As I sit here in front of my keyboard ready to write a blog post, my mind keeps returning to the events that happened last night in Paris. My first thought is one of horror and incredulity that this beautiful city has been attacked once again. I think of the terror people must have felt when they were attacked – innocent people that were enjoying themselves on a Friday evening with their friends or family. I shudder to think of the pain of those who mourn their loved ones. I imagine the panic that must have ensued when trying to find a sister, a brother, a best friend.
I am saddened by the knowledge that a country which has historically fought for freedom and that has upheld liberty in our modern times, is now under attack by the Islamic State. I pray that France will have the strength to continue to uphold their values; and that they will have the wisdom needed to combat the threat. I pray too that those Parisians who are Muslims and hope that they do not suffer from a backlash because of their religious beliefs. May those who live in Paris have the wisdom to know the difference between extremists and those who wish to live their daily lives in peace and freedom.
I pray for Paris during this time. And for our world. May all people learn to live in tolerance of one another’s religious beliefs.
(If you have missed the details of this horrific event, the article in The Guardian gives a good summary as well as the French president’s response to the attacks)
Since June, my daughter and her friends planned to attend the ParaPan Am games. They spent hours discussing which sport to go and watch: they perused the options available and spent time watching videos of each game. They decided on attending the 5-a-side blind soccer matches. School ended and the PanAm Games began. My daughter’s desire to attend a game played by those with physical disabilities did not abate.
Last week I accompanied my daughters and friends to watch the first series of matches for the blind soccer competition. After our TTC ride (public transit), we walked to the arena and knew we had arrived at our destination when we saw the brightly coloured graphics representing the PanAm Games.
We chose our seats on the stands – avoiding the heat of the sun. I was looking forward to the match as I had never seen one before. I noticed with interest that the field is a lot smaller than that of regular soccer (about a tenth of the size) and that pitch is surrounded by side boards (which will keep the ball on the field).
During play I noticed a few of the other rules (I had not looked them up before attending the game). The goalie (who is sighted) is allowed to shout directions to their team mates without leaving his post in front of the goalie box. In addition to the goalie shouting directions, each team has a coach who stands behind the opposing team’s goalie box and who can give directions on where and when to shoot the ball. At times another coach shouts directions from the midfield sidelines where he is watching the game. For the games we watched, the players were speaking in Spanish so I was unable to understand the actual words that were said.
During the game, the player who is near the ball shouts out the word “voy” (Portuguese for “I am here”) to alert the others of his presence. I learned later that if a player does not do this, he will receive a penalty. I am sure you are thinking that there is a lot of shouting going on – and there is! But it did not detract from my enjoyment of the game at all. The players, the goalies and the coaches are shouting – but not the audience. We were reminded a few times to not cheer as the noise would distract the players. Sometimes it was hard to keep quiet – especially when the scoring a goal was missed by fractions of an inch!
You may have noticed in the pictures that all of the players wear blindfolds. This is to equalize all the players as some are partially blind. At times, play was stopped when the referees (dressed in yellow shirts) noticed that the blindfolds were slipping. I noticed that the men who referreed the game took care with the players. Not only did they ensure the players’ blindfolds were comfortable, but they also placed the players in position when they were to kick the ball after a penalty or if the ball had gone off the field.
The ball itself is different to a regular soccer ball: it is heavier than usual and is filled with plastic ballbearings that make a loud rattling sound when kicked. The players listen for the sound of the ball to help them know where it is. I noticed the referees shaking the ball before they placed it on the floor in front of the player for the penalty kicks. They did this until the player indicated that they knew where the ball was.
What amazed me was that the players ran with no fear, trusting in their hearing to play the ball.
Watching the games definitely highlighted that a person is able to follow their dream, no matter what the obstacles. These men may be blind but that has not prevented them from following their passion and playing a game that they love.
As we left the arena to go home, I was grateful for my daughter’s desire to attend a game at the ParaPan Am Games. Her wish led me to experience something I never thought I would.
Have you noticed that when you go to the supermarket these days that the fruits and vegetables on sale are as perfect as they can be. The skins are shiny and smooth with no blemishes on them; the carrots and potatoes do not seem to have any unusual shapes. When growing up, my mom had a vegetable garden in which she grew her own vegetables – and I recall seeing many deformed looking carrots that we pulled out of the earth. Where do all these marked and ugly-looking vegetables go? They are thrown away. France has come up with a way to ensure that this food does not go to waste.
I love what they have done – and wish that this could be implemented here in Toronto. In adopting this practice, many families living on the breadline would be able to create more healthy meals for their children thus ensuring that they eat the required fruit and vegetables per day. This programme would also show shoppers that eating imperfect produce is not harmful to their bodies.
(Yesterday Nelson Mandela was buried in his hometown of Qunu, South Africa. Today the school where I work had a memorial assembly to show respect for this great man. Knowing that I come from South Africa, my colleagues asked me to say a few words about Madiba and how he changed the country. I wrote the following speech for an audience of children from 4 to 10 year olds. My aim was to give them a sense of how much the country changed without going into detail that they would not understand. I share the speech with you now as a contribution to the tributes that have been given to a man who helped change the history of my birthplace.)
“I was born in a segregated South Africa; a South Africa which worked at keeping the races separate. While I was growing up, I was surrounded by people who were the same race as me: at school, at church, when I went to the cinema. My neighbours and the friends I played with were the same skin colour as me. When I began university, I became aware of the inequalities that existed in my birth country. I began to read newspapers and participate in discussions on democracy and equal rights. I also came into close contact with people of other races that were my age.
I remember the Apartheid laws slowly being changed while I was at studying to be a teacher. “Whites Only” signs were taken down; washrooms were opened to people of all races; a person of any race could step onto any bus they wished; the faces of cinema-goers represented the different skin colours found in the country; schools were “opened” and white-only schools became a thing of the past.
The little changes happening in the country led to a momentous occasion in South African history: the release of Nelson Mandela. He was a man who fought all his life for the equal rights of all people in his country. The prison release became a symbol of political change in South Africa. I remember sitting huddled around the radio with my teaching colleagues, listening as Mandela walked through the gates of the Victor Verster prison in the Cape. A normally chatty group of people were silent as we all focused on the words that were being uttered. I remember the shouts of jubilation as the national representative for freedom left the shackles of his imprisonment behind.
It was once he was released from prison that the hard work of Nelson Mandela began. He believed firmly in non-violence and peaceful negotiations. There were so many moments during the negotiations that we, as ordinary people, feared there would be war in our country. Tempers ran high, and threats were made. Violence erupted between the different political factions. The assassination of a popular political leader brought the country to the brink of war. By this time negotiations between the major political parties had broken down. Thankfully Mandela and De Klerk agreed to begin negotiations again in order to curb the violence. Days turned into weeks of negotiations and I am always thankful that, somehow, these leaders prevented the occurring violence from becoming an outright war.
The first democratic election in South Africa was held on May 27, 1994. For the first time people of all races stood in lines to vote. Violence continued right until the day before the elections. We feared that violence would erupt on the day of voting but it seemed as if Mandela’s spirit of reconciliation calmed everyone down. The day dawned brightly on the violent-free voting day. I had voted only once before and that had been a quick and hushed affair. On this day, however, the lines were long and made by people with different skin colours. People were chatting in the lines as we waited for hours to make our cross on a piece of paper. Men and women who were grandparents stood with us to fulfil their life-long dream of voting for a democratic government. The sense of unity and jubilation, free from fear of violence, is a feeling I will not quickly forget.
Mandela headed the Government of National Unity as the first black South African president. He continued with his campaign for all people in his country to experience equality. He supported all peoples of his country – no matter what their race – and believed that all races could be unified as one. His role in ending the Apartheid regime in a peaceful way, and in building a new democratic South Africa, was recognised when he was given the Nobel peace prize in 1993. He was awarded this prize jointly with Willem de Klerk, the man with whom he worked during the negotiations. When Madiba, as he is respectfully known, stepped down as president he did not retire peacefully. He was still involved in charities, and worked with others in peaceful negotiations around the world. He worked tirelessly with world leaders until his health prevented him from frequent travelling.
Madiba was a man whose principles were not easily swayed. He was a man with a vision. He was a man who did not give up until his vision was realised. The New South African anthem includes the words “Nkosi Silelel’ iAfrika”, meaning “God bless Africa”. A part of Africa was truly blessed when this man strived to non-violently change the politics in South Africa – and succeeded.
Viva Mandela! Long live his spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Viva Madiba! You will be missed.”
Feel free to add comments in honour of Nelson Mandela, or links to posts you have written on your blog.
Have you ever thought that the books you buy online may be delivered in a different way to what they are currently? Amazon has come up with a futuristic way of delivering your order: by drone. If delivered this way, your parcel will arrive much quicker than it currently does; that is, within 30 minutes.
Delivered to my doorstep? I wonder how they will get around buzzing for access to enter my apartment building! I can only wait and see in 2015 – the year Amazon wishes to implement this plan.
Those science fiction stories I have read in the past do not seem to be so far-fetched now.
Ever heard of Yarn-bombing? Before yesterday, I had never heard the expression – nor seen an example when walking out in the streets! Yarn-bombing is a type of graffiti, or street art, that uses knitted or crocheted yarn as its medium (instead of paint or chalk).
This form of street art can be easily removed as it is not as permanent as the medium other graffiti artists use. It is an art form that is technically illegal – but who would want to remove their colourful creations that brighten up concrete public spaces?
The first example of yarn-bombing was recorded in The Netherlands (May 2004) and has sprouted in cities such as Houston in Texas, London in the UK, as well as in countries such as Australia.
The artists cover telephone poles, benches, hydrants, bicycles, planters. No single item can escape the attention of these creative people as they strive to bring a little cheer to the pedestrians of their city.
As someone who enjoys crocheting, I think I would enjoy seeing this form of art out on the streets. Now that I know about yarn-bombing, I am sure to keep my eyes open for it!
Have you seen any yarn-bombing in your neighbourhood? Would you participate in this form of graffiti?
Often we read headlines in the daily papers of teens that have committed suicide because of bullying. We read that they had been ostracised, made fun of, that they had been rejected. What we do not hear is their own voice as their voice has been silenced twice over: by the bullies, and by themselves as they followed through on the decision to remain silent forever.
Below is a video by Shane Koyczan that puts a voice to the bullied, a video that encapsulates the emotion and experience of the bullied. It is a video that suggests the repercussions of being bullied.
This anti-bullying video ends with the message that we all have within ourselves something beautiful that can be shared with others. All we have to do is believe this – and own the belief.
I find the message in this video powerful. Will those who are being bullied listen, and believe, the words that are being said? I cannot say. What I can say is that I hope messages like this are heard more often so that we can become more aware of bullying and its detrimental effects.
How many times a day do we share a touch with another person? A kiss goodbye. A hug hello. A light touch on the arm to signal our agreement to what has been said. When a person is upset, or in pain, our first thought is to offer comfort through touch. Touch calms children when they are crying; or a person who is angry. It is another way in which we can communicate our support to another; or even our desire to help.
However, a school in the outskirts of Toronto has decided to take away the children’s right to show compassion and friendship through touch. The teachers at Brampton Earnscliffe Senior Public School have adopted a policy of “no loving, no shoving” which prohibits any type of touch between students – even the non-sexual, non-aggressive kind. The rule was designed to protect students from rough, physical touching such as hitting as well as any unwanted sexual touching. However, the rule has been taken to the extreme to include any form of hugging between friends as they greet one another or offer comfort.
In taking this policy to the extreme, what is it that the teachers are advocating? A society in which people step back away from others; a society in which touch is not used to give comfort, or show friendship. In addition, young members of society are being groomed to not accept the touch of others; even the touch that is meant to indicate friendship, comfort, or solidarity. Imagine a world in which no-one communicates through touch. Would there not be psychological repercussions? Touch is beneficial to us: it can reassure us, comfort us, relax us. Touch can also help to relieve depression, stress and anxiety. Take away this essential need and we have a society in which people are sad, lonely and live in isolation.
We watch models walk down the catwalk and we see the clothes hang from them as they do on our hangers in our closets. Loose fitting. Skeletal looking. Open a fashion magazine and the women (and men) photographed to fill the glossy pages are hollow-cheeked with bodies one would expect of a child.
We have become used to seeing underweight women grace the pages of our fashion magazines and fashion runways. Designers expect rail-thin models to showcase their creations. Young girls and women starve themselves to become like the malnourished bodies of the women they aspire to imitate.
A country aims to try to stop extreme dieting; the increase of eating disorders in their homeland; and the desire of the young to look like the emancipated women that they admire. Israel has now created a law that prohibits the employment of underweight models for local advertising and magazine publications. Models will therefore have to eat more; and employers will no longer have the right to expect their models to be just skin and bones. In addition, the new law will require local publications to disclose when they alter images to make the men and women in the photograph appear thinner: alterations which make already thin people look unrealistically thinner.
One may wonder how this new law will be enforced. Models will have to produce a medical report, no older than 3 months, that shows that they are not malnourished and underweight. The standards used will be those used by the World Health Organisation to determine who is malnourished: the body mass index,in which weight is divided by height, should not be below 18.5.
Hopefully this new legislation will encourage youngsters to emulate the healthier body weight Israel hopes to see grace its fashion pages. In passing this law, the Israeli government is hoping that it will help stem the tide of the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia that is so prevalent among young women in their society.
What is your opinion of Israel’s new model legislation?