International

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2020年 夏の雑感

Flower on the Corniche - the Balcony of Luxembourg-city

ルクセンブルクの封鎖措置は近隣国と比べると、ゆるいものでした。ここは森の国なので、存分、森林浴をして春を乗りこえました。一方、フランスやベルギーでは外出時間や距離がきびしく制限されていて、友人たちはとても辛そうでした。ドイツも似たりよったりでしょうね (ドイツの友人とは、コロナ以外の話しかしなかった)。

EUには国境表示があまりないので、森の中でフランスと知らずに歩み入って罰金切符をもらった人や、いつものように卵を買いに道を渡ったら、ベルギー側で潜んでいた警官から400ユーロの罰金を取りたてられた人もいたようでした。4ユーロの卵が400ユーロになる理不尽。人を罰することが目的化したような、フランスとベルギーの春でした。コロナでEUのもろさが表面化した気がします。

それでもルクセンブルクでは、まず一人につきマスクが5枚、その後しばらくして50枚配布されました。マスク配布は即効でした。真夏なのに道をゆく人たちは、おおかたの人たちがマスクをつけています。中にはアゴや手首や上腕にしたり、もちろんホームレスの人たちもマスクを装着。

。。。下につづく

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

This month’s court hearing in London involving the American actor Johnny Depp has sparked the discussion about intimate partner violence (IPV), which accounts for 15% of all violent crime according to Project Sanctuary. The World Health Organisation reveals that “30% of ever partnered women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime”.

Almost every country has a domestic violence hotline, government agencies responsible for this social ill, or non-government organisations that shelter victims and save lives. There are websites, articles and non-fiction books written on this subject. Have you read a novel that has a domestic violence theme? I am a based-on-true-story person, and this is reflected in my choice of reading materials and films. All the few novels that I have read had a criminal plot, but none touched on domestic violence. That's why I decided to write a novel about it in a subtle and easy-to-read style using plain English.

I had been a listening device to a colleague and acquaintances whose partners' violence led to intervention by Luxembourgish and French police. Their stories inspired me to write "The Whisper of Regrets", which is about relationship complications, mental health and criminal justice.

"The Whisper of Regrets" is currently an entry to the 2020 Kindle Storyteller Award. Since readers play a significant role in selecting the winner, I hope you and your friends will check it out as an eBook or as a paperback. It is available at the minimum prices set by KDP for this kind of manuscript, as I insist on it being affordable and not a money machine.

For me, writing is fun and a way to challenge my fellow humans, participating in a competition is challenging, and winning is gratifying. A million thanks to you for reading this and passing on the word.

(Find ''The Whisper of Regrets'' here)

The year 2019 was neither worse nor better

There were joys and sorrows in 2019. There was a global progress made in education and gender equality. Women in Iran were granted the right to go to live football matches for the first time in 40 years. Investment in healthcare technology grew, and in the first half of 2019 about $4.2 billion was invested in digital health and consumers can now choose from no fewer than 300,000 mobile healthcare applications (''The top healthcare trends we spotted at the 2019 HLTH conference'' seen 01/01/20). More than 1.4 million school children around the world walked out of their classes, known as the first ‘Fridays for Future’ global strike’, which was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s solo protest in 2018, and put the environmental debate into another level.

The issues that worried most of us last year were: ill-health and inequality in treatment and care, wealth disparities and dismal poverty, terrorism, crime, economic and political upheavals, work-life imbalance in favour of the former, failings of governments, discrimination, harassment, immigration, un- and under-employment, anger and discontent manifested in demonstrations and strikes, extremism, and environmental unrest (My family and friends Down Under celebrated the New Year yesterday amid deadly wildfires in Australia).

On a personal level, I had opportunities to do random acts of kindness. I participated in a chess game as part of the December Telethon and joined the Cancer Foundation’s fun run/walk to raise money for the sick and infirm. My letter of complaint on delayed and damaged luggage got attention.

Marathon

Marathon

I’m not a marathon runner but a great fun of it. The farthest I had run was 5 km for Refugee Week in Australia several decades ago. (I did a 10-km walk for our local Cancer Foundation two years ago and will participate in a similar one on October 10). Yet, I went an extra mile visiting Marathon, a quiet town 42 km from Athens in Greece, to see where it all started.

I took a public transport and was glad that the bus stop was only a few steps away from the museum where I enjoyed looking at photographs of amazing marathon winners in many cities of the world, like Boston, London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and, of course, Athens. I had goose pimples (goosebumps) staring at first female and oldest marathoners and the hurdles they overcame to participate. There were medals, trophies, shoes, descriptions of runners and their triumphs. It was Thursday morning and there were only my hubby, me and two Greek women in that historical place full of sporting memories.

ジョンコビッシイー教授 気候変動対策のあり方

地球温暖化を否む人は、ジョンコビッシイー教授のレクチャーを聞いてほしい。一気に打ちのめされて、しばらく動けなくなる。でもこれが私達の現実、そして未来。素晴らしい15分のプレゼンなので、昼日なかに見ることをおすすめする。眠る前は避けたほうが、よろしいかと思う。

(別の仏語のビデオでは、日本人ジョークもさく裂していた。「日本人みたいにエレベーターに乗るんじゃなくって・・・」よく見てらっしゃるんですね〜)

"AVERTING SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE"

Jean-Marc Jancovici's speech in Paris – Sept. 17, 2019

"AVERTING SYSTEMIC COLLAPSE"

Professor Jean-Marc Jancovici is a well-known French specialist in climate change. He usually gives talks in French. In this video, he speaks in English.

In my view, he is quite blunt and vastly knowledgeable. Within 15 minutes, he tells lots of jokes with a dry sense of humor. I strongly advise watching this video today (but not before you go to bed!).

Travellers and tourists

Ljubljana as seen by Rolade

I’m writing this while on holiday in Greece; however, it’s not about it but on Ljubljana – the capital of Slovenia.

I know little about eastern and central European countries and their people, so I’ve made it my priority to visit at least one of these places every summer. My last month’s holiday in Ljubljana was relaxing and eye-opening in many ways. Slovenes are friendly and accommodating. The hotel where we stayed didn’t only allow us to use their locker for our bags after we had checked out but offered us unlimited tea. These were the exact words of its male receptionist “You’re still our guests and feel free to use our facilities till you depart from our city”.

I took every opportunity to mingle with the locals and be a traveller rather than as a tourist. The more I learnt about them, the more I became interested in their history and culture and able to empathise with them.

It’s fine to talk about the advantages of international travelling when you have the means to do so; however, for many families this occasion remains a dream. Where’s Ljubljana? Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia in central Europe and has borders with Italy, Hungary, Austria and Croatia. The Roman Empire controlled Slovenia for nearly 1,000 years; most of it was under the Habsburg rule (Austria) in the mid-14th century and 1918. The state of Slovenia was formed in 1945 as part of Yugoslavia; gained its independence in June 1991; and today, it is a member of the European Union and NATO.

Stereotyping

Everyone is vulnerable to stereotyping.

I first came to Europe in 1985 and spent a few days in Innsbruck (Austria), a sunny city 168 kilometres from Salzburg and lies on a high mountain plateau with green alpine meadows and secluded groves. The classic 1964 movie ‘Sound of Music’, which is based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, made Salzburg famous; and more than 300,000 cine fans come to this place every year to walk into the footsteps of the Von Trapp family.

Last month, after nearly 35 years, I visited Austria again but, this time, I didn’t see rolling hills and didn’t find its inhabitants cold and rigid. Contrary to my subconscious oversimplified image of Austrians, I experienced their friendliness and warmth. They are distinctly different from the Germans in terms of cultures and behaviours though they share the same language. However, it’s true that Vienna is bursting with classical music and schnitzel, and I joined the bandwagon by attending a Vivaldi concert and had a plate of the latter.

The more I travel to different European countries, the more I want to learn their diverse cultures and people and get rid of my stereotypes.

Stereotype is a set idea or opinion that we have about someone or something, which often focuses on the differences between groups rather than their similarities. It causes over-reaction to information that confirms such a stereotype and under-reaction to the one that contradicts it. Psychology research and essays reveal that stereotyping is one way to feel good about ourselves, i.e. we (our group – where we belong) are better than them (the outsiders – those who are not in our group).

Eurovision? Why not “Europe and friends’ musical extravaganza”?

During the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel on 14 May 2019, one of my students asked me what I thought of Australia being in it. When I was still living in Brisbane, I always looked forward to watching it as I found all participants talented; many were creative, and some were outlandish. Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), whose mission is “to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society”, covers this event every year. After I had said to my student that it should not be in it based on geography, I did some research.

Participation in the Eurovision contest is, firstly, open to those who belong to the 56 member-countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and its 21 associate member-nations. Therefore, participation is not by geography, which makes the title of the event “Eurovision” misleading and susceptible to innuendo. In 2019, 42 countries travelled to Israel and 36 of them performed in the semi-finals to qualify for the finals. Every year, the so-called “Big Five” – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom – are prequalified to take part in the finals.

The ABC of a lasting relationship

"You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity".
— Epicurus (Greek philosopher, 341–270 BC)

While in a jovial mood at last month’s carnival party, I agreed to my Polish friend’s invitation to dinner in a French restaurant five minutes on foot from my residence.

After some minutes of tiptoeing on the snow, my husband and I were ushered to a table in the middle of a room directly in front of a flat stage with standing microphone and sound system. All tables had only two chairs, and we were discouraged from mingling with other couples, including my Polish friends.

On the table was a beautifully cut-out paper in a shape of a turbine with a dozen questions, such as “What’s the best moment you had with your partner recently” and “What do you like most in your partner these days?”

Affaire du Siecle

This blog is about l’Affaire du Siècle, climate protection movement. It started with four associations (Foundation pour la nature et l’homme, Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous et Oxfam France) on December 17, 2018 in France. They sue governments over inaction on climate change.

異常気象「世紀の訴訟」

子供の頃に、ペットを飼い始めた人は多いのではないだろうか。

隣の家が火事になり自宅は事なきをえたのだけども、火が燃え移りそうになって水槽の温度が上がり、飼っていた魚が全滅したと友人が話していた。一・二度の温度の上昇が命とりになったとか。

壊滅的な気候変動の影響を避けるためには、今後数年の対処が分岐点だと (国連などの) 報告書に示されている。つまり十余年が、生態系にとって山場となる。

異常気象にどう対処すべきか?気候正義をめぐり、フランスのオックスファムやグリーンピースなどの4団体が、l’Affaire du siècleという闘いを続けている。この団体は、国の温室効果ガス排出量の削減努力は不十分であり、inaction (無活動・無能力) であると主張し、政府に対策を求めるための訴訟提訴を主導している。ジュリエット・ビノシュやマリオン・コティヤールなどの俳優陣や有名人たちも、動画で協力を呼びかけている。

。。。下につづく

Urban vs rural ... even in chess

After 12 draws in classical games, Norwegian Magnus beat American Fabiano Caruana 3-0 in the rapid match in London two days ago (29/11/18) retaining his world chess champion title.

This year’s Moselle (France) Regional Chess Championship was held in Bliesbruck from November 1 to 4. Unexpectedly and unfortunately, only a quarter of the usual 80 chess enthusiasts turned up. I felt sorry for the organisers who evidently spent enormous time and resources to make it happen successfully. The main reason I heard was: Bliesbruck is out-of-the-way place. At least one person phoned and asked for the number of registered participants and when he found out that there were only 20, he said “There aren’t many, so I’m not going there”. If everyone had that mentality, there would not have been any tournament.

The newly renovated venue was spacious and well lit, has all the necessary amenities, and is situated in a green surrounding with ample playing fields for the children (e.g. football, basketball and tennis). The playing equipment and materials were comfortable, and everyone was made welcome. It’s an ideal place and condition for a chess competition. But, where were the other players?

Bliesbruck is a small French village located in the north-east of France, in the district of Sarreguemines which has a population of slightly over a thousand. For me, it was an opportunity to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Summer 2018

Many of us cannot wait for the summer holiday to arrive as it means no school, no work, getting together with relatives and friends, and leisuring. Some individuals and families are fortunate to afford a relaxing, fantastic getaway somewhere sunny and vibrant. The 2018 summer, however, was not only a question of money. It was so hot that many English and French vacationers opted to stay home. French radio stations had 24-hour updates of traffic situations with their warning of orange “dense – bad” and red “very bad”.

Holidaymakers expected heat in the mid-30s in their favourite countries of Greece, Portugal and Spain, but it went up to 50°C; while the rest of Europe had above-average temperatures in July and August.

Some experts had said that the heatwave was due to warming in the tropical equatorial Pacific Ocean while others disclosed that it was because of the very dry, hot air from the African continent. Whatever the official reason was, our consumption habits and environmentally-unfriendly behaviours have contributed, and will continue to do so, to the erratic climatic conditions and heating up of planet Earth.

Who are you? Where are you from?

I am writing this while on a short holiday in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, before heading to Spain and England. It is summer here in Europe and because we travel a lot during this period, we often get asked “Where are you from?” Depending on my mood, my answer ranges from my birthplace to current city or country of residence. Often, I give information on my nationality/citizenship, and I will tell you why later. In some cases, the enquirer really just wants to know the main language I speak and my religion.

During the World Cup, when I wore my gold and green outfit, some strangers smiled and commented, “You’re from Brazil” thinking that I had something blue invisible to the naked eye. Whereas, friends and acquaintances teased me “Socceroos, go, go...” My gold and yellow dress, green sandal and green bag said it all. They did not question my citizenship (Are you Australian?), appearance (but you look Asian), etc. On other occasions, however, I have to answer a follow-up question “Yes, but where do you really come from, your family?”

A fortnight ago, a close friend invited me to her barbecue dinner party. Her house is 15 minutes on foot from where we live, and since it was a sunny day, I decided to walk. France had just won the 2018 World Cup and knowing that there would be jubilant crowd, I put on my blue, white and red apparel. The time it took me to her place doubled as I had to stop and shake hands, take photos for others and kiss strangers. Everybody was so happy, friendly, and courteous. How I wished it was like that every day. No one asked me “where are you from”? Instead, many nodded and shouted amicably “On a gagné” (We won). They ignored my physical attributes and my non-French accent. They made me feel like I was one of them, which wasn’t my intention. I am a lover and partaker of peaceful and jovial celebrations, festivals, and traditional gatherings.

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