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Summer holiday (UK)/vacation (US)

I was nearly finished writing an article entitled "Not on holiday." After lines and lines of experiences of men, women and students doing summer jobs to put food on the table, pay for driving lessons, save for university studies, etc.., I decided not to go ahead with it. I realised that my thoughts were all over: from the economic crises, social evolution to work ethics, and these issues are boring as a summer reading. So, I'm going to talk about my tomorrow's visit to central Europe instead.

From Metz (the capital of Moselle in the north-east of France where I live) to Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic where I'll stay for 4 days) is 7 and a half hours by bus. From Prague to Bratislava (the capital of the Slovak Republic where I’ll be for 4 days), is 3 and a half hours by bus.

The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union (EU) but not of the Euro Zone (thus money exchange will be a bit inconvenient -- about 28 Koruna to 1 Euro); has a population of slightly over 10.5 million; has a multi-party democracy with the Prime Minister as head of its government; and has varied landscapes and temperatures. The warmest month is July and it’s sunny and festive in August.

環大西洋貿易投資連携協定(TTIP=米欧版TPP)に関する公聴会

Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg - Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

7月11日。ルクセンブルグ(代議院)で、環大西洋貿易投資連携協定に関する公聴会が開かれました。会合はテレビ中継され、録画はネットでも見れます。

環太平洋のTPPと環大西洋のTTIP(またの略をTAFTA)。日本人でヨーロッパ市民でもある私には、両方とも気がかりです。両協定には対アメリカという共通項もありますから、海千山千の欧州人たちがどう渡りあうのか非常に興味があります。

13日日曜日、会合録画を夫と一緒に見ました。中継を6時間も見るのは、結構きついだろうと思っていたのですが、休憩を挟み(午後2時~9時過ぎまで)見入ってしまいました。ディベートは、思いのほかおもしろかった! 参加者全員が用意周到で、時には声をあらげながら興味深い論戦を展開しています。

欠かせないのが。正月にはモチ、商談/悪巧みには古だぬき。ルクセンブルグの鉄の女性、正義感に燃える市民団体の代表者等々。公聴会の内容をまとめましたので、日本の方たちにもぜひ参考にしていただきたい。

。。。下につづく

Transatlantic Trade, "the norm-making power of the global capital market," and Sassen

By now, many people probably have heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP; in French Le partenariat transatlantique de commerce et d'investissement) and its deregulation purpose. The TTIP is a proposed secret trade deal between the European Union and the United States. Our friends (accountant and functionary) told us something like this ― only two groups in Brussels work to block this deal, whereas more than 200 groups are hired to push for the agreement with a perspective of “new growth.” (Do not be fooled because of nice words such as “free trade” and “new growth.”) The former has the budget of 200 million Euros, while the latter get billions of Euros. They thus argue that the deal is not about a corporate lobbying, but a bribery to be precise. They are very concerned about the TTIP, but they also think that it would be very difficult to win European Commission approval because the trade decision should be agreed by 28 countries … and it takes a lot to bribe.

Sports and Societies

France has just won 2-0 against Nigeria (It’s 11:00PM, 30/06/14, here): there are horns blowing, people laughing and yelling, and motorists brandishing French flags. We're in the middle of the FIFA World Cup 2014, and I can't help questioning the influence of sports on our society.

Likewise, cultures and values affect how and what sports are played by who, where and when. Sports have been in our lives as entertainment and leisure, as part of a political strategy, as an economic activity, as cultural means aimed at establishing relationships, and to show power and strength. In the middle ages, sport was used to settle disputes, punish, revenge and attract attention of women (e.g. jousting with swords, daggers and lances).

These days, football (Europe)/soccer (Australia & USA) is used as a platform to assert one’s national identity with flag bearing, singing of national anthem and wearing emblems before, during and after the games. In developed, developing and underdeveloped nations, football has faced new challenges due to globalisation, commercialisation and mediatisation which have both positive and negative outcomes.

In Belgium, football is viewed as a cementing force between the Flemings in the north (Netherlander: Flemish speaking) and the Walloons in the south and east (French speaking). Highly-paid footballers from humble socio-economic backgrounds have become multi-millionaires and influential.

On the other hand, the hosting of the World Cup costs billions which go a long way in a developing country (like Brazil). It's no surprise then that the 1994 Golden Ball winner Romario, who's now a member of the Brazilian Parliament, has been reported to have said that the money should have been spent better for health and education.

閣議決定は無効

官邸前には行けないが。昨夜、数時間立ちっぱなしで集団的自衛権行使の反対デモに参加した人のからだの節々の痛み、筋肉の疲れ、声がれ、くやしさや深いかなしみを感じる。いくつか、考えたことを書き留めたい。

1)「憲法泥棒だ」

解釈改憲による集団的自衛権の行使容認は「憲法泥棒だ」というのは、小林節・慶応大名誉教授の名言だが。彼は次のようにも断言している。「解釈の変更なんて、そんなきれい事じゃないんですね。解釈に名を借りた憲法の破壊なんです」

今日、閣議決定に踏みきった泥棒首相は「おとなしく手をあげろ。俺の言うとおりにしろ。さもないと」と、はっきりと国民を脅かし、ホールド・アップ状態にしたと認識すべきだと思いますよ。(いつか、この悪党を捕まえなくては)

。。。下につづく

戦場へ、馬は目隠しをして連れていかれ

Stolen Bride blinkers - Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

アマルティア・センが、「私はインド人である。だからどの国に行っても長い順番待ちの列に並び入国審査をうける。それが苦労して得た貴重な宝であり、だからこそインサイダーとしてわが国を批判できる」いう旨の発言をしていました。私も大いに共感できます。私も今のところ、「ただひたすら」日本人です。

最近、日本のニュースで、明るい話を聞きません。

原発被害、生活保護の切捨て。貧困。消費税率の引き上げ、他方で法人税減税を強行?残業代ゼロ?医療費・介護費負担・75才まで年金支給の引き上げ?TPP秘密交渉、国家戦略特区、マイナンバー、国家安全保障会議(日本版NSC)、一票の格差の増大、沖縄の米軍基地、京都のXバンドレーダー基地建設工事、秘密保護法、集団的自衛権問題、鈴木章浩都議らによる女性蔑視の口汚い野次、そして日本国民の究極の脅威である安倍政権。

さらには、焼身自殺未遂までして、集団的自衛権行使に反対する政治的メッセージを発信した男性。それに対する日本の報道機関のdésinformation(情報の遮断)。自主規制でしょうか。

。。。下につづく

To motivate, inspire and work smartly

This month, I have been coming home later than usual due to extra hours spent helping my students prepare for their international tests (IELTS – International English Language Testing System, TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language, CAE – Cambridge Advanced English and BULATS- Business Language Testing Service). These tests are designed to assess the language ability of individuals to study or work in a country where English is the language of communication. Last year, world-wide, IELTS alone had over 2 million takers who wanted to study in universities in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and tertiary institutions in several European cities, such as Paris and Amsterdam.

My international test preparation students are highly motivated, and this is because they have a goal (i.e. to obtain the required grade for university admission). Their motivation shines in their attitudes and behaviours during our lessons and in the quality of their assignment.

I believe that motivation is a major key factor of success: the more you have it, the quicker you reach your target. My students are motivated by high grades and acceptance into higher education, which can lead to a successful career that has implications on their personal and social lives.

Not so long ago, I received a compliment from our Director of Studies with these statements: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (You can replace ‘teacher’ with parent or boss).

学ばない・学べない日本

あっそうか。ヨーロッパの人にとっては、火を見るよりも明らかなことなのだなあ、と納得した。 あまり政治的でない人も若い人も、ごく普通の欧州人たちは、安倍首相とヒトラーとをはっきり同一視しているのですね。彼ら二人の近さ・類似をごく明白なこととして見ていて、それを指摘され驚く日本人は「何をとぼけて」って感じでしょうか。

私は10年近く、ヨーロッパのいわゆる「尖閣諸島」で暮らしました。歴史上、何度も国名が変わったところです。国境の町で、5月をむかえるのは毎年興味深いものがあります。去年も書きましたが、フランスとベルギーにとっては5月8日は戦勝記念日です。フランスでは祝日で、同日、敗戦国のドイツとその占領下にあったルクセンブルグでは、もちろん祭日ではありません。

今は近隣国から集まった人たちが、欧州の仲間として一緒に働き未来を建設しているのですが。その日常は同じ日の出来事に対し多面的に歴史を再検証し、歴史の記憶が一致しているかどうかその整合性を確認していくグループ作業でもあります。

5月8日が近づき、ラジオ(フランス・アンフォ)でフランス人の老年女性が当時のライトモティーフ(leitmotif)、サビの部分をうたっているのを聞きました。ヒトラーはパリのラジオ局を占拠し、プロパガンダを流したのですが。脱出先のロンドンで亡命政府・自由フランスを樹立したシャルル・ド・ゴールは、ロンドンラジオ(BBC)を通じて、フランス国民に抵抗闘争を呼びかけたのです。

"Radio Paris ment, Radio Paris ment, Radio Paris est Allemand"

mentir (嘘をつく)のmentモンとAllemand (ドイツ)のmandモンが韻を踏んでいます。ドイツのラジオ放送は嘘だらけという、皮肉な曲調を紹介していました。約70年前の歌が、彼女の頭にはっきりと残っているのですね。

国境のつながった欧州では、それぞれが歴史から学び、悔い改めざるをえなかったわけです。敵を許し共存し尊重するようになっても、互いの国がしたことは決して忘れない。歴史上おきた出来事はもちろん重要なのですが、それ以上にそれらの出来事をどう認識し社会として記憶していくかがもっと重要だと欧州人は考えているようです。

。。。下につづく

こんにゃく応急手当

Konjac - Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

先日友人が発熱した。家族で思いつくあらゆる方法を試し薬も試したが、あいにく連休で、かかりつけの家庭医は不在で、切羽つまった彼から「どうしたらいいものか」とうちに連絡がきた。(詳細は下を参照してください。現時点では、ある種のウイルスに感染したと診断されたそうです。)

専門外・内にかかわらずどんな問題にせよ、解決を見つけようと夫は最善をつくすので、駆け込み寺のような相談が時々やってくる。さてどうしたものかと思い、いろいろと考えたあげく、時差のある日本の友人Gさんにメールをしそれから眠りについた。朝、(蒟蒻をつかった手当ての)返事を確認し、友人に内容を要約し転送した。

近所(ルクセンブルグ)の中国系雑貨・食料品店ですぐに蒟蒻を見つけた。蒟蒻と漢字で書いたメモを見せたので、説明する必要もなかった。その蒟蒻を知人に渡しリレー式で、フランスの彼の自宅まで届けてもらうようにした。

あれから2週間弱。友人は夜7時半に医師に呼び出され精密検査をすすめられ、検査結果はまだでていない。でも、こんにゃくは効果的だったという。咳が一日中、止まらないというので、マガジンハウス出版の指圧の本にのっていた即効性の咳止めのつぼ(小指の指先)の指圧も薦めた。昨日は5人で昼食をし、思ったより元気そうでいつものように「さむーい」冗談を連発し、口の悪いところを発揮していたので、やや元気になったのだと思う。私には食事をごちそうしてくれた。「こんにゃく、ありがとう」という意味なんだろう。

もし彼と同様の状況と症状の人は、ぜひ蒟蒻当てをためしてみてください。

。。。下につづく

Online shopping

End of February this year, I succumbed to the temptation of online shopping for clothes. My birthday was coming and I thought of getting myself a gift in case my significant others fail to remember it (neither I was going to remind them nor suffer in silence). I decided to do it online because it is convenient and offers a variety of choices and fairly competitive prices.

Online shopping (E-shop, internet shop, e-store, web-store) is buying of goods and services from a seller over the internet using a browser, and the most common methods of payment are credit cards and by PayPal.

I visited 2 websites recommended by a colleague; but because I found their dresses expensive, I searched for other similar vendors. Finally, I chose a good looking website with lovely photos and clear information (e.g. size and price). While some online shops require both the billing/buyer’s and shipping/receiver’s addresses to be the same, the one I had selected allows customers to send items anywhere in the world.

Body and Organ Donation

“If the doctor had asked for the body of my daughter, I would have said yes. I don’t want any parent to go through this. Hope they’ll soon find the real cause and treatment for it.” I couldn’t control the tears rolling down my cheeks thinking of the generosity of this mother who burried her 19yo daughter three days before my visit to her home.

I had thought of donating my body parts to save lives but not to science (and why not?) The human body is the source of knowledge necessary for medical education and research. Any major or adult person of sound mind can donate his/her body for medical education and research; and there’s no upper age limitation. In all cases, a written and witnessed autorisation is required prior to death. Our family members or doctor should be informed of our decision as it’s them or our executor who notify the recipient- centre/institution. Medical and research institutions in most countries refuse bodies that resulted from a suicide, have been subjected to an autopsy or had infectious diseases, e.g. HIV. Donated bodies are cremated and family can obtain the ashes if not forbidden by the donour.

How about donating my body for transplantation? According to journal articles, my sole body (with healthy kidneys, lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, cornea, bones, skin, etc) can help as many as 50 people.

Comparing food and well/ill being in 125 countries

This month, it hasn’t been easy to decide what to write as there as several interesting issues that have come my way. Should I respond to my English friends' remarks about French politics, morality and mentality? Should I share my first chess tournament experience involving nearly one hundred (only about a dozen female) players? The PISA results? How about food and health?

According to the recent OXFAM survey of 125 countries on food availability, diversity, affordability and quality, the best country is Netherlands; followed by France and Switzerland. The other top countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal. (www.oxfam.org.uk)

Unfortunately, among these 12 countries, Australia has the highest obesity level (27% of its population). Forty-two per cent of Kuwaitis while a third of Americans and Egyptians are obese. The study doesn't include the Pacific Islands; however, it notes that these nations have the highest level of obesity in the world. For instance, 72% of Nauru’s population is obese. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of diabetes.

Expectedly, there is very little obesity in Bangladesh, Nepal and Ethiopia; and malnutrition is worst in Yemen, India and Madagascar.

The 10 worst countries in terms of food availability, diversity, affordability and quality are Chad, Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Yemen, Niger, Burundi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

Goodbye 2013 Welcome 2014

Happy new year to you and your loved ones!

Like most of you, during the festive season, I spent a lot of time with my family and friends dining, playing board games and watching movies. I particularly like films which are based on facts or true stories, and in 2013 these ranged from horror (e.g. ‘The Conjuring’) to politics.

The last one I saw in 2013 was ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ While queuing my attention was directed at the classification notice, and I wondered why it’s not allowed for viewers under 12 years old. My husband chose this film and since I didn’t read the reviews, all I knew was that the main actor was Leonardo di Caprio (playing Jordan Belfort) and it’s about the world of finance and stock market.

After 20 minutes of the 3 hours, I thought of the under 12yo restriction. How can it be only ‘-12yo’; it should be at least ‘-18yo’. Upon returning home, I told my 18yo son that this is not worth his while -- there’s unnecessary show of drug use, sex and swearing. He looked surprised and mentioned the talent of the director. Well, to be objective, I pointed out that there are only two positive things in this movie: 1. You can start from scratch and be successful (but contrary to what Belfort’s said, I believe money does not automatically make you a better person); and 2. Crime doesn’t pay (Belfort made millions by defrauding others. In his Dad’s words “someday you’ve to mend the broken pieces”. I watched it in French so this may not be the exact phrase in the English version).

On the other hand, my 12yo and 18yo sons have watched “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom” and I’m glad they did. At first, I was skeptical due to the scenes of violence (which really happened; e.g. police brutality and ‘Soweto uprising’ in 1976). To date, we still continue to talk about it; especially issues regarding human rights, equality and what make a ‘great person’ – discussions that have led us, so far, to exchange views on Gandhi and notable presidents.

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