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From Fish & Chips to Pizza & Mozzarella then WORLD EXPO

Long queues at Calais but, fortunately, the ferry was under 20 minutes late in crossing the tunnel. The traffic in Dover was fairly smooth sailing considering that it’s the long summer holiday and Europeans move a lot, thus I got to Cambridge University as scheduled. My son’s graduation went very well though I understood but a few words in the purely Latin ceremony. It was a showcase of a truly English academic tradition.

England is a member of the European Community (EC) but not of the Euro Zone. It is a highly disciplined country where drivers stop at traffic lights, respect give-way signs, don’t go over speed limits and park in authorised places only. Its skies are constantly grey with sparkling rain. I love the English sense of humour and I’ve never met a ‘Pom’ (as Australians call them) who can’t tell at least one good joke.

Only a day of rest and I headed to Italy. My diet of fish and chips, sausage rolls and meat pies adorned with green salad was replaced with pizza, pasta and mozzarella. Generally, while the English are reservedly polite, the Italians are expressively gracious. In Naples, I witnessed these hilarious yet dangerous situations: A woman driving a motorcycle with a mobile phone between her tilted head and left shoulder; 2 women on a motorcycle (again) and one of them (the back rider) was holding 2 helmets with her right hand while moving her left hand as if giving traffic directions; drivers optimising 2 lanes into 3; motorists and motorcyclists over taking in a hurry and don’t give way readily to pedestrians on designated crossings. Meanwhile, unlike in England, from the north to the south of Italy, it didn’t rain for nearly a fortnight (while I was there) and the temperature was over 30°C.

Why does the U.S. have military bases in Japan?

Nice video! To add a little more information to it, not only the US taxpayers’ money is spent to retain 800 US military bases, but also astronomical sums of money have been spent from the rest of the world!

For example, the US-Japanese governments plan to build a new military US base in Henoko, Okiwana. The Japanese taxpayers’ money has been currently used for all the expenses associated with relocation, construction, and maintenance of the US military bases. If we have a new base for 200-year service life in Henoko, it would cost 1 trillion 500 billion yen.

Not surprisingly, local opposition has been growing stronger.

We know that the US military bases are not to defend Japan. What then is the democratic legitimacy to keep all the US military bases in our country!?

Real trophy in life

Two weeks ago, I participated in a club chess tournament not because I’m a naturally competitive and gifted (i.e. in chess) person, but to have fun and please my son. It’s an annual event when children and their parents join in a friendly competition. Some parents find excuse not to participate, such as “really hopeless in chess” and “can’t stay the whole afternoon due to other commitments.” I was the only female joiner. I was happy not because I got a lovely trophy for finishing 2nd among the parents but because my son was proud of me. He beamed with gladness recalling how his 3 friends had difficulty winning against his mum, especially that one of them said, “I had to use my tower and knight just to take your mum’s pawn.” Another added, “She didn’t give up at all, she kept on depending until her king was cornered.” His joy and pride was the most rewarding trophy for me.

I’m absolutely certain that if I finished last in that competition, he would still have been proud of me due to my willingness to share his interest and experience defeat. In chess competitions, everybody shakes his/her opponent’s hand before and after each game and winners often explain to his/her opponent how the loss could have been avoided (which contributes in the improvement of future performances). These two demonstrations of sportshumanship are not evident in other sporting competitions. As well, participants mingle or play together (other sports like football) during the break.

大好きだよ沖縄 2(希望としてのおきなわ)

20代の頃、ベニスのある詩人にたずねた。「イタリアの人は、どうしてこんなに温かいのだろう?」すると。「クリマ、クリマ (clima, clima)」気候のせいだよ、という即答がかえってきた。

沖縄を初めて訪問して、あの時をふと思い出した。ふんわかとした温気を感じる。

辺野古の新基地建設に反対し、座りこみをする人たちの顔に笑顔があった。前にどこかで、会ったことがあると思った。ホロコースト体験や、政治的弾圧や拷問などの痛苦をくぐりぬけた人たちの穏やかさに似ている。講演で聞いたエリ・ヴィーゼルの、静かに謙虚でおちついた口調のようだった。

。。。下につづく

Beauty, Love and Health

Lately, I've been bumping into online photos of Pierce Brosnan (James Bond Golden Eye, Mamma Mia, TV series Remington Steele, etc.) and his wife. There seems to be a fascination for the couple's physical attributes: “Pierce Brosnan should be able to get any woman he wants, but the 60-year-old is sticking with his overweight wife” (Celebromance.com March 7/14), which I find stomach-turning. Most women, me included, would exchange place with Kelly any time to have the love and devotion of a partner or husband. Likewise, we rather be with a physically unattractive but faithful and caring spouse than otherwise.

Our concept of beauty is learned and transmitted through family values, cultural traditions and socialisation via formal education, entertainment and the media (print, audio-visual and internet). Generally, beauty is not only about face and weight; it involves smell, movements and a combination of all the individual's qualities that please our senses and mind.

Beauty is the label we attach to different criteria based on what we've been(and are..) socialised into, experienced and exposed to regularly. It is relative and not universal as it means different things to different people. For example, Samoans and Mauritanians consider big women as more desirable and make better wives. (“Samoa's prime minister has called for his nation's women to stay away from international beauty contests because they favour skinny and scrawny-looking women” (Samoaobserver, 6/10/13).

大好きだよ沖縄 1

「沖縄 今こそ立ち上がろう」

作詞は山城博治(沖縄平和運動センター議長)さん。5月11日付けの沖縄タイムスで、彼が入院中であることを知った。どんなに悔しいことだろう。

辺野古では今日もこの曲が歌われていることだろう。「美しき五月のパリ」(Ah! Le joli mois de Mai à Paris) のメロディーにあわせて。

沖縄の()()は 沖縄が(ひら)
戦さ世を(こば)み 平和に生きるため
今こそ立ち上がろう 今こそ(ふる)い立とう

。。。下につづく

Give and Take

PERSONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, SOCIETY
GIVING AND RECEIVING

Life is about giving and receiving. This gift isn’t always an object or money, but it can be time, compliment, appreciation, blood, care or affection. Such giving and receiving cements a relationship. If it’s only one side, i.e. either giving or receiving, there’s an imbalance that leads to discontentment and failure.

Not so long ago, staffers of Badoit in France offered their colleague 170 days off so that he could look after his son of 9 years who’s suffering from cancer. It wasn’t possible for this employee and his wife to stop working or reduce their working hours due to their financial commitments and difficulties. A petition was circulated in the company, and each personnel was given the opportunity to give days of their paid annual leave. This is a real demonstration of kindness and solidarity. The media reported him saying, “This gift, I will be grateful to my colleagues to my last breath.” He and his wife have since created an association to help families in the same situation. (A law was passed by the French National Assembly in January 2012 allowing employees to “offer” their days off to colleagues who need time to be with their sick child).

Two weeks ago, while in the bus to Luxembourg, I heard a French radio announcer commenting ecstatically on US CEO Dan Price’s slashing of his salary by 90% and dipping into company profits to give his employees a pay rise, i.e. at least US$70,000 annually in the next three years. When I mentioned this to my students, several of them commented that it’s easy to give when you’ve too much and what you give doesn’t impact negatively on your lifestyle, or when it benefits you (e.g. tax reason). Well, it’s easy to criticise when you’re not the direct recipient of such generosity.

アンティ・フラジリティ 。。。抗· 脆弱の国

もう10年以上も前のこと。隣のおばちゃんが聞いてきた。

「さっちゃんのご主人はナニ人? アメリカ人、イギリス人、ドイツ人、フランス人?それとも、イタリア人?」

主人という家父長制の古めかしい言葉に、たじろぐ私。

おばちゃんはお構いなしに、興味津々である。

「それとも・・・?」

「ぁの・・・・。宇宙人なんですぅ」と応える。

おばちゃん。大爆笑。

「かおるはね、離婚したのよ」 かおるちゃんはおばちゃんの娘で、私の幼なじみである。

「大丈夫。失敗は成功のもと」 はげます 私。おばちゃん、また爆笑。

。。。下につづく

Mental health and safety concerns

First and foremost, our condolences to families, relatives and friends of the 150 passengers on board Germanwings A320 Airbus flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf that went down in a French mountain. According to media reports, the victims included 72 Germans (16 were school students), 51 Spaniards, and those from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Colombia, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the US and Venezuela.

The following is AirlineRatings.com's 2015 annual list of the world's 10 safest airlines: Australian airline Qantas ("Continues to lead the industry with safety innovations and its fleet is now the youngest -- 7.9 years," AirlineRatings.com editor Geoffrey Thomas tells CNN). The others, in alphabetical order, are: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. (see CNN's "What are the world's safest airlines?").

Lufthansa owns Germanwings, and its reputed safety measures didn't prevent a psychotic deed from killing innocent people. The cockpit voice recorder's information suggests that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz took over the control of the plane and crashed it. There have been reports of Lubitz' depression as the reason for such tragedy. This incident, no doubt, will make airline companies more stringent when hiring personnel and conducting compulsory mental and psychological examinations of all flight crew members (in addition to the physical ones).

Losing a parent or loved one

My dad passed away on the first Thursday of February this year and I wasn’t able to attend his funeral (as that of my mother a decade ago) because I had influenza, couldn’t take an instant time off from work and a host of other reasons related to distance between 2 continents. His death, like that of my mum, reminded me of my own mortality and the urgency to live fully every day. (Oddly, I didn't think that I would become an orphan one day).

I hadn't gotten over yet with the loss of my mum and then my dad; and these days I often find myself recollecting childhood memories. They knew me better than anyone else and I wish they were here. Why aren’t they here now when I need them most? I was never dependent on them for moral, emotional and financial support since I left home at the age of 16 to go to university in another region, but I still feel the vacuum. As they say “you are always your parent’s child,” and I suppose such a loss doesn’t fade with time or age.

My relationship with my dad was harmonious but there were resentments due to hurts and misunderstandings resulting from his and my mother's life as a couple on one hand and as parents on the other. Their death has made me reassessed the past while dealing with the present and planning for the future.

Charlie... a month later

You certainly have heard a lot about the January 7, 2015 tragic shootings in Paris of 12 cartoonists, journalists and staff of newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The day after that, I received emails from friends worldwide, notably from Australia, expressing their profound sadness and sympathy -- describing such brutal act as a bloody offence against freedom of speech, liberty and peace. My responses included notes on immigration, identity, social inequality and education.

Global solidarity poured in instantly and there was a historic gathering of heads of states and communities in Paris on the 11th. Virgils and gatherings of support and commemorations took place in many cities in France, England, the USA and other countries, which were moving and impressive.

During that week, my French friend apologised for being late in responding to my email because she was distressed with what happened in Paris. I was intrigued by her testimony that I asked her if I could publish her write-up. I have translated it in English, and the French version follows after.

"I do not agree with what you write, but I will defend to death your right to write about what you think." This was written in the 18th century by Voltaire who experienced life in prison and exile for his writings that displeased people in power.

わたしは健二

أنا كانجي

أنا لست شينزو

إعطونا فرصة للسلام

 

私は健二。

私は安倍じゃない。

平和を我等に。

 

Je suis Kenji. Je ne suis pas Abe.

Donnez une chance à la paix.

 

I am Kenji. I am not Abe.

Give peace a chance.

More in ''Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal'' (source: journal The Guardian)

Giving, Receiving and Reviewing

Happy New Year To You and Your Loved Ones!

Three weeks ago, one of my friends asked his wife what she wanted to receive as presents. Without hesitation, she said “love.” His eyes widened and said he meant something tangible. (Love is complex and unquantifiable and we need something to represent it). He insisted, “What can I buy for you?”

Nowadays, in many societies, cost is associated with love. The more we love the person, the more we spend on gifts (presents). There is a tendency to express appreciation in terms of “how much?” Gone are the days when handmade and creative inexpensive presents were valued as meaningful and memorable.

There are many occasions in our lives when we give presents: birthday, wedding, graduation, etc. Gift giving is universal and important in any relationship. Dictionaries define gift as a thing (for me, service as well) given willingly to someone without payment (I add, ‘not expecting something in return’) How about re-gifting? Have you given something that you had received from someone else? It’s environmentally and financially worthwhile to do this; however, a recipient may have a different view. When you receive a regift, what do you think and feel about it? Being the second born of 5 children and having both rich & poor cousins and both needy & generous friends, I am used to giving and receiving pre-loved belongings. I believe that sharing our possessions and experiences is part of being humane.

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