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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Music in an analogue age car

One of the effects of travelling by an “analogue age” car is that you are forced to finally change your CDs in the cd changer which is conveniently located in the boot.

That has its advantages as you rediscover certain albums and artists. These are three of the best we listened to during our recent trip to Droushia .

Back in Black – AC/DC

Automatic for the People – REM

Pleased to Meet You – James

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Movie of the week – Nobody Knows

A difficult movie to watch

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Movies, TV & Documentaries

 

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Cyprus – vacations

xasamboulia1On Monday i returned from my 4 days in Droushia with two friends. It’s the 3rd time in the space of 1 year that I’ve been there and there’s so much to see. It’s new to me and I’ve been to places i have not been there at all or at least it’s been many years since.

Highlights

Friday – On our way to Droushia we stopped for (expensive and awful) coffee at Petra tou Romiou. At least we enjoyed the view. We found ourselves in Latsi around lunchtime for souvlaki before heading for the hotel.

Saturday – We visited the St. Raphael church in Pomos and we had lunch in Argaka (Saint Barbara) with a wonderful sea view. Before that, we had tea and cake at the Herbal Gardens in Ano Akourdaelia. This place is truly a hidden treasure. At night we went to Polis to watch the APOEL game and then had dinner at the (expensive but excellent) Old Town restaurant for steaks and lamb chops.

Sunday – It was mostly a relaxing day for us with lunch being our only break from the (wonderful Droushia Heights) hotel as we went to Kathikas and the Farmyard restaurant. It was a surreal experience because the place was packed with British expats who live in the area. The Sunday buffet was excellent.

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Monday – This was our leaving day and we wanted to make the most of it. We headed for Agios Nikolaos and the Bridge of Tzelefos. I’ve never been there before and it was brilliant. On the way we went past Petra ton Hasampoulion which is more impressive than the photos give it credit. We then stopped at Omodos for a walk around the village and lunch. A bit disappointed with Omodos as i thought it was a bit too touristy. Finally we ended up in Platres for coffee and cake while playing two games of Hanabi. On our way back we had car trouble on the Nicosia-Limassol highway and had to abandon my car. We called for a taxi and rescue line. Even that could not ruin this trip. 🙂

A few conclusions i’ve drawn from these great vacations.

Firstly, that there is so much to see and explore in Cyprus. Secondly, holidays can be expensive in Cyprus. Although the hotel was reasonably priced, a lot of the places we visited were expensive. For example, in Platres the coffee and cake was €10 per person (Forest Park Hotel). Thirdly, i love the driving bit in spite of getting us lost in Paphos on our way back and then with our car troubles.

Finally, i want more of this in my life.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Travel

 

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Movie of the week – Tropa de Elite 2

While not as good as the (superb) first movie this is still an enjoyable sequel. An action movie about political and police corruption in Brazil.

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Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Movies, TV & Documentaries

 

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Teaching

During my army service i was frequently given the task of instructing a class. Sometimes young men my age but also national guard reserves, men older than my father at the time. As anyone who has ever served in the National Guard here in Cyprus can tell you these classes were a living nightmare. They were very repetitive and because i had to do a lot of them after a certain point i got really good at it. There were a few, rare times when everything clicked and i got a sense of reward and satisfaction that i still remember to this day.

It’s funny then that i rarely got that feeling at the university and then later on in my professional life. My highest academic/professional achievement is possibly qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. It was not a sense of achievement that i felt after each exam i passed and then finally qualifying. It was a sense of relief.

However, i get this warm, satisfying feeling when i read books with Sophia. Last week we played a card game, then i read The Secret Garden to her and then we played something else as well. Out of the three she said she enjoyed the book the most. That made me feel great.

I also have this feeling when i teach board games to new people. People who want to learn. I could see it in the eyes of a 6 year old boy and his father’s while i explained King of Tokyo and then all 3 of us played it together at the Cyprus Comic Con. I saw it when i played Blueprints for the first time with two teenagers from Paphos. We finished a complete game and then they wanted to play again.

But what can i and what should i teach?

It’s clear that i need to be passionate about what i’m teaching. That immediately rules out teaching a subject for the ACA/ACCA professional courses which was one of the possibilities i was considering last year. I don’t even know if would be able to but now i know that i don’t want to.

The second option is teaching and playing board games at different NGOs, homes for the elderly or youth groups. I spend enough time on board games as it is and i prefer to teach something that is more challenging. In any case there’s nothing to stop me from doing the odd board gaming event at these places every now and then.

Another option i’m considering is A(S) Level Economics which was my favourite subject in school and i followed it up with a BSc. Earlier this year i had a look at the syllabus. I have a lot of catching up to do of course but it’s possible. I would have to do this my way and I have some ideas. Also, a friend has suggested that i should check out the possibility of online tutoring.

Nothing is final yet and i’m open to other ideas, particularly training/teaching at the level of professionals (employed or unemployed).

I need this sense of fulfillment and achievement which is currently missing from my life.

 

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Wall climbing

Two weeks ago i gave wall climbing a shot. I had this on my to do list for types of sport i could try, considering my arthritis. My knee and ankle said no after 2 sessions. I’m 10-15 years late. I’ll try something else.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Exercise & health

 

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Personal development

I want to teach.

 

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Movie of the week – Tracks

An inspiring and wonderful adventure.

I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything”
Robyn Davidson

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LEGO for girls

10592918_10152233890467056_6935595889796093891_nIn the first 6 months of this year LEGO’s revenue and profit surpassed Mattel’s (Barbie) making it the world’s biggest toy company. In a world increasingly enchanted by tablets, video games and electronic entertainment LEGO is managing to keep children interested in its bricks. LEGO is successfully integrating the physical with the electronic by entering into super hero franchise deals, video games and with its own LEGO movie.

It might be surprising then how disappointed i am with its product lineup.

This coming Christmas I’ve decided to make a single, joint present to my sister’s daughters (S6.7 and E3.6). A shared gift which they would build and own together for all the benefits that it could (hopefully) lead to. Naturally the first idea that came to mind is LEGO.

On it’s website LEGO has 30 possible product ranges to choose from. These include video games and a couple of other non-physical products. The rest consist of the standard bricks.  A lot of them are Super Heroes, Lord of the Rings and other franshises. These are targeted to boys for the most part with the occasional female character. Out of all these products i soon realised that my options were quite narrow for the girls.

I basically have 3 options.

The Disney range, which includes princesses and castles, all in pink. The girls (which is something i noticed happening  around me in general) are already being bombarded enough as it is with this theme and i don’t want to add to it. A boy is encouraged to dream of being an astronaut while a girl is supposed to dream of being a princess or just marrying a prince?  This seems to be the bottom line here.

Then there is second possibility with Friends. This one is not pink. It’s an all purple range….. It seems girls are being trained from an early age to focus on pink and purple. As if these are the colours they are meant to choose. Anyway, this is not just a LEGO problem. There is a wider variety in the Friends range with sets such as the Summer Caravan, Mountain Hut, Shopping Mall, Lemonade Stand, Beach House, Juice Bar, Sports Car. Once again though, i don’t find the themes here appealing. There are slightly better options which are more promising such as the Jungle Rescue Base, Jungle Tree Sanctuary, First Aid Rescue, Lifeguard post. They actually involve something which is not stereo typically “girly”. However, it seems that all the jobs available for girls involve animals and are in the jungle for some reason. Also it’s a range that only includes girl characters. There does not seem to be a representation of the other gender in this Friends universe. I think the only boy is in the shopping mall set and in the video he is the only one depicted as working. He is either making pizzas or as a dj. The girls are there to shop.

Then we go the final option which was actually my first option to consider. The City. The City range revolves around occupations that are mostly performed outdoors and/or might be considered exciting by children. Police and Fire Brigade stations. Garbage and Cargo trucks. Mining and Logging. This is basically the idea. I understand that in real life most of these physically demanding jobs are indeed taken by men.

However, the female gender is basically non-existent in this LEGO City. There is the Town Square set with 8 figures with only one being female. Then there is the Arctic range, which is the one i have my eye on. In the base camp set, there are 7 figures with only 1 being a female character. There is a scientist and a research assistant and they are both male whereas at least one of them could easily have been represented by the other gender.

I don’t understand this at all. It’s clear that LEGO are targeted, for one reason or another, mostly to boys. For any girls interested in LEGO they have their “own” distinct ranges. The pink and purple ones. With princesses and shopping malls. In principle, i don’t like the idea of toys for girls and toys for boys.

With LEGO i also don’t agree with its representation of The City. There are plenty of opportunities to establish the presence of both genders but they simple don’t do that. Another example is with this Helicopter rescue base which has 4 figures. There’s 1 female who is the ambulance woman. The doctor is male when again the opportunity is there to have a more equal representation.

Even if these LEGO sets are targeted towards boys what’s so wrong about boys building and creating them with female scientists and doctors? Would that be so bad? I also don’t want the girls to see doctors, scientists and a City with only men.  I don’t want them to see a LEGO world where they are only represented when it’s all about princesses and shopping malls with everything and everyone dressed up in pink or purple.

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I still intend to get them a LEGO set because i still see the benefits of a child playing with LEGO. In fact, i’m planning to buy the Arctic Base camp. However, i’m also getting a few extra LEGO figures so that both genders can have an equal representation. Maybe the girls will dream of being scientists working in the Arctic after Christmas. Maybe they won’t. At least they’ll know that they can.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Family, Toys

 

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The Secret Garden (children books)

SecretGarden8Two weeks ago we (finally) managed to start reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnet, together with S6.7. After 2 chapters the book is proving to be quite demanding for the both of us.

When S6.7 has a query about a word it’s actually difficult for me to provide her with a good answer due to my own limitations in the greek language. My first instinct is to simply translate the word to english which of course is not very helpful to S6.7….

Also, she has a lot of questions of the “Why” and “What” nature. Normally, i don’t really mind those but the questions here are about things i don’t feel i’m equipped to answer. It’s quite a dense book and even after only 2 chapters there’s a lot going on.

For example, Mary’s parents are neglecting their daughter and several times it’s mentioned that nobody loves her while she did not love anyone and treated people badly.

“Why did her mother neglect her?” asks S6.7. “Why doesn’t anyone love her?”

For the latter i could scrape an answer such as,

“….because she did not feel loved by her parents, she reacted and treated everyone else badly. She grew up being spoiled and only caring about herself. You need to love and treat people well in order for others to love you.”

That still leaves question number 1, the source of Mary’s early loveless childhood, unanswered. Simply tell her that some people are too selfish and prefer to party than take an interest in their children? That just because you have children it does not necessarily mean that you are a good parent? Is that something she can understand?

Then her parents die of cholera.

S6.7: “What is cholera?”

Me: “It’s a disease. They died because of an illness.”

However, to her cholera is too abstract, like a word i made up and to be perfectly honest a disease i don’t know that much about apart from that it’s no longer as great of a threat as it used to be. I could not answer her next question, “What does it do to you?”. But this only motivates me to find out and tell her which is what i promised her i would do (and i did).

This only sidesteps another issue of the next question which i simply cannot give her a good enough answer.

“Why did both her parents die?”.

Is she finding it difficult to understand that someone can grow up with no parents and experience so much grief? I don’t know. The death question shows its face again in Chapter 2 as we learn about Mr Craven’s history (her widowed uncle).

I want to give her answers. There aren’t any that are universally absolute of course. However, the idea is that they are enough to provoke and stimulate her thinking in order to do her own “research” and reach her own conclusions. The thinking process is much more important  to me than the actual conclusions.

I don’t feel that i’m doing that well at the moment and it’s because i don’t know how. I never really thought about things in that way before. Adults have more or less settled on their thinking of things and discussions between us are usually of one trying to impose his own beliefs on another person. With S6.7, we are talking about someone who simply doesn’t know the world but actually wants to know more about it and she has not already decided on what and how she is supposed to think.

When we started reading books with S6.7 i thought it would be a way for us to spend time together and entertain ourselves but in a way that we would both feel engaged. However, due to the nature of this book it seems that it can’t be as simple as that. No, it’s much more.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Books

 

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