Do you know what’s going on in the world – and how do you find out?

Sunday newspapers
CC image via flickr: Bernard Goldbach

If I told you that Burkina Faso has just seen its second military coup in eight months, would that be a surprise?

Did you know that Finland and Sweden have recently applied to join NATO, as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

And how about the fact that Egypt and Mexico are both bidding to hold the 2036 Olympics?

Without wishing to throw shade on your global knowledge, I’d be hugely surprised if you knew about all three (or possibly any) of those stories, despite the fact they’re big news for the nations concerned.

And that’s because we all live in news or filter bubbles. Some of those are of our own making and some are constructed without us knowing about it. Continue reading “Do you know what’s going on in the world – and how do you find out?”

Do you have ‘enough’?

CC image via Flickr: Matthew Kennedy

Many years ago, I was travelling to school with friends and the conversation turned to ‘how much money we wanted to earn’ when we got older. I would have been about 13 at this point.

When it came to my turn, I remember saying something that equated to: “I’m not bothered about being super-rich, just having enough to get by.”

After I’d said it, I heard the woman sitting next to me chuckle. Clearly, I’d said something highly amusing to her, though at the time I had no idea what.

Now I relate the story, I sound horribly precocious, but the thing is I never craved ‘stuff’ as a kid.

I didn’t grow up exactly poor in the 70s/80s, but what I had was precious to me. The toys, books and cassettes I owned were something to cherish. I listened to my tapes over and over again. I re-read my copies of the Hardy Boys novels till the pages were starting to fall apart. And I also assumed they would last for years and I had no intention of getting rid of them.

And almost 40 years after that experience on the train, I can still – hand on heart – say that I don’t particularly crave stuff and, by and large, am not a heavy consumer. Generally, I have ‘enough’. Continue reading “Do you have ‘enough’?”

The joy of learning a language

When it comes up in conversation that I can speak more than one language, the most common reaction I get is ‘oh I wish I’d carried on learning xxx [insert language here]’, followed by ‘I was rubbish at languages, but I’d love to be able to speak something else’.

That’s such a shame. Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in my life are as a result of learning a language, or being able to speak to someone else in their own tongue.

  • Sometimes it was as simple as befriending the local butcher in a small Normandy village, and him offering us vegetables from his own kitchen, because all the other shops had already closed for the evening.
  • It can be as eye-opening as talking to remote Mozambican villagers in cod-Portuguese about their lives.
  • As terrifying as ringing the emergency doctor in Germany because my then-girlfriend couldn’t stop being sick. I learned some new vocabulary on that call, I can tell you!
  • Or being able to persuade a local woman to offer us a room for the night in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, because we had nowhere else to stay.

I was only able to do those things because I’d learned the language (to varying levels) and felt confident enough to at least try and have a conversation. Continue reading “The joy of learning a language”