Bambi, A life In The Woods

A Sunday walk in the park with the deer! They are lovely companions when they don’t feel threatened! The latter can apply to everyone even to  humans!

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When Bambi has his first encounter with “He”—the animals’ term for humans— terrifies him. The man raises a firearm and aims at him; Bambi flees at top speed, joined by his mother.

 

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Bambi meets his Aunt Ena, and her twin fawns Faline and Gobo. They quickly become friends and share what they have learned about the forest.

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Bambi gets used to being alone at times.

 

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“When Bambi has grown gray and is “old”, the old Prince shows him that man is not all powerful by showing him the dead body of a man who was shot and killed by another man” -Bambi, a life in the woods.

 

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Have a great week !

 

We live in the Age of Simulacra

“The simulacrum* is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true”   Ecclesiastes.

Have you noticed on your fb timeline, twitter, blogs, tumblr, pinterest … platforms,  how many times have you seen the same things, quotes, pictures, ideas and even moods to go around again and again by sharing, reblogging and copying? Sometimes by attempting to paraphrase the initial message  the meaning of the original has already been changed totally.  This game of sharing, copying, reblogging that we all play on social media reminds me the children’s game ‘Broken Telephone’ or ‘Chinese Whisper’.

On social media it’s not only the repetition of quotes, pictures or ideas but as well as  moods. It is quite surprising that there are days where a high percentage of my virtual friends share the same mood! Something about the therapists have a lot to say.   I’m totally convinced that we live in the age of simulacra and simulation.  As the philosopher Jean Baudrillard argues in his book with the same title “Simulacra and Simulation” : We live in a world of which there are simulations upon simulations, copies of copies of copies. This concept stems from the idea that when something is simulated, it is inevitable that the original will become extinct. As the word simulacra by itself explains the whole concept “simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no reality to begin with, or that no longer have an original”*.

Nevertheless, the most interesting argument is that  humans are thriving when they are imitating each other. Karen Joy Fowler writes, in her short listed Booker Prize book ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’ :  “Humans are much more imitative that the other apes. If chimpa  watch a demonstration on how to get food out of a puzzle box, they, in their turn, skip any unnecessary steps, go straight to the treat.  Humans overimitate, reproducing each step regardless of its necessity”.

The same idea/argument has been reinforced in the film “Giver”,  the Giver (Jeff Bridges) says to the Receiver “there is a plan of sameness in this society”.

Perhaps,  the Golden Age has  taken off for humans and they have  the time of their lives! At last, their behaviour is mirrored in every way possible and the simulacrum is  the truth!

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P.S. : Sharing is carrying and copying is flattery! Somehow my quote can be justified.

William & Harry

William and Harry in action. The two princes took part in a polo match for charity reasons in Ascot during last May. I was quite lucky to be able to see both of them playing polo in professional way and at the same time having fun with each other! It seems to me that Harry was starting the jokes and William was following full hearted!

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Prince William.

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Prince Harry.

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William and Harry.

S for Spirit and Summer

“Art makes the impossible possible” I don’t remember who said this  but it was so spot on at that time when I went to see the exhibition about  The Lost Album of Dennis Hopper  at Royal Academy of Arts in London.  Watching the short imagesvideo/scene of his film “Easy Rider” where Peter Fonda is throwing  away his watch  and hitting the road  on his motorbike  with his mate (Dennis Hopper ) heading to the American desert, I fell overwhelmed and nostalgic about the sense of freedom that gives  you the motorbike riding. I was one of those who was riding motorbikes  for long time and  relatively a big one-Yamaha 125 cc. Still I remember this sense of immense freedom and exhilaration when I was riding it, mainly during the summer months, the speed and the air in my face were so uplifting!  I remember as well the constant shadow of fear that was accompanying me in every journey, until one day  it surrendered me and I ended up on a  4 wheel carrier.

Dennis Hopper’s exhibition triggered something inside me, a feeling of rebellion to do something different as the song’s lyrics in the Easy Rider say “…But I’ve never touched nothing’ That my spirit couldn’t kill…”

Still there is a spirit somewhere inside me and perhaps this Summer I will try again to do something different, something out of the norms. Perhaps, I will switch off all the social media, which I believe are a constant source of information recycling  and full of fear for doing something different and out of the box, and I will go for a ride on a motorbike to feel again the sense of freedom and a kind of rebellion against the daily routine of fabricated or not bad news, either these are about the economic crisis or about terrorism all over the world.

And I’m proposing to you to do the same, try something that you have never done before or in my case, something that it is quite exciting. Deactivate your accounts in every social and working environment and feel this freedom of a motorbike rider heading to somewhere without destination and try to dig up your hidden spirit.

Have a great Summer !

 

Abu Dhabi Revisited

Visiting a place that you have lived for long time with the identity of a tourist is quite a strange thing, let alone your homeland.  This time it wasn’t my homeland but another place where I lived for long enough  in order to feel somehow at ‘home’.  So when I revisited Abu Dhabi some time ago,  it was a nice break and  triggered some  strong emotions and nostalgia. I realised how much missed the place, how much missed the heat, the shy smiles  of the local women under their scarfs, the softness  and simultaneously the sense of careless in the expression of the local men.  I missed my friends, whom I didn’t manage to see all of them due to my short stay, but had the opportunity to take a taste of the latest changes in the city.

Abu Dhabi is one of those ‘oily’ cities that are changing in unprecedented way, fast and impressive.  Arriving at the airport, the first novelty was the black huge 6 seats taxi waiting for us. Abu Dhabi defines itself with a steady pace as a luxurious holiday resort. Despite all the Cassandras’s predictions ” it’s a bubble, soon or later it will collapse  bla,bla…” Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure has taken  a quantum leap. New buildings, malls, palaces, hotels are coming up in a fast way and  creating  an impressive skyline. I stayed in my old neighbourhood for the obvious reasons, familiarity with the place. Of course, I don’t know how much familiar could be, since in this area, the Corniche, there are some new constructions, a huge mall  with very interesting shops and brands and a nice new beach club- a boat design- opposite to it.

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The Corniche area.

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The new mall in the Corniche.

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Nice shops with nice decoration on the walls. The new mall looks very promising!

 

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The new beach club in the Corniche. The boat design is its signature.

 

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My favourite buildings, Etihad towers, with a new copper tower next to them! I’m not sure about the latter but the lego approach is a common practice out there!
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At the rear of the Emirates Palace.
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The new palaces will be 6 in total in order to accommodate all the Seikhs from the rest 6 Emirates (7 in total: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain).

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I visited once more  the restaurant BBQ Al Qasr at the beach of the Emirates Palace, which for me is the best restaurant in Abu Dhabi in terms of service firstly and food secondly. Service in the developing countries is a sensitive term,  since it doesn’t have the same meaning as in the western world!

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The beach of the Emirates Palace is really magnificent.

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But again, this is my favourite place in Abu Dhabi, Monte-Carlo Beach Club. Especially this small pavillion at the beach for coffee and drinks and if you are lucky you can spot  sea turtles in the surrounding area with the bushes.! How exciting is that? It reminds me so much the Hamptons and I think this was exactly its purpose!

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One of its restaurants, the Deck , good for brunch. The food is feast in the eyes, different kind of charcuterie, sea food, desserts…
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But the most glamorous bit is ‘a la piscine’,
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and afterwards resting in the gorgeous spa, reading magazines, watching tv, having some massage.

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going to Turkish bath after the sauna,P1090443or  going to Jaccuzi for fun.

 

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Bye bye Abu Dhabi, see you soon! I will be always ready to be impressed by you and actually, this is what you really want!

Stay angry, don’t fall asleep and try to change the world

“Stay angry, don’t fall asleep and try to change the world” Matthieu Pigasse, the enfant terrible of French finance(CEO of Lazard).

I found his words so refreshing and somehow motivated me again to have a second look at the aftermath of the financial crisis mainly in Greece and consequently in Europe.

This Sunday, the Greeks are voting for local mayors and  representatives in the European Parliament. The leaders of the two major parties have excelled in rhetorics. Tsipras  (Syriza) says that he will end the burden of the bailout programme….(the most appealing lullaby) and Samaras bullies the voters by using the two magic words “last chance” to carry on with the programme… 

There are some other parties/movements more towards the political centre with no real leaders, the  Communist Party KKE,  which plays the Wendi’s (Peter Pan) role in the people’s conscience  and the  nazi party Golden Dawn, which is rising dangerously and unsurprisingly.  It is  quite common in the countries of high corruption, the people lose all their belief in politics and political persons (see rise of Islamism) and start behaving badly in an extreme way.

But again, the solution of minimising the above danger is in the hands of the more well off people, the elite. They will be able with their vote and their influence  to enforce the uttermost and desperate need of Greece, at the moment, which is even more important than the financial upheaval, the establishment of strong Institute of laws. This will stop the series of puppetry behaviour of the government concerning the announcement now and then of various  taxes and changing property laws. This will be the only way to protect themselves from the angriness of the more vulnerable, uneducated milieu with instincts of that of wild animal as well as enforce the repatriation of the lost Democracy.

Therefore, today all of those of you who are in the opposite side of the extreme parties, stay angry, don’t fall asleep and go to vote whatever party suits you best, but don’t forget the real target is to force your parties to establish the indisputable Institute of laws in Greece. This is the first step towards repatriating the country’s respect in the whole world.

Happy Sunday!

 

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Greeks in Astana: Old wine in new bottles

When I started writing this post my first thought was to give some facts  and consequently numbers before entering the sphere of more subjective issues.  Counting the number of Greeks in Astana, I came up with the number 12.  Twelve is a significant number, thought, taking into consideration the 12 Olympians Gods, the 12 Heracle’s labours, the 12 Apostles, the  Ocean ‘s 12  and so forth. So probably, we are on a good path for the time being. Don’t forget the old wine sells better in new bottles!

I (information specialist)and Vasileios(robotics) were the first Greeks working at Nazarbayev University in Astana-a multibillion project of Kazakhstani government with the help of the World Bank to introduce the western education in the developing countries in central Asia. Few months later, another Greek joined us,  Vasilis (chemical engineering) followed by Grigoris (chemical engineering), Themistocles (education), Katerina(physics) and George(chemical engineering). Most of them came from Greece but their qualifications (PhD) are either from USA or Britain. The rest of the Greeks are, the Ambassador, three employees of the Greek embassy  and a Greek girl who works in a multinational company.

The NU is a good place to work in Astana and there are  plausible reasons for that: Firstly, it’s an English speaking environment, something quite rare in Astana since the official language is Russian and very soon will be Kazakh. The Kazakhstani government has intensified the effort to introduce the kazakh language as the main language in the schools and generally as the country’s official language. Nevertheless, so far all the well educated Kazakhs speak Russian and few of them English. Secondly, something that adds value to NU potentials are its partners, first class Western universities such as  Cambridge, UCL, Madison-Wisconsin, Duke University … and  thirdly, the students are the smartest in the country. They are being selected by tough  entrance examination with rate of acceptance 1/8.

 

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The University campus is this interior atrium in the picture left. The reason of course is the low temperatures during winter which can drop to -40 C.

 

P1090215The Library is equipped with the latest technology and is being developed with rapid pace by adding thousands of items (print and e-resources) per month.

 

All the expats have free accommodation, well equipped hi-tech(Japanese/Korean) style apartments in the city centre and close to the University campus. Interestingly enough, despite the below zero temperatures the apartments are quite warm. I suppose, the main reason other than the nonstop heating system, is the good insulation (pictures below).

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Tenge is the Kazakh currency and 1000 T  are around 4 Euro at the moment. There was a devaluation some months ago and somehow the expats started feeling unsafe but they made the appropriate adjustments in the salaries to keep the expats happy and in place.  Astana is not different from the rest capital cities of the western world in terms of cost, the prices are quite high for certain commodities, since almost everything is imported, such as clothes and other luxury goods.  It’s quite expensive place and  without offering the buzz of a well established  city. It is designated to be the  government’s place.The latter has already shaped its future and someone can visualise what it will be next : A place where people come mostly to work in the government offices or oil companies. This fact has some advantages in terms  of safety. My only concern, coming here in the first place, was safety for my family. I had heard a lot of stories by word  of mouth such as : It’s  dangerous place, there is a lot of corruption… Two years now living and working  in this city, I didn’t feel a bit of threat and I can say that there is an absurd confidence among the inhabitants.  Everyone can get a ride to home or  wherever is his destination by making a  hand signal to the cars(not official taxis) on the road by paying a minimal fee. Small children can get on the bus without being accompanied by their parents,  the ticket controller will look after them. I found so sweet this attitude and their sense of camaraderie.

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Every few months  new restaurants are opening in the city, but again the good ones with the expected western service are few and very expensive, possibly at the same price as those of central London. There are malls with western high chain stores such as Zara,Gap… with the aforementioned prices. There is no Starbucks but there is Gloria Jean’s for the coffee lovers. Someone can find a reasonable range of food products in the super markets, there is Metro and a Turkish super market  chain which reminds me a bit the Greek super markets, especially the bakery.  The local vegetable and food markets, outside Astana, during Spring and Summer are a feast in the eyes and nose.The vegetables and fruits are so “real” that somebody can recognise easily  by the fragrance without seeing them, if you understand what I mean! Fish is quite rare product, since Astana is far away from the sea or lakes,but they have horse meat for the meat lovers: A traditional dish except shashlik(souvlaki) is horse meat with hilopites(pastry).

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Astana is not a place for a tourist yet. In order someone to visit the country and specifically Astana-the city has border control in its exit/entry –  needs working visa or invitation and there is a big bureaucratic process to gain one of the above. Somehow, this is a way to keep out people  that they don’t need at this particular moment, where they are building up the infrastructure of the country/city.  The rest of the expats are working in oil/gas companies- serious business in Kazakhstan- or construction companies- a big construction of the Abu Dhabi Mall is on the way.

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At the moment,  there is a lot of preparation for the forthcoming ASTANA EXPO 2017. It is expected to create new jobs opportunities.   Those who are interested in and they are quite brave and adventurous in heart, keep an eye on the announcements.

P1070270Kazakhs care about culture and entertainment. There is a Concert Hall and a new Opera House with regular performances of various orchestras and classical ballet. Most of tickets are sold out quite quickly. The Russian and Soviet Union’s influence is quite obvious at this point.

At the moment, I would say with confidence that summer is here, in Astana and life is getting easier and more pleasant comparing it with the wintertime. We can go outside and have big walks along the big river Ishim. The good thing is that there are seasons, some are shorter(spring and autumn) than the others(winter, summer) but there is this seasonal change that makes you feel optimistic and ready to make new starts every  now and then. During summer, the sun can be much more brighter than someone would prefer but nothing can be perfect in this life.
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