Friday, December 19, 2014

Alternative Xmas Gift Ideas: For Social Good

The excess of Christmas continues to despair me. Such a waste. Such misguided expression. Such a perpetual feeding of our consumer driven world, and a distraction from the things that matter - family, love, hope, and humanity.

So I wanted to share some of the places we could all direct our spending, to do some good in the world instead, or as well, as the excess. For people who most need it - those faced with little hope.

With the glow of the Season's Greetings lights across Victoria Harbour on my recent visit to Hong Kong, here are my current Top 5 better places to throw your cash this Christmas:


SisterWorks - a Melbourne community group project working on empowering asylum seeker, refugee and migrant women, to find employment, and ultimately support them to gain the better life they dreamt of. Microfinance is something I really think is helpful for many people around the world, and the value of the additional emotional support goes without saying!

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, also in Melbourne, is a community organisation that provides me with hope of a better Australia everyday. Their work in advocacy and real support to the people who need it blows me away all the time. The ASCR Christmas Appeal supports their ongoing work, of which 95% of funds come from community donations. These funds go to help with providing meals and groceries, legal assistance and case support, employment services, education and development programs, as well as a much needed accessible health service.

A friend of mine does a monthly grocery drive for the ASRC Food Bank, which I am impressed with every time she posts about it. I would love to be part of one. Give me a shout out if you want to form one together!

The situation in Syria is the world's current tragedy that makes my eye leak the most over this past year. There is so much that is needed for the people of Syria, but whilst the war rages, the basics are really the only realistic thing you and I can help with at this time. Assistance for some 6 million displaced people is what's needed, which is a mammoth task. The UN World Food Program was facing a funding crisis in their ability to continue to provide basic food supplies to those in need in Syria, and thus launched this appeal to call for funds to keep this vital assistance available. So, here is the link for the Syria Emergency UN WFP Appeal.

Closer to home is the need for disadvantaged Aussie families, and the gift of the joys of childhood - books, being read to, and having toys to play with. Buy a book for a child in need, through the Smith Family Toy And Book Appeal.

I always add a goat, or a cow, or something useful from the Oxfam Unwrapped Christmas Gifts to my Secret Santa wishlist, but never get one! No one thinks I am serious, but I am. A sustainable gift to a community, to help them feed and support themselves, is always a wish of mine!

These are the things that would bring back some of the idea of the Christmas spirit to me, and I'll be spreading donations across these 5 amazing causes over the weekend to try and bring me a little cheer as we read of the horrors going on in the world. May 2015 be a year where we win, more than we cry for humanity.

Please feel free to add any worthwhile causes YOU feel passionately about this Christmas, in the comments, for us all to consider, and give!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Birthplace Of The Modern Olympics

Like walking into the Colluseum in Rome, walking into the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens seemed to have a sense of ceremony, and an echo of a whisper of an ancient wild and full crowd roar. Even on a hot Summer's day in June, with only a handful of other tourists around, and a pretty modern and formal looking function being set up in the centre of the stadium!

I got to this stadium of dreams and memories, and the place of the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Olympics, whilst I walked from ancient ruin to ancient site around central Athens. The entry fee was next to nothing, which included a free audio tour, and free reign to wander the stands and the under-passage entrance to the field.


The marble Panathenaic has been reconstructed, but is the stadium which held the first modern Olympics, back in April of 1896. Here, 14 countries competed, with all male competitors. The first medal was awarded that opening day, for the triple jump, and the Marathon, which finished in the Stadium, was the first win by a Greek.

These two royal boxes are the only variation around the stadium of seating - now for 45,000 but once at an 80,000 capacity - but are actually the second version of these, after the view was thought to be better in the middle of the hairpin design rather than midway through the longer section.


The double headed herms in the middle of the track are striking, said to be gods overseeing the athletic pursuits set to happen around them. According to some, the heads are that of Apollo and Dionysus, traditional Greek gods of arts. The audio guide spoke of them representing young and old.

The vaulted passageway was another feature to stand out in this uniform stadium of marble seating - as a visitor, I could trace the steps of athletes ancient and recent, as this was the entry for competitors for the first and most recent Olympics here. Inside the tunnel, there was an exhibit with some further history about then events that have been held here in this great stadium of the world.

As a sports fan, a visit here to the Panathenaic was pretty special. All that history and sense of occasion held within the horseshoe bowl of seating. The hopes and dreams of athletes and indeed nations, all whisper around here, with sport still being a great social equaliser. A meaningful visit this European summer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting Close To The Fira Sunset


One of the most beautiful sunsets in the world is usually seen from two top vantage points on the Greek island of Santorini - this is the town of Fira, one of these places, getting ready for the sun to dip into the water. The whites seem more brilliant as the sun gets closer and closer to the sea.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Typical Santorini


The dream of going to the island of Santorini and seeing the white churches with the blue domes - the typical and famous scene - was too easy. These visions were at every bend in the road!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Old Athens' Tower Of Winds


The octagonal marble clock tower of the Roman Agora in Athens is striking, and enchanting. It has a weathervane, and a sundial. The deities around the top are wind gods. Inside was a water clock, which was triggered by the water running down from the Acropolis above. Ancient science is fascinating!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Top 5: Favourite Albums for 2014

Apparently the ARIAs happened in Australia this week, although I feel pretty removed from the First World whilst here at work. Still, I usually do a Top 5 Favourite Albums of the year post around this time, so here it is....

1 Chet Faker's Built On Glass - loved it from the first listen, and have listened to it pretty consistently since. Chilled,

2 Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. Love this sound from the Swedish female duo. So beautiful, and some very poignant tracks.

3 Dan Sultan's Blackbird was probably my most played tunes over this year.

4 Black Keys and their Turn Blue, followed me around this year in my iPod, and all around on my travels. Loved it!

5 Tough call, because again I have been pretty removed from new music and new albums this year because of travel and work. I would have to put Slow Dancer's Surrender here. Former guitarist for Oh Mercy, I loved these tracks from the moment we heard them live when he played as support to the band, and the album release this year is very good.

End of November is always good, as it's the end of the hard slog for NaBloPoMo - although this year was another fail, with 2 posts planned but not completed and published. Just way too hard here at work!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where Else Shuts The Country's Main Road When A Plane Is About To Land?



Where else but the Pacific nation of Nauru! The airport runway is surrounded on both sides by the single road that runs all the way around the island, and so, because it is so close to where the planes land, traffic is stopped.


Having watched the process as I waited for my flight to leave, I can tell you that someone mans the gate just outside the airport, and when they receive a radio-ed message from the air traffic control tower, they close the gate.
Planes land on the strip which has ocean at either end of it, just after the main road, and rumour has it, just 50 metres to spare in terms of regulation length based on the class of planes that land.

Here is an Our Airlines plane landing, obscuring the parliament buildings on the island.

Once the plane has landed, and taxi-ed into the airport building, the road remains closed because the plane will off load people and cargo, then reload and take off again.

It's a pretty unique experience, and pretty amusing the first few times!

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