Saturday, 28 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES IV

“A nation loses the place which it once held in the world’s history when money becomes more precious to the souls of its people than honesty and labour. A universal, widespread greed of gain is the forewarning of some upheaval and disaster. Civilisations have been born and completed, and then forgotten again and again.” – Colonel James Churchward 

Millions of Americans expect to receive $1,200 cheques as part of a $2 trillion stimulus deal that was signed off by President Trump on Friday. This was cited to be a measure to combat a sluggish economy by getting the beneficiaries of this handout to spend it, and thus stimulate the nation’s industries by the direct injection of funds. Other governments of first world countries are commencing similar such releases of funds into their economies, hoping thus to stave off a worldwide depression.

An interesting site to view in light of the President’s announcement is the US National Debt clock. I looked at it mesmerised for a few minutes as the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt increased with each fleeting second. You may have heard of the immense economic strife that Greece found itself in through reckless borrowing of funds and unchecked spending. Currently, every Greek citizen owns about $40,000 USD of their country’s national debt. Terrible, isn’t it? Well, you may think, the US is a more powerful country, with a stronger economy, much more resilient finances and home of the richest people of the world. Think again, each US citizen owns about $73,000 USD of the national debt. Furthermore, each taxpayer in the US owns about $191,000 USD of the national debt.

Play around with the US National Debt site. There is an interesting feature called “Time Machine”. Go back to 1980 and see the National Debt per citizen: About $4,000! A lot of money has been printed and injected into the economy since then to “stimulate” it! By stimulation I understand that means the stock market does well, the few filthy rich get richer, the middle classes do less and less well, while the poor get poorer and poorer, each citizen paying a higher and higher price for a “flourishing economy”.

Coronavirus had infected at least 92,932 people in the U.S. as of Friday 27th March and killed at least 1,380 people, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Of course, simply tracking confirmed cases underestimates the actual scale of the problem. Many more cases of infection will lurk in the community undetected. This is particularly the case for a virus like COVID-19 where symptoms can be mistaken for a cold or flu. Without massive investment in testing, cases will always be missed.

New cases of infection and casualties continue multiplying in the USA. New York and Louisiana hospitals are grappling with a flood of patients that threatens to overwhelm their health-care systems, and their resources are dwindling. Meanwhile, the president and political conservatives are increasingly agitating to end drastic restrictions meant to buy time and save lives. The rhetoric is: “Give people a stimulus handout, get them to spend it, and thus end this nonsense over a stupid ‘flu’ which is keeping them from being happy workers and model consumers.”

Politics has always been a dirty game, but especially so in the Trump era. In recent days, a sizeable and growing number of Trump supporters have claimed that health experts are part of a deep-state plot to hurt Trump’s re-election efforts by damaging the economy and keeping the United States shut down as long as possible. Trump himself pushed this idea in the early days of the outbreak, calling warnings on Coronavirus a kind of “hoax” meant to undermine him. The distrust of Science and Scientists runs deep in the psyche of the uneducated, the simple, the ‘average’ person, but also in the twisted mind of the sly opportunists who wish to further their own fortunes no matter what the cost, human lives included. 

Epidemiologists are medical specialists who have been educated for decades in order to be able to give advice on how diseases appear, how they occur in communities and in the case of infectious diseases, how the diseases spread and how we can limit that spread. They act based on their knowledge, their experience and the scientific modelling that they carry out in order to protect communities and increase the health of a population. Their role in these days of COVID-19 is to avert massive numbers of deaths and devise strategies in order to stem spread of disease and make the disease disappear. One of the frustrations of  epidemiologists trying to prevent disease (rather than curing it, as doctors do and with appreciation of the cured patients), is that it’s often difficult for the public to understand the disasters epidemiologists help them avoid.

A noted epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson published a paper on March 16th, outlining the model of Coronavirus infection and its toll on populations. If nothing were done to prevent  COVID-19 infection in the USA, the number of deaths was predicted to reach 2.2 million people. If all patients were able to be treated, there would still be in the order of 1.1-1.2 million fatalities in the US.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call. We are all aware of it, we are all affected by its consequences on our daily existence, we are suffering its effects on our jobs, our leisure, our interaction with family, friends, even strangers. We are all experiencing varying degrees of fear, ranging from foolhardy insouciance, to mild apprehension, to informed alarm, to justified dread, to mindless panic.

We react to the pandemic in direct proportion to our subjective feelings of fear. Foolhardy politicians inject funds into struggling economies and hope that the deaths amongst their political opponents will be higher than the deaths in the camp of their supporters. The rich and famous are mildly apprehensive and plan courses of actions that decrease their probability of contracting the virus (as advised by their exclusive medical care personnel). The thinking, rational, educated person is alarmed and does what epidemiologists and microbiologists advise, lessening their personal risk of infection, but also doing what is best for the community. People who have come in contact with the virus and its effects first-hand are filled with dread and can act irrationally – perhaps justifiably so. The mindless, panic and act unpredictably with often dire consequences.

Open your eyes, unstop your ears, think! Read critically and follow the advice of experts whose job is to protect the lives of everyone in the community – yes, your life too! If you cannot understand something, ask for clarification. If you have been affected personally by illness or death of a loved one, support is available. If you have financial troubles and you cannot cope, there are many places that provide real support and material help – help that goes beyond one-off handouts of money that you spend on consumer goods to support economies and raise stock prices.

You have been asleep in your comfortable, unthinking existence; blithely unaware in your cushy, mindless routine; you have flooded your existence with cheap thrills, huge numbers of consumer goods you don't really need, you have been in pursuit of trite goals. Wake-up! Re-examine your existence. Find again all that is important, really important, in life. Reach out to your family, your friends, your community. If you’re dead, it doesn’t really matter if your stocks do well in the NYSE or if Trump is re-elected (growing National Debt notwithstanding)…

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES III

“My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: There is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition.” - Yann Martel

Memento mori – “Remember you will die”. An apt reminder in these days of COVID-19, with deaths due to infection with this sinister and highly contagious virus climbing to higher and more alarming levels day by day, worldwide. We look at the deserted streets in our cities and we are reminded of our mortality. We look in shock as military trucks in Italy convey scores of corpses to a place where they will be prepared for burial, and memento mori, the Latin phrase resounds through the centuries to remind the survivors that death lies in wait, that they too will die. Madrid in Spain is the new epicentre of COVID-19 in the world and a huge skating rink has been converted to a temporary morgue to hold the hundreds of corpses. News bulletins inform us of increasing infection transmission rates and we are obliged to think: “Am I next? What if I get sick? What if I get very sick? What if I can’t be cured? What if I die?

Most people in our society push the idea of their death into the darkest and deepest crypts of their mind. Our culture has a become a life culture, a youth and pleasure-seeking culture. Death has been sanitised and has become something that is seen mainly on the TV screen, in movies, in video games, as a fitting end to deserving miscreants. We have been given a diet of ‘cartoonified’ death (especially as it relates to an untimely and violent death), where death is trivialised and treated with a contemptuous disregard. The more we see the ease with which death is meted out to others on screen, the more it has made our own death a more distant and unlikely possibility – after all we live in the real world, don’t we?

Think of the hypothetical situation where you are infected with the deadly Coronavirus and the even more hypothetical eventuality where you will be told: “You have two days to live…” What would you do? Is what you do much different to what you would do if you had been told: “You have two weeks to live.” Or perhaps: “You will die in two months…” Or even “You have two years of life left!” What then determines your course of action? Many around the world have had to deal with this scenario, confronting a horrific and rapid death as something they or a family member will go through  in a matter of days.

The religious amongst us may say: Vanitas vanitatum, omnia est vanitas; which you will find in Ecclesiastes 1:1 onward: 
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 

In the past when life on earth was seen to be a transient and preparatory phase for life eternal, death was seen as a liberation, a door through which we passed to be greeted by the angels of paradise and its eternal bliss. Death was then a part of life and a promise of liberation from all of our wordly cares and toil. None feared death then, provided one lived a devout and God-fearing life with thoughts and deeds as stipulated by the Gospels.

We have ‘progressed’ and ‘evolved’ socially. Our lay society largely views death as an abrupt end to life, an eternal and dreamless sleep – or even more bluntly perhaps, an infinitude of non-being. Is it a surprise then that we nowadays live our life seeking pleasures, riches, enjoyment, shallow and constant gratifications of every one of our whims and selfish desires? Is it a surprise that we shun even the thought of death and remove from everyday existence even the mention of the word? How many euphemisms we have devised to replace the straightforward ‘she died’? “She passed away; she perished; she went the way of all flesh; she crossed the great divide; she went to meet her Maker; she croaked it; she kicked the bucket…” And so on.

Enter Coronavirus from stage left. It brings with it a sharp sickle, shining bright, its blade whetted and ready to be used. All are vulnerable, all may become horribly sick, all are at risk of dying. Yes, dying, not undergoing some strange linguistic euphemistic transmogrification. We are suddenly jolted back into the grim reality of death as an end to life. And even more so we are forced to contemplate the possibility of an unfair, premature, agonising death far from those we love and who love us. A rapid, sombre funeral (if we’re lucky!) to follow, no ‘celebration’ of our life and the telling of funny anecdotes in the upbeat ceremony, no playing of our favourite pop song.

To add insult to injury, COVID-19 has hit at the foundation of our comfortable, pleasurable existence. Worldwide, economies teeter, stock prices tumble, politicians flounder and pass bill after bill in parliament trying to rescue nations from recession, the world from a depression. Shops close, companies fold, our jobs are at risk, our lifestyle with its multitudinous delights has suddenly been degraded, all those activities which readily gave us amusing diversions and pointless recreations have suddenly ceased. The restaurants and bars have closed, the spectator sports have stopped, the cinemas, the discos, the clubs, the multitude of crowd-pleasers that filled our vacuous existence are all ‘temporarily suspended’.

Instead, we are now confined at home and forced to be alone with our worrying thoughts about life, death, the universe and everything. A reassessment of our existence to date inevitably follows. If we are lucky, we share our home with family, a partner, a pet, or even compatible company. The unlucky amongst us close our door and remain truly alone, making the isolation and ‘social distancing’ even more absolute, more trying, more gnawingly soul-destroying.

Really, when we consider everything, is it surprising that we have panicked? Is it so astounding that people all over the world are behaving in very strange ways? It is such great revelation when we see the scenes of mass hysteria, when we observe people doing whatever they believe will avert the possibility of their infection and the highly unpleasant dénouement it often entails? After all that, buying and stashing toilet paper seems to be a logical and greatly satisfying activity, which makes us better able to deal with the insanity of the situation we have to live through. I think I’m running low, I need to go and buy a few rolls…

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 228 - KINDERDIJK, THE NETHERLANDS

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“There are, indeed, few merrier spectacles than that of many windmills bickering together in a fresh breeze over a woody country; their halting alacrity of movement, their pleasant business, making bread all day with uncouth gesticulation; their air, gigantically human, as of a creature half alive, put a spirit of romance into the tamest landscape.” - Robert Louis Stevenson 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. 

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Kinderdijk is a village in the Netherlands, belonging to the municipality of Molenwaard, in the province South Holland, about 15 km east of Rotterdam. Kinderdijk is situated in a polder in the Alblasserwaard at the confluence of the Lek and Noord rivers. To drain the polder, a system of 19 windmills was built around 1740. This group of mills is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. The windmills of Kinderdijk are one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,

and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.
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Sunday, 22 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES II

“I don’t know how one actually would define obscenity. I’m sure the definition is different according to the age one is living in.” - Jane Alexander 

What is it about the acquisition of hoards of toilet paper – of all things! – that has defined the COVID-19 pandemic? People madly rush to buy up all the rolls they can find, and a frenzied scramble it often turns out to be, not without casualties in the course of the battle for the desirable rolls of triple-ply, pure white, cloud-soft, disposable bliss. If you’re lucky you’ll even be the proud possessor of the luxrious, embossed, floral print rolls… Worth every bit the skirmish and the casualties thereof you sustained in order to grab these trophies and proudly carry them home!

Since our kindergarten days, “poo”, “bum” and “wee” have caused uproarious laughter every time they were uttered by your fellow 5-year-olds. “Fart” was an added bonus and toilet jokes were sure to bring the house down. Some of us manage to outgrow this phase and such jokes that rely on the scatological become obscene. Obscene in this case meaning “in bad taste”, “not suitable for intelligent discussion”, “not witty enough to be considered humorous”. Yet, there is living proof that the scatological provides a ready source of material for countless stand-up comedians (especially the low-lifes that rely on embarrassing individuals of the audience, whom they pick on and make the butt –sorry, pun unintentional – of their “jokes”). Similarly, any number of sit-coms where the punchline invariably depends on the “poo”, “bum”, “wee”  and “fart” tetralogy. Not to mention the “blue” pub jokes, which if not sexual are, more often than not, scatological.

A bodily function that is performed in private is for the majority of people considered to be obscene – obscene in this case meaning not to be exposed to public scrutiny: “Ob scaena” what is not allowed onto the stage, what is supposed to remain behind the scenes and only hinted at, or implied, as in classical tragedy. Hence our numerous euphemisms for the shithouse: Toilet, bathroom, powder room, water closet, john, dunny, privy, lavatory, latrine, convenience, etc, etc… 

Ancient Romans did not consider going to the toilet obscene as is evidenced by the rows of toilet bowls next to each other in public toilets in Ephesus, Pompeii and Herculaneum, where one could sit and do one’s business, while chatting pleasantly to the people next to you. Interestingly, Europeans were amazed when confronted with traditional Tahitian cultural norms, which considered that eating in public was an obscene act and hence such a bodily function would have to performed privately and separately.

The packaging and marketing descriptors of toilet paper provide us with the ultimate euphemistic package for an obscene, yet necessary, normal, and healthful bodily function. Shopping for toilet paper becomes a decent and socially acceptable duty because it is so hygienic, so delightfully presented, so beautifully described: Pure, soft, lily-white, downy, angelic, gentle and sanitary. “Sanitary”: Hygienic and clean, contributing to health! If using that paper doesn’t somehow protect you against the Coronavirus, what else can?

Most people don’t normally have large stashes of toilet paper. This day and age where space is at a premium in our increasingly smaller and smaller abodes, bulky toilet rolls take up lots of space. Hence one buys as one needs, small numbers of rolls, enough to avoid embarrassment in one’s private (obscene, if you like) moments. Good taste also dictates that toilet rolls remain out of sight, hence one cannot have them in public view. Normally the few rolls that we buy are put in the bathroom cupboard, out of sight until needed.

Many amongst us are control freaks. They want to be in charge of things, run their affairs as they see fit and desire, be masters of their own destiny and ensure that people around them conform with their course of action, which is the only right way to go about things, isn’t it? It’s all bout power and empowerment, being in control and not at the whim of fate’s vicissitudes: “I am in charge of my life and not some God-damned new virus that threatens my comfortable and pleasant routines!” Of course that means that there should be plenty of toilet paper around, doesn’t it? Control freaks are so full of shit!

Think of it also another way: Toilet tissue is a cheap commodity that can be put to other uses, for example it can be used as a tissue and if people have a cold and a runny nose, toilet tissue is a ready substitute for the tissues that you run out of. Interestingly, people are more reluctant to use tissues or paper towels or other disposable wipes in liu of toilet paper in the toilet… Hence the stockpiling of toilet rolls in the case of a pending epidemic respiratory system disease which amongst other symptoms (in the public mind) includes a runny nose (though not necessarily so in actual case!).

Buy toilet paper, be prepared, be hygienic, be in control! Take an active role in your health management and disease prevention! The more you buy, the more your chances of fending off the disease! Toilet paper has become a powerful apotropaic amulet that will stave off infection with COVID-19, and prevent illness, or an even worse fate! You are right, for toilet paper is a worthy trophy for the modern day warriors of the supermarket aisles. All you, soldiers of the grocery store wars fighting tooth and nail for a few rolls of the prized possession, you the modern day knights errant of this, our sick society, you are the ones who are truly and utterly obscene.

Friday, 20 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES I

“We are born. We die. Somewhere in between we live. And how we live is up to us. That’s it.” ― Steven Ramirez

This morning I went for a walk around our neighbourhood. It was 7:45 am, Saturday, one day after the Autumnal Equinox. The sky was leaden grey and the temperature cool enough to necessitate a jacket over my sweatshirt. My ramble in the neighbourhood was because the gym I usually work out in was closed temporarily as a measure against the spread of COVID-19. I think that there are few places on earth at the moment where people are not aware of the novel Coronavirus and the havoc it is wreaking worldwide. Currently in Australia, we have over 900 confirmed cases, with seven deaths from COVID-19. More than 115,000 tests have been conducted across Australia. It is a health emergency, but it has more sinister aspects in the way that it is affecting our society and our interactions with other people.

The early morning streets were quiet – almost eerily so, even for a Saturday. Few cars drove by and even less pedestrians were to be seen out and about. I walked briskly, enjoying the deep breaths of cool air and the effects of the exercise. I could sense my face warming up and the tingle of increased blood flow through my stretching muscles. As my heart rate increased and a slight sweat began to make me appreciate the comfortable warmth I was feeling all over, my thoughts turned to the pandemic and what it meant to me, my family, my friends, my community, my country, the world.

The immediate thought that entered my head was that of a slightly similar crisis that the world lived through in 2003, and most people forgot about a few months afterwards. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of these, 774 died. In the United States, only eight people had laboratory evidence of SARS-CoV infection. All of these people had travelled to other parts of the world where SARS was spreading. In Australia 138 people were investigated for SARS: 111 as suspect and 27 as probable infections. Five probable cases were reported to WHO after review of other possible diagnoses. SARS blew over, with minimal worldwide effects, and hardly worth remembering unless one’s near and dear had been affected.

Here we are today, 17 years later with yet another Coronavirus emerging and causing a new, more virulent form of disease than SARS, more contagious and with more sinister consequences. The reason in fact for my now usual, brisk early morning walk replacing my gym workout. Hardly worth mentioning or even thinking about if that were the extent of behaviour modification that each of us has to adopt. Seeing in the news how people are behaving in routine encounters, while working, shopping, socially interacting has caused me considerable dismay and in a few cases frank disgust. An interaction with someone during my morning walk drove home some of these points.

As I walked down a footpath of a typical, quiet suburban street I saw ahead of me an elderly man. He was about 70-100 metres down the street and walking slowly, haltingly. I smiled and thought that here was another man exercising in the morning, enjoying the serenity of the place. As I neared him, quite suddenly, he dragged his feet, slipped, tripped and fell face-down on the concrete, uttering a cry of surprise and pain. He lay there motionless and I ran to assist him.

He was a tall, rather gangly man of about 75 years, in fairly good shape, balding, with a lined, sunburnt face that was deformed by a grimace of pain. He was doubled up, his hand clutching his left knee. I crouched down beside him and asked if he was OK.
“Thanks for stopping and asking…” He said rather breathlessly. “I’m OK, just feeling embarrassed and rather crestfallen!”
“Of course, I’d stop and help if I can.” I replied. “Are you in pain? Does it feel as though you’ve broken anything?”
“No, no, I’m sure it’s just a bruised knee. It’s arthritic and falling on it doesn’t help.”
“Would you like me to call an ambulance, just to make sure all is OK at the hospital?”
“No, I’m OK. I’ll just hobble home and lie down with a cuppa.”
“Do you live far?”
“A block down the road. I’ll be fine.” He winced as he tried to get up.
“Here let me help you sit up and see how you feel, see if you can walk.”

He turned and looked at me and smiled for the first time.
“You know, many people would just cross the street and walk on by quickly. I’m surprised you’re here helping me.”
“I’m sure most people would help you if they saw you topple like that.”
“Aren’t you afraid of catching the virus?”
“The chances of me catching the virus and something horrible happening to me afterwards if I help you are minimal – no more than other everyday encounters. Letting you lie down on the footpath, ignoring your predicament would cause me greater harm. My conscience would trouble me and that would be quite a distressing thing…” I said, giving him my hand and helping him up.
“Conscience!” He said and chuckled. “A rare commodity nowadays. I’m Joe, what’s your name?”
“Nick; pleased to meet you, Joe.”

We walked slowly on the footpath, his injury causing him to limp and occasionally grunt. I supported him with my arm and steadied him as best as I could. We soon reached his house and he smiled again as I opened the garden gate to get him into the yard.
“Thank you, Nick, you’re a gentleman and I appreciate your act of kindness. Would you like a cuppa?”
“Don’t mention it, Joe. I’d love a cuppa, but I’m expected home and I’m running late as I have walked further than I planned. Perhaps another time?”
“Any time, mate, just knock on the door and most days I’m home. I’m a pensioner and especially these days I don’t venture far. Thanks again, a pleasure to meet you even under these circumstances.”

Yes, we are living through a pandemic. Yes, we are at risk of catching a horrible virus that can make us very ill, perhaps even cause us to die. Yes, we are meant to practice “social distancing” and avoid contact with other people. All of this does not mean we are also meant to lose our humanity, dispense with our conscience, ignore the plight of our fellow man. Compassion, sympathy, mutual support, community spirit, helpfulness and assistance towards those who need it most, especially these days, are something we all should be striving to find more of within our being and give liberally to others. Do not deny strangers your kindness, you may rely on the kindness of strangers yourself, perhaps much sooner than you think.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 227 - ASTYPALAIA, GREECE

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Astypalaia (Greek: Αστυπάλαια, pronounced [astiˈpalea]), is a Greek island with 1,334 residents (2011 census). It belongs to the Dodecanese, an archipelago of twelve major islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea.The island is 18 kilometres  long, 13 kilometres wide at the most, and covers an area of 97 km2. Along with numerous smaller uninhabited offshore islets (the largest of which are Sýrna and Ofidoússa), it forms the Municipality of Astypalaia, which is part of the Kalymnos regional unit. The capital and the previous main harbour of the island is Astypalaia or Chora, as it is called by the locals.

The coasts of Astypalaia are rocky with many small pebble-strewn beaches. A small band of land of roughly 100 metres wide almost separates the island in two sections at Sterno. Two of the most beautiful beaches of the island can be reached by the tourist boats which set off from Pera Yalos and Maltezana. These beaches are Kaminakia, where there is a tavern which serves boiled goat (stew), an island speciality, and Vatses, where there is a cave with stalactites and stalagmites. 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.
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Tuesday, 10 March 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 226 - MIJAS, SPAIN

“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” ― George Orwell


Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Mijas is a town and municipality in the province of Málaga, in Andalusia, southern Spain. It is a typically Andalusian white-washed village located at a mountain side about 450 m above mean sea level, in the heart of the Costa del Sol region. There are some local history museums and many souvenir shops, Mijas also has seven golf courses (with more under construction) including La Cala Resort, the biggest golf resort in Spain.


The economy of Mijas is primarily based on tourism, featuring local historical museums and many souvenir shops. The climate of Mijas, due to its proximity to the sea, enjoys semi-tropical temperatures with winter days being mostly warm/hot and agreeable, and days of hot/very hot weather from May until October. The months of July and August are very hot with temperatures at the end of July and early August hovering around 30˚C. Winter nights can be occasionally chilly but with only an occasional light frost. The rainfall is below 600 millimetres (24 inches) per year and occurs mainly between October and April. The town boasts some 2,920 hours of sunshine per year. 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme, 
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Tuesday, 3 March 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 225 - COIMBRA, PORTUGAL

“Oh salty sea, how much of your salt is tears from Portugal?” – Fernando Pessoa 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Coimbra is a city and a municipality in Portugal. The population at the 2011 census was 143,397, in an area of 319.40 square kilometres. It is the fourth-largest urban centre in Portugal (after Lisbon, Porto and Braga), and is the largest city of the district of Coimbra, the Centro region and the Baixo Mondego subregion. About 460,000 people live in the Região de Coimbra, comprising 19 municipalities and extending into an area 4,336 square kilometres.

Among the many archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era, when Coimbra was the settlement of Aeminium, are its well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus. Similarly, buildings from the period when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal (from 1131 to 1255) still remain. During the Late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre. This was in large part helped by the establishment the University of Coimbra in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world.

Apart from attracting many European and international students, the university is visited by many tourists for its monuments and history. Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013: “Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.”

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 224 - MALAYSIA

“There is no greater education than travel.” – Jon Butcher

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.
 
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Johor Bahru is the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia, located just to the north of Singapore. Johor Bahru is the southernmost city on the Eurasian mainland. Pasir Pelangi, the royal village, is located within Johor Bahru. In 2010 the city had a population of about 1,400,000. The population is 47.5 percent Malay, 34.2 percent Chinese, 9.0 percent Indian, 0.6 percent other minorities and 8.7 percent non-citizens.

Johor Bahru was founded in 1855 when the sovereign ruler of Johor, Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, established his administrative headquarters there. Johor Bahru quickly expanded into a town under Abu Bakar's direction. Many of the town's buildings were constructed during Abu Bakar's reign, notably the State Mosque, Istana Besar, and the Menteri Besar's residence—many of which were built by Wong Ah Fook, a Toisanese-Chinese contractor who became a close patron of Abu Bakar. The town also saw an influx of Chinese immigrants. Johor Bahru expanded in size from the 1960s onwards.

During the 1970s and 1980s, new townships and industrial estates were built in villages and hamlets north and east of Johor Bahru, such as Tebrau and Plentong. By the early 1990s, Johor Bahru had considerably expanded in size, and was officially granted recognition as a city on 1 January 1994. Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru, the city council, was formed and the city's current main square, Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru, was constructed to commemorate this event.

A central business district was developed in the centre of the city from the mid-1990s in the area around Jalan Wong Ah Fook and the Johor-Singapore Causeway. The state and federal government channelled considerable funds for the development of the city—particularly more so after 2006, when the Iskandar Malaysia development region blueprint was formalised. Johor government decided to moved their administrative headquarters since 1859 from Bukit Timbalan to Nusajaya, Gelang Patah, and renames it as Kota Iskandar.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 223 - PERTH, AUSTRALIA

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta. 

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Government House in Perth, the state capital of Western Australia, is the official residence of the Governor of Western Australia and was built between 1859 and 1864. The buildings and gardens are of exceptional heritage significance, being listed on the Western Australian Register of Heritage Places, classified by the National Trust of Australia (W.A.) and entered on the Register of the National Estate. The gardens are often open to the public, as is the House from time to time. The building is a two storey mansion in the early Stuart or Jacobean Revival style set on 32,000 square metres of English gardens in the centre of the Perth business district, between St. Georges Terrace and the Swan River.

The unique architectural character of the building is characterised by the use of stonework and bonded brickwork, incorporating square mullioned windows, decorated gables and ogival capped turrets. The attenuated gothic arcading at ground floor level derives from another form of Victorian Revival expression Fonthill Gothic. The building has 16 rooms on the ground floor and 25 on the first floor. According to the Western Australian Register of Heritage Places Assessment, Government House is a “unique example of a Victorian Gentleman’s residence” set in landscaped gardens with mature plantings and a number of commemorative trees.

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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 222 - CASBAH, RABAT

“Come with me to ze Casbah…” – Charles Boyer from the film “Algiers” (1938) 

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The Kasbah of the Udayas is a kasbah in Rabat, Morocco. A kasbah is a type of medina, Islamic city, or fortress (citadel). It was a place for the local leader to live and a defence when a city was under attack. A kasbah has high walls, usually without windows. Sometimes, it was built on hilltops so that it could be more easily defended. Some were placed near the entrance to harbours.

The Kasbah of the Udayas is located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river opposite Salé. The edifice was built in the 12th century during the reign of the Almohad Caliphate (AD 1121-1269). When the Almohads had captured Rabat and destroyed the kasbah of the Almoravid dynasty in the town, they began reconstructing it in AD 1150. They added a palace and a mosque and named it al-Mahdiyya, after their ancestor al-Mahdi Ibn Tumart. After the death of Yaqub al-Mansur (AD 1199) the kasbah was deserted.

The Almohads brought significant changes to the Rabat area, including the destruction and rebuilding of the Kasbah of the Udayas and turning Chellah into a royal necropolis. Rabat was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on July 20, 2006 in the Cultural category. It was granted World Heritage Status in 2012.

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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 221 - LONDON, UK

“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” - Samuel Johnson

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London is the capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south east of the island of Great Britain, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. It was founded by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its 1.12-square-mile (2.9 km2) medieval boundaries.

Since at least the 19th century, "London" has also referred to the metropolis around this core, historically split between Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Kent, and Hertfordshire, which today largely makes up Greater London, governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

London contains four World Heritage Sites: The Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster (image above), Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory, Greenwich marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT). Other famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, and The Shard.

London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events, and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, British Library, and West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world. 

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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 220 - JAPAN

“Japan never considers time together as time wasted. Rather, it is time invested.” – Donald Richie

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Japan (Japanese: 日本 Nippon [ɲippoɴ] or Nihon [ɲihoɴ]; formally 日本国 Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, meaning "State of Japan") is a sovereign island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian mainland and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and China in the southwest. The kanji, or Sino-Japanese characters, that make up Japan's name mean "sun origin", and it is often called the "Land of the Rising Sun".

Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago consisting of about 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and often are referred to as home islands. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one. The population of 127 million is the world's tenth largest. Japanese people make up 98.5% of Japan's total population. About 9.1 million people live in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. 

Archaeological research indicates that Japan was inhabited as early as the Upper Palaeolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other regions, mainly China, followed by periods of isolation, particularly from Western Europe, has characterised Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shoguns who ruled in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. After nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection, the Imperial Court regained its political power in 1868 through the help of several clans from Ch_sh_ and Satsuma-and the Empire of Japan was established. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. 

The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender. Since adopting its revised constitution on May 3, 1947, during the occupation by the SCAP, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with an Emperor and an elected legislature called the National Diet.

Japan is a member of the UN, the OECD, the G7, the G8 and the G20-and is considered a great power. The country has the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the world's fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. The country benefits from a highly skilled workforce and is among the most highly educated countries in the world, with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding a tertiary education degree.

Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military with the world's eighth-largest military budget, used for self-defence and peacekeeping roles. Japan is a developed country with a very high standard of living and Human Development Index. Its population enjoys the highest life expectancy and the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Japan is renowned for its historical and extensive cinema, rich cuisine and its major contributions to science and modern-day technology..

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