The first day of September was rich in intercultural events: Appogg (the governmental youth agency) and UNHCR Malta brought several communities together to share food and traditional music in Msida, targeting mostly families in their Building Friendships event, and Spark15, a young migrants’ NGO, publicized a contemporary music and games event in Valletta. It was a tough choice, but Msida and Valletta being relatively close, I expected to make it to both. The first one was attractive for the opportunity to meet organized diaspora communities in Malta. The second one promised an energetic and youthful vibe.
Msida, home of Malta’s junior college, is a well-connected town by the sea. With the event taking place opposite the church, there was a good chance that passers-by would spot it and spontaneously decide to join. The center of the square was kept free for folk dancing performances, and several food stalls were arranged in a semicircle, offering Palestinian/ Levantine, Bangladeshi, Ghanaian, Maltese and Somali food, with face-painting and drums workshops in between. Continue reading →
One day I was browsing the Expats Malta Facebook group, when a discussion about pros and cons of living in Malta caught my eye. The group is too active for me to find it again, but basically (<- that′s a strongly beloved word among the locals) it was a flood of reactions to a British person criticizing healthcare, streets, and people′s attitudes in Malta. Soon enough she was told to go back to her country.
When I came across an article about a glossary of positive emotions in the New Yorker, the idea was far from new to me. But this important quote is worth rethinking:
Lomas has noted several interesting patterns. A handful of Northern European languages, for instance, have terms that describe a sort of existential coziness. The words—koselig (Norwegian), mysa (Swedish), hygge (Danish), and gezellig (Dutch)—convey both physical and emotional comfort. “[…] In contrast, more Southern European cultures have some words about being outside and strolling around and savoring the atmosphere. And those words”—like the French flâner and the Greek volta—“might be more likely to emerge in those cultures.”
This theme comes up in many of my conversations about perceptions of cold with Mediterranean people. I certainly relate to the Nordic idea of doing one′s best to feel hyggelig as much as possible, if not most of the time – this, however, doesn′t apply to British people, who seem to like exposing themselves to cold as long as the sun shines on them. Continue reading →
The community of Kaunas mosque provided an opportunity for anyone interested to go inside the unique Tatar mosque of Kaunas, to see a Muslim prayer, look around and enjoy food from various countries and cultures. The mosque has become an important contact point for old and new Muslim communities, the latter consisting of foreign students, workers, spouses of Lithuanians, expats and local converts. The 3000-strong Tatar community has been around for centuries and is can help their sisters and brothers in faith with accessing Lithuanian institutions, networking and, most importantly, feeling at home in this relatively homogeneous European society. Other functioning mosques are in distant small towns. Vilnius doesn′t have a mosque, and the current mayor, Remigijus Šimašius (liberal) made it clear that he will not do anything in his power to help establish one, even though, when Syrian and Iraqi refugees are resettled according to the EU scheme next year, the Muslim community in Vilnius will grow. There is not a single Shia mosque (most Shia Muslims are apparently from Azerbaijan), but Shia believers can attend Sunni services.
As my travel companion Ugnė wrote (in Lithuanian), Cyprus is rich in well-preserved and accessible ruins, particularly in Famagusta, which she calls the capital of antique ruins. As I wrote in my earlier blog post, people interact with objects in a very direct and laid-back way. Sterility of museums seems to be alien to the local culture. There are museums, of course, but even in them visitors can come closer and interact with objects more directly.
I continue blogging about my recent trip to Cyprus: all posts can be found using this tag. This post is inspired by my considerations as to where to put Cyprus on my travel map. It’s beyond geographical Europe, but South Cyprus is in the EU, so I categorized it as Europe. Still, traveling there made me think about the position of Cyprus in relation to its Middle Eastern neighbors.
The trip to Cyprus was long and adventurous enough to prompt all kinds of thoughts. But before I start describing specific places visited, I am planning to write a few posts on general observations from both sides, the North and the South. One of the observations I made during the trip is about how people relate to where their stuff comes from. I thought this relationship was more direct and genuine than I’ve seen in most of my travels. In Cyprus one is rarely too far from the source of things.
A conversation among five teenagers, overheard at a cafe today:
“She told us not to cheat during the test. Everyone googled, but we couldn’t find the answers on Google, and the highest grade in class was 6 [out of 10].” Smartphones surely brought new ways of cheating in tests, and teachers need to adapt accordingly. In many ways this trend can inspire teachers to rely less on simple tests that ask pupils to pour out the facts. Some educators are already offering free tips.
[The original of this article was published inDelfi. It was translated for public procurement purposes. All rights belong to Delfi.]
Half-truth is worse than an open lie. Unfortunately, it is namely the half-truths that are used to juxtapose the Council of Europe Convention on preventing violence against women, family violence prevention and combat, with the widely-discussed Gender Loops programme and other methodologies that are used to raise awareness on gender-related social nature based on public expectations rather than that based on biological nature.Continue reading →
Have you ever noticed that the best compliment students give their professors is something along these lines: “S/he is capable of explaining complicated things in such a simple manner”? Teaching and research, as well as the media, is often about translation: from specific to abstract, from sound/view to words, from one culture to another. And some scientists work very hard to translate everyday language to the language they share with their colleagues. Two examples from Economics:
1. You take a simple sentence, such as “People migrate if it’s worth it and if they want it” and translate it into
Source: Eurofound. 2007. Factors determining international and regional migration in Europe. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.
2. You take an everyday concept, such as “higher salary”, and translate it to “higher rental rate on a unit of human capital stock”. Other examples: human language: “emigrees are caught in a dilemma: staying in the host country and earning more money, or returning and spending the money already saved” -> economics language: “each unit of time spent abroad increases his lifetime utility by raising his total consumption possibilities, but it decreases lifetime utility by reducing the time available for consumption at home”.
On the other hand, other social sciences, such as Sociology and Anthropology, are not immune to such translations either. For example, “[Research subjects] actively engage with, negotiate and redefine [research topic] as they exercise their agency” means “Hey, I’m not claiming that people’s actions are determined by impersonal powers and structures, got that?” Something like “In some cases/ contexts X may be interpreted as Y” translates as “Don’t blame me for making generalisations about X”. Also, it’s a must to start an article with something like “X can be very diverse and is experienced depending on one’s individual background. The experience of X can be A or non-A”. This also means “Did you think I would dare to generalise about X or people’s experience of X? But since we’re doing science here, just a little…”