Society / Evolution

purchasing power, inflation,...

Donating and volunteering: For love of self and others

In the first week of September, in Luxembourg, I had lunch with the funding member of ‘Dress for Success’ and my student who wants to join her in helping and empowering women. A few days later, I bumped into an acquaintance who has been teaching French to new arrivals in our region without financial remuneration. Two weeks ago, I attended a fundraising dinner and dance in a town about 10km from my city. It was a friendly atmosphere with men, women and children making sure that we would have a fantastic time, in addition to being busy collecting money for local charities and NGOs. Last week, through the encouragement of a friend, I went to the nearby park and was mesmerised by about a dozen tents with generous and smiling individuals selling and entertaining people for good causes.

As I write this article, I think of my friend who has always time for her environmental group doing information dissemination, pancake making and coordinating Christmas stalls; as well as my ex-student who founded ‘United by Dream Onlus,’ a humanitarian organisation aiding impoverished children and their families. Sometime in our lives, we are volunteers; however, some do more than others.

Why do we volunteer? Research and individual testimonies have revealed that volunteering has benefits for individuals and societies, and the main ones are: i) It gives the volunteer a sense of achievement and belongingness to a community; ii) Offers opportunity to meet diverse range of people and experiences; iii) It enhances social and relationship abilities; iv) Enables development and/or practice of new skills, hobbies and interests; v) Can boost your career; vi) It’s a rich resource for organisations to carry out their missions, thus helping less fortunate than we are or those in need.

I was in Nice, France

(This is dedicated to the people of Nice and those who were in this radiant and splendid city on the 14th of July 2016)

We lived in Nice (the capital of the French Riviera with about 344,000 inhabitants) for over one year and have unforgettable moments there, including visits of our Australian nephew and friends who jogged at the Promenade des Anglais (7-kilometre walkway along the sea) in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts in winter. They were amazed by the very narrow streets of Vieux Nice (Old Town of Nice) aligned with colourful (mainly yellow-brown) houses that have laundry hanging from the windows and specialty shops, such as the butcher that sells alive-looking pheasants (with heads and feathers, of course).

According to literature, Nice was founded by the Greeks, and during the 19th-century it was a famous destination for Europe’s elite. Today, it attracts travellers and artists from all over the world due to its sunny weather and liberal atmosphere, splashy markets, alluring restaurants and proximity to other well-known places (such as Cannes, Monaco and Saint Paul de Vence).

Its library, the Bibliothèque Louis Nucéra, was our second home. Almost every day, I found myself relaxing on its colourful small chairs between bookshelves and audio-visual stands. We made the most of the free artistic workshops and film showings on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I often mingled with retirees wanting to learn or improve their computer skills. Once I had to help a well-groomed woman in her mid/late 60s who was struggling to upload information on pages of an introduction website.

「敗北を抱きしめて」(Embracing Defeat)雑感

This blog is about my thoughts on John W. Dower’s book Embracing Defeat in Japanese. Several years ago, I read the conclusion chapter only (yes, shame on me). I thought that we Japanese already know this stuff, so the book had been sitting on my bookshelf for years.

But somehow I thought of this book and started reading it. And, once I started reading, I could not stop… and I kept murmuring to myself or growling “Omoshiroiiiii (interesting).” It was an immense pleasure to read.

Contrary to the lyrics of the Southern All Stars (the school textbooks run out of time before getting that part), the book starts with “the part we most want to know.”

It is said that Japan has changed remarkably for the last seven decades. Yet, seemingly there are so many things unchanged: low status of women, their legal and social oppression, poverty, younger women’s resorting to sex work, the gap between the rich and the poor, the inept government, and the like.

I find the chapters on politics most fascinating. Also, I like the chapters on how the image campaign successfully transformed the emperor of war responsibility into an almost saintly figure.

When I started school, the emperor was already a transformed character. But, as a child, I could sense his discomfort: something painfully awkward, stolid, and severe. (Although kids do not have a wide vocabulary, we could feel and judge things.) I was intrigued by his past and character (e.g. what happened to him?). Perhaps, that was the part that even the successful campaign could not change. And, the book provides us some important answers to “the part we most want to know” in our history.

「敗北を抱きしめて」(Embracing Defeat)雑感









掃除ロボットのルンバで、その名をトビー (Tobi) という。夫は彼のパパだと認知している。私としちゃ、ロボットを子にしたおぼえはない。





Sports and Pubs

Last fortnight, I watched the Australia-Fiji game as part of the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. It wasn’t the first time I sat in front of the television screen looking more at men’s gluteus maximus (backside/behind/bums/buttocks) than the ball. It wasn’t also the first time I was in the pub; and like the others, it has a lively decoration and variety of beverage on offer (the pineapple, mango and coconut delight attracted my attention).

The Rugby World cup is the third most watched sporting event in the world after the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup and the Summer Olympics. (football in Europe while soccer in Australia & USA)

There are two kinds of rugby: Rugby Union and Rugby League. The League has 13 players on the field while the Union 15. The former has a six tackle rule which is not the case with the latter. In League a try is worth 4 points, goal is 2 points and field goal or drop goal 1 point. In Union a try is 5 points, conversion kick 2 points, and penalty kick or drop goal is 3 points each.

The Rugby Union World Cup was first held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987 and is since held once every four years involving the top 20 teams (those that have qualified) from around the world. The 2011 champion was New Zealand, the Blacks. At the end of October, we’ll know who are the best rugby men in 2015.

Going back to work after a holiday

I am not a workaholic but love my job and one of the lucky ones who leave home with a smile then come back with a bigger smile. My students, who are mainly bank employees and whose interests range from football, food and wine to spirituality, have a good sense of humour. Nevertheless, getting back after a holiday is quiet a challenge. There are phone calls to return, paper work, backlog of emails and meetings. (I came back from Barcelona late last night and it is such a good idea to have one day off to recover physically before heading back to the class/training room).

Therefore, I have decided to plan how to handle this "back-to-work after the vacation" challenge. Firstly, since there will be no more hop on/hop off tours in Prague and Bratislava, tennis training at Cap d'Agde (France), Flamenco evenings (Spain), etc., I will just relax and enjoy the quietness. I will resume my Thursday Zumba and thrice/week visits to the gym.

Since I won't be able to catch up with everything in one day, I will prioritise my tasks appropriately and delegate, not only at work but at home. I'll definitely avoid the mourning period by seeing friends, going to the cinema and trying new recipes. I'll also put an ad for an hour of a friendly tennis game with a female beginner-player (like me).

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.

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.




1898年1月13日、文豪エミール・ゾラがスパイ容疑で逮捕されたドレフュスを弁護する手紙を、L'Aurore紙の一面に「J'Accuse...! 我は弾劾する!」という見出しで発表しました。フォール大統領に宛てたその手紙が世論を喚起し、冤罪事件解決への大きな一歩となりました。

Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres.


  • 。。。下につづく

Japan's secrecy law

"Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres."

Émile Zola (1840-1902)

(Extrait de la lettre "J'Accuse... ! Lettre au Président de la République, M. Félix FAURE")

(When truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it. We shall see whether we have been setting ourselves up for the most resounding of disasters, yet to come.)

(Excerpt of the letter "I accuse... ! Letter to the President of the Republic, M. Félix FAURE")

[Translation and notes © Shelley Temchin and Jean-Max Guieu, Georgetown University, 2001]

The hasty passage of the secrecy law has made me think that some leaders have urgent issues to desperately hide. In other words, they are afraid that the truth will hurt them soon. I can think of two of them.






TPP as Star Wars’ Trade Federation!?

I find trading is like a war. When I wrote a blog on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Japanese a few months ago, I drew an analogy between the TPP and Star Wars’ Trade Federation. I did not mean to be funny at all. Rather, I think my analogy was not bad at all. Senator Palpatine (who seemed to be a good guy in the beginning) said:

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate, a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation!" (from Star Wars wikia)

Now I see Mr. Obama is like Senator Palpatine who is eager to conclude the TPP, “corporate power tool of the 1%.”

Remember? In his August 31 statement on Syria, President Obama said:

"I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Find more references here...

Are you emotionally gifted?

Are you emotionally gifted?

Last week, in our Business English class, we had a role play on hiring the best person for a middle level position, i.e. choosing one of these 2 job applicants: A) a qualified person with little experience but is more likely to integrate well in the workplace; B) a highly experienced and technically savvy individual. Without hesitation, my 3 students explained why they would choose applicant A, who they described as “the more emotionally intelligent of the two.” When I asked for further explanation regarding emotional intelligence, they spoke vehemently about good interpersonal skills, ability to manage emotions, resilience, foresight, quick thinking, effective decision making and optimism – a cocktail of personality traits and cognitive & emotional intelligence.

Personality is one piece of the human triangle that defines us as a unique individual. It is made up of patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviours that remain stable throughout our lives. Like personality, cognitive intelligence (Intelligence Quotient – IQ) doesn’t change. In my book “Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave” I explored the subject of IQ as ability and potential - the brain. In this article, I concentrate on the third side of the triangle known as emotional intelligence/quotient (EQ) - which is about awareness and 'touch'.

Innovation and Luxembourg, Suffering a Brain Drain!?

Ten years ago, when I started going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (BNL - the National Library of Luxembourg), the “poverty” of the library (e.g., infrastructure, resources, services, etc.) of the world's richest (if not mistaken) country shocked me. The BNL was so underdeveloped, when compared to many public and private libraries in the USA. More surprisingly, many libraries I had visited in Brussels, Paris, and other cities were not so nice, either.

(Just note that some BNL librarians appear to be cold and distant at first. But, when they get to know you, they can be friendly, very helpful, and even sweet.)

Over the last ten years, the BNL has improved dramatically, and has become one of the best/favorite libraries I know in the region so far. Although I still miss some aspects of American libraries – for example, specialized librarians (e.g., law librarians) and more conducive, competitive, extremely intense, and intellectually stimulating atmospheres for studying, I am OK with the BNL. Hope that it keeps improving in coming years.

However, talent management in Luxembourg concerns me/us greatly.

It is obvious that Luxembourg has an advantage in attracting people because of competitive salaries, benefits, etc. But, it may not be so good at retaining their top talents in some sectors (though, of course, there are really talented people in Luxembourg, but some of friends have been disenchanted. They have moved to other companies and countries with better opportunities).

There seems to be something dysfunctional: something does not ignite, but undermine the passion of people.

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