, even though the sharks are not aggressive at all. The sharks just swim around, watching what is going on around them.
At Danger Reef, there were also many large Nassau grouper and yellow fin grouper fish. If you float above the large coral formations you can examine the smaller creatures swimming in the reef. The bright yellow and purple fish called the fairy basslet look like small swimming jewels. Many kinds of fish swim in and out of the brain coral, elkhorn coral and sea fans, which wave gently with the current.
Back on the boat, we asked Tito Baldwin more about the safety of diving with sharks.
TITO BALDWIN: ‘When you get in the water with sharks, people are automatically scared because they’ve seen ‘Jaws,’ they’ve seen all these crazy movies. But sharks are just like every other animal in the water, they are petrified of human beings. We were two feet away from five foot sharks and they were just kind of circling around us like everything else in the water. The groupers were close to us, the sharks were close to us, the yellow tail were close to us. They’re kind of curious, and they are more afraid of us than we are of them.’
There are many other beautiful places around the world to dive. Scuba Diving Magazine recently listed several of the ‘must see’ diving sites. These include Bonaire, one of the Netherlands Antilles Islands off the coast of Venezuela. Here, divers can explore many reefs within a protected marine park. Divers can even explore the sea creatures that live in and around the ship, Hilma Hooker. This seventy meter long cargo ship sank over twenty years ago.
Off the coast of Baja California in Mexico, divers can see large sea creatures like sharks, giant manta rays and dolphins. Scuba Diving Magazine also recommends the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Many divers go here to see grey reef sharks or hammerhead sharks.
In Australia, divers can explore many interesting areas, including the Great Barrier Reef. It is the largest coral reef system in the world. Measuring over two thousand kilometers in length, this extraordinary natural formation offers many exciting dive possibilities. Also in Australia, the Cod Hole diving area off the Ribbon Reefs is famous for its large potato codfish. And at the Lighthouse Bommie site, divers can swim with minke whales.
Scuba diving in any of these places is an extraordinary experience. This popular activity allows people to see an expansive and exciting underwater world in a new way.
This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember. And I’m Barbara Klein. To see pictures of a dive in the Bahamas, visit our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.
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A guy says to his friend, 'Guess how many coins I have in my pocket.'The friend says, 'If I guess right, will you give me one of them?'The first guy says, 'If you guess right, I'll give you both of them.'
Two factory workers are talking.The woman says, 'I can make the boss give me the day off.'The man replies, 'And how would you do that?'The woman says, 'Just wait and see.' She then hangs upside-down from the ceiling.The boss comes in and says, 'What are you doing?'The woman replies, 'I'm a light bulb.'The boss then says, 'You've been working so much that you've gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off.'The man starts to follow her and the boss says, 'Where are you going?'The man says, 'I'm going home, too. I can't work in the dark.'
A man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the head monk.The head monk said, 'You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years.'The man agreed and after the first 3 years, the head monk came to him and said, 'What are your two words?''Food cold!' the man replied.Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said 'What are your two words?''Robe dirty!' the man exclaimed.Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said, 'What are your two words?''I quit!' said the man.'Well,' the head monk replied, 'I am not surprised. You have done nothing but complain ever since you got here!'
Two children are talking.A: Meet my new born brother.B: Oh, he is so handsome! What's his name?A: I don't know. I can't understand a word he says.
Fred is 32 years old and he is still single.One day a friend asked, 'Why aren't you married? Can't you find a woman who will be a good wife?'Fred replied, 'Actually, I've found many women that I have wanted to marry, but when I bring them home to meet my parents, my mother doesn't like them.'His friend thinks for a moment and says, 'I've got the perfect solution, just find a girl who's just like your mother.'A few months later they meet again and his friend says, 'Did you find the perfect girl? Did your mother like her?'With a frown on his face, Fred answers, 'Yes, I found the perfect girl. She was just like my mother. You were right, my mother liked her very much.'The friend said, 'Then what's the problem?'Fred replied, 'My father doesn't like her.'
A man receives a phone call from his doctor.The doctor says, 'I have some good news and some bad news.'The man says, 'OK, give me the good news first.'The doctor says, 'The good news is, you have 24 hours to live.'The man replies, 'Oh no! If that's the good news, then what's the bad news?'The doctor says, 'The bad news is, I forgot to call you yesterday.'
An engineer was taking a walk when a frog spoke to him and said, 'If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess.'He picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.The frog spoke again and said, 'If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I'll become your girlfriend.'The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.The frog spoke again and said, 'If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll become your wife.'The engineer took the frog out of his pocket again, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.Finally, the frog said, 'What is the matter? I'm a beautiful princess. Why won
t you kiss me?'The engineer said, 'Look, I'm a busy engineer. I dont have time for a girlfriend or a wife, but a talking frog, now that's cool.'
People often enjoy joking about love and marriage.Here is a joke about the first three years of marriage.In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens.In the second year of marriage, the woman speaks and the man listens.In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.Here's another joke about marriage.A man inserted an ad in the classifieds: 'Wife wanted.'The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: 'You can have mine.'Now let's listen to a couple of riddles about marriage.Here's the first one.Q: Why are men with pierced ears better suited for marriage?A: Because they have suffered and bought jewelry.Here's another riddle.Q: What are the 3 important rings in life?A: Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.I'll end today's podcast with a humorous proverb-like saying.Love is one long sweet dream, and marriage is the alarm clock.
There were three restauraunts on the same block. One day one of them put up a sign which said 'The Best Restaurant in the City.'The next day, the largest restaurant on the block put up a larger sign which said 'The Best Restaurant in the World.'On the third day, the smallest restaurant put up a small sign which said 'The Best Restaurant on this Block.'
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A student is talking to his teacher.Student: 'Would you punish me for something I didn`t do?'Teacher:' Of course not.'Student: 'Good, because I haven't done my homework.'
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Three mice were being chased by a cat.The mice were cornered when one of the mice turned around and barked, ‘Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!’ The surprised cat ran away scared.
A man goes to the doctor and says, ‘Doctor, wherever I touch, it hurts.’The doctor asks, ‘What do you mean?’The man says, ‘When I touch my shoulder, it really hurts.When I touch my knee – OUCH! When I touch my forehead, it really, really hurts.’The doctor says, ‘I know what’s wrong with you. You’ve broken your finger!’
A girl and a boy are talking.The girl says, ‘You would be a good dancer except for two things.’The boy asks, ‘What are those two things?’The girl answers, ‘Your feet.’
Q: What are two things people never eat before breakfast?
The doctor to the patient: ‘You are very sick.’
A: I have the perfect son.
Did you hear about the blind carpenter who picked up his hammer and saw?
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A man was complaining to a railroad engineer. What’s the use of having a train schedule if the trains are always late. The railroad engineer replied. How would we know they were late, if we didn’t have a schedule?
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