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Death from or death with?

A fortnight ago, I read Marc Trabsky and Courtney Hempton’s article entitled “Died from or died with COVID-19? We need a transparent approach to counting coronavirus deaths” (The Conversation). As an English language teacher for adults, I am used to answering questions on the sameness and differences in the meanings of words and phrases (e.g., work for/work with, look forward to/looking forward to, mandatory/compulsory, lease/rent, complete and finish, so forth). So, when I see articles on coronavirus, I think of the possible confusion due to the use of ‘from’ and ‘with’.

Ethnic and race profiling, unconscious bias

On 29 July 2020, while promenading, my son and I were stopped by French Police asking for our IDs. Unlike in Australia and other western countries, in France, we are legally obliged to show our photo identification if we are stopped and asked to by a police officer. This is called the identity check “Contrôle d’Identité”. Pretending to be having a conversation with my son, I commented in English: “ethnic profiling”, “why us”, and “I wonder what criteria they use to decide who to stop”. I was hoping they would understand what I was saying; after all, English is taught widely in elementary, secondary and tertiary institutions in France.

Ethnic or racial profiling is the act of suspecting or targeting a person based on assumed characteristics or behaviour of a particular ethnic or racial group rather than on individual suspicion. I’m a Filipino-born Aussie and have a typical south-east Asian appearance. My 18-year-old son is 178 cm tall and has physical similarities with his white French-Australian father. They probably thought we were not together because I was some steps behind him trying to fix my hat while picking up my mask. Whereas, my son was in a hurry to avoid the soaring heat and was already under a shrub. When I called him back and he turned around, there was a change on the face of one of the police officers. His eyes became amiable, and he handed back my ID. At least we were not searched during this “contrôle”. We had our identification cards with us; otherwise, they could have taken us to a police station to establish our identity (“vérification d’identité”).

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

Passion and hobby aren't the same but both spice life and employment

Being paid for doing something that you enjoy is one of the most satisfying experiences. However, not all jobs offer this opportunity and many people earn a living from performing tasks they are not over the moon with.

Passion often comes up when it comes to job happiness and fulfilment. Being passionate at work enhances the pursuit of excellence and increases commitment and performance. Passion can either flourish, diminish or disappear when put in certain work environments. Employers and companies that provide conducive work milieu and implement management practices that respect, motivate and reward fairly unlock employees’ passion for performing well.

Since not everyone has a passion for their profession, pursuing it outside work can also improve one’s job satisfaction and well-being. Passions are not precisely the same as with hobbies. Passion is doing something you enjoy and have an overwhelming feeling of devotion even when it is difficult and stressful, but the result is worth the effort. Whereas, a hobby is something you do when you have free time, are feeling bored, or want to relax.

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)

Gradual return to normality at work, home, etc.

On June 9, I resumed my face-to-face teaching after three months. Our work venue has been tailored to ensure physical distancing, and we are obliged to wear a face shield. There are arrows directing where to enter and exit; each room has information on the number of people allowed inside and a bottle of gel to hand sanitise. I have four students in an area of 18 square metres that can accommodate 20 people. According to them, my face shield produced echoed sounds. Likewise, I could not hear well what they were saying. With our great sense of humour, we did not notice the time passing by; after an hour and a half of the lesson, the flipchart was filled with nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Confinement and social distancing have resulted in financial hardship, work stress, and relationship difficulties. Many of us have now gone back to our pre-COVID routine; however, there are still millions of people negotiating the transition back to what it used to be the “normal”. Should common areas at home remain as workspaces? How many days per week should employees telework? Should religious service continue in car parks? Are drive-in cinemas a new vogue?

In her article “Life And Work After Covid-19: The Problem With Forecasting A Brighter Future", Josie Cox stated: “Our longing for a pre-pandemic existence (look no further than social media) is hard evidence of the fact that we will most likely revert to old habits and behaviors, both good and bad, when lockdowns are lifted and social distancing called off. We like the comforts and freedom of choice. In the workplace and beyond, we tend to choose a path of least resistance because that’s just the way we’re wired”. (link to the article, seen 16/06/20).

Inequality in distance learning, virtual meeting and teleworking

A few weeks ago, one of my students emailed me: “I don’t have the intention to quit the course. I have been absent because of my very bad internet connection”. She lives in Luxembourg, which is this year’s richest country in the world based on GPD per capita (cf worldpopulationreview.com: Luxembourg $119,719; Norway $86,362; Switzerland $83,832; Ireland $81,477; Iceland $78,181; Qatar $65,062; The United States of America $64,906; Denmark $63,434; Singapore $62,690; Australia $58,824). Those in developing nations, where there is a vast gap between the haves and have-nots, experience even more inequality in distance education, virtual meeting and teleworking.

The abrupt shift to education online has created practical, technical, and emotional challenges; and the lack of reliable technology and Internet access is only a tip of the iceberg. There are issues concerning teachers’ ability to carry out their tasks remotely, home environment that favour or disfavour learning, and help (or lack of it) that students get offline.

The data compiled by the Teacher Task Force, an international alliance coordinated by UNESCO, found that half of all students currently out of the classroom — or nearly 830 million learners globally — do not have access to a computer. As well, more than 40 per cent have no Internet access at home. (see ''Startling disparities in digital learning emerge as COVID-19 spreads: UN education agency'' published by UN News on April 21, 2020)

I teach adults at their company premises, which haven’t resumed yet. Currently, I have only two classes online. My son has been at home since the end of March finishing his first-year tertiary studies virtually and will return to Warwick University (UK) in October. My friends and acquaintances have told me that they will continue to have video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings until the end of 2020. Whatever and wherever the situation, there is a form of inequality.

Sommes-nous vraiment prêts à retourner à notre routine ?

eXtinction Rebellion Luxembourg

Avant de retourner à la routine, des débats, discussions et autres examens publics sont nécessaires.

Il était près de 19h15. Nous nous promenions près du pont Adolphe, à mi-chemin entre la gare de Luxembourg et le centre-ville. Nous avons entendu les sirènes des véhicules d'urgence; au moins six camions de pompiers et ambulances se précipitaient vers la gare. Plus tard, nous apprenions qu'un incendie s'était déclaré dans notre voisinage. Toutes sortes d'équipes de professionnels ont agi rapidement pour stopper cet incendie à Luxembourg. Pendant ce temps, de nombreux incendies continuent à ravager l'Amazonie, au Brésil, au beau milieu de cette pandémie:

« la déforestation en Amazonie a atteint un niveau record depuis janvier. Cette déforestation est de 55% supérieure à celle de la même période de 2019. » (source: France Info)

La forêt pluviale amazonienne est populairement appelé le « poumon de la Terre ». Même si cette analogie est incorrecte, sa capacité d'absorption (entre 20 et 25% des émissions de dioxide de carbone planétaires) est loin d'être négligeable. Ironiquement, au même moment, nous subissons le coronavirus qui s'attaque principalement aux poumons. Peut-être, faut-il aussi y voir une métaphore ?

( Lire la suite 。。。)

Pandemic - Personality and Coping Mechanism

Before I get into the subject of my article, I would like to mention that today is a public holiday in more than 80 countries that observe International Worker’s Day or May Day. Here in France, May 1st is known as “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity.”

As a freelance English language teacher, my livelihood was destroyed by COVID 19 on March 13. None in my family and social circles have asked me how I have been coping financially. It is most likely because they are concern more about my health than non-existing wealth. As well, money is a pet peeve for many of us.

There have been tens of thousands of deaths around the world, and I do not have words to describe the sorrow of their families and friends. I can only contribute to the discussion about this pandemic’s economic and psychological impacts, as I have lived it.

According to the United Nations (UN), the four sectors that have experienced the most “drastic” effects of the disease are: retail and wholesale (482 million workers); manufacturing (463 million); business services and administration (157 million); and food and accommodation (144 million). I belong to the third group. The UN ILO chief stated these four sectors “add up to 37.5 per cent of global employment, and these are where the ‘sharp end’ of the impact of the pandemic is being felt now (cf ''COVID-19: impact could cause equivalent of 195 million job losses, says ILO chief'' in UN News).

Comment tenir bon durant le confinement ? Notre cas luxembourgeois (3)

Hyowon Chi - musicien professionnel vient jouer sur son balcon

6) Concerts aux balcons

Un jour mon compagnon m’a dit : « Peux-tu entendre de la musique ? Une flûte ». Je n’entendais rien. Mais il a insisté. Alors, je l’ai entendue faiblement et j’ai donc ouvert une fenêtre. Nous avons alors vu quelqu’un jouer de la flûte traversière sur le balcon d’un immeuble tout proche. C'était un voisin qui rétrospectivement s’est avéré être coréen. Par la suite, nous avons constaté que ce petit intermède musical arrivait tous les midis comme une pause dans notre longue journée de confinés en l’égayant d’un moment de réconfort et d’oubli du virus. « Notre » musicien se nomme Hyowon Chi et il est flûtiste professionnel.

Selon Hyowon, au début de l’initiative, il était prévu de jouer en duo avec son amie Hélène (flûtiste à l'OPL) qui habite un autre immeuble juste à côté du nôtre. Tous les jours, de leur balcon respectif, ils auraient joué ensemble mais il s’est avéré impossible d'être synchronisés à cause de la distance. Nous aurions bien eu besoin d’un « petit » Seiji Ozawa dans notre voisinage. Alors, ils ont décidé de jouer tous les jours à midi à tour de rôle. C'est ainsi que leurs concerts de balcon ont commencé depuis le 19 mars quand il faisait encore assez froid.

( Lire la suite 。。。)

Comment tenir bon durant le confinement ? Notre cas luxembourgeois (2)

Résident permanent

2) DIY : Réparer et recycler les choses

Cet objet non identifié a été sauvé par mon compagnon des poubelles de notre immeuble d’où il essayait de s’échapper... je parle bien du petit alien et pas de mon compagnon… :-) Après une bonne séance de nettoyage pour les deux (douche et lavage à la main… je vous laisse deviner qui a pris l’option douche), le nouveau venu est resté assis dans le salon pendant quelques mois en attendant les pièces pour le réparer.

Dans l’intervalle, mon bricoleur a fini de recoudre son sac-à-dos (que le cordonnier refusait de réparer), en utilisant des outils qu’il n’avait encore jamais vus (achetés sur Internet à un prix très modeste : 25 euros) et en apprenant les techniques de couture du cuir grâce à des vidéos trouvées en-ligne. Le sac est à présent plus solide qu’il ne l’a jamais été.

( Lire la suite 。。。)

Comment tenir bon durant le confinement ? Notre cas luxembourgeois (1)

Magnifiques rhododendrons à deux pas en bas de chez moi

Il y a quelques années, alors que je profitais avec mon compagnon du fameux Happy Hour de la Brasserie Alfa, en face de la gare de Luxembourg, deux vétérans américains de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale étaient assis à côté de nous au comptoir. Je suis japonaise, expatriée depuis bien longtemps, et mon partenaire est belge. Ils nous ont raconté leur « pèlerinage des Grandes Guerres » commencé en Normandie, en passant par la Marne et Verdun, et qu’ils poursuivaient vers Bastogne. Avant de les quitter, je leur ai indiqué les endroits à visiter en ville en glissant malicieusement que la brasserie bordait le « quartier chaud », ce à quoi l’un d’eux a lancé d’un ton juvénile « Vous plaisantez ?! Par où y va-t-on ? » et nous nous sommes tous mis à rire.

Oui, nous vivons dans le quartier cosmopolite de la Gare de Luxembourg. Toutes sortes de cultures, langues, nationalités et classes sociales s’y côtoient, y compris des millionnaires, des artisans, des commerçants et d’autres types de travailleurs. On y croise également ceux qui gagnent leur vie par des voies moins louables. Et puis, nous y trouvons aussi nos perles rares. J’y reviendrai dans un de mes prochains billets. Bref, c'est un lieu de vie sociologiquement intéressant.

Dans ce billet, je veux partager avec vous mes astuces pour faire face au confinement sans sombrer dans la morosité, la névrose phobique voire la folie douce. Bien sûr, nous sommes biologiquement câblés pour marcher et, en l’occurrence, se promener en forêt ou faire du sport en plein air est ce qu’il y a de mieux. Mais est-ce envisageable en ce moment ?

( Lire la suite 。。。)

No kisses and handshakes, declaration needed

Last March 11 at 10 AM in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, I witnessed an irresponsible act, which at other times would have been normal or even impolite not to do so in France. On the bus for work, a middle-aged man showed his monthly ticket to the driver, leaned to the woman sitting on the front and gave her two kisses on the cheek. (In France, depending where you are, kisses can be two, three or four). That same day, I heard on the news that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then there have been measures to combat its spread, such as lockdown, quarantine, testing, self-isolation and social distancing.

A week before the mandatory social distancing, business premises where I worked had already “no handshake” signs. If handshake was discouraged, obviously “kisses” too. It’s so obvious that they didn’t think there would be a need for “no kisses” signs, but there should have been because, pre-coronavirus pandemic, kissing was a form of greeting in many European workplaces, particularly in France.

We’ve all experienced the “accidental” handshakes, hugs or cheek kisses during these times of the coronavirus. Politicians, such as the US President Donald Trump, were seen shaking hands with several people during their press conferences and hospital visits. Mr Trump was reported to have said, “People come up to me, they shake hands, they put their hand out. It’s sort of a natural reflex, and we’re all getting out of it. All of us have that problem.” (see ''How the new coronavirus could change our behaviour'' on Euronews). There’s no excuse for social irresponsibility.

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