Monday, July 30, 2012

HACHIKO: THE LOYAL DOG OF TOKYO

This is in the Shibuya District of Tokyo …probably one of my most favorite places to walk and see what's new in Tokyo. A lot is always going on in Shibuya.

And this is Hachiko…the famous loyal dog that is at the center of the district. I met a student at the station and she told me about the story of Hachiko. He was brought to Tokyo in 1924 by his owner, a college professor named Hidesamuro Ueno. Each day, when Ueno left for work, Hachiko would stand by the door to watch him go. When the professor came home at 4 o’clock, Hachiko would go to the Shibuya Station to meet him.

Ueno died of a stroke while at the university. Hachiko didn’t realize that he was gone, and so the dog returned to the train station every single day to await his master. He became such a familiar presence there, in fact, that the station master set out food for the dog and gave him a bed in the station. Even so, Hachiko never shifted loyalties –every day at 4 o’clock, he waited by the tracks as the train pulled in, searching for his best friend’s face among the people getting off.

Hachiko died in 1935, after waiting for his master for 10 years. But the dog would not be forgotten –a year before his death, Shibuya Station installed a bronze statue of the aging dog, to honor its mascot. The student told me that the statue was melted down during World War II, and a new version was created in 1948 by the son of the original artist. If you are ever in Tokyo, go to Shibuya station, and you’ll be able to see the bronze statue of Hachiko. He is still waiting, as loyal as ever, for his master to come home.

Animals are amazing creatures, please treat them humanely.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

TOKYO: THE MECCA OF JAPAN


Tokyo, the super clean capital city of Japan and definitely the entertainment mecca of this nation of 127 million people, and 6852 islands in East Asia. There is just about anything you could possibly want to do or see here; museums, amusement parks, hotels, restaurants, skyscrapers, amazing views and hundreds of other sights. If you don’t mind the big city, you could spend your entire vacation in Tokyo and never be bored.

Let’s get started! Tokyo is a densely populated metropolitan area (over 11,000,000 inhabitants) and it is located on the eastern coast of Honshu, the largest of the chain of islands that make up Japan.
Founded in the early 17th century, the city was originally called Edo, a name it retained until the mid-19th century when the Meiji Emperor renamed it Tokyo, the "Eastern Capital".

Since then, Tokyo's history has been turbulent. In 1923, a major earthquake destroyed parts of the city and its suburbs.  Near the end of World War II, Tokyo was firebombed.  The number of deaths was high and large areas of the city were destroyed.  The Japanese people responded to both tragedies by rebuilding, and Tokyo's status as one of the world's leading cities is a result of their diligence and dedication.

Tokyo is a city that blends the old and the new in a seamless manner.  The country's religious and feudal past are represented by temples, shrines and palaces that sometimes seem as if they belong in a different era, but are an integral part of the Japanese culture and neighborhoods.

Conversely, the proliferation of zany trends among the youth is more widespread and startling in Tokyo than in many of the world's major cities.

Tokyo is so large and diverse that it is difficult to tour on your own.  It is an expensive place to visit and you need to optimize your time by pre-planning your visit. You can buy popular guidebook like the Lonely Planet to help with your planning before you depart. 

But one thing I must say that Tokyo is definitely a challenge for English speakers and it has a wacky address system (often no street signs) that makes it hard to find places (even for my taxi driver).  The city's mass transit system is one that some visitors from other countries may prefer to avoid during the morning and evening rush hours unless you adore sardines packed in a tin. The Japanese transit system find ways to fit so many people into subway cars that most people that aren't used to tight quarters will feel uncomfortable riding during peak hours. 
The very best way to see Tokyo in a few days is to take a tour.  Either hire a guide or join a tour group.  Both alternatives are good ways to optimize your time in Tokyo.  In either case, you should study Japanese customs and Tokyo attractions before you depart.
Forty four floors above Tokyo

Sunday, July 15, 2012

LAND OF THE RISING SUN: JAPAN

I'm changing directions for a month, heading East; the Far East; like the Land of the Rising Sun.

Well my lovelies, in seventeen hours I'll be landing in Tokyo, Japan.

I hope Y'All have a lovely week ahead and I'll try to have some entertaining stories to report from the Capital City of Japan, so please keep checking.

Yah hear! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

BOOK NOOK: ALL ABOUT BOOKS

Because I love to read and share, my aim is to promote reading and sharing one book to one person at a time. 


The name "Book Nook" came from a used bookstore I used to frequent in Tel Aviv while living in Israel.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Constantinople: City of the World's Desire by Philip Mansel
This is one of the best history books I have read in a long time; it's elegantly written, fairly easy to read and creates a strong mental picture for a vanished multi-racial empire and city. It contains a very helpful bibliography for those of you that are interested in learning more about this time period and history. For anyone who has a casual interest in Istanbul's history, social structure and architecture, this book is a must read. 

The book starts off by telling the story from the very beginning of the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.  It is so well organized! And just to be sure to avoid confusion, this book is only about Istanbul-Constantinople, and not about the Ottoman Empire.

Mansel's tracking of well known families of Genoese, Venetian, Greek, Armenian, Arab, Jewish and Turkish origins, from medival times to modern times was very interesting and unique. It highlights the global nature of the city and the rich multi-cultural heritage of the Ottomans.

If this book has any weakness it is that, at times it covers a tad too many topics. And I think it is impossible to cover all the truly interesting things about Istanbul in one book. It is definitely not a light read. If you want to learn about Istanbul, I would recommend this one as a serious book on the topic.

In short, this is one of the most enjoyable history books I've read and should be read before visiting this glorious city.  

For anyone visiting Istanbul, this is a good book to take with you, along with your travel guide.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

AMAZING HUMAN MACHINE: SERENA WILLIAMS


Amazing human machine. Congrats Serena!

Serena Williams Wins 5th Wimbledon Women's Title Today.

She defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, to win her fifth singles title at Wimbledon and her 14th Grand Slam title overall, making her first woman in her thirties to win a Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990.

I think after it's all said and done the world will finally recognize the feats of these two sisters from Compton, USA. And like all great champions they will inevitably draw detractors, critics, antagonists and the usual cast of unhinged suspects we've sadly come to expect in the internet age. But here is the record, and let it stand!

Serena: 14 grand slam singles titles (6 against her sister), 4 runner-ups, 12 grand slam doubles titles (with Venus), 2 Olympic golds. 5 Wimbledon titles each and 10 of the last 13 Wimbledon singles titles have gone to a girl named Williams.

Stuff that and let it sink in!! Congratulations! The record stands!  



Photo:huffingtonpost.com  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

CROOKED TREE VILLAGE SCHOOL GRADUATES 20-YEAR ENDING 2012


The completion of Std VI at Crooked Tree Village was full of excitement. Announcements were sent out by teachers and families to extended family members and friends announcing the "Graduation" with an elaborate party to follow. Yes, this all happened in Crooked Tree Village last Thursday, June 28, 2012.

During this graduation season, Crooked Tree School graduated 20 students and all achieved competitive and outstanding Primary School Examination (PSE) marks that will enable them to move on to high school. And talk about competition; two students were neck and neck this year as valedictorian; Arturo Wade and Shawn Crawford received the highest honors as students of the year.

Principal Winnie Gillett addresses the graduates by impressing upon them the importance of graduation. She told them that graduation is a chance to say goodbye, to reflect on past accomplishments, and encourage them to look forward to the next phase in life. “I think it is important for these kids to be recognized and be celebrated for who they are, and where they are in life’s journey. I also firmly believe that having the collective chance to pause and reflect is truly important. I also want to send a message to the parents of these students that this is not the end, only a station on the road. Without you, parents, the chance of a high school diploma is not possible; you do and will make a difference in the lives of these outstanding children."
Valedictorian-Arturo Wade
Valedictorian-Shawn Crawford

Guest speaker, Mr. John Gillett IV encouraged all the students to set a goal. “You must have a goal or goals that you are seeking to achieve both educationally and personally”. He encouraged all students to graduate from high school and prepared for college or advanced career training.

All students were invited to the podium by Annamarie Gillett, where they were presented with their diplomas and special awards and scholarships.

Mr. John Gillett III, General Manager of the Belize Sugar Industries presented three four-year scholarships to Arturo Wade, Alethea Garbutt and Rhavin Gillett.

Shawn Crawford received a four-year scholarship from Ms. Adela Pederson, President of the Consortium for Belizean Development, Ins. in San Diego, California, USA.

Alex Aragon received a scholarship from Ms Hilda Flowers, and Shane Crawford from Mr. Lloyd Allen.

Congratulations to the graduates, teachers and parents of Crooked Tree Village!
Guest Speaker- John Gillett IV
A pleasant good morning to all!

Before I commence I would like to pay special acknowledgement to those in attendance namely: School Principal Mrs. Winnie Gillett and her fellow staff members, Belize Rural North Area Rep. Hon Edmund Castro, Local Manager for Government Schools Mr. Lopez, General Manager for Government Schools Rev. Anthony, village chairman George Guest, other special invited guests, parents, guardians, fellow villagers and most importantly the 20 students of Crooked Tree’s Government School 2012 graduating class.

I must say today that I am deeply honored and humbled in being asked to be the guest speaker for this special occasion. It was a surprise when I received the telephone call asking me to be this year’s guest speaker, and it was an even greater surprise to me the 2 seconds it took to answer YES. For those who may not know me well, my roots lie very deep in the Village of Crooked Tree. Both my parents, Chriselda Westby Gillett and John Gillett II were born and raised in Crooked Tree and both attended this very school, decades ago.

I am grateful for the heritage I have gained through my parents who are indeed fruits of this village, as I have found myself spending much of my life in Crooked Tree, learning many important values from the village elders and my fellow relatives and friends. This was my foundation in life and complemented by my own ambition, has contributed to me being the individual I am today at age 28. Today, I know this audience expects a lengthy, well worded, inspirational speech, and I will try my best to match these expectations, but most importantly I wish to lend a helpful hand and provide relevant words of advice to our graduates, with myself clearly remembering being in their shoes some 16 years ago.

Well graduates, here we are today celebrating your great accomplishment and more so the great foundation your family, friends and school have assisted you to build. A primary school education in the work environment is not highly regarded when seeking employment, but I believe it is the greatest building block in life for any individual. Today, our 20 graduates have experienced a primary school education through Crooked Tree Government School, and I am certain the management and staff have done a fine job in ensuring our graduates are able to step into any secondary level institution in Belize and perform at the highest level. I cannot continue without highlighting the impressive level of performance the students and staff of Crooked Tree Government School put forth in the 2012 PSE, we placed 7th in the Belize District, and 14th country wide. I must say that whatever is being done to get this level of performance, let’s keep this formula going.

You have all done well, and are now prepared to enter a new chapter of your life from both a personal and educational standpoint. With dedication and hard work, you are geared for success. However, this might be easier said than done boys and girls; as individuals there are several things you must do on your part to ensure success in future educational experiences and more so in your life moving forward.

First of all graduates, you must have a goal or goals that you are seeking to achieve both educationally, and personally. I know you all had a goal to complete your primary school education or as easier said ‘pass standard 6’. I know you are all young, but it is never too early to know what you want in life and to start setting goals for yourself. To do well in life, you have to know what you want to achieve. You will realize that as you continue to mature; planning becomes more essential as the demands on your life increase. I hope that by this time, you have already set a goal as to the high school you will be attending and also set a goal as to which level of education you wish to achieve in the years to come. I will say graduates, don’t be afraid of being ambitious, nothing is too big for you, it is all achievable. You may be afraid or shy to say at this time to your family and friends, ‘I want to obtain a Master’s or Doctorate Degree’ because we all know this takes many years, endless effort and even more the finances involved in achieving these goals are substantial. However, I guarantee you that once a goal is set in your mind; you have automatically given yourself a great chance of achieving that goal.

Graduates, put in your minds today, you can and will achieve that goal which is now set in your mind.

Growing up as a young man, I had an educational goal, that goal was to obtain a Master’sDegree. Now, I never knew how many years it would take me, how many hours of study I would have to put in, or how much money it would require; but I moved ahead in life taking things one step at time, never going ahead of myself. Apart from all these factors contributing to the achievement my goal, most important was the strong support received from my great family and the very good friends in my life. Today I task the parents, guardians and immediate family members of our graduates to lend them the moral support needed. Financial support is crucial, but will only do so much for you; the inspirational words and advice you receive each day will go even further.

Again I talk from experience, and I will say I was fortunate to have parents who kept me in line when I strayed from my goal and also motivated me when I was down. Now, outside of your family at home, you have and will meet many people in life, some of whom you create close friendships with. Friends are a great complement to any of our lives, I beg however be careful of the friends you choose. Friends have the ability to build you up or bring you down, in the end ensure the people close to you in your life are those who bring optimism to you and support the achievement of your goals.

A second point of importance I want to highlight leads off my last statement and spells the importance of maintaining a positive mentality in life. Before I have hinted on the value of having support from family and friends, but all that support cannot materialize if you do not maintain a positive attitude. As you move into your next level of education, you will meet school work that challenges you, teachers that pressure you, and fellow school mates with different personalities you may find difficult to understand. Well, these are indeed realities of life that you cannot allow to bother you and create any form of negativity within you. Again I come back to the fact that no matter what challenge you meet, you must remain focused on achieving your goal. Do not allow issues that are outside of your control to bother you, you need to control what is within your power and don’t take life too personally.

A concept I apply to my own life is that everything that happens, whether positive or negative, happens for a good reason. Here is where a positive mentality comes into play allowing you to firstly understand why things happen and not relenting and beating down on yourself for things that have already occurred. Recall, we cannot change the past, but we can create a path for and dictate our future. It is obvious that no human being is perfect; we do make mistakes and fail at certain things in life, in the end we must continuously learn from these mistakes and failures in order to improve. Only through experience can you continue to further develop yourself, and the experience to be gained over the next 4 years of your life will only make you stronger. I encourage you to be open to experiencing all that life has to offer, you are young and will grow to be productive citizens of this village and country; and I cannot reiterate enough how all this will be done. It can only be done with each of you maintaining a positive attitude towards life.

As you have now experienced what I would called the first phase in your educational path, this leads me to discuss as my third major and final point, which is the value and importance of an education. I am especially proud to see 20 strong graduates from the successful program Crooked Tree Government School has put in place and to that yes, we have 20 more members of our village walking down the right path in life. I speak highly of education, as I have myself during my school days realized through both good and bad experiences, how valuable an education is. To give you a short story, when I attended high school in Orange Walk, I started off as a good student with good grades. First form went well, second form started well; but as I progressed throughout the year I began falling for some of the temptations of youth and slacking off my studies; forgetting that what I put in my studies, being nothing, is what I would eventually get out of it. I fell out of love with my education and fell in love with basketball; I actually believed I could make the NBA by practicing hard enough, a good goal, just not one for me. Eventually, I neglected my education so much that when I received my end year results, I grew pale and started a cold sweat realizing I had failed a grade for the first time in my life.

Essentially, I lost focus on achieving a goal I had set when I entered high school, but I learnt a hard lesson and from that day forward right through to the time I achieved my Master’s Degree, no one has ever had to tell me to hit the books and study again. While I did fail during the course of achieving my high school diploma, which took me 5 instead of 4 years, I have never regretted failing and know that it was indeed the most important learning lesson and more so a positive turning point in my life.

Now students, don’t go trying to mimic my experience, but rather come to realize the
importance of an education, realize the effort you will be putting in everyday as you travel to and from school, realize the amount of class and home study hours you will be putting in, and realize how hard your parents or guardians have to work to provide you with the necessary financial support allowing you to obtain an education and more so giving you an opportunity to succeed in life. Leave nothing to chance, graduates, what you put in your education, is what you will get out of it. You are now set to continue down the right path in life and with an opportunity to continue uplifting the Village of Crooked Tree and become productive citizens of our country. Keep your goal in front of you and stay positive every day. We know you will feel obligated to make teachers, friends and family proud as you enter high school; however at the end of the day I want you to move ahead in life impressing yourself and making yourself proud.

Today I hope I have helped you in opening your minds in some way or form and I wish you all the success in life. With your great minds, you will grow to achieve great things and become even greater adults. From me to you; a huge congratulation on your achievement!

Thank You….