Family / Community

The private sphere also finds its share in social-issues

No individual or nation thrives alone

Four of my friends were born in April. When I was in Australia, April was a month of non-stop partying, gift giving and receiving, and catching up with relatives and acquaintances. It’s widely known that the birthstone of April is diamond. Meanwhile, it’s still a wonder why this fourth month of the year is called as such. One explanation refers to its Latin origin, Aprilis, which is derived from aperire meaning “to open” as in the opening or blossoming of flowers and trees throughout the month of April in Europe (the northern hemisphere). Another theory is that since Aphrilis is derived from the Greek “Aphrodite” and since months are often named for gods and goddess, it can be deduced that April is in honour of the Greek goddess of love (the Romans called this goddess ‘Venus’). (see ''The Mystery Behind April’s Name'' on Dictionary.com)

This year’s April, however, didn’t seem like a month of wealth (diamond) and love for many individuals and families. The Hunger Project reveals that 795 million people, which is one in nine persons in the world, do not have enough to eat; and 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. (reference ''Know Your World: Facts About Hunger And Poverty'' on The Hunger Project)

Last April, you’d surely seen on TV the horrifying chemical attack in a Syrian town that prompted the US airstrikes, suicide bombing of the 2 Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, stolen truck driven by a terrorist into a store in a busy Swedish street, killing of a police officer in Paris, etc. I know none of the victims, nevertheless, these incidents have saddened me a lot and made me earthlier.

Board games

I hope 2017 has started well for you and your loved ones. I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but believe that there’s always a room for improvement. So, in any day of any month, I try to deal with my faults and weaknesses. These imperfections make me wake up in the morning wanting to do something better than yesterday.

I got a trophy 3 weeks ago for finishing 2nd among adult female participants at a chess tournament in Marange-Silvange, a commune 20 km from where I live in Moselle department in north-eastern France. From time to time, I join this kind of competition because it makes my avid-chess playing son happy and proud of his mum. As well, I find the atmosphere festive amid rivalry characterised by fair play, respect and camaraderie.

What pleases me most is watching children, as young as 5 years old, sitting for some time thinking, analysing and making decisions which pieces to move to corner their opponents’ Kings. For me, all players are winners because they learn and exercise discipline, accept or manage their wins and losses, and try to improve their future performances. Furthermore, spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon playing and socialising is more productive, with long-term benefits, than being a couch potato -- which is likely when the outside temperature is -5°C.

Though there's been a widespread use of computer and video games, Internet entertainment and online socialising, individuals and families still get involved in group activities. According to ''The Top 10 Most Sold Board Games Ever'', the following are the most popular board games ever: 1. Chess, 2. Checkers, 3. Backgammon, 4. Scrabble, 5. Monopoly, 6. Clue (or Cluedo), 7. Othello, 8. Trivial Pursuit, 9. Pictionary, and 10. Risk.

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.

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.

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.

Gender and friendship: can women and men be close friends?

Posted on October 6, 2012 on Being Intelligent Gifted

  • “Men and women can’t be real friends,” Pierre, a gentle French man in his late 20s, insisted.
  • “There’s always that sexual dimension that makes male-female friendship impossible,” chimed in Guido, an Italian banker in his early 40s.
  • “I had to cut contact with my close female friend because my wife was jealous of her,” revealed Michael, a Belgian in his mid 30s.
  • “It depends where you live. In my village in the south of Spain, men and women get together and dance as friends, only friends no more,” argued Jose.

(We always start our Business English class with current events. Unusually, last week, my students were more interested in talking about male-female friendship than the economic crisis in the Euro Zone).

Though views on friendship vary from culture to culture, generally, such relationship between men and women is less common and more complex than same-sex friendship.

Friendship between men and women is viewed with suspicion because of cultural social and physiological realities. In films, friends always fall in love or end up in bed, which has either a happy or disastrous ending. Our education and socialisation encourage gender division in terms of physical and emotional needs and ways to attain these. There’s a prevailing belief that men, by biological nature, are more sexual thus more likely to have more than one partner.

Some individuals use friendship as a camouflage to their emotional insecurity and other psychological handicaps. They need a female friend (or friends) other than their partner as they didn’t experience emotional stability while growing up, they never witnessed their parent’s love and devotion to each other, or they were deprived of their mother’s care and attention. Meanwhile, are these not just excuses for a selfish desire that is responsible for some divorces and failed relationships, which have disturbing consequences, especially when children are involved.

Multipurpose summer holiday: intensive courses, sporting competitions, family, friends, charity, networking

Séjours linguistiques (language trainings), intensive courses in subjects that range from mathematics to personal development and sporting activities (close to 1 million visitors to London during the Olympics Games of which about 300,000 from overseas + 5.5 million day trippers + 10,500 athletes and 7,500 officials) are some of this year’s summer holiday interests.

My acquaintance and her husband plan their annual summer holiday around chess tournaments. They visit beautiful towns in France and nearby European cities while their 15 year-old-son collects trophies. Gone are the days when the sole destination was the beach, mountain, touristic spots or entertainment park to relax and have fun. Consciously, or otherwise, we engage in a multipurpose holiday, e.g. our travel luggage includes a laptop, net/notebook, iPod, Nintendo, headsets and other electronic gadgets. Do we really need these gadgets when our main goal is to have a nice break from work, school or a routine activity (especially strenuous one)?

Here in France, friends (sometimes even strangers) constantly ask each other these questions “When are you going on holiday?” “Where will you spend your summer vacation?”-- which are not easy to answer when you’re going nowhere. As well, these are always followed by further questions and comments, such as “Are you working all summer?” as if you’ve been punished for being inefficient; “Your children will be bored for 2 months” as if they didn’t have parents, siblings, toys, nearby parks and local activities to keep them busy. Sometimes it’s not enough to mention a place; it has to be abroad – such as England, Spain and other top country destinations!

There are many worthwhile activities during the summer holiday period aside from consuming artificially high-priced accommodation, airline tickets and entertainment. One of my trainees has just left Luxembourg as a participant of a one-month car rally in Mongolia. He’s so delighted that his summer holiday has raised money for charities through sponsorships and donations. In last nights’ news there was a segment about students working for nursing homes as volunteers this summer.

Enfin, c'est pas trop tôt! (as French people say).

Finally, same-sex marriage (in French, "le mariage homosexuel") to be legalized in France.

This is good news for my gay friends and also a good progress for a democratic country with the motto of "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" (Liberty, equality, fraternity or brotherhood/sisterhood).

According to France Info (radio) this morning, the new Socialist government will propose a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.  If the French government will pass the law in 2013, same-sex married couples will receive the same rights and benefits as other married couples.

Thus, by 2013 France will join the eleven countries that legally allow same-sex couples to marry: the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012).

Actually, my hero Coluche, very popular French comedian and the founder of "Les Restos du Coeur" (Restaurants du Coeur - Restaurants of the Heart), who also protested against racism, already supported marriage equality in 1985.  Watch the video!

Love gone wild! mad!

“Love Gone Wild” (Experiences, causes, dealing with domestic violence) -- visit my website Being Intelligent Gifted Victims and perpetrators are anywhere in the world from all cultural, social, economic and professional situations, ages and sexual orientations.

“Don’t ring me at home. We have been staying in a shelter since Tuesday,” she said to me with watery eyes a fortnight ago. For over 30 minutes, I listened to her non-stop revelation of violence that led her and their teenage daughter to the police station at 2AM. Love gone wild? mad? I wasn’t completely shocked as I never heard him speak nicely of /to her -- only criticisms that range from her lack of intelligence to her humble beginning in Eastern Europe (a pattern/signal that is often ignored).

In France, 6 women-victims of domestic violence die every month. In the UK, a woman is killed every 3 days in this way; and in Germany 3 women every four days (mondediplo.com seen 20 June 2012) whilst US statistics average 3 women every day.

Herman ou comment préparer un gâteau de l'amitié en dix jours

Et si on parlait de Herman? vous savez, le gâteau de l'amitié... nous, c'est notre copine Céline qui nous l'a fait découvrir à Sachié et moi. Sachié, elle est persuadée que si un gâteau comme Herman peut nécessiter dix jours afin d'être nourri, élevé et dorloté, alors il mérite d'être versé au patrimoine intangible de l'Humanité... c'est vrai que l'UNESCO l'a déjà fait pour d'autres spécialités culinaires!

Ici, on parle d'un produit originaire d'Alsace (France), semble-t-il. On l'appelle le gâteau de l'amitié, non pas parce qu'il a décidé de se taper l'incruste pendant 10 jours dans votre cuisine - que même votre meilleur(e) ami(e) n'oserait pas faire cela!... non, c'est le gâteau de l'amitié car on le chouchoute, on le fait grossir et puis on le partage avec ses potes (qui du coup, vont se retrouver embarqués à leur tour pendant dix jours dans la même aventure!) Bon, vous l'avez compris: Herman c'est spécial. Recommandation: une clé du succès pour réussir son Herman, c'est de le laisser respirer... il ne faut pas l'enfermer dans un bocal hermétiquement clos. Et puis, ne le mettez pas au frigo non plus, il ne s'y plaît pas... j'ai essayé... il arrête de grossir et ce n'est pas le but.

Mesdames et Messieurs, voici l'histoire d'Herman (comme présentée par ma copine Céline)

ハーマン。10日間かけてつくるアルザスのケーキ

わたしの名前はハーマンです。またの名を、友愛のパンといいます。フランスはアルザスからまいりました。天然の発酵食品です。10日間、めんどうみていただくと、一人前になります。

Herman: A cake of friendship that takes 10 days for preparation

Herman takes some fresh air after its journey

This is about Herman, a recipe given by Céline. It never occured to me that there is such a cake that requires ten days for preparation! What's even more amazing is there are people who happily take ten days to prepare such a cake!!

I thought that it is a sort of “intangible heritage of humanity.” Even if the UNESCO does not declare it, I would endorse my recommendation. It is a cake of friendship from Alsace, France. Is it called the cake of friendship because you need to think of Herman all the time, take care of it for ten days, and then share the Herman dough with your friends? Or maybe, as Herman stays in your kitchen for ten days, it certainly becomes your very good friend! Probably, the former explanation is the right one, as the latter implies that you eat a quarter of your friend in the end. Whatever interpretation can be given, Herman is special. Remember. A key to successful cake baking is respiration: Herman's steady breathing. Also, it needs to stay out of a fridge. I imagine that it is something similar to cheese making in a cave.

Ladies and Gentleman, here is Céline's recipe of THE Herman!

Intergenerational gap — another diversity issue

My 60-year-old Aussie friend has been promising to communicate with me by email for 2 years. Her 20-year-old daughter left home after setting up her Gmail account and no one is around to help her in ‘this seemingly difficult endeavor’ (as she describes it). Last year, she managed to respond to my email twice during the weekend visit of her daughter. Whereas, another Aussie friend (who’s about ten years older than her) emails regularly and doesn’t miss an occasion to send me an electronic card (birthday, Christmas, Easter and Happy Australia Day).

Though the over 59yo men and women are quite diverse, generally, their knowledge is seemingly perceived as obsolete whilst youth is associated with progress and technological know-how. Old and young people have different interest, clothing taste and communication style at any one moment in time, which is described as intergenerational gap.

Generations are grouped by events (e.g. 9/11) and exceptional people (e.g. Steve Jobs) during each period: Baby boomers (1946 – 1964), General Xers (1965 – 1975), Generation Yers (1976 – 1980s), Millennials, Nexters and Me & I Generation (1980s – 1990s up to 2000), Generation Z (after 2000 – also known as Generation Multitasking/Skilling and WWW). The 2008 recession and current economic/financial crises have resulted to and continue to cause youth unemployment and poverty, which has significant consequences. One of these is that young people opt or are forced to live with their parents or relatives– a situation that can have positive impact on intergenerational gap.

Family Procession

Yutakana kurashi

Happy New Year 2012. I would like to start with a happy blog.

Luckily, I was able to take a photo of our elderly neighbor and his three pets: two dogs and one cat. The Yorkshire Terrier is Tania. She was abandoned and terrified when this man found her under a car in our neighborhood. He fed her and took her to a veterinarian for check up and some vaccinations, and adopted Tania two years ago or so. The Retriever is a new family member. Being a puppy, he is quite playful, but he is also gentle. He pays attention to his older master, who walks slowly and laboriously. Also, Tania closely observes him as her master walks and crosses the street. The last one is the carefree cat that is often at the tail end of the queue, but easily catches up with the group. As families do, they take care of one another. Very cute procession.

私の好きな情景

Strange family

夏なら朝6時すぎから夜9時くらいまで。冬の寒い日も雪が降らないかぎり、おじさんはうちの目の前に広がる公園で一日を過ごした。公園が彼の社交場、サロンで、いつも仲間のおじさんやバァ〜ルフレンド(田辺聖子さん、あるいは司馬遼太郎さんの造語?)たちと日が暮れるまで、外で人生を過ごしていた。夏になると日焼けで、顔が赤銅色にてかっていた。早朝、ジョギングに行く私を見つけると、おじさんは不自然な方向転換をして歩調を速め、ガイジンの私に近づき話しかけてくれた。最近は特定のバァ〜ルフレンドができたのか、おじさんは家にいることが多いらしい。

最近、おじさんを見かけたので、写真におさめた。「なんか、ええなあ」となごむ風景です。近所のおじさんと三匹のペットが、お散歩するたたずまい。犬二匹に猫一匹。

おじさんは、いつもお昼ごろお散歩するらしい。先頭をいくのは、ヨークシャ・テリア(?)のタニアである。2・3年前の夏、近所にとめられた車の下でおびえていたタニアを見つけて、おじさんは保護した。

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