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Acquiring knowledge on holiday

One of the rewards about travelling is that one can acquire some knowledge during the period.

My friend and I went to Portugal a while ago, and we visited the Jeronimos Monastery at Belem in Lisbon, which is listed as a World Heritage Site.

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While we followed the tour guide, she told us some interesting historic stories which we couldn’t learn by just going there alone. We have learnt that hundreds of years ago when Portuguese explorers went to South America and later colonised Brazil, they found that the local folks ate corns as main daily food. When they built the monastery at their own homeland in Belem, this cultural fact about Brazil was reflected and en-carved on the church walls and pillars, as seen from above picture (a corn in a hand).

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The Capital city Lisbon has its own character and cultural heritages. It had also experienced some major earthquakes, one of which occurred in 1755, as recorded being devastating to the city. Portugal is a beautiful country with a long coastal line facing the Atlantic Ocean. Many explorers and migrants once embarked on ships to sail towards America, especially during the WW II, Lisbon was one of the few neutral, open Atlantic ports, providing a gateway for many refugees fleeing from the war to America.

Apart from touring Lisbon, we had visited some other towns by the coast on a day trip. With the help of our tour guides, we had a really good time and learnt a lot during this trip.

Why is art important to us?

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Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” The world  is far from perfect and faces many challenges from time to time. Life can be hard sometimes, but it must go on whatever the circumstances. Life can be rather boring without art. A piece of good music can touch people’s souls and even bring you into tears. Great art can uplift your spirit, lead you to seek light in the darkness.

This is not to say everyone can be an artist or make a living as an artist. While science is more on logic and reasoning side, art is more focused on sense and feelings.

In a world where the population is growing fast, what are people going to do with their lives? Without understanding the beauty of art, people will probably just spend time on basic instincts. The education in music and art makes people care about environment, and hence less destructive.

In general, people enjoying art enjoy life more. That’s why art is so important to us.

Some lessons in history

The society has progressed, and we are living in a better material world than ever before. However, when it comes to certain customs and traditions, it seems that what you wear reflects on what you’d like to present yourself to others, and how you’d intend to integrate with the rest of the world.

Recently I’ve researched some old Chinese customs about their costumes and appearance that men and women had to abide by at certain historical period, which seems rather peculiar now. For example, in Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), men were forced to wear their hair in queues, which means the hair on top of the scalp is grown long and is often braided while the front portion of the head is shaved. This was a symbolism of the conquest of Manchus in China. It was thought that this kind of hairstyle caused a lot of bullying on early Chinese immigrants in overseas countries, because they looked so different in a common territory. For women, through several dynasties in Chinese history, until early twentieth century, women had to bind their feet to the extent that they could not walk properly and suffered from severe disabilities, not to mention that the binding belt was so filthy to wear daily that it led to other health hazards. Later on, those harmful customs and the ideology behind them were abolished in early twentieth century, when a revolution took place that overthrew the ruling of the Qing dynasty.

History is a mirror, it’s often heartening but teaches us good lessons. While we feel fortunate to live in a more civilised society today, we should not forget those who had fought for a better life for their next generations.

The things we should treasure

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Have you ever noticed that the most precious things in life are actually free?

The fresh air to breath is free, the sunlight that makes us healthy and happy is free. And we are free to walk on earth by foot to go anywhere we’d like. Besides all this, the family link is free by nature since we were born. The friendship we’ve forged over years is also free. Think positively about how blessed we are when we possess these wonderful offerings, and when we live in a relatively free world.

Needless to say, we all need some money to spend in our lives, but we might as well just treasure all these things that are free!

Summer weekend cooking

The bitter melon has some health benefits, especially when we eat it in the summer. I bought a few of them at the weekend market, and scrambled a couple of eggs (one duck egg and one chicken egg in this dish, but can do using the same type of eggs). After frying them in a pan with oil, salt and soy sauce, with addition of some chilli and garlic, the dish is done. It’s good to go with rice or noodle.

Random thought of the day

# A little bit of criticism is not a bad thing, because it helps you examine what’s not so good at first and make changes for the better later on.

# Freedom of speech is a pre-requisite for being creative.

# By making hundreds of flowers blossom at the same time you’ll find the outstanding one for you, by encouraging debate and discussion in a certain forum you’ll find the right solution.

A story to tell

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There are so many things happening in our daily life that most of them will have been forgotten before long. If you ask me what I did or spoke about a week ago I may not be able to recall it at all. This may be because there exists a memory filter within our brain in which something will always be remembered against the timely tide.

Anyway, what I intend to tell is something that occurred about seven years ago. In the summer of 2010, I went to an international conference with my husband in Barcelona, Spain, as a guest companion. At the conference dinner an American couple sat by my side, and we chatted about the current events when Obama was just elected as the first black president of the US. On the phenomenon of women being under-represented for this top position, the lady blurted out that America would rather elect a black male, a white male of any age and quality than a female of high calibre as president. She sighed, in a half-complaining way. I nodded thoughtfully, without commenting much. The rest of evening went well, and we met many other people and had plenty of conversations which I had forgotten soon, but I was impressed by that brief encounter.

Later on, I seem to realise that while women are already in a weak position in the job market, the sad thing to say is that they often don’t support each other, sometimes even vilify each other. But men often support men. That’s the difference. Sigh. However, the consequence is, you’d never know how much better/worse women could do to the world because they have never been given the chance (while men have evidently been doing the whole lot anyway). I have no problem with admitting the importance of men’s roles, but since women take half of the human population the imbalance in the decisive roles should not be overly ignored.