Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Strolling around on a sunny Sunday ...

I had intended to spend Sunday morning at Museu do Oriente, whose exhibitions always seem to thrill me but upon reaching the International train station of Santa Apolónia realised the streets up to Cais do Sodré were closed down because of a race course I hadn't heard of. Rather than letting disappointment take over me I decided to walk around the back streets near Alfama and see what would happen instead.
Street Art is a growing phenomenon and every time I step out I come across a new graffiti I hadn't seen before. As I made my way towards Martins Moniz I walked by Casa dos Bicos, which has been transformed into Saramago's Museum. 

A distant Jazzy voice could be heard as I strolled across Martim Moniz square now livened up by vibrant coloured panels painted by African artists. I recognised one of them, Ismael Sequeira whose lines impregnated in movement I had seen for the first time long time ago, as he and a daughter of mine attended an Art workshop. I felt as if colour, similarly to sun rays, could have a positive impact on people.

The whole layout of the square had been "reinvented" with the esplanades, the artistic displays and the ongoing music bringing a new dimension to the open space I hadn't been to since last year.

From there I walked into the former hard drugs and "redlight" area, which was "refurbished" as well as part of an overall plan measure taken by the city Hall and again I was surprised to come across esplanades and street Art a little bit everywhere where space for the old Viuva Lamego's glazed tile façade and graffitis on genital mutilation could be found. 


Monday, 27 October 2014

Armenian Music in Lisbon - Calouste Gulbenkian Auditorium - The 14th of October 2014

I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend a magical one and a half hour chamber music evening event at the auditorium of Calouste Gulbenkian Museum during the cultural week of Armenia.
Having been to Armenia early this year and fallen for their culture further added to my curiosity and I was astounded, firstly with the amount of people who attended this event (the auditoirum was full) and secondly because of the virtuosity of the musicians who interpreted  major compositions  by well known Armenian composers from significantly different periods, Komitas, Arno Babajanian and Tigran Mansurian.
Despite having preferred the ones played by the Trio Aeternus, a classical piano trio formed by Alexander Steward (violin), Varoujan Bartikian (cello) and Lucjan Luc (piano) I must admit that all the musicians were outstandingly good.


The latest books I have read ...

No books could be so utterly different as the latest two books I have read and yet I can't help saying I have enjoyed them both. Erich Marie Remarque's writing is sublime and the story a rather touching one. I couldn't put the book down the moment I started reading it and at one particular time I felt as if I was experiencing the characters's setbacks.
The fact that part of the story is set in Lisbon, whose role during the second world war was  one of extreme importance as far as the refugees are concerned, might have had an additional impact especially because I have read quite a lot about it and in particular Portugual's involvement as a neutral country throughout the whole ordeal but it was a lot more than that. Some of the extracts made me further wonder and that in itself was well worth the reading.
"Les souvenirs pénibles ont un avantage: ils vous convainquent qu'on est heureux même si l'on doutait un instant plus tôt."
"Ne perd-on pas constamment ce que l'on croit tenir, parce que rien ne demeure immobile? (...) L'immobilité ne survient-elle pas à l'instant seulement òu tout est fini? Rien ne changera plus. N'est-ce pas alors qu'on possède vraiment les choses?"
" Mais n'est-ce pas l'ambition de chacun, de vouloir retenir ce qui nous échappe et de fuir ce qui refuse de nous quitter?"
"L'absence  compte dix fois plus que la présence."
"Jusqu'au jour, je n'avais prêté attention qu'à ce qui m'avait été pris, sans imaginer que j'avais pu acquérir quelque chose."
"Les choses ne sont importantes qu'en fonction du prix que nous leur attachons."

The "Touriste" was definitely a lighter book to read though unquestionably interesting. Some of the countries the journalist has visited  and written about I have been to myself and my opinion may differ from the one he has conveyed. His opinions are based on his personal experiences thus  ...
"Tout n'est pas dans tout, chaque événement est unique et laisse des traces uniques aussi bien dans l'histoire que dans la mémoire de ceux qui l'ont traversé." 
"Le paradis n'a pas d'adresse. Il se déplace à la suface de la planète pour offrir des moments furtifs à ceux qui savent les saisir."


Friday, 24 October 2014

... And yet another challenge ...

The yearly challenge of preparing air traffic controllers to be submitted to the fully endorsed test that will determine their fluency in English within the Aviation context shouldn't be too much of a challenge, according to those I work with (and for) once they say I have been doing it long enough not to let it worry me.

This is where I think they are wrong because each group is different, not only as far as the English knowledge and skills are concerned but also in terms of personal characteristics and to be able to get the best out of them as a teacher one should try to get to know them and adapt one's methodology to each and everyone of them as individuals and as a group, which is not always simple.

We've been thoroughly enjoying ourselves in the teaching and learning process so far which I feel has brought some sparkle into the daily routine of the training centre.  

One of the fourthcoming challenges will be my trip to Cape Verde and the handing out of the presents to the children who have been looking forward to seeing me all throughout the year. Despite the fact that increasing prices have not allowed me to fly there as often as I used and would like to if I am completely honest not being able to rely on the support of some of the people who were very committed at the beginning of the project and have since then almost forgotten what they agreed upon has been affecting me, mostly because it involves children who have built up their expectations over time and it will be hard to tell them their "godparents" have not sent them anything.


I have been trying to organise things in such a way that every child may get something but it's hard not only because of the authorised weight but also the financial limitations and yet I am hopeful ... it will end up being all right. Betsy Garmon's "Pull yourself together and use what you have" has been hammering on my mind ... and that's exactly what I have been doing ...


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Being aware of one's role in life ...

I have just finished reading a very inspiring book I had bought in Ireland some time ago. I must confess I had never heard of this brave young lady, maybe because, I do believe, politics from afar reach us in the proportion of the direct impact they may or may not have in our own internal politics.

Speaking out for justice and raising her voice in the name of  people especially those deprived of the basic  human rights in her own country knowing she is putting her life at risk is not only being aware of the role she ought to play but ultimately being courageously strong.

As I was reading some of the hardships she had  (and still has) to go through following the openly denouncing of crimes perpetrated in her country I wondered how many of us would expose ourselves in a similar way! 

"Those who do struggle often fail, but those who do not struggle have failed already." Brecht

The 8 day cultural trip to Iran - "Iranian Treasures" - Last moments and last considerations - The 22nd and 23rd of September 2014

We couldn't desguise the degree of nervousness during the last meal which we ended up having at a former disco in Yazd,  once the flight to Tehran was postponed, which meant having to go directly to the International airport when (and if) we ever made it to Tehran in time.

We finally got into Tehran very early in the morning and despite having been driven to the hotel which had been booked for us all we had time to do was to have a quick shower and change.

Looking back at the trip and taking into account the overall idea we have (or have developed in our minds based on the media or any other conveyed information over the years) about the country I must say it exceeded all my expectations. I wasn't expecting people to be so "open" to foreigners, women to be so attractive with all the "restrictions" (which are less severe than we are told) and even if I knew what to expect culturally speaking I was nevertheless "caught off guard" a few times.
I know I will want to go back and eventually cover a wider area sometime. I was captivated by its  artistic richness and I will certainly not miss the opportunity to go back. The group I travelled with may not have had any direct influence on my personal opinion but it did help make the trip a far more interesting one.

The 8 day cultural trip to Iran - "Iranian Treasures" - (Day 7 late afternoon) - Yazd, Dowlat Abad Garden - The 22nd of September 2014

We spent the last hours in Yazd Dowlat Abad Garden, a significant sample of Persian Gardens in the heart of the desert. It was constructed in 1160 by the great Kahn, Mohammad Taghi Kahn-e Bafghi, who was head of the Yazd kahns under the Zandieh rule. Among he buildings that most impressed us was the tallest bâdgir of the world (33,8 metres), the octogonal wind-catcher.

The bâdgir stood at the end of a long avenue lined with cypresses. As we walked into the two storey pavillion surrounding the "ventilation structure" we were astounded by the beauty of the domed ceiling and the colourful glass windows and doors.

Some of us sat at an open café fairly close to the bâdgir and spent what was left of the evening having an icecream and talking about trivialities, before getting on the bus that would take us to the local airport and hopefully onto Tehran in time to board the flight to Paris in the early morning.