Sunday, April 26, 2015

Couple Has Adopted Over 40 Disabled Orphans in the Last 26 Years

Ni Hao! How’re you doing so far today? Got time for a coffee and a virtual Chinese doughnut while I bend your ear a little? Of course you do. Say, when we were growing up, our parents took in a number of foster kids and I found that to be quite an experience. Like suddenly having another brother or sister. Well here’s a couple who has gone way beyond a few kids...

When a young couple from Zhuangxi village in China’s Shanxi province found an abandoned baby in 1989, they they decided to take the poor child in and raise it as their own. 

Since then, Chen Tianwen and his wife Guo Gairan have always been on the lookout for abandoned children.
Over time, the local Civil Affairs Bureau kept sending abandoned children to the couple for adoption, because there were no other welfare institutions back then. And Chen and Guo never refused. 

The couple, now in their 60s, have taken care of over forty disabled orphans in the past 26 years, along with their own three children.

As the number of children under the couple’s care grew, Guo decided to quit her job at a local factory to help look after them. She tended to the family’s land instead, as a source of income. But things got better eventually, as the story of their benevolence spread. The local government approached them and offered to pay them 150 yuan ($24) per month towards the welfare of each child. The couple receive larger donations from kindhearted individuals, and the government now gives them 1,000 ($161) yuan per orphan.

The bigger challenge for Chen and Guo has been their neighbors’ attitude towards their unusual family. Many of them were not accepting of their choices, and would ignore them or refuse to let their own children play with the orphans. Even their oldest child, Junwei, had trouble adjusting to his parents radically different lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Chen was eventually forced to tell Junwei that, just like their other children, he too was adopted.The boy stormed out in a feat of rage and hasn’t returned since.

Things have changed over time, and Chen and Guo are now accepted by the village as model citizens. 

“It turns out we’re not idiots after all, and the work we’re doing is good. We’re role models,” Guo said. 

The couple have purchased a bigger house with the help of volunteers, and five of the disabled children under their care have completely recovered.

It seems like kindness runs in the genes of people from Shanxi. Yes, it does and we need a lot more of them worldwide.

Sources: China Daily, Shanghaiist

See ya, eh!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ruckus at Thailand's Tiger Temple

Sawatdee, krup! Sabai dee, mai, krup? How are you doing? Looks like a purr-fect day out there (though it was only 1C this morning here). It’s a lot warmer in Thailand where today’s story is heating up. Soon as you help yourself to a tiger-sized mug of coffee and a striped virtual doughnut, I’ll fill you in...

Wildlife officials today walked back their threat to remove the animals from Kanchanaburi’s troubled “Tiger Temple,” saying they will instead travel there tomorrow to negotiate a way for them to remain.

With the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation seemingly on a collision course with the intransigent temple – a possibility hailed by its critics and wildlife organizations – the department said today it faces too much resistance to removing the revenue-generating wildlife from the temple and community.

“Officials are prepared to relocate the animals tomorrow, but if we do it without negotiation, there will definitely be conflict,” Nares Chomboon, Wildlife Breeding Department director, told Coconuts.

It’s a reversal from what department chief Nipon Chotibarn announced April 16, when they vowed to “take the wild animals back and relocate them to a suitable habitat” starting at 10am tomorrow.

“Tomorrow we will count how many animals there are and record [that the animals belong to officials]. If the temple can find someone to take responsibility of the animals [sign the document], then they can stay, or if the temple allows us to take them back, the department will promptly relocate them.

Moving all the animals – the tiger population was swollen from 10 to nearly 150 – would take months, he added.

They are concerned about repeating a tense standoff earlier this month when officials backed by soldiers tried removing moon bears from the site. More than a 100 monks and staff blocked government trucks, and the animals were left suffering in the heat until a crane was used to extricate the bears over a wall while a diversion was created.

After years of alleged mistreatment and involvement in illegal trafficking, the temple was targeted for enforcement after former Veterinarian Somchai Wisetmongkolchai, who was legally empowered to care for the animals, separated from the temple after accusing it of selling several animals in December.

Beginning in February, a series of attempted raids and studies were thwarted by the temple’s abbot, who refused to cooperate, grant access or unlock the animals’ cages.

With Somchai no longer at the temple, Nares said the Tiger Temple Foundation will be allowed to keep the animals if it can find a new qualified individual to sign legal responsibility for keeping them under the conditions set by the department, ensuring they receive proper care and supervision by a veterinarian.

The current conflict follows similar contours to what happened in 2001, when the department moved to remove its big cats after finding the temple was keeping seven illegally. 

Threats were made, the temple resisted and the matter was dropped.

Although the temple’s critics were cautiously optimistic officials would shut down the place, where tourists pay THB600 to pet and take selfies with the animals, officials said today they will allow the act to go on so long as it starts complying with the law.

One change? Nares said the temple was not authorized to collect entrance fees.

“Tourists will still be able to visit the animals but for free of charge,” he said. “The foundation, however, can collect donations for buying tiger food.”

What is tiger food? Anything smaller than a tiger, I believe.

See ya, eh!


Friday, April 24, 2015

This Famous Dutch Owl Loves to Land on People’s Heads

Hallo! How the heck are you today? Glad you could fly by and drop in for a coffee and a virtual treat. Got a fowl tale for you this time. Hoo-ooo would of thought, eh?

A strange owl in the Dutch town of Noordeinde has become famous for its penchant for landing on people’s heads. It seems that the bird simply lands on people who happen to be walking by, for no apparent reason!

Apparently, a fence or a tree just isn’t good enough for the beautiful European eagle owl, weighing around six pounds. It only lands on people’s heads, staying perched for about a minute before flying off in search of its next target!

The residents of Noordeinde aren’t bothered by the owl one bit. In fact, they’re quite delighted with all the attention that their town is receiving, thanks to the wild bird.

“I’ve seen photographers and birders from around the country, from The Hague to Spijkenisse, they come from everywhere to see the eagle owl,” a cheerful resident said. “Our village is finally on the map!”

Could be a little unnerving though if you're walking, chewing gum, listening to your IPod and trying to text a message to someone when all of a sudden, your head is gripped by a ruddy owl!

See ya, eh!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sand Bathing – A Uniquely Japanese Spa Experience

Konichi-wa! How's it going? Good to see you. Got time for a refreshing mug of coffee (or Japanese green tea if you insist) and a virtual treat? Of course you do! know the Japanese are renowned for their hot springs and other beneficial natural health treatments, right? Well, here's another one...sand bathing.

Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan, is home to numerous hot springs, the most famous of which are in the cities of Beppu and Ibusuki. These cities, with their balmy subtropical climate and bubbling volcanic waters, are major tourist destinations. One of their most popular attractions is hot-spring bathing, known as onsen, offered by various spas. But there exist a few spas in these cities that offer a lesser known, highly relaxing experience – sand bathing!

Sand bathing basically getting buried in a large pit of volcanic sand for up to 30 minutes. The experience is not only soothing and satisfying, but believed to be highly therapeutic as well. It is apparently great for treating infertility, diabetes, anaemia and asthma, and is also said to aid in weight loss. (Sure...if you stay there long enough and don't eat!)

The bathing areas consist of a huge boxes of sand, heated up with natural hot spring water. When the sand is thoroughly soaked in the water and steaming hot, the water is drained. Visitors are then let into the box and asked to lie down, as workers shovel copious amounts of sand on top of them. The bathers remain buried until the sand cools down, and are then directed to bathing facilities to wash the dirt off.

Once the box is empty, the heating process is started again, which takes about 30 minutes. So tickets to the bath are sold at 30-minute intervals, and there are only a limited number of spots per session. The ticket comes with a traditional Japanese cotton robe called ‘yukata’, and a towel. The garment helps keep the sand from sticking to the body, and also acts as a sort of insulation against the heat. A wooden pillow is also provided, which serves as a head rest.

Travel blogs and websites are filled with first hand accounts from tourists who’ve sand-bathed in Kyushu island, and most of them seem to agree that while the bathing itself was weird and uncomfortable, the after-effect was nothing short of blissful. “The weight (of the sand) coming off is far more of a relief than escaping from the heat,” writer and journalist Bee Rowlatt wrote in the Telegraph.

“I push the sand aside and sit, in sudden and complete joy. I feel alert and light,” she added. “I feel recharged rather than relaxed, and the effect can last for several hours, without that collapse into sleepiness that can follow heat treatment and spa sessions. I can’t rightly say that it made me healthy, but it certainly made me happy.”

National Geographic reporter Andrew Evans, on the other hand, did not seem too pleased with his sand bathing experience. “I tried desperately to relax but kept checking that clock, thirteen minutes, fourteen minutes; fourteen minutes and thirty-four seconds, thirty-six seconds,” he wrote. “Afterwards, I lingered under a long, cold shower that proved beneficial in curing me from the effects of the heat.” In fact, he insisted that the only effect the therapy had on him was to make him ‘happy to be alive’.

Interestingly, the concept of sand bathing is actually a practice prevalent among animals. They roll around in dust or sand in order to clean or dry their fur, feathers or skin. The behavior is common among a wide range of mammalian and avian species – and sometimes even a necessary to get rid of parasites. We use it as a spa treatment.

With my luck, I'd have to pee as soon as I got under the sand...which I suppose...

See ya, eh!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Aelita Andre began painting "professionally" at age 9 months

G'day to you! How you going? Good to see you, mate! Help yourself to some coffee and a couple ANZAC cookies, why don't'cha? Y'know that I dabble in art, eh. Well' here's a little miss who has been dabbling since she was 9 months old...

The Australian "abstract expressionist" Aelita Andre began painting "professionally" at age 9 months, said her parents, and by 22 months had her own exhibit at Melbourne's Brunswick Street gallery, and by age 4, the paintbrush-armed toddler had enjoyed a $24,000 sale. 

She has now also distinguished herself as an "artist" of another type while explaining her approach. In April, the now-8-year-old told, "I interpret my style of painting as a magic, abstract universe. It doesn't sit in one tiny sphere in all realism; it goes out and it explores the world." 

She acknowledged seeing things (e.g., "rabbits") that an 8-year-old might, but pointed out that she also sees "the cosmos." "I just feel free. I don't feel locked up in a tiny world." [ (Sydney), 4-7-2015] 

BTW...the picture above is currently on offer for a mere $17,000 USD!

See ya, eh!


PS: Want to see more of Aelita's art? Go to this link:

Monday, April 20, 2015

8 Surprising (And Easy) Memory Boosters

Hi ya! Glad you remembered where you come every day for a shot of coffee and a virtual treat. I see you’re already over by the coffeepot and eying the VTs. Memory is a here today gone tomorrow (or sometimes gone three seconds later!) kind of thing, isn’t it?

The key to remembering where you put your keys? It could be as easy as these simple tweaks to your daily routine.

Practice good posture
Go thank Mom for nagging you to sit up straight—standing and sitting up straight and tilting your chin up boosts blood and oxygen flow to the brain by up to 40 percent, making it easier to recall memories.

Try a different type
We’re talking typeface—researchers have found that using an unusual font on study materials can help you remember the content better. Does this mean Comic Sans for your next work presentation? (Hey...I happen to like Comic Sans!)

Watch funny cat videos
Learning ability, recall, and visual recognition all improved among a group of elderly individuals who watched a funny 30-minute video, one study found. Chalk it up to the stress relief, researcher Gurinder Bains, M.D. says. “With aging, the damaging effects of stress can impair the ability to learn and sustain memory,” he explained. “Humour and the associated mirthful laughter can reduce stress by decreasing stress hormones, including cortisol and catecholamines.” (I thought that was something you did in church!)

Go to happy hour
Over 60 years old? Light and moderate alcohol consumption in older adults has been associated with larger volume in the hippocampus and better episodic memory (the ability to recall events). (Dang...wish I hadn’t given up drinking!)

Take regular walks
The hippocampus—the brain’s memory center—shrinks as you age, but research has found that older adults who go on walks actually gain volume in the hippocampus. (Is that an African college?)

Lift weights
Prefer to hit the gym? One study had participants lift weights while looking at a series of photos. Two days later, those who strength trained remembered about 60 percent, while those who didn’t remembered 50 percent.

Chew gum
It doesn’t get easier than this. Chewing gum has been shown to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the brain, giving you a 15 to 20 minute window of improved memory.

Use pen and paper
Taking notes in a meeting? Bring a notebook, not a laptop. Writing things down instead of typing them was found to help with active listening and retention.

One question...can you lift weights and chew gum while you’re walking to the bar for Happy Hour? Uh-huh. You’re liable to bump into a totally focused  teen or yuppie with his or her head down texting away, if you ask me.

See ya, eh!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Students Offered Free Rent in Exchange for Interaction with the Elderly

Hallo! Hoe gaat het met je? (Hello! How are you? in Dutch). Gives you an idea of where the subject of this post is situated. Boy, we do get around...Africa yesterday...USA the day before...). Help yourself to a delicious mug of coffee and a delectable virtual treat while I mutter on...

A Dutch nursing home has come up with an innovative plan to get young college kids to interact with the elderly. They’re offering small, rent-free apartments to the students, in exchange for at least 30 hours a month of spending quality time with their older neighbors.

According to the officials at Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, the students participate in a variety of activities with older residents – watching sports, celebrating birthdays, and offering company when they’re ill. It’s a unique win-win situation – the students are able to enjoy free accommodation, and it also solves the problems of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

“It’s important not to isolate the elderly from the outside world,” explained Humanitas head Gea Sijpkes. “When you’re 96 years old with a knee problem, well, the knee isn’t going to get any better, the doctors can’t do much. 

But what we can do is create an environment where you forget about the painful knee. The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact.”

This is the kind of thing that governments should be looking at seriously. Student costs are soaring so being able to live rent free is a big help to a limited budget - and they would bring an energy to senior residences. Ièm all for the idea!

See ya, eh!