MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “youth”

Chasing Pokémon

http://c.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/inline-large/inline/2016/07/3061764-inline-i-2-pokemon-go-is-the-most-addicting-app-in-years-and-heres-why-it-matters.jpg“Come on, we need to catch ‘em now!”  Mitch grabbed his phone and headed towards the door. His anxiety was evident as his hand transferred his tremor onto the open door. His wife did not share the agony.

She still hadn’t caught the two Pokémon hiding in the house.

But Mitch saw there were many more outside roaming the neighbourhood. It was obvious from the number of cars parked in the street and the hoard of dazed young people walking around like zombies searching for imaginary creatures that appeared randomly on their phones.

With every vibrate, you would hear a scream and then witness a leap forward.

They were all obviously seeing something that any person out of the Pokémon Go loop would not understand.

People had been caught Pokémon & driving, which was far worse than drunk driving because at least in the latter case the driver’s eyes were on the road, even if his/her mind wasn’t.

People had been falling over, bumping into trees, with each other, or even being hit by cars exactly because they were too busy being dragged around the routes depicted on their phone, rather than be aware of their actual surroundings.

But there were also those who found friends, even romance, through the Pokémon gatherings. Those who discovered excitement in this shared habit, no matter how addictive it got.

Mitch was still impatient. His wife had now slid under the bed and was desperately trying to throw a ball at a Pikachu sneering at her from the corner.

“Will you please hurry up?” Mitch called out.

Martha stepped in through the open door. She was about to apologise for being late because of the traffic that had gathered in the area. But when she saw what was going on with the owners of the house she was employed to maintain in order, her jaw dropped. The disorder was reminiscent of the impact of an earthquake. Even the couch – which she so dexterously vacuumed around – had been displaced.

“Will you finally go to work and stop chasing imaginary creatures, please?” she blurted out. That was just the moment the wife appeared triumphantly, waving her phone with a picture of a captured yellow creature on screen.

Martha sighed.

That was when Mitch’s father showed up at the doorstep and said “where can I plug in my phone, there is one little bugger that’s about to get away?”

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Carefree

The rule’s exceptions

https://betterlifecoaching.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/stand-out.jpgIt is said that there are exceptions to every rule.  Sometimes those very exceptions even prove the existence of the rule. Confused? Don’t be. While some argue that rules are made to be broken, most agree that to every rule there is almost always an exception. One that will sometimes reinstall hope and optimism when lost. The one-in-a-million chance.

It’s refreshing, for example, to realise that not all people are the same. That we don’t all fit into a mould or into the stereotypes we all love to forge for each other. Not all citizens of the same nationality exhibit the same traits, nor do people of the same gender. Persons of the same age are not all whatever we group them up to be. Take the easiest example to follow today: the present young generation is addicted to technology to such an unprecedented extent, diligently recording itself accomplishing so little. They are lazy, often ignorant, and lack substance in their mentality. But that is not always the case. There are those who use technology mainly for what it is meant to be, to communicate, to keep in touch, to facilitate their lives. But they do show interest in the world around them, volunteer, think, react, often act to bring about change we only talk about. These are the exceptions that serve as buds of hope in a world drowned by crises.

The very potential of the existence of exceptions is what also stirs up the positive “what ifs” when deliberating over choices. It is what makes you consider that it is better to take a risk and make it happen without thinking too much about it. Because, overthinking just makes things worse. It extinguishes the excitement and the optimism that things might just work out. That they might result in the way you hope.

It is these exceptions that embolden you to take the leap. You may fall flat on your face, but doesn’t that (rare) chance of you landing skillfully on your feet make it all worth it? For those times when the exception is actually better than the rule?

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Contrast

It’s not easy being Greek

Youth in GreeceFor the past five years, Greece has been the centre of news around the world. Not so much because of its spirit of democracy and ethos imbued by our Ancient Greek ancestors. But because of the shame, deceitfulness and financial mismanagement brought about by their predecessors. Media around the world have vilified the country that thus far was praised for all the principles and values it had introduced to the modern world. Yet, we ourselves proved unable to live up to them.

It is not Greece alone that is in financial trouble. The whole of Europe is, and most of the world too. But Greece is an easy target. The advertised ‘300 days of sunshine’, the Mediterranean diet, the mythical island beaches, the relaxed and ‘easy-going’ way of life are so easy to despise and scorn, and all the more easy to contradict with the lack of responsibility and order, especially as regards public finances. The source of all our troubles.

Foreigners cannot understand how Greeks can still fill restaurants and cafés, as if nothing is going on around them. But Greeks themselves justify their outings, by arguing that staying indoors and damning their misfortunes is not a solution that will lead anywhere.

And they are right.

Because it is not the “ordinary” Greeks who can do much to change the situation, other than adhere to the harsh measures imposed. Those brought upon them by others. Others, who, are supposed to represent them, but once in power, forget all electoral promises and turn the other way. The lay Greeks are the ones who witness their country’s demise and all they can do is shout, exasperate, and eventually just let it go, because somethings will never change.

This attitude is what has caused over 200,000 young Greeks to search for a future abroad. For many, their dreams and expectations were too big for what the country (now) had to offer. It is certainly not easy to get up and leave. To abandon everything you are familiar with, the life you are accustomed to, your friends and family. But it is even harder deciding to stay. It takes more courage to remain and continue to fight in a country that is constantly proving to be against you in every way.

There are many Greeks who choose to stay. And they should be respected all the more for that. Because they are still trying. They are the ones who believe that “if everyone just leaves, who will stay and fix the country?” They are the ones who still dream, but are determined to compromise on a few things in order to survive. They may not be acknowledged as much as they should, nor are they compensated for the work they do. But they choose to stay. Why? Why would you stay when everything and everyone around you screams go?

Because you still hope. You believe deep down that things will change for the better. And that you will be part of the wheel that will set it all in motion.

There are young Greeks, in their early 30s, educated, full of thirst for life and willing to work. There are those who decide to strive on their own, and, since they can’t find the work they want, they will create it themselves. In a period of crisis, struck on all fronts by austerity measures, stifling bureaucracy and high taxes, these Greeks persist in having their own way. There are many who have launched their own business, determined to change foreign perceptions of their country, making it a model to emulate, rather than one to avoid. It is these Greeks who have been dubbed the crazy ones, the radicals, the dreamers. The ones who people look upon with both admiration and sympathy. But aren’t “those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually the ones that do”?

It is not easy being Greek nowadays. And it is certainly not easy being Greek in Greece. But there are still many who insist, persist, and resist all negative waves pounding their way. Maybe it is through them that Greece will arise again. After all, it was Socrates who said that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but in building the new. And that is just what we need. A new start.

See also related reports with examples of Greeks who try to accomplish more in their own country in English and Greek.

The Curse

flirty coupleWhen Lorenzo was a young boy, wild at heart, he met a girl on the train on his way back home from a weekend in the country. In his early twenties then, he loved to flirt and was a true heartbreaker. All during the train ride, they exchanged meaningful glances with the girl, discussed what they were doing and where they were from, shared their views about how they hoped their lives would be, and laughed a lot. By the time they arrived at the station, they both agreed it would be great to see each other again. The girl told him she was studying in a near-by town and he should call her so that they could arrange to meet up again soon. He carefully inserted her number in his phone and hit save.

Lorenzo lived twenty minutes by car away from the station. He took a taxi to get there and arrived half an hour later due to heavy traffic. What he didn’t notice until later that night, however, was that he had dropped his phone in the taxi. He had lost his device and everything on it, including that girl’s number.

What he never realized until years later is that this incident would haunt his very existence.

Since then, every time he made plans to visit that particular near-by town – which was coincidentally one of the country’s main attractions due to its architectural elegance and natural beauty – he would end up fighting with his current girlfriend, or having something extraordinary coming up work-wise, resulting in him never getting there. Eventually, he gave up even trying. He simply settled with the fact that it was just not his destiny to visit that town.

Little did he know that the girl on the train had been very upset that Lorenzo never called her – she had really liked him, and as every love-struck young girl, had already began dreaming of a relationship with him. So, she cursed him into never being able to set foot in her town. If he didn’t go there for her, he shouldn’t go there at all, she thought.

The power of a heart in love is immense, but the force of a broken heart knows no limits.

Don’t talk. Just listen….

unknown call– Don’t talk. Just listen. Did you see the fireworks yesterday? Yes, just after the new Prime Minister’s victory speech? It was as if the country was having one huge party. Well, I don’t blame them. I mean the guy’s just 40 years old. And he is not bad to look at either. Plus, the casual, no-tie look makes him more likeable. I think that’s one of the reasons why he won over so many people. He managed to convince them that he relates to them. He is one of them. And like he said, he wants to have a government that belongs to all the people. Well, good luck. It would be great if at least somebody managed to do so. But did you see the fireworks in the capital’s centre? It reminded me of those 4th of July fireworks. You remember then ones. That is when I met him. You know who. That bastard who broke my heart. He played me like a fiddle on the roof. You know I ran into him the other day at the supermarket? He was shopping for groceries. At least that is what he said. He looked good. Was wearing jeans and a shirt. A shirt I got for him. It felt very weird. To be honest I even forgot to buy half my shopping list after I saw him. I was so depressed by the time I got home, that I spent the entire night watching series on TV and going to bed by midnight. I know it’s pathetic, but what do I do? Come on, you know what I am talking about don’t you?

– I’m sorry, who is this?

– Becky? It’s me, Deborah.

– I’m sorry, I’m not Becky and I don’t know any Deborah.

– Oh. Well, this is embarrassing. I am so sorry.

– Not a problem. I hope everything works out. And don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It takes time. Stay strong!

– Thanks! Sorry again for this awkward call!

[Dials Again]

– Don’t talk. Just listen…

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Unknown Caller

The world in a box

Opened empty heart shaped box isolated on white.When Matteo gave Chiara the little red heart-shaped box he wasn’t expected the shrill of delight that came out of her. He was always amazed at how much noise could come out of such a small person. But seeing a three-year old sparkle with joy and jump and down with excitement, was enough to wipe every worry from his mind. She was simply adorable. And that little box would change her life forever.

Chiara was a curious child to begin with. She loved learning and accumulated knowledge like a sponge. When she was three, Matteo thought she was ready to delve into a new world. That of languages. And he was right. Chiara loved it. She found learning a language was like playing a non-stop game. Having fun, but all the while learning. Learning things you never knew existed. About different traditions, cultures, people, who were in a country far away. But knowing how to speak their language also increased her chances of meeting them, of being able to communicate with them, of visiting their land, of entering their world. And that was the most precious of all.

From them on every five years, Matteo would give Chiara a little box. One that would hold the key to a bigger box with all the necessary material to learn a new language. Within five years, Chiara had become proficient in that gift-language and was thirsty for more. She couldn’t hide her excitement every time Matteo appeared with a box in hand. The lust for knowledge grew as her world expanded.

By the time she was twenty-five, Chiara could already speak six languages (her mother-tongue and the five gifts). She was much more open-minded, informed and knowledgeable than other people her age. For while her peers spent hours on social media and digital screens, she used her time more productively, playing language games, reading foreign media, and making friends from abroad. So when she decided to take a month off to physically visit the places whose language she had so profoundly studied, she had people ready to welcome her and show her the life of a local and not just the tourist sights.

Learning languages, prevented the clouds from shadowing Chiara’s sight. She was able to grow up with a more extensive view to the world. With friends across the globe and with a deeper understanding of how the world works that she could ever learn through a single educational system. She became wiser, simply for wanting to learn more. And for that she was richer than Matteo could ever hope she would be. Solely because he thought of a special gift, hidden in such a small box.

Surviving without the Net

mac-internet-sharingThere is a child in a pram holding a tablet. It can barely say two words but it knows how to swerve its fingers in order to play a virtual game. There is another one which needs a screen in front of it depicting moving images, so it can eat a spoonful of food. Then there are the older ones that have a smartphone stuck to their hands as if their life depends on it. There is a man who enters the swimming pool with a digital gadget in a waterproof case. And these are not unique cases.

We spend our days fixed onto a screen; a digital depiction of reality, while real life passes us by. We are so deeply addicted to this new-age “disease” that we cannot even imagine life without it. Without a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, or simply put, the Internet.

So much, that when you are found in a location with no Internet access, you immediately classify it as an uncivilized place – because, really, who in this day and age does not offer free Wi-Fi!? – and then you struggle to survive a few days without the one thing that has become an intrinsic part of your day. You can feel the withdrawal symptoms already kicking in in less than 24 hours. You desperately try to find a Wi-Fi network anywhere. Simply to log-on and surf the web. Just open a browser onto any page. To view anything. Simply to feel ‘safe’ that you are online, even for 5 minutes. To sense that you are in familiar space, no matter if that is virtual.

By the end of day one, your hands are already itchy. You are even considering knitting. Simply to keep yourself busy.

We have become so addicted to the Internet – that place where you can find literally anything – that surviving without it seems like balancing without a net. And as we become all the more connected and digitally forward, we become socially awkward network junkies. All the while, reality continues to pass us by, without us even noticing.

Free and Gone

Hammock-Beach-1920x1200It’s hard feeling unable to concentrate and drifting away into a world that doesn’t exist in reality.

Zelena knew that feeling well. She was not tall like the other kids her age; she lacked the confidence young adults so boldly proclaim; and she often perceived the world much differently than others tend to. Having a name that began with the last letter of the alphabet often did not help at all. She was always last on the list.

So she found an escape in daydreaming.

She could do this anywhere and at pretty much anytime.

Like the other day when she was sitting by the window, rolled up in a cozy armchair when it was pouring outside. In her head, she was living an adventure in a mountain with real friends and they were going on excavations for a lost medallion that would bring power to the person who wore it, as long as their heart was pure. The cabin was a wreck and they had to take cover from the thunderstorm and rain. And suddenly, the bad people (there are always some of these in every story) tracked them down and they had to hide. And the adventure ensued…. Well, until dinnertime. Food had to disrupt the dream.

In the summer, when the stifling heat and humidity did not permit for a lot of time outside, Zelena would lie on the cool sheets in her bed and as the fan cooled her down, she would dream of being on an exotic Caribbean island, swaying on a hammock and indulging on a tropical iced juice.

A little while later she would spin off, bare feet in the golden sand tickling her toes, and she would rush playfully towards the tide into the arms of the man she loved. They would swim together into the tranquil ocean; snorkel to gaze at the fish and corals that decorated the ocean’s depth; and even play around with a couple of dolphins that would join the fun.

Daydreaming was Zelena’s thing. And it all seemed so real. So true. So different from the world she lived in. In her fantasies, Zelena could do and be exactly what and who she wanted. Without restrictions, without concerns, without limitations.

The only problem was that she could get so enraptured in a dream, feel it was so real, that she could not tell the difference between the dream and the real world. Something like being caught in The Matrix. Only maybe worse, because even that was a fantasy.

Getting lost into something that is not real will make you lose yourself.” That it was her beloved uncle told her. He was the one who made her fantasies so real, for she grew up with his exciting, swash-buckling stories.

Zelena did not pay attention to the severity of the warning. When she had been unemployed for over a year, still living in her childhood room, and still dreaming of what she wished her life was like, Zelena disappeared.

Her final daydream was of bungee jumping over a cliff to feel the freedom and adrenaline rush of flying.

Enchantment by the river

DSC08009There are few cities in the world that enrapture you from the moment you enter their borders. Cities that overwhelm you with their distinct architecture, their harmonious environment and their cultural warmth. Strasbourg is one such city.

The capital of the Alsace region is situated on the borders between France and Germany and has over the years been the subject of dispute between these two great powers. IMG_0487Its historic city centre – the Grande Île– is surrounded by the river Ill flowing beneath the stunning 18th century bridges that are found throughout. It was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre.With its picturesque buildings, the city combines Germanic discipline and French finesse. It is a city that keeps you mesmerised with its stunning architecture, its scenic landscapes, and its breathtaking skylines.

DSC08121_CathedralThe Cathedral dominating over the city with its 142 metre spire was described by Victor Hugo as a “giant and delicate marvel”. Its appearance of carved-like stone make it a magnificent sight right in the heart of the centre in one of the busiest squares all year round.
Inside it is just as elegant with its colourful stained glass windows, and its Madonna vitro with a crown of stars on a blue background which inspired the European Union flag.

DSC08176_Astronomical ClockAnd there is the skillfully carved Pillar of Angels standing right next to the Astronomical Clock – a wonder of craftsmanship that every day at 12.30 features the twelve Apostles passing in front of Christ to receive His blessing, while a cock crows thrice.

DSC08575_Panoramic ViewAfter taking a spiralling 332 steps up the tower that literally take your breath away, you discover a view of the city that makes it all worth it.
DSC08102_Palais Rohan

Situated just opposite the Cathedral is the imposing Palais Rohan, formally an episcopal residence, which now hosts three museums: the State Apartments and Decorative Arts, the Fine Arts, and the Archaelogical Museum.

DSC08621_State ApartmentsWith Louis XV being the royal apartments’ first guest in the 18th century, the palace was built along the lines of Versailles.

 
But that is not the only thing that is reminiscent of the rest of France in Strasbourg. Petite France is the former tanners’ quarter which originally hosted a hospital treating patients with the “French disease” (syphilis) which was spread at the end of the 15thDSC08315_Petite France century. Now it is a prominent tourist destination for a drink and a traditional dish under the shade of the large trees, admiring the timber-framed charming houses interwoven with four canals.

 

IMG_0481_Ponts CouvertsBut the most majestic view of all is at the Ponts Couverts – the four Medieval Towers that served as fortification. The towers originally guarded the entrance to the city and were linked up by wooden bridges, protected by a roof until the 18th century.

 

IMG_0473_Barrage VaubanExactly opposite the bridge stands the Barrage Vauban, a barrage and lock designed in the 18th century to inundate the waterways of Strasbourg and defend the city in the event of a siege. In 1966 a panoramic terrace was built on top granting access to one of the most beautiful views of the city.

 
A walk along the river bank is essential as it reinvigorates the sense of nature that is usually lacking in big cities. Swans and ducks glide gracefully in the tranquil water, disturbed only by the occasional boat tour around the city.
DSC08507_Place de la Republique
The regal neo-Renaissance buildings around Place de la Republique – the Palais du Rhin, the National and University Library – appear all the more beautiful viewed among the colourful spring flowers, while the hundreds of youth in the city rush to the parks to absorb the cloudless sunlight.

Strasbourg encompasses the beauty of the countryside with the prestige of a DSC08033European capital as many EU institutions are situated here – most notably the European Parliament, the Court of Human Rights, the Ombudsman and the Council of Europe.

With only 273,000 inhabitants Strasbourg draws people of all ages from all around the world. A vibrant city and a lively atmosphere, it embraces you to its core and invites you to explore every corner of its fascinating culture. There is always something more to see from a European capital. And when it is as elegant, heart-warming and enchanting as Strasbourg, there is no doubt it will have you back sooner than you know it!

 

N.B. All photos are mine taken in Strasbourg on 9-13 April 2014.

Indebted to the future

DSC05826“We live in a Europe of mistrust”. This is what European Parliament (EP) President Martin Schulz stated yesterday Monday 4 November speaking at a very interesting conference in Athens. Organised by the EP Information Offices in Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain – the countries worst hit by the crisis and forced to implement austerity measures – the first of its kind international conference entitled “South for Growth” aims to address the challenges and prospects faced by the countries on the south of the European map in managing the crisis.

In a densely packed room at the Athens Concert Hall, keynote speaker Schulz uttered “it is time to come to an end with the rhetoric of crisis and start a new debate – the rhetoric of hope”. He outlined four proposals which he said are the key points in forging a strategy that will help the south exit the crisis.

Calling on personal experiences, Schulz stated that during the post-WWII period governments asked parents to make sacrifices, with the promise that this would bring a better future for their children.
“These promises were kept,” he said, noting that his generation lived a better life with unprecedented opportunities. “Europe was a promise”. But now, how can we ask parents to make all the more sacrifices, when their children are unemployed, desperate and have lost hope in their future? It is for this reason, Schulz said that youth unemployment must be the first step in promoting growth.

In a passionate and dynamic speech, the EP president stressed that it is unacceptable that the European Central Bank (ECB) maintains interest rates at such a low  figure (0.5%), but Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) do not have access to liquidity. This money is not injected into the real economy, he said, and for this we need a strategy to overcome the credit crunch and help realize the SMEs’ projects. This in turn, he added, will help with employment opportunities.

“We are not bold enough,” he stated. “Let’s dare more, be more imaginative, let’s seize the potential of the resources and geostrategy of the Mediterranean”. Greater economic cooperation in this region will lead to a stronger south and as a result to a more powerful Union.

But “for all these proposals to be realized we need to regain confidence between north and south, between citizens, politics and institutions”. Using the word “trust” over ten times, Schulz was striving to pass the message that without the trust of its people in the EU and the principles of the EU forefathers, the EU structure cannot move forward.

Himself a probable candidate for the post of European Commission President, Schulz delivered a speech that by far responded to the expectations of all those people from all over Europe, mainly young, who filled the room for this conference. It is unknown as to whether the EU officials’ persistence on immediate actions that deliver results is actually due to the campaigning that has already begun ahead of the 2014 EU elections. Because it is widely acknowledged that to stay on board, you need to have achievements to show in your favour.

“The trust of citizens cannot be gained by speeches. It can only be gained when we deliver solutions,” said Schulz with MEP Thodoros Skylakakis (ALDE) adding that “we are just talking heads…we do not realize the extent of the problems, and for that citizens don’t listen to us”.

We live in a Europe of mistrust and of debt. And as EP Vice President Anni Podimata said, “we are indebted”. Not only because of the money we owe, but because of the hope and future we promised to provide to the next generation.

 

Also part of NaBloPoMo (November 2013)

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