Thursday, July 21, 2016

This is for my girls...

In March, the First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls across the globe from attaining a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential.

Let Girls Learn employs a holistic approach to change the perception of the value of girls at the individual, community and institutional levels; fostering an enabling environment for adolescent girls’ education; and engaging and equipping girls to make life decisions and important contributions to society.

But Michelle Obama did not stop there, she enlisted a major girl squad to sing the power anthem "This Is For My Girls." The song, which was inspired by the Let Girls Learn initiative and the 62 million girls around the world who do not have access to education, features Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott, Jangle Monáe, Kelly Rowland, Zendaya, Lea Michele, Chloe x Halle, and Jadagrace.

While the First Lady is not featured on "This Is For My Girls," it was a natural fit for her to join James Corden for a Carpool Karaoke segment to sing the song and celebrate the power of musical activism.

Now, I don't know about you, but my vote definitely goes to the current first lady!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The world is as big or as small as you make it

This is a video worth watching about a group of North Philadelphia local kids that gather at a rec centre to participate in an innovative program where they forge friendships with their peers across the world.

These students need to go through a metal detector every day at school. Despite a difficult environment they tell and listen to stories of the world that 10 years ago they wouldn't have had the opportunity to be exposed to.

This amazing bunch of kids are blessed with having an awesome mentor who wants to spread empathy and understanding by connecting teenagers. She decides to "retool" what the kids already have.

She guides them to ask real questions and learn about what separates them and what unites them. As they connect with kids from New York, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Paris and Kazakhstan, they discover that their worlds are not as different as they might think.

"The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It" | Sundance Institute.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A charming lake hike to beat the heat

Hiking is a Swiss National sport. Here is a suggestion for lovely day's outing through the picturesque Val Piora via a pleasant round hike over the high plateau.

A whole bunch of beautiful mountain lakes, remnants of the last ice age, are scattered throughout the Piora tableland high above Levantine. The largest is the bluish-green Ritom lake, which lies at solely a half-hour’s hike from the mountain station of the amazingly steep funicular railway. A small gravel path leads firstly to the western end of the lake, and then along the northern shore to Cadagno di Fuori.

From there you can reach Alpe di Piora either directly or via a delightful looping trail that runs through the moorland landscape surrounding the Cadagno lake.

The delicious Piora cheese is made on this Alp of the same name and is known to be one of Switzerland’s most refined and sought-after delicacies. From the Cadagno hut the route leads through a small arc to the opposite side of the valley and then slightly upwards via Fontanella to the highest point of the tour, close to the Forca Pass.

Stop for a well-deserved rest around the Ritomsee lake and enjoy the fantastic views from the upper Levantine before you make your way back to the Piora mountain station. The route is about 12km and takes about 4 hours without stopping but trust me you will want to stop time and again to take pictures with your camera or in your mind. It is a truly unforgettable experience and well worth the hike!

Watch the video and feel the vibes: 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The best beaches around Lugano

Now that the spell of bad weather has passed we should be in for a warm weekend... here are the best beaches in and around Lugano:

Lido di Caslano
My absoulte favourite spot is the Lido of Caslano. You need to rise early if you want to catch one of the four sunshades on the sandy beach but it is worth it:

 Lido de Lugano
The biggest Lido is of course Il Lido de Lugano. Built in 1928, Lugano Lido’s charm has not faded with time. Though the facilities are constantly renovated, improvements always respect the original wooden structure. Lugano Lido is an extremely popular spot not only with residents of Lugano.
Facilities include:

a beach with fine sand (100 x 20 m) and the possibility of swimming in the lake
an Olympics-size pool heated to 25 degrees (50 x 25 m)
a heated medium-sized pool (25 x 12.5 m)
a diving pool with boards at 1, 3, 5 and 10 metres
a pool for children with water games
a beach volley court (25 x 13 m)
a five-a-side soccer pitch (25 x 13 m)
a very cool bar and restaurant area

Ever since 1992 the Lido also features a giant film screen in summer under the auspices of “Cinema al Lago", a festival of great films which has become more and more popular.

Lido di San Domenico
To find respite during torrid days at the beginning of summer the choice is not limited to Lugano Lido. Visit the Lido di San Domenico, an incredibly picturesque natural beauty-spot which affords stunning views over the lake and the Caprino shoreline. Once you have left Lugano behind, heading for Gandria, drive along that section of the Via Cortivo that skirts the village of Castagnola, and you are in the National Pre-alpine Park. Here the nature lover will find thick laurel groves, thriving olive trees, clumps of agave and a wealth of other Mediterranean flora.

Lido Riva Caccia
From the Lido Riva Caccia platform, close to the lakefront and the city centre, a wonderful landscape is to be admired; the setting is characteristic, exclusive and extremely pleasant. The story of this Lido goes back a long way, in tandem with Lugano's development as a centre for tourism. Construction of the "floating Lido” was the brainchild of the Pro-Lugano Association in 1889, inspired by what had already been proposed in Zurich.

Lido di Melide
Another stunning view is to be enjoyed at the Lido di Melide. This outing can be combined with a visit to the nearby Swiss Miniature.

There, you have a Lido for every day of the week. During the weekend you can revisit your favourite spots. Happy suntanning! Happy swimming!

Monday, July 11, 2016

World Population Day 2016

World Population Day is a great event being celebrated all through the world annually on July 11th. It's goal is to increase the awareness of the people towards the worldwide population issues. It was first started in the year 1989 by the United Nations Development Programme and was exalted by the interest of the public when the global population became near about five billion in 1987.

Today’s generation of young people, those aged 10 to 24, accounts for around 1.8 billion of the world’s 7.3 billion people. In 1950, there were only 721 million people in this age range.

These young people are the future. Their choices, ideas and innovations will transform the world – but only if they are equipped with the right skills and opportunities.

This year's theme is 'Investing in teenage girls.'

Teenage girls around the world face enormous challenges. Many are considered by their communities or parents to be ready for marriage and motherhood. Many are forced from school, damaging their future prospects. Even among girls who stay in school, access to basic information about their health, human rights and reproductive rights can be hard to come by, leaving them vulnerable to illness, injury and exploitation. These challenges are exacerbated among marginalized girls, such as members of ethnic minorities or those living in poverty or remote areas.

Yet when teenage girls are empowered, when they know about their rights and are given the tools to succeed, they become agents of positive change in their communities.

We already see this happening. Since 1999, the number of countries with severe gender disparities in primary education has been cut by more than half. But girls continue to lag behind in secondary education: By 2012, out of all countries with data available, 63 per cent had yet to achieve gender parity in secondary school enrolment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ode to Life

Tonight I received one of the most touching farewell messages I have ever received from a fellow Expat. It was not a personal note but nevertheless went straight to my heart. What a beautiful way describe one's emotions that are so difficult to explain when asked why do you keep on moving homes if it makes you cry every time?

Here is the answer:

Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit, 
repeating the same journey every day, 
he who doesn't change his march,
he who doesn't risk to change the colour of his clothes,
he who doesn't speak to he whom he doesn't know. 

Slowly dies he who shuns passion, 
he who prefers black on white and dots on i's rather than a bundle of emotions,
the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile, 
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings.

Slowly dies he who doesn't overturn the table, 
he who is unhappy in his work, 
he who doesn't risk certainty for uncertainty, 
to thus follow a dream, 
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives.

Slowly dies he who doesn't travel, he who doesn't read, 
he who doesn't listen to music, 
he who doesn't find grace in himself,   
He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem, 
who does not allow himself to be helped, 
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops.

Slowly dies he who abandons a project before even starting it,
who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, 
he who doesn't answer when he is asked something that he knows. 

Let's avoid death by small doses, 
remembering always that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of a splendid happiness...

By Pablo Neruda

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July

What is the Declaration of Independence you might wonder?

American Independence Day is celebrated on the Fourth of July every year. July 4th, 1776, was a day that represented the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

But July 4, 1776 wasn't the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776).

It wasn’t the day the American Revolution started either (that had happened back in April 1775).

And it wasn't the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (that was in June 1776). Or the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn't happen until November 1776). Or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).

So what did happen on July 4, 1776?

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They'd been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.

July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August (the copy now displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation. So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.

In contrast, Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17th of each year, as the anniversary of the date the Constitution was signed, not the anniversary of the date it was approved.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Old-fashioned technology

This video is priceless if you are from a pre-computer generation like myself. You know how kids get a kick out of it when adults can’t handle technology? Well, adults, this is for you...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Language facts of Switzerland

Switzerland has four language regions: German, French, Italian and Romansch. Multilingualism is an integral part of Switzerland's national identity, however, that does not mean every Swiss is multilingual!

It is important to know that there are three official languages in Switzerland (German, French and Italian) but there are four National languages (German, French, Italian AND Romansch). Although Romansh is spoken by only some 10,000 people in certain parts of Graubünden, it has five distinct dialects: Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader.

Here are some more facts:

- German is the main language of around 64.9% of the population. However, they do not speak standard German but rather various Alemmanic dialects that are collectively known as “Schwiizerdütsch” (Swiss German).
- Swiss German is not a written language, although it is used sometimes in personal correspondence. Standard German is used for all formal, written communication.
- French is the main language of around 22.6% of the population.
- Italian is the main language of around 8.3% of the population.
- Romansch is the main language of about 0.5% of the population.
- Several cantons are multilingual: Bern (German-French), Fribourg (French-German), Valais (French-German) and Graubünden (German-Romansh-Italian).
- Swiss German is the most widely used language in the workplace (66%), followed by standard German (33%), French (29%), English (18%) and Italian (9%).
- Over 42% of the population over the age of 15 regularly use more than one language.
- Foreigners living in Switzerland also contribute to the country's linguistic diversity. English and Portuguese are the most commonly spoken foreign languages.
- Other commonly spoken foreign languages include Spanish, Serbian, Croatian and Albanian.

Monday, June 27, 2016

7 tips for better communication with your tweens and teens

Any parent of a tween or teen will know things change when the hormones kick in at puberty. If you throw an international move into the mix it does not make it easier. We may talk using words, but our looks, gestures and actions and even our silences all convey messages to our children.

At the end of the day, you know your child better than anyone, and you are best placed to help him/her. Below are some pointers to guide you on your way.

These tips are especially useful if you lead a mobile lifestyle, as having meaningful chats with your child during times of transition will help deepen your relationship, meaning you’ll both feel stronger.

1. Listen more than you talk
As philosopher Epictetus once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."

2. Empathize with the child and his/her message.
Avoid giving instant solutions to your child. Advice can come later, when/if they ask for it.

3. Show acceptance
Clearly communicate acceptance of the child and what they are trying to say.

4. Talk with your child, rather than at him/her
Facilitate a two-way conversation, rather than giving a lecture. Children of all ages want to be understood, not preached to. They are also far more likely to take your advice on board if they have felt included in the conversation.

5. Request, don’t demand
Requests are best made in a simple, positive, one- or two-step process. Do not demand, ask kindly and with respect.

6. Treat your child as an equal
Communicate with your children at eye level, rather than from above. Take a seat together, or crouch down with young ones. This way the communication is both less threatening and more supportive. Going for a ride in the car together can work wonders!

7. Discuss change openly
If you are raising children who are growing up outside of their parents’ home culture(s) make sure you discuss each move with your child and prepare them for it.

It’s also crucial to remind your teen that friendship and love are never gone; their loved ones from a previous country or school are always there. Your teen can still communicate via email, Skype, telephone. Encourage him/her to take advantage of online technology.

.. and never forget... you lead by example!

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