MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “traditions”

Illuminating Trees

© Dale Rogerson

Why do we really need to cut down a tree to decorate it for a month? Isn’t that a waste”? Mary had taken her vegan habits too seriously, questioning almost everything we ever do.

But that’s its life purpose”, little Joseph stoically responded.

Do you know that this tradition may have started out as ‘Paradise Trees’ in Bible stories-plays acted out in Medieval Germany to represent the Garden of Eden? Pagans used evergreen tree branches as decorations during the winter solstice to remind them spring is coming”.

Think of it as an optimistic reminder, illuminating something that gives us life”.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

A magic herb

© Dale Rogerson

It was the image she held most prominently from the village house: the stone walls on which a large braid of garlic hung.

She found it amusing that tourists were always interested in this tradition of theirs. And she enjoyed her grandmother always having something new and interesting to tell them.

A pungent herb, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants, worshipped by Egyptians as a god and used as a currency.

But its most widespread ‘use’ was to ward off the evil eye, to attract good luck, as well as to make you strong and bring you courage.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

Mentality is a way of life

©MCD_Agrigento

There is a saying that we travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us. Going somewhere different not only breaks your routine and revives you, but it also allows you to open your eyes and mind to things you never even considered before.

Not everyone thinks or acts the same way we do, and we generally have this ingrained belief that what ‘our people’ do is the norm, the standard against which everyone else is compared or measured.

The truth is though, when we travel, we might find alternatives that may even be better to our way of life. We may see things and people who change our perspectives. We may even talk to locals and find out that they are more calm, relaxed and happy living in what seems like a backward village, than others who live in big cities.

We see people smiling without any particular reason, who always have something good to say and who wish you a pleasant day without knowing you at all. That is just who they are and what they are used to. Kindness is a way of life.

It is these same people who know how to keep calm in every situation, who find no reason in getting angry or irritated at something they cannot control. They follow traditions that they have grown with and see no point in altering them if they still work well.

Because in the end, it is not the technology that makes people advanced; it is their mentality. And that is the most difficult thing of all to change.

If you need me, I’ll be by the door

embarrassed-bunnyMacy’s evening did not start out all that well. Her office had decided to host an all-in-one holiday evening, which meant they would all celebrate Secret Santa, Hanukkah, New Year and Three Kings all tonight. So they had to do the gift exchange thing, which had turned out strangely from the minute she picked out the name from the Santa hat.

How was she supposed to know Jay was a girl’s name? The only Jay she knew was Leno and he was all masculine.

So she had picked out an elegant black and silver silk tie for the supposed male receiver of the gift. She had no idea who Jay was anyway, as the office had so many external associates and there was not a lot of teamwork involved from other departments. So, she didn’t know her gift provider either. Anyhow, the minute the female Jay clapped in joy as she heard her turn was up to receive her secret gift, Macy froze and became paler than the icing on the Christmas cake. She handed the parcel with a trembling hand and barely managed to mutter anything.

She was lucky the female Jay liked to wear ties as accessories. She considered them luxurious fashion items and was thrilled by the “softness of the real silk”. So Macy got away with it.

Then, she didn’t want a piece of the Christmas cake or pudding, because she didn’t like the dried fruit they contained. So she decided instead to cut a piece of the other cake next to it. It appeared like a sponge cake and seemed tastier. It would fit better with her tea.

How was she supposed to know it was the Gallette des rois? And that they were supposed to cut it after the gift exchange was completed? With her lucky streak continuing, Macy even found the trinket in her piece. She couldn’t place the cake back now, without pushing and shoving and causing more crumbles. She was feeling a heatstroke approaching as her face reddened up. She decided it would be easier to just walk away.

So she took her porcelain tea cup, careful not to cause anymore destruction tonight, and stood by the door.

She hoped nobody would notice that the King’s Cake was already cut. But they did. And she appeared just as shocked as everybody else. But given the holidays, and the fact that the cake was in essence still whole, nobody paid too much attention to the “mishap”. But luck had it that Macy was awarded the very piece she had cut. With the trinket. Which meant she had to wear the pretend crown and be the centre of attention for the rest of the evening. Something which she absolutely despised.

The moment the music was on louder, though, everyone pretty much forgot about the gifts and cakes and all those things, and began to dance their troubles away.

Dean, a young man who worked in the next door department to Macy, even smiled at her and she blushed. She felt silly, flirting like a little girl. But then Frank Sinatra began to sing “Come fly with me” and Dean grabbed her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor.

Until that moment, all she could think about was being as close to the door as possible; so she could make a run for it. But dancing in the arms of a charming man, and letting everything else slide out of her mind, yes, that was definitely better.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Comedy of Errors

Becoming the Ulysses of Europe

languages_of_the_worldMulticulturalism makes us more human, and in turn more European. When we are receptive to external stimuli from different languages and cultures we ourselves become richer in every way. Coming from someone who speaks 32 languages, both active and ‘dead’, who has studied the history and origins of most known languages, and who has travelled the world in order to speak them, this statement carries considerable weight.

Ioannis Ikonomou is one of the hundreds of translators that work for the European Commission. What makes him stand out though is his thorough knowledge of dozens of languages and the enthusiasm with which he expresses his passion for learning languages.

‘I don’t learn languages to have them in dictionaries gathering dust’ he explains. Languages are learnt to be lived. And the best part of learning a language is that it enriches your life, it allows you to travel to different places and communicate with the locals in their own language, to delve into new cultures, new mentalities, and different ways of life.

Language learning should begin from a young age, from the moment the mind can start soaking up new words and new worlds and when the sound of different tongues serves as a stimulus for a life of globe-trotting. That is what happened with Ikonomou who says that it was the sounds made by foreign tourists on his home island of Crete that inspired him to start learning languages. Indeed, learning to communicate in the language of the ‘other’ opens up more doors than a ‘common’ language ever will. The late Nelson Mandela said, ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

Ikonomou tells me how his knowledge of languages has helped him read literature he would have never been able to discover had he not known the corresponding languages. He says that many Hungarian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and other great writers have not even been translated into English. When you invest time to learn a language, you expect to reap the fruits of your labour – and just as money breeds greed, language learning breeds a burning desire for life experiences, memories, and friendships. This is what it really means to be European. Breaking monolingual language barriers and stepping into the realm of the ‘other’ – that’s what it’s all about. By learning languages you allow yourself to engage and interact with different cultures, values and traditions.

Every language is a different world, a different way of life, a unique mentality, and as such even the simplest of words (for example ‘bread’) will have different connotations in every language. Translators and interpreters have a difficult job. Ikonomou knows this well, having served as both. But at the same time he relishes the mental challenge offered by his job, because, as he says, leaping from language to language is a fantastic exercise. It is like balancing between worlds.

Having studied linguistics, Ikonomou knows that learning the history and origins of languages helps you to better understand your own. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.’

Multiculturalism and multilingualism imply openness. They suggest that you are able to escape the introvert phobias that are prevailing in Europe with the rise of the far-right, and that you are able to live with and learn from the ‘other’. Ulysses was enriched by the cities he encountered and the people he met, says Ikonomou as he recites a lyric from Homer in ancient Greek. Ulysses was much more prosperous than his son Telemachos who stayed in Ithaca all his life, and as such Ikonomou declares, ‘I want to be Ulysses,’ living in an open society. He dreams of an open society receptive to stimuli and different people from around the world, because it is only when we embrace each other’s cultures and languages that we will truly be able to live harmoniously with one other.

Ikonomou says that he doesn’t want to live his life stuck in a daily routine.  What better way to break free from schedules than delving into a different world, culture and way of life? By truly learning what ‘united in diversity’ means, and by being able to acquire an insight into the customs and life of our European neighbours.

This article was published on cafebabel.com on 18 December 2013, under the title “I speak 32 languages”. It has since been translated into Spanish, Italian, French and Polish.

New Year, New hopes, New dreams

Scouts fireworksSo…are you ready for the fireworks? To start the New Year with a bang? You should be…because you’re ending this year with a bang too! Have you cleaned the house and settled all outstanding issues so as not to carry anything into the New Year that is not in order or “clean”? And have you chosen that ravishing dress, or stunning shirt to wear tonight? Don’t forget to keep those black-eyed peas in your purse/wallet too, for they are said to bring extra money for the New Year!

Ever wondered about all these New Year traditions and myths? Well, it’s all part of starting the year with renewed hope and aspirations for the future. It’s like wiping the slate clean. And everyone wants a fresh start every now and then. It’s about looking forward to something good, something positive, and yearning for that something to come with the strike of midnight on 31 December. That’s why people like to dress up and party on New Year’s Eve. It’s the time to let the year that passed be gone, and welcome a new one, that will bring with it new hopes, new dreams and new experiences. It’s letting go of Father Time and nurturing a new Baby Year to life.

As for those longed-for fireworks at midnight – well, some say it’s because the loud noises scare away all the evil spirits, so that nothing bad will endanger the cheer and prosperity wished for on 1 January. And as the year turns, don’t forget to welcome it with a hug, a kiss, a smile, a positive cheer and renewed hope for a better 365 days to come. And whilst singing “Auld Lang Syne” just let go of all the painful, negative memories of the year that’s passing, and rejoice that there will be more time to realize your dreams, set your goals (just stick to at least one resolution this year!), and experience life at its fullest!

Happy New Year!

Καλή Χρονιά!

Frohes neues Jahr!

Buon Anno!

Bonne Année!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

…and in all other languages!!!

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