Why Today Is Important: 8th March

Happy International Women’s Day!

I know some readers may be rolling their eyes at this, and to be honest I can sympathise. I can understand Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but when I first heard about International Women’s Day I was a bit sceptical. Why do we need a day all about women? I’m sure there’s some blokes out there thinking we get too much attention.

Personally, this day makes me think about the women in vulnerable situations. I know I was born fairly lucky: I was born in the UK, with people who love me and education and healthcare at the ready. But today, despite being Women’s Day, in my mind is not about me.

It’s about the women who are beaten and abused on a daily basis. The women who are trafficked and sold as slaves. The women who never had a chance to grow up and become women, because they were born female and so were left somewhere remote and cold to die.

It seems outrageous and insane in the West, that these things can even happen. But, when you travel outside of the Western countries, you really see it. In some places it’s subtle, but in others it’s stark. In my time, I have been fortunate enough to live in China, but even there I was shocked. The mentality since the revolution has been more for equality, but in our Chinese language textbook we still learned the phrase “a real man doesn’t hit women”. There were women walking down the street, black and blue. In Shanghai, I saw one woman with barely a face, and missing most of one arm. I was informed that she had been a victim of gang crime, taken from a village to work for them, and when she was getting “too old” to be pretty, she was attacked and sent to beg in the streets, to seek money from shocked tourists and bring it to her captors.

In India, there is still the issue of female children being born, as male children are often preferred. There has been a shift in cultural norms, with more women fighting to keep their female children, but some babies are still killed shortly after birth because of their gender.

In Japan, women are still attacked, and groped, and sexually harassed on such a frequent basis that it has become expected in society. If you go on a bus or train, and are forced to stand, you can expect some creepy old man is going to rub against you, and you are expected to stand there and take it.

I know, some more radical women than myself would argue that this day is for me, and that I should revel in that appreciation. But I can’t. I’m a human first, woman second, and to be honest, this day just doesn’t feel relevant to me. It doesn’t feel about me. So every year, I’m going to spend this day thinking about the vulnerable, and how to help make society safer for them. Because in the end, they’re the ones who need it.

Is Filial Piety Still A Thing?

For myself, yes.

Personally, I grew up in a very working class neighbourhood. Everyone who could work did, taking it in turns to look after us children. Mum and dad weren’t married, and didn’t live together, so she counted as a single mum. The same could be said for my sister, who had her first child just eighteen months after I was born.

Our family was so large, with so many different struggles, that we would often have to share beds, or sleep on the floor, and give whatever hand-me-downs we could to one another. There were arguments after arguments, and on more than one occasion my niece and I fell down the stairs as small children when an argument became too heated.

But, the moment someone else came along and started causing trouble, we stepped up. A bully starts causing trouble at school? Every relative of a similar age would plot how to handle the bully and make them back off. If someone insulted a parent, us kids would find a way to harass them. If someone mistreated my sister, the family would find a way to get them to go away and stay the hell away.

Family is messy, but you don’t mess with family.

When my family members grow old, I’m fully prepared to look after them, house them, feed them, whatever it takes. And I’ll happily do the same for my boyfriend’s family, no matter the insults or arguments that may happen over the years. Because for me, family is the most important thing.

When I went to China to study for a year, it often grated on my nerves to have random Chinese people come up to me and say “Why don’t you Westerners care about family?” or “Why do you stick your parents in old folks homes?” And it was always in the most judgemental, nosy tone; after a while, it started to really p*** me off. But at the same time, I kind of get it.

Not everyone can look after their families. Not everyone has the emotional capacity to watch someone they’ve admired, or seen as a strong figure, slowly grow weaker and weaker before your very eyes. There are times when the best thing for everyone is to ask for help, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If I wanted to build a house, I’d call on outside help from someone who knew how to handle it. If someone needed surgery, I’d sure as hell ask for outside help from someone else, because I can’t handle that.

And for some people, their workload is already far too much to be able to take on family care too.

Personally, I feel like filial piety has to be a personal choice. What suits one person will not suit another.

And it seems, at last, that the message is finally reaching China.

The book Private Life Under Socialism: Love, Intimacy and Family Change in a Chinese Village by Yunxiang Yan is a perfect eye opener for just how much family life has changed in recent decades. His book is a study held throughout the 90s, looking at how public romance is becoming more acceptable, women are gaining more power and respect, and the elderly are increasingly neglected and ignored by the young. It’s a fascinating read, and I’d really recommend it for anyone interested in anthropology, sociology, and China. Here’s a link: https://amzn.to/2PXjqGu

I had to read this book for an assignment at university, and the idea of looking at intimate relations in China intrigued me. Something a little saucy, something a little risqué….and I could get a grade for reading it! It seemed perfect.

And I have to admit, the more I read the more questions I found myself asking. How much of the change was caused by the rise of socialism, and how much of it was there all along, just waiting for a chance to happen? Do people blame Western influence? Is this a long-term development? How will care for the elderly and vulnerable change?

Honestly, I think these are the questions that must have been running through Yunxiang Yan’s mind as he conducted this study. The significant shift in society is so great that more and more people are committing suicide for fear of being mistreated and neglected by their own loved ones as they grow older. Some of the younger generations are growing increasingly mercenary, taking their parents for al they have, and it’s genuinely heartbreaking. The Chinese government and justice system is not doing enough for their poor and elderly, and even social justice and indignation seems lacking. I’m not usually one to push for social justice, but God damn! People aren’t pushing enough for government help or rights, and many have taken to sucking up to their children instead, with the hopes that it’ll earn them a place in the family home in their golden years.

I will say, it isn’t all heartbreak and sorrow. Women are receiving better treatment in the home and in public – they can actually have a say on how their own homes are being run! They’re not having to kowtow to mother-in-laws, or their husbands. Instead, their finally receiving appreciation for what they sacrifice for their families, and to be honest, I can’t help but feel that it’s about bloody time!

And we can’t forget the men. Young men, while faced with the challenges of finding a good career and maintaining the family, have the most freedom and independence one could ask for. They have more choice over a wife, more choice over their jobs, and more choice over their homes.

It is, unfortunately, still limited by the Chinese government, but it’s a step in a very interesting direction. And I for one, can’t wait to see what implication it will have in the future.

Portugal Offers A Helping Hand

With Britain leaving the EU, British travellers to European countries will find themselves in need of medical insurance, and this will really catch a lot of people out.

Before now, British tourists were covered by the European Health Insurance Card, aka EHIC.

This little card is great!

But unfortunately for us Brits, we’re having to give it up.

Except, maybe we don’t have to…at least, not in Portugal! The Portuguese government is planning to replicate this medical coverage for British tourists, in an attempt to attract more of us to the country.

They already get 2 million Brits visiting Portugal every year on holiday, and it’s hardly a surprise. Gorgeous coasts and stunning sunshine come together to make a pretty decent holiday, not many of us can turn that down. But personally, I think the history between our two countries is the most interesting factor at play.

Britain and Portugal have had the longest running alliance in the world, and it’s still ongoing. We allied with Portugal back in 1373, and now here we are, nearly 700 years later, still close friends despite changing geopolitics, and neither side intends for that to change.

Can Death Be Eco-Friendly?

Humanity has always sought to commemorate and preserve our loved ones when they die. The problem is, we’re starting to realise just how heavy a price we’re paying in respecting our dead.

Our cemeteries take up massive amounts of land, and ridiculous amounts of water in the maintenance. We’re running out of room, and in some places, running out of water for keeping it nice.

Meanwhile, we use embalming to keep dead bodies in good condition, and the chemicals we use – formaldehyde and phenol in particular – can be lethal if ingested by the living. Imagine what that does to the microorganisms in the soil, the bugs that eat them, the birds that eat them, the cats that eat them…

Maybe you want to go for a cremation. It seems like it would be fairly clean, right? No chemicals are going into the soil and your body isn’t taking up any land. But in burning your body, you’re actually releasing chemicals into the atmosphere. Things like carbon monoxide, soot and sulphur dioxide are released when our bodies burn, and if you’ve got any fillings there’ll be mercury to deal with.

The good news is there are positive changes emerging. People are getting eco-savvy and in doing so have provided a sense of impetus and innovation to the most morbid of industries.

That’s right folks, you don’t have to pollute the earth when you die.

The most modest burial service I’ve discovered is something called body composting. The steps are as follows:

  1. Take the dead body and put it in a hole.
  2. Mix plant materials to ensure you have a decent carbon-nitrogen ratio.
  3. Cover the body with these plant materials.
  4. Wait for 4-7 weeks. The micro-organisms that come in naturally with the plant materials will break down the body. You can rotate the body every now and then for a faster process.

From what they say, you wouldn’t know the difference between body compost and regular compost. Body compost looks deep and rich with nutrients, and apparently smells quite nice!

It’s already been embraced in Washington State, and people in Colorado and California are starting to embrace the idea themselves.

For me, I want my body to be used to grow a tree.

When I die, I want them to take my body, put it in a biodegradable pod and place me with the seeds of the tree. That way my body can contribute to a new life, long after I’m gone.

If anyone else is interested in that, check out Capsula Mundi.

Trump Terror: Could He Win Again?

I still remember the fear in November 2016.

People around the world were gathering around their TVs, phones and computers, waiting with wide eyes and bated breath. Myself? I was in China, studying in a class with students from South Korea, Japan, America, Russia and other varying countries with differing views. The tension in our classes was palpable as the day drew near.

It was my friend Di, a girl from Brooklyn, New York, who posted the results in the group chat:

He’s won.

Within seconds the chat was filled with mayhem. Sobbing emojis, gifs of cutesy animals hanging themselves, and curses in languages of all sorts filled my screen. The closest feeling I could recognise was being incredulous. I almost wanted to laugh.

I felt sorry for the South Koreans and the Japanese students in my class. They were genuinely terrified; around that time, North Korea had tested a missile, and it had landed in the sea uncomfortably close to Japan. In the bluster of his campaign, Trump had suggested withdrawing military support from South Korea and Japan, and letting them stand for themselves against the threats of North Korea and China; these suggestions had been taken to heart, and people were genuinely considering moving permanently for fear of war. More than once, I was asked about the visa acceptance rates in the UK, and I found myself woefully lacking in answers.

And now here we are, four years later. I can safely say that my old classmates never left their home countries, and if I’m completely honest, I haven’t been that horrified by Trump. Some of his decisions have inspired outrage – the harsh treatment of children at the border with Mexico, for instance – but on the large part he hasn’t seemed as monstrous as people had prophesied.

The US never abandoned Japan and South Korea; instead, Trump has had them on their toes, and the Chinese and North Koreans have not been able to gain a clear upper hand.

Now another election draws near, and Europe is the one spreading fear. With Trump as president, European-American relations has grown strained, and the general consensus seems to be that if Trump is re-elected all hope will be lost. Many European officials feel that he undermines American democracy, and this criticism has really struck deep into the hearts of US officials. It’s the ultimate insult to a patriotic American, who holds democracy and freedom as their core values.

The problem is, Trump will likely win.

And with Europe insulting and berating America, the rift between supposed allies is only being widened.The more we protest Trump, the more damage we do. But what other options are there? We are morally obligated to speak out about what we feel is wrong. But if we do, we may lose America to Trump for four more years.

We’d be giving the orange buffoon far more freedom to indulge his whims.

Gold or Gaia?

Armenia isn’t known for its strong economy, or developed industry.

So when the government was offered a $500 million investment by Lydian International, it was hardly a surprise that they snatched up the offer.

The company had seen the potential for Armenian gold, and jumped at the chance to establish a mine in a remote, mountainous region. They promised jobs to a country plagued by unemployment, as well as millions of dollars to be made in tax revenue; it seemed like a win-win situation.

But Lydian International has sparked concerns globally over environmental concerns, and while the project meets the legal and environmental requirements of Armenia, it has failed to reach the standards of France and Germany.

And since June 2018, concerned locals and passionate environmental activists have blocked access to the mine, occupying the roads and protesting Lydian as a whole.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is trying desperately to convince the protesters that the protests will do them more harm than good. Meanwhile, Lydian has lost more than $60 million and 1000 jobs because of the blockade.

The locals are faced with a truly difficult decision: do they give in, and prioritise and financial stability of their people, or do they keep to their guns and keep fighting for Gaia?

Why Today Is Important: 1st March

Saint David (approx. 520AD), the patron saint of Wales, was a man of mystery and legend. Today, the 1st March, is the day the Welsh dedicated to this holy man, a home grown hero and icon to many.

Some rumoured that he was the nephew of King Arthur, and the overall consensus is that he was descended from royalty, but chose a more spiritual path. He was famously a vegetarian, and notorious for leading an army into battle in his youth, with his men wearing leeks on their heads to distinguish them from the enemy! Now the leek is a national symbol in Wales, and still worn on this day during festivities, in memory of him.

In deciding to become a missionary, David travelled throughout Wales and England, founding numerous monasteries and spreading the word of the Lord. His dedication even took him to Jerusalem, where he was consecrated as a bishop. In 550AD he was granted the title of Archbishop of Wales, but continued to live the disciplined life he had maintained before, until the end of his days on 1st March 589AD.

He was buried in a cathedral, but during the Viking invasion the site was ransacked and pillaged. It was only after his death that his reputation grew, first spreading throughout the UK, and then to Brittany, until it finally reached Rome. In 1120AD, the Pope declared St. David as the Patron Saint of Wales, and thus strengthened his place in history.

Now, he is a point of pride in Wales. The people have advocated for the day to be converted into a national holiday, and schools and workplaces often close around midday for the celebrations. People dress in traditional garbs, and decorate themselves with leeks and daffodils, emblems of the Welsh national pride and spirit. This is the largest non-military event in Wales, and a significant, uniting occasion that serves to celebrate heritage and history with the friends and family of today.

For further reading on the Patron Saint, I recommend these sites:



Country Profile: Albania

Population Size: 3.2 million

Area: 28,748 km sq, 11,100 miles sq

Main language(s): Albanian

Primary religion(s): Islam, Christianity

Life expectancy: men = 74, women = 80

Geography: mountainous with a long coastline

Current leader: Prime Minister Edi Rama

Bordering countries: Montenegro, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Croatia, Italy.

Stability: corrupt, but functioning. Currently a potential candidate for EU membership.

Debt: Since 2018, $10,524 million.

Country Profile: Afghanistan

Population: 31.6 million

Area: 652,864 sq km, or 251,827 sq miles

Main languages: Dari, Pashto

Primary religion: Islam

Life expectancy: Men = 59 years, women = 62 years

Geography: Landlocked, mountainous

Current leader: President Ghani (since September 2014)

Bordering countries: Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and (via a very narrow corridor) Xinjiang Province, China.

Stability: weak, the country’s recent history is laden with war and civil unrest.

Debt: As of 2018, Afghanistan had $1.353 million of public debt.

Coronavirus and Cocked Up Legs

Last summer I overdid it with walking to and from work on rough terrain, running about after customers, squatting down to lift heavy boxes, etc, and ended up with a groin strain on both legs.

I went to the doctors in October, they diagnosed the problem and said to just rest it, so I did. 6 weeks later I felt bored and restless, but a google search said it could take as long as six months to recover. So be it.

Five months later and I’ve reached the end of my tether, so today I went to the osteopath, and resigned myself to paying to fix my god-damned legs. Our osteo is nice and cheap, because the physicians are all students learning the trade under the watchful eyes of their teachers, and today we had some Italian students in.

I was so eager to fix my legs, and end the trembling and aching once and for all that I didn’t stop to think.

Halfway through the session, my physician left the room to consult with his tutor, and when he came back, he was shaking his head in disbelief.

“I have been told that I have to end this consultation immediately. The British Government has sent us notification that all Italian students are to stay away from the patients, until the government is confident that we are not infected with the Coronavirus. I am so sorry for the inconvenience, it’s ridiculous, I haven’t even been to Italy since early January!”

I wanted to laugh. It all seemed so insane. He wasn’t allowed to treat me for a muscular problem? There was hand-sanitiser everywhere in the building, he hadn’t coughed or sneezed the entire time, and like he said: he and his colleagues hadn’t been to Italy since the outbreak began.

But this interaction made me think, it’s about time I started looking into the Coronavirus news and what’s actually happening. So, I’ve looked into it and figured I’d share the details with you guys.

So far, by today, 27th February 2020, there have been 82,585 people diagnosed, and 2,814 deaths officially recognised as being the direct result of the virus. It is important to bear in mind that in China, particularly in Wuhan right now, if people choose to die in their homes they are not being counted among those killed by the Coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19.

There are 50 countries currently being affected by the virus, and one cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

The largest number of cases is in China, with 78,514 people officially diagnosed. Below is the list of no. of people infected across the world:

South Korea: 1,766

The cruise ship, the Diamond Princess: 705

Italy: 528

Iran: 245

Japan: 207

Singapore: 93

Hong Kong: 92

US: 60

Kuwait: 43

Thailand: 40

Bahrain: 33

Taiwan: 32

Germany: 27

Australia: 23

Malaysia: 22

France: 18

Vietnam: 16

Spain: 15

UK: 15

U. A. E: 13

Canada: 12

Macao: 10

Iraq: 6

Oman: 4

Switzerland: 4

Philippines: 3

Austria: 3

Croatia: 3

Greece: 3

India: 3

Israel: 3

Finland: 2

Lebanon: 2

Pakistan: 2

Russia: 2

Sweden: 2

Afghanistan: 1

Algeria: 1

Belgium: 1

Brazil: 1

Cambodia: 1

Denmark: 1

Egypt: 1

Estonia: 1

Georgia: 1

North Macedonia: 1

Nepal: 1

Norway: 1

Romania: 1

Sri Lanka: 1

It’s a lot like that game, Plague Inc, where you have to infect the world.

Honestly, I think we’ll be fine in the greater part. We will lose some people, and it will be unfortunate, but the mortality rate is only 2%. Influenza – the seasonal flu virus that goes around every year – kills more people. But, COVID-19 hasn’t been around for long enough for us to confidently say that.

In the end, everyone gets ill. It’s an inevitable part of life. Just remember to wash your hands, and maybe invest in some hand sanitiser and a face mask for the time being.

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