Tag Archives: travel

Istanbul: Seven of Many Wonders

February 19th, 2015

Instanbul

After spending 14 days in the extraordinary, international city of Istanbul, I began to liken it to a magical carpet, a monumental tapestry, created by millennia of weavers: the merchants, travelers, artists and craftsmen who’ve passed through it. As the only country in the world to span two continents, Istanbul has always been the nexus of the East and West. It is located at the point where the Golden Horn, a large, well-protected, natural harbor, meets the Bosporus Strait, which is the only waterway entrance to the Black Sea, and connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and eventually to the Aegean.

This weaving together of diverse cultures and history has created a unique dynamic tension, a mosh pit of centuries old practice, and modern imperatives in commerce, culture and art, making it extraordinarily rich in every possible way.

It is a place of historically significant geo-political intrigue and espionage, not to mention it’s choice as a location in several 007 James Bond films; Skyfall, The World is not Enough, and From Russia with Love. I swear my over active imagination saw spy scenarios everywhere, which had my husband shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

The minute you step out into the streets of Istanbul, the multi-dimensional layers begin to expose themselves almost immediately, and every one of the senses is activated–– at once: It was almost hallucinatory.

It is terribly dense, there are trams, seas of yellow taxis, pedestrians, vendor carts, motorcycles, old men pulling impossibly heavy loads on old wooden carts, men balancing towers of bread on the heads, mopeds rigged with wooden palettes stacked with (full) egg cartons, groups of women in various states of “covering”: the hijab, the veil covering the head and chest, the Chador, the Abaya, and the Burqa, young women in mini-skirts. I especially loved shopping for lingerie next to the Burqa clad women. There were men sitting in manholes checking their emails on their cell-pones as traffic whizzed by around them, stray cats, dogs, elderly blind people, a constant stream of ferries crisscrossing the Bosporus every 10 minutes, well into the night, midnight fishermen crowded on the Galata Bridge, 7 nights a week…it is utter chaos and somehow it works, it even flows. One lovely boutique in the bohemian section of the city, The Aponia Store, has a wonderfully succinct t-shirt: ”Some call it chaos, and we call it home.” That pretty much says it, but I would add one more wild fact which I read on a label under a photo, included in a photography exhibition of beautiful black and white images about the challenging and changing nature of Turkey, at The Istanbul Modern, (a fantastic modern art museum.) Dated 2013, it read: In Istanbul, 9 million people use 19 different means of transportation 21 million times a day. Whew.

It was my first trip to a predominantly Islamic country, and I was completely curious to experience how that fact would influence the ins and outs of daily life. To try and innumerate what it was exactly that was so extraordinary about the place is almost impossible but I will give it a go. Here are seven things (among hundreds) that make Istanbul unforgettable, wondrous and a place I must return to.

1. It’s Crazy History

As I mentioned earlier, the geographic location of Istanbul sets up the scene, and one must understand how it shaped and continues to influence the city, and has bestowed upon it the gift of seeing ancient Egyptian Obelisks, ancient Roman Viaducts, and Cisterns, Sultans Palaces, Mosques, Byzantine relics and ancient Roman city walls from 400AD, Roman Catholic Churches from the 6th century and on and on…Everyone wanted, and still wants a piece of the place. The strategic importance of the site was not lost on the Greeks, who founded it as Byzantium on the European side (the Western side of the Bosphorus Strait,) in 667 BCE.

In 196 AD it was besieged and conquered by Roman Forces, and then ruled by Septimius Severus, who rapidly rebuilt it. In 330 AD, it garnered the attention of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, who was moving away from the “old” Roman ways and had converted to Christianity. He was so taken with its beauty and qualities that he dedicated it as his imperial residence, thus the Eastern capitol of the Roman Empire, and as such it was renamed Constantinople after his death. Constantinople was the western terminus of trade on the Silk Road, from which ships sailed to and from Western Europe, and according to the UNESCO website, from the 4th century onward, it is most probably “the Rome” in the saying, ”All roads lead to Rome.” At such a crucial constellation between Asia and Europe, Constantinople instantly became the most powerful cultural, commercial and diplomatic center for exchange between the East and Western Europe, and the capitol of the Byzantine Empire.

In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian I ordered the construction of the Aya Sofya, (Hagia Sophia), and it was consecrated in 537, becoming the religious center for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. During the 4th Crusade, in 1204, it was captured and sacked by French and Italian Catholic Crusaders, effectively replacing the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. It is worth noting that the influence of the French culture remains strong in Istanbul, as in the latter centuries, a number of the Sultans maintained close ties with France and were greatly influenced by and had a great fondness for French artistic craft and architecture. In 1453, the city was overrun and conquered by the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmet II, who promptly converted the Aya Sofya into a mosque. Other churches were torn down and mosques built on top of their ruins.

In 1517 the Ottomans conquered Egypt, and brought the caliphate to Istanbul, which then became the center of the Islamic world. The Sultanate, particularly during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) dramatically changed the face of the city building palaces, mosques, bridges, as well as facilitating the exchange of ideas, customs, goods, skills, and crafts, transported via trade routes that passed through Istanbul, thus bringing new influences and cultures together, and promoting innovation in the Ottoman arts of ceramics, calligraphy and stained glass, which became vital components of the city’s history and identity.

After World War I, the British, French, and Italians occupied Constantinople and exiled the last sultan, Mehmed VI. In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the modern republic of Turkey, and renamed the city Istanbul in 1930.

2. Religion / Mindfulness

Although Atatürk transformed Istanbul into a modern, “secular “ city, the fact remains that it is a predominantly Islamic city, and the spiritual and religious life continues to dominate its very core. There is no escaping the practice of Islam, as Istanbul has 3,113 mosques, many of which were built during the Ottoman period, on the sites of former Roman Catholic Churches, either destroyed or altered and converted into Mosques. They are spectacular examples of religious architecture, one being more beautiful than the next.

A lesser known but good example of this cultural, religious layering is the Arap Mosque, or Arab Mosque, which was built in 1325 by the Dominican Friars as a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter, and is the only surviving example of medieval Gothic Architecture. It was altered, and converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II, and during the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, given to escaping Muslim Arab refugees from Al-Andalus. It is also interesting to note that during this time period, Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal were encouraged to establish themselves in Istanbul as well, and a number of beautiful Synagogues remain.

Of course the most famous and without a doubt the most magnificent example of religious transformation is the Aya Sofya, built as a Roman Orthodox Church in the 6th century, then converted into a mosque in 1453 by Mehmed the Conqueror. The transformation began with the construction of a Mihrab, an ornamental indentation or niche in the wall of a mosque, which marks the direction of qiblah, or the Ka’aba in Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, the direction all Muslim worshipers must turn to face during daily prayers. A Minbar, (a raised platform in the front area of a mosque, from which sermons or speeches are given) was also erected.

Other significant changes were made in deference to Islamic law such as the covering of the tile mosaics depicting Christ and other “beings” which were painted over with a thin covering of lime. Even the four Seraphs at the base of the large dome had their faces covered with metal discs, in accordance with the Islamic laws shunning the creation of images of sentient living beings.

When Atatürk created the secular state of Turkey, he declared the Aya Sofya a museum, which it remains today, and extensive restoration is constantly under way, which included the restoration of the exquisite mosaics and the faces of the Seraphs, which are now exposed. There are whispered rumors that the current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, wishes to convert it back into a mosque…

Surprise, surprise, surprise

So many things of a religious and spiritual nature were of constant surprise to me. All of them pleasant and memorable. As Istanbul is a hilly city, there are seven hills, the beautiful domes of the mosques, and the slim towering minarets, reign over the city, dotting the skyline with a romantically magical quality. The minarets were originally constructed as the platform for the Muzzein’s call to prayer, and as you can imagine, with so many mosques there is a bit of a competition amongst them at prayer time. These hauntingly, melodious voices ringing out over the city five times a day, sent real shivers up my spine. I did not need to know exactly what they were saying, but I could feel the spiritual quality and was surprised by its effect on me. I would simply have to stop doing whatever we were doing and just listen.

Aside from the fact that the interiors of the mosques are just breathtakingly beautiful, there was something moving about participating in the rituals of removing ones shoes, and for women the covering of the head with head scarves enabled me to participate in the sanctity of the place. One particular day when visiting the Suleymani Mosque a large group of elderly women, all dressed in black, (their faces exposed), all the same height and roundness came in to worship. They were different than the others, obvious religious pilgrims, and were quietly whispering and often smiling in awe at the sheer beauty of the space. I loved how they felt, and took a quick moment to capture a few images. After I put my camera back into my coat pocket I looked up and saw that they had noticed me too, as they were smiling broadly and taking my picture! There I was, the tall lady, oddly out of place in her headscarf, and they seemed to find me hysterical. I was as much an anomaly for them as they were for me and we smiled knowingly at each other.

Outside of every mosque, were beautiful marble fountains for ablutions, where men (only), the women went into the restrooms, sat washing their hands, arms, faces and feet, before going in to worship. And it was cold outside. For that matter, there were such marble fountains all over the city with beautiful brass spigots also used for cleansing. Many also had a tin cup on a chain for shared drinking. Even in the wondrous Grand Bazaar, such fountains existed, where there was always someone sitting and washing, as a prelude to the call to prayer, which was offered at select locations, where men lined up, filling the Caddesi, or lanes with small prayer rugs, and the entire commerce in many shops would come to a grinding halt. It is unavoidable, no matter where you are. Things just stop.

And speaking of stopping, this constant awareness, a sort of collective mindfulness seems to prevail in many aspects of daily life, from the highly aesthetic display of food, to the carefully chosen and draped headscarf, or the constant cleaning of place and self, and just the general realization that one is not isolated and alone, acting independently, and that we are somehow all connected. We were so often struck by civil acts of kindness, between complete strangers. Everyone helps everyone.

When an elderly man fell in the street, a man jumped out of his car stopping traffic, creating a traffic jam in order to help. And when one Taxi directly behind him honked, twenty other honked and yelled at him, admonishing him for his thoughtlessness. I’ve never seen that in any major cosmopolitan city.

One incident in particular really stuck in my mind. We were walking down a congested street in the Textile district, when a man directly in front of us suddenly stopped, bent over and picked up a piece of chewing gum lying in his path. He carefully removed it to a safe place behind a pole, where no one else might step on it and continued on. We actually stood there dumbfounded for a few moments, struck by such a selfless act.

That‘s not to say that there are not slums, and that bad, mean and angry people don’t exist, but the overwhelming feeling was pretty awesome. Of course the intense police presence, with men in full riot gear, sporting dreadful looking machine guns, in anticipation of possible rioting, does not fall into that category.

3. Tea Time Rituals

Conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon.
-Folk saying from Sivas, Turkey

Even those nasty looking policemen wound up surprising me though. We stumbled upon a large group of them sitting in a back-alley café serenely drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and playing backgammon? The ritual of Tea Time is as equally powerful and as often, if not more practiced as the daily prayer ritual. It is part of everyone’s daily routine.

No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, there is always a Çay (Chai) a tea man running around with a silver tray, laden with small beautiful tulip shaped clear glasses filled with piping hot Turkish Tea, the tinkling sound of small spoons stirring tea is everywhere.

Like the time we were walking along the hippodrome, checking out Ancient Egyptian Obelisks, I heard that tinkling sound and turned to see burley construction workers taking a break from digging ditches for water-pipe repair, squatting on their break, stirring cubes of sugar into their delicate tulip-shaped tea glasses. Or the time we watched in amusement as a garbage truck stopped in the middle of an old, 19th century narrow, sloping street, and the garbage men jumped out and walked up onto the sidewalk, as a Çay man appeared out of nowhere with a tray full of those delicate glasses of piping hot tea. No paper cups here, no sir. These men stood drinking tea and smoking as traffic calmly and knowingly waited behind the truck until their 5-minute break was over. Really? Imagine that in New York or Paris!

The Hamal’ or the porters, are the men who carry impossibly heavy loads on their backs, (as well as homemade saddles which they also use as seats when they unburden themselves,) can be seen sitting in small groups, taking a tea-time pause on the sidewalk, as the Çay man seems to magically appear, once more.

And…the midnight fishermen on the Galata Bridge, indulge as well, with tea vendors setting up small mobile tea stands on boxes, preparing fresh, piping hot tea, to ward off the chill of the night air. That was the best tea I’ve ever tasted, and sitting with the fishermen, amidst the debris of their profession, happy to show us their angling talent was one of my most favorite memories.

4. Stray Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs are everywhere, I mean everywhere in Istanbul, and I don’t mean pets. The streets are full of stray cats and dogs, large dogs which all mind their own business, walk around, take long naps and generally get along with each other and people. In fact, in most places it is common to see bowls of food and water discreetly placed for them by local residents and businesses.

Cats have it especially good, as Muhammad prohibited the persecution and killing of cats, and in Islamic tradition, cats are admired for their cleanliness. A popular saying goes: “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

So, there are definitely more cats than dogs. Almost every business seems to have a cat. Shoemakers, Music stores, Museum gardens, bookstores, high-end boutiques, bars, hotels, nightclubs–– everyone loves them, and allows them to come and go as they please. It is not uncommon to be trying on a pair of expensive shoes, while a beautiful, well cared for cat brushes against your leg, before darting out onto the street. I love that.

The dogs look ferocious but just spend their days hanging out, waiting for food, and occasionally barking at cars they don’t like. They never assault people and they seem to have an agreement with their local feline counterparts.

How can this be? One night we sat next to a lovely couple from Dublin, and the woman turned out to be a veterinarian, there to give a lecture on as she said,” bunnies and birds, as the exotic pet-trade has picked up in Istanbul.” I immediately asked her about the profusion of street animals and she cleared it up for us. Apparently Istanbul is a “no-kill” city, with the entire population standing behind this humane law. Whenever possible, the state actually rounds the animals up, inoculates them, cares for them if they’re sick, spays and neuters them, then sets them free, knowing they will be well cared for. We never once saw a mangy dog or alley cat. They all looked perfectly healthy and happy. There are even neighborhood favorites. That is so cool.

5. Tiles, Rugs and Jewelry

Those awesomely beautiful predominantly blue tiles that adorn the Blue Mosque, the Rustem Pasha Mosque, and many parts of Topkapi Palace are called Iznik tiles, which came from the town of Iznik in Western Anatolia, via the Silk Road. They were produced in the last quarter of the 15th century up to the end of the 17th century, when production began to decline as the massive building projects of the Ottoman Sultans were on the wane and competition from the more highly crafted Chinese Ceramics began to erode the marketplace.

In the Sultan Ahmed Mosque–also known as the Blue Mosque for its abundant 20,000 tiles originally cobalt blue–the color palate expanded to include, turquoise, and pastel shades of sage green and pale purple. In the middle of the 16th century, a Bole red replaced the purple and a bright Emerald green replaced the sage.

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is famous for its Iznik tiles, which have beautiful floral patterns as well as geometric designs. I was surprised to see the tulip among the hyacinths, carnations, roses sprigs petals, and Pencs, (the stylized top view of flowers.) There was a sweet man selling books in the courtyard, who explained that the Turkish love of the tulip came from the Ottoman period, as the beloved flower of the sultans. I went back to the hotel and did a little research and discovered the Tulip Period, in the 18th century, when a “tulip craze” firmly established itself as the Sultans began to orient themselves towards Europe.
The tulip came to define nobility and privilege and became celebrated in the Ottoman court. This passion for tulips extended into paintings, silks, and textiles and was used in the Sultan’s Palace clothing, and came to represent the wealthy and elite. In Turkey today, the tulip is still considered to embody perfection and beauty. Who knew?

Turkish Carpets

The Tulip motif was carried over onto the famous Turkish Carpets, especially those commissioned by the sultans. Massive Turkish Carpets, cover the floor of every Mosque; a centuries old art, originally of practical use, from the region of Seljuk Anatolia, during the Seljuk Period, 1037-1302.

The history is long and complicated but it is worth mentioning the weaving workshops of Herke, established in 1843. These carpets are known for their fine weaves and used silk, or fine wool threads, and upon occasion, gold, silver and cotton threads as well. In the Topkapi Palace they featured intricate floral designs, of course including the tulip, as well as the daisy, carnation, crocus, rose, lilac, and hyacinth.

Jewelry

I have to say, I just fell in love with this city. Not only are the people warm and openhearted, we also share a common fascination with exquisitely crafted jewelry. The artistic craftsmanship in the city in general is absolutely outstanding and the jewelry is no exception. Once again, we’ve got those Sultans to thank, as their obsession with all things beautiful has carried over to modern times. However, the treasury at the Topkopi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman sultanate takes the cake. The palace’s ornate opulence is right out of a fairy tale, and legends, and stories abound about the pleasure seeking Sultans, their beautiful concubines, plotting courtiers and viziers, competing eunuchs and the general palace intrigues involving dignitaries and visiting world leaders. But my absolute favorite story is that of the-––Spoon Makers Diamond.

First of all, the palace treasury is brimming with one astonishing bejeweled object after another, to the point of making you dizzy. Heavily guarded vitrines displaying bowls full of emeralds the size of dinner rolls, flamboyant turban ornaments dripping with pearls, rubies, emeralds, gold and diamonds, called sorguç, which were the equivalent of crowns: a symbol of power and authority that was worn by Ottoman sultans on their quilted turban.

However…they paled next to The Spoon Makers Diamond. Here’s the story, talk about fairy-tales: There was once a poor fisherman in 17th century Istanbul who, while wandering by the shore, found a large stone in a pile of rubbish. It was so unusual looking that he picked it up and put it in his pocket, and carried it around for a few days. He eventually made his way to the marketplace where he showed it to the first vendor he came across, who happened to be a spoon maker. The man feigned disinterest, declaring it a large piece of glass, and offered the poor fisherman three wooden spoons. The spoon maker was not entirely sure what he had purchased, but had inkling that it was…something unusual

One day the Vizier of the Sultan passed by the spoon maker’s stall and was astonished to see the raw, unpolished diamond sitting there for all to see. He immediately offered the spoon maker a large sum of money, too good to refuse, and ran quickly back to the palace jewelers who polished it up and …

The diamond is an 86-carat pear-shaped diamond, and believed to be the fourth largest diamond in the world. It sits in a silver setting surrounded by 49 old-mine cut diamonds, just for that extra bling!

6. Education

I had no idea that Istanbul was home to one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the world. Istanbul University, was founded when Mehmet II conquered Constantinople. It began as a madrasah, a theological school, and catered to educating the ruling class of the Ottomans. During Ataturks reformation in the 1920’s, the institution was renamed Istanbul University and restructured to include departments in medicine, law, literature, theology, and science. Interestingly enough it benefited from the flight of Jewish academics that fled Germany during the Third Reich and became a vital force of the teaching staff. Many academics educated there were able to go on to establish other institutions of higher learning in Istanbul and in Turkey in general. The university prides itself as being a leader in the movement towards enlightenment, and modernization, bridging the gap between science and cultural life.

Then there is Boğaziçi University a public university located on the European side of the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul founded in 1863, it has the distinction of being the first American Institution of higher learning founded outside the United States. It has strong ties to the Robert College of Istanbul, a co-educational private[1] high school, and boarding school, with an awesome campus also on the European side of Istanbul. The 150-year-old institution is the oldest American school still in existence in its original location outside the United States, and is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools.

Another university is the Francophone University, Galatasaray University, which was established in 1992, by an agreement of the then president of Turkey Turgut Özal and the French president Francois Mitterrand. It is a participant in the European Erasmus and Socrates exchange programs, and has close to 50 European students, as well as representing a secular tradition of teaching. The courses are tri-lingual: in Turkish, French and English;and fluency in both French and English are required. On top of that the university is housed in the former Feriye Palace, a coastal summer palace on the Bosphorus built in 1871; one of the many architecturally stunning second Sultanate homes lining the waterfront of Bosphorus. Nice place to study!

The Istanbul Technical University, ITU, is the world’s third oldest technical universities, dedicated to engineering sciences and recently to the social sciences.

And lastly, because one must stop somewhere, is the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, founded in 1882, as the “School of Fine Arts,” by the renowned Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey. It became co-educational in 1914, and the name was changed several times, finally becoming what it is today, in honor of the famous Ottoman-Armenian architect Mimar Sinan, responsible for many of Istanbul’s most beautiful Mosques.

Well, now I guess I have to stop, but I never discussed Turkish Delights, Hamams, Pomegranates, or the nazar boncuğu, the Turkish talisman against the Evil Eye. The thing about traveling is that you can have the most amazing, and profound experiences if you are willing to open yourself up and embrace the “difference” of the culture you find yourself in, without judgment, and without needing to find your “place” in it. Just be there, and be “present” and the mysteries will reveal themselves in the most wonderful, and unimaginable ways, which will invariably find you just where you need to be.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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25 (Serious & Fun) Facts about Norway

February 5th, 2015

norway

There is so much to be said of Norway, known for its breathtakingly beautiful natural environment, vibrant cultural life with cosmopolitan cities brimful of architecture that showcases the famous Scandinavian flair for design. But for the sake of brevity, in this post we’ll touch on a number of facts about the country and its education system and share a handful of fun facts. We realize we’re not doing Norway full justice, and apologize in advance, as there are so many interesting facts to share. We encourage you all to visit the links provided for even more fun facts and information.

First, we’ll start with the serious facts:

1. Known as the Land of the Midnight Sun

2. Head of State: His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway

3. Head of Government: Prime Minister, Erna Solberg (since 2013)

4. System of Government: Constitutional monarchy, Parliamentary democracy

5. Won independence from Sweden in 1905

6. Area: 148,747 square miles (similar in sq. miles to the size of Montana)

7. Population (2014): 5,109,059

8. Capital city: Oslo [Population: 624,000 (statistics 2013)]

9. Languages: 2 official Norwegian languages: Bokmål and Nynorsk), in some districts, Sámi is also an official language Sámi (spoken by the Sámi people), 100% literacy

10. Education dates back as far as the 12th century

11. In 1827 Norway introduced public education (Folkeskole)

12. In the 1970s and 80s the Folkeskole was abolished and the Grunnskole was introduced.

13. Education is free, even higher education.

14. Ministry of Education, Research & Church Affairs prepares the national curriculum for grunnskole (primary &
lower secondary education) and videregående skole (upper secondary school)

15. Compulsory education: 10 years (Grade 1-10)

16. Upper secondary school is 3 years after 10th grade and divided into general/academic studies track or vocational and apprenticeship tracks

17. Norway has seven universities, nine specialized university institutions, 22 university colleges, two national colleges of the arts and a number of private higher education institutions. Norway’s University of Oslo ranks 89th in the 2013–14 QS University World Rankings, and the University of Bergen at 151st

And now, we’ll share some fun facts:

18. The people of Oslo, Norway donate the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree in London every year in gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during WWII. Source: Trafalgar Square Christmas tree

19. It is illegal to spay or neuter your dog in Norway except under specific circumstances regarding health, quality of life, or utility. Source: Should dogs be neutered?

20. Norway has the World’s biggest sovereign fund, where it has been saving almost all the money it gets from the sale of oil and is worth almost a trillion dollars Source: Norway: Is world’s largest sovereign wealth fund too big?

21. To encourage more men to assume a greater share of care-giving responsibilities, Norwegian law states that 14 weeks of parental leave is reserved for fathers. Norway is the first country to introduce compulsory paternity leave Source: Father’s leave still a burning issue

22. King Harald of Norway vowed to remain unmarried for life unless he could marry his true love; the daughter of a cloth merchant. They both later married with help from the Government of Norway and she became the Queen of Norway Source: Queen Sonja of Norway

kingqueennorway
Photo: King Harald & Queen Sonja

23. Norwegian prisons are known to be the most luxurious prisons in the world. Norwegian prisons have also won a design award. Though accommodations may be ultra luxurious, the criminals on release demonstrate the lowest rate of re-offending in Europe, if not the world.
Source: Crime and punishment, Norwegian style

norway_prison
Photos of prison cells and accommodations in Norway

24. A valley settlement in Norway that lives in shadow for nearly half of every year has installed giant mirrors on an adjacent mountain to redirect sunlight into the town’s square, all based on a plan that was thought up 100 years ago

norway_glass

25. If you own a TV in Norway, you have to pay an annual fee of $300 USD. Source: 22 Interesting Facts About Norway

Bonus Fact:

26. Wondering how much your co-worker, boss, neighbor, friend, or cousin makes? It’d be no secret in Norway where income and wealth are public record; a practice shared by other Scandinavian countries. Making the data public demonstrates the Scandinavian tradition of jantelag, which translates roughly as nobody is better than anyone else.

ACEI

ACEI (est. 1994) is a U.S.-based full service organization assisting individuals, colleges and universities, regulatory boards, employers and state and federal government agencies with the evaluation, verification and translation of international education credentials. In addition, ACEI’s webinars and training programs provide international education specialists with up-to-date information on world education systems, student mobility trends, and credential evaluation methodologies. For more information on ACEI and its services, please visit www.acei-global.org.

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25 Interesting Facts About Scotland

September 11th, 2014

scotland_map

On September 16, 2014, Scotland will hold a referendum that will decide its independence from the United Kingdom. Scotland is a sovereign state in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and is part of the UK’s constitutional monarchy. If the referendum in favor of independence gathers the votes it needs, Scotland will secede from the UK.

As we wait in anticipation of the outcome of the referendum, we felt it would be helpful to learn more about this country and share with you a few interesting facts.

History

1. Scotland was an independent country and never took kindly to invaders but nevertheless it unified with England in 1707 when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of both England and Scotland after the death eased Queen Elizabeth I. Their merger formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain giving rise to factions which to this day opposed the unification. For more history check this link: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/

Geography & People

scotland_flag

2. The Flag of Scotland is a white X-shaped cross, which represents the cross of the patron saint of Scotland, Saint Andrew on a blue field. The flag is called the Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross.

3. Scotland includes over 790 islands. These include groups called Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.

4. The population of Scotland in 2011 was around 5.3 million.

5. The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh while the largest city is Glasgow. Other major cities include Aberdeen and Dundee.

edinburgh
Image: Edinburgh

6. Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots (a relative of English) and Scottish Gaelic (a completely different language).

Education

7. As part of the UK, Scotland’s education system is separate and governed from within Scotland.

8. Scotland emphasizes on a broad education system and was the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education.

9. There are 14 Scottish universities some of which are the oldest universities in the world.

10. The University of St Andrews, founded in 1413, is the third oldest university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. It welcomed Britain’s first female student in 1862. It is also where the world’s first students’ union came into existence in 1882.

edinburgh_college

11. The world’s first infant school was opened by philosopher and pedagogue Robert Owen in New Lanark in 1816.

Economy & Resources

12. Aberdeen has become an important center for the oil industry after the finding of oil in the North Sea.

13. Edinburgh is Europe’s fifth largest financial center.

14. Scotland offers free water for its citizens, although oil and nuclear energy are governed by the UK.

15. Although their health system is part of the greater National Health Service, Scotland controls its implementation (which allows them to provide free prescriptions to everyone, something England does not do).

Government & Judicial System

16. Scotland also has its own judicial system and unlike most western systems, courts can reach the decision of guilty, not guilty, or not proved.

17. The police force of Scotland is separate from that of the rest of the UK.

18. Scotland also has its own distinct parliament, which is chaired by the First Minister of Scotland.

Inventions

19. Notable Scottish inventions include: the method of logarithms (1614), tarmac (1820), first-ever house to be lit by gas (1784), the waterproof raincoat (1823), the hot blast furnace (1828), the modern, rear-wheel driven bicycle (1839), the pneumatic tire (1845) and reinvented in a more practical way (1887) known today as Dunlop Rubber (now under the joint ownership of Goodyear and Sumitomo Rubber Industries), and the discovery of the anesthetic properties of chloroform in 1847 which was successfully introduced for general medical use. (There are many more inventions by Scottish inventors, a list too long for this blog. For more information check this link: http://listverse.com/2014/01/05/10-things-you-should-know-about-scotland/)

Fun / Odd Facts

20. Genetic studies are now pointing that the mutation for red hair, which now reaches a world maximum in Western Scotland and Northern Ireland, may have originated in Central Asia too. This means that Scottish people may be (partly) descended from ancient people from Central Asia. Surprised? So were we, so here’s one source: www.eupedia.com

redhair

21. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first toilets ever were possibly built in Orkney, Scotland in 3,000 BC.

22. Scotland is reputed for its whisky, known outside Scotland as Scotch Whisky. Yet, what few people know is that whisky was in fact invented in China, and was first distilled by monks in Ireland in the early 15th century before reaching Scotland 100 years later.

23. The most infamous Scottish dish is haggis, normally made with sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for approximately an hour.

haggis

24. Kilts, tartans and bagpipes aren’t Scottish inventions. Kilts originated in Ireland. Tartans ere found in Bronze-age or Iron-age Central Europe (Hallstatt culture) and Central Asia (Tocharian culture). Bagpipes might also be an ancient invention from Central Asia. These could be debated so here’s the link to the source http://www.tamos.net/~rhay/shenkman.html.

bagpipes

25. A few more Scottish dishes known for their odd names include: Forfar Bridie (a meat pastry), Cock-a-leekie (soup), Collops (escalope), Crappit heid (fish dish), Finnan haddie (haddock fish), Arbroath Smokie (smoked haddock), Cullen Skink (haddock soup), Partan bree (seafood dish), Mince and tatties (minced meat and potatoes), Rumbledethumps, Skirlie and so on. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous shortbread, Scotland’s most famous cookie.

Bonus fact!

26. Scotland, the official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn, appreciated for its purity and strength. http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/scottish-fact-of-the-week-scotland-s-official-animal-the-unicorn-1-2564399 .

seals

It was King James I who drew up a new royal coat of arms that included both the traditional English lion as well as the Scottish Unicorn. According to folklore (going back to the ancient Babylonians in 3,500 B.C.), the lion and the unicorn hate each other. The Unicorn is seen as representing spring and the lion representing summer. Each year the two fight for supremacy, and each year the lion eventually wins. A popular English nursery rhyme sums up the animosity and the old wars between England and Scotland:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown;
The lion beat the unicorn
All round about the town.

The lion’s supremacy may come to an end, if Scotland’s upcoming referendum tilts in favor of independence and secession. The unicorn will prove to be the victor after all.

Slainte! (That’s Good Health in Scots)

ACEI

http://www.acei-global.org

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20 Interesting Facts about Mongolia

April 17th, 2014

Mongolian_Flag

Mongolia lies in central Asia between Siberia on the north and China on the south. It is a land full of vast emptiness, nearly twice the size of Eastern Europe and with a population of 3,226,516 (2013 est.), it is the least populous country in the world. It is slightly larger than Alaska. The name Mongol comes from a small tribe whose leader, Ghengis Khan, began a conquest in the 13th century that would eventually encompass an enormous empire stretching from Asia to Europe, as far west as the Black Sea and as far south as India and the Himalayas. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule of the Manchu dynasty which divided Mongolia into Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia.

Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a communist regime was installed in 1924. The modern country of Mongolia, however, represents only part of the Mongols’ historical homeland; more ethnic Mongolians live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China than in Mongolia. The State of Mongolia was formerly known as Outer Mongolia. It contains the original homeland of the historic Mongols, whose power reached its zenith during the 13th century under Kublai Khan. Outer Mongolia became a democratic democracy in 1990. Inner Mongolia continued to remain under Chinese control.


Here are some interesting facts about this landlocked country:

1. Chinese history dating back more than 2,000 years records periodic attacks and plunders of its farmlands, villages and town by China by marauding nomadic tribes from the west, which led to its construction of the Great Wall around 200 B.C. to protect itself from incursions. But by the 14th century, the Mongolian kingdom was in serious decline, with invasions from a resurgent China and internal conflict and warfare. The Great Wall is in Inner Mongolia.

Great_Wall

2. Ulaanbaatar (population 949,000) is the capital of Mongolia and its largest city. As a nomadic city, the capital used to move three times a year! The name means “Red Hero.” A 131-foot statue of Genghis Khan sits on the steppe about an hour’s drive from Ulaanbaatar.

Genghis_Khan

3. The official language is Mongolian (90%). Other languages spoken include Turkic and Russian.

4. Based on 2011 estimates, of the total population, 97.4% are literate (96.8% male and 97.9% female). There was a time when education in Mongolia was managed by Buddhist monasteries and only monks had access to it. Today, Mongolia has 178 colleges, universities and teacher training colleges, of which 42 are public. The National University of Mongolia (established in 1942), situated in Ulaanbaatar, was the country’s first modern institution of higher education.

5. The Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture (MSTEC) is the central administrating body that formulates nationwide education policy and sets the standard for each level of formal education beginning with nursery education through university higher education.

6. Mongolia has a parliamentary system of government. The current president of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, attended both the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard University in the U.S.

Tsakhiagiin_Elbegdorj
President Tsakhiaglin Elbegdorj

7. The ethnic makeup of the people is: 94.9% Mongol (predominantly Khalkha), 5% Turkic (of which Kazak is the largest group), and 0.1% other (including Chinese and Russian).

8. Religion: 53% Buddhist Lamaist, 3% Islam, 2.2% Christian, 2.9 % Shamanist, 0.4% other, 38.6% none (2010 est.)

9. Mongolia’s natural resources include: oil, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron.

10. Mongolia’s agriculture includes: wheat, barley, vegetables, forage crops, sheep goats, cattle, camels, and horses.

11. Mongolia stands an average of 5,800 feet above sea level.

Mongolian_Mountains

12. Despite its landlocked status, Mongolia has many salt lakes. Mongolian lakes and rivers contain more than fifty unique fish species.

13. Mongolia has the oldest National Park in the world. Lying just South of Ulaanbaatar the Bogd Khan National Park dates its origin to 1778 — it predates Yellowstone by over 100 years. Established by the Mongolian government in 1778, it was originally chartered by Ming Dynasty officials in the 1500s as an area to be kept off limits to extractive uses, protected for its beauty and sacred nature.

Bogd_Khan_National_Park
Bogd Khan National Park

14. The Gobi Desert, the largest in Asia and the fifth largest in the world, is in Mongolia. The Gobi was once a sea and now filled with marine fossils. Roy Chapman Andrews made the first discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi. His exploits inspired the creation of Indiana Jones. Many dinosaur fossils still lie exposed.

Gobi_Desert

15. Genghis Khan could not read or write, but he commissioned the first Mongolian writing system – the Mongolian script. Since the Soviet period, Mongolians have used the Cyrillic script. In Mongolian, the verb comes last. If you want to know whether a Mongolian loves or hates you, you have to wait till the end of the sentence!


script

16. Mongol Khuumii or throat singing involves producing two simultaneous tones with the human voice.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0djHJBAP3U

17. The three most popular sports are horse racing, archery, and Mongolian wrestling.

Mongolian_Wrestling

18. Animals native to Mongolia include:

a) Snow leopards: quarter of the world’s population of snow leopards live in Mongolia.

snow_leopard

b) The two-humped camel: survives temperatures from minus to plus fifty degrees Celsius!

camel

c) The Mongolian Takhi horse is the last wild horse in the world. Mongolians do not name their horses; they refer to them by color.

Takhi_Horse

and,

d) Eagles which are kept as pets by nomads. The Kazakh minority hunt with them.

Mongolian_Eagle

19. Mongolia’s diet is primarily meat and dairy products. The local alcoholic drink is airag, fermented mare’s milk.

20. In the streets of Ulaanbaatar you’ll find a large number of so-called MobiPhones. These are wireless phones operated by phone vendors who charge users 100 tugriks per minutes. The phones are about two times the size of a regular phone but you’ll see them at small kiosks around the city.

Bonus fun fact:
When walking down a street in a Mongolian town or city if you accidentally bump into a person or brush past them, don’t be surprised if the other person reaches for your hand. Go ahead and shake their hand or even just touch it to apologize and express that it was indeed an accident and not intentional. The same gesture applies if your leg accidentally hits someone else’s under the table. Remember to shake hands!

Sources:
http://www.mongolia-travel-guide.com/mongolia-facts.html#ixzz2yz0Oztou
http://www.factmonster.com/country/mongolia.html
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mg.html
http://listverse.com/2013/10/10/10-amazing-facts-about-the-mongols/

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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Reverse Culture Shock: Symptoms & 5 Ways to Cope

December 12th, 2013

coping

International students coming to the U.S. are bound to experience different degrees of culture shock but they are just as likely to experience reverse culture shock, or re-entry, when they return to their home countries during semester breaks and holidays. Reverse culture shock is an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, to some degree similar to the adjustments the international student initially experiences when living abroad and away from family and friends. The symptoms for reverse culture shock may range from feeling disconnected from family and friends because the person retruning feels misunderstood and is afraid of losing the new aspects of him/herself.

It is an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad. Symptoms can range from feeling like no one understands you or how you’ve changed to feeling panicked that you will lose part of your identity if you don’t have an outlet to pursue new interests that were sparked abroad. Some of the common signs of reverse culture shock are:

• Confusion
• Restlessness
• Boredom
• Uncertainty
• Rootlessness
• Isolation
• Feeling homesick for college and friends made abroad
• Wanting to be alone
• Depression

shock

How to cope with reverse culture shock?

Adjusting to the rhythms of life at home requires much of the same coping skills you had relied on as a student in your host country.

1. Sleep
Arriving to your home country brings with it jet lag and depending on how far away your home is from the host country, the more intense the jet lag. Be kind to yourself and get as much sleep as you can and don’t forget to stay hydrated and don’t skip on meals.

2. Stay Active
When not asleep, stay active, engage in exercise. Strenuous physical activity will help realign the balance between your sleep and awakened state and a speedier way of getting over jet lag.

3. Suspend Judgment
Behave as you did when you first arrived in your host country. Suspend judgment and criticism of your family and friends. Avoid making comparisons of how things are better where you went to college. Friends and family will be interested in your experiences and will ask questions which you may hear more than once. Assume the role of ambassador by responding and sharing your experiences that is inclusive and engaging. Don’t showboat or brag, A little humility at the onset goes a long way.

4. Readjust to Changing Relationships
Just because you left and feel like you have changed doesn’t mean that those friends and family members back home stopped having experiences of their own. You may find that you may have outgrown some childhood friendships and vice versa. Be prepared to adjust to this change.

5. Stay in touch
Don’t forget your friends from college. Stay in touch and keep your friendships alive even though you may be separated by thousands of miles. Luckily, today’s assortment of communication technologies from Twitter, Facebook, Skype, email, make it possible for us to stay connected wherever we live. But don’t overdo it! Enjoy your time in your home country and get involved so that you have stories to tell and experiences to share when you return to college the following semester.

And remember to keep a sense of humor throughout it all and know that the initial unease of reverse culture shock will soon wear away. The more you practice the exercise of adjusting and adapting to your two “homes,” the easier it will be for you to apply the same techniques wherever you choose to travel and live after you graduate.

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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3 Things I’ve Learned as a Transglobal Pilgrim

October 3rd, 2013

Transglobal

Learning by doing is one of the most powerful, and rewarding ways to enter into another culture. I studied the French language for 12 years before finally going to France, and it was there that the desire to “become French,” overwhelmed me. As an avid people watcher, I love to observe body language, gesture, facial expressions, and attitude. So, I perfected the art of mimic. I returned to the states and studied the language for another 3 years and when I could afford it, I took vacations in French speaking lands–– islands being my favorite.

Growing up in Los Angeles I also fell in love with the Mexican culture. It is inescapable in terms of cultural celebrations, holidays, and the coming and goings of daily life. As far as I am concerned, it is a necessity to learn to speak Spanish if you live in L.A. Of course you can stay on the surface, and observe others from afar, but what fun is that? To fully experience life in the multitude of Spanish speaking populations of the city, you have to do some cultural shape shifting.

I have found that my eagerness to relate is always well received and it opens up doorways to completely new and fascinating worlds hidden just under the surface of daily life. Ones that can make the most mundane trip to the corner store a richly rewarding experience.

I have only lived in Germany for about two years now, and I am trying to learn by doing, but I have not tried to mimic this time. I absolutely refuse to raise my voice 5 octaves when given the customary ciao––Tschüsss! Grown men over 25 go completely falsetto when saying it. Everyone does.

I do admit to a language deficit, but I always start off by saying, “Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut, Ich komme aus Kalifornien,“ my German is not so good, I come from California. By looking at me they just assume I am German, and they get a funny look on their face when I try complicated sentences, poorly. So, I’ve found that by offering an explanation up front, things usually go quite well from that point on. The Kalifornien always breaks the ice. The more fluent I become, of course the more I learn about how life here works. Here are three important things I have learned about my new land.

1. Taxi Cab Ride

The taxi cab driver that came to take us to my husband’s first doctor’s visit, post hip-replacement surgery, recently had a knee replacement himself. He came from Turkey a number of years ago, and spoke flawless German. I listened to the best of my ability as the two men exchanged stories and chatted in the front seat. It slowly came out that they had been at the same, quite famous Orthopedic Hospital for their surgery and recovery.

In addition, in Germany, everyone stays in the hospital for two weeks of monitoring and the beginning of physical therapy/ rehabilitation. The insurance companies pay, knowing they will still make a profit, because two weeks in the hospital in Germany is still cheaper than a second, more complicated surgery. It has been shown that 2 weeks of post-operative care, lowers the recidivism for most surgeries.

Wow–– It astonished me to learn that costs are structured, and social thinking dictates that absolutely everyone can get great care, and be given the exact same physical therapy and rehab, and go to one of the many “Wellness/ Rehab” centers throughout the German countryside.

On top of it, imagine that the Taxi Company in Bremen allows this recuperative time, and with full pay! Of course there are those who are privat versichert, those that pay for “Private Health Insurance” versus the Government mandated insurance everyone must have, the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung.

The privat patients do get priority with doctor’s appointments and surgery schedules, because the doctors and institutions make more money off them, and know they will always be paid without tedious Insurance Carrier negotiations.

The last time I was in New York I learned that the taxi cab drivers in the city all own and are responsible for their own cars, which was news to me, and I am sure that the Senegalese driver who told us that, did not have the opportunity to get the same medical treatment as his Turkish counterpart in Germany. I am pretty sure he did not get paid rehabilitation for a month in the countryside or a city clinic.
In Los Angeles, the taxi drivers are often educated professionals, immigrants from other countries. They are classically trained musicians, doctors and dentists from the Ukraine, Iran, India, or you name it. I am pretty sure that they also don’t have the opportunities for care that the taxi drivers in Germany have.

2. Ticket Revenue

Cities get inventive when it comes time to collect more revenue. In Los Angeles the car is still the dominant mode of transportation, however, the city is installing a very much needed rail system. The last time I was in Los Angeles, I took the first chance I could to ride the rail between Culver City and Exposition Park. I got a TAP card and happily passed on the traffic jams, and cost of driving and the exorbitant cost of parking. The Expo Line Phase 2, due to be completed by 2015, will connect Downtown Los Angeles and beyond, directly to the beach in Santa Monica. They still have to create an access system to get through the city to the Metro Rail Depots, but that will come. Check out the budding system : http://www.buildexpo.org/

But back to revenue. On the car dominant streets of Los Angeles, the costs vary; a jay-walking ticket – $191, a parking ticket-up to $68, a speeding ticket $210 and more, and let’s not talk about texting while driving.

First of all, Europeans would laugh in the face of police-person who tried to give them a jaywalking ticket, as it is done all the time. However, here, I am one of the few who cross against the light at a street corner! Everyone, waits for the light to turn green before walking, even when there are no cars around for city blocks.

Now that I live in a place with an amazing mass transit system, I have learned to never get caught trying to ride for free on the city trams, and definitely, not more than 3 times. Each violation costs 40 Euros and after the 3rd time it goes on record as a criminal offense. I remember thinking it was like our 3-Strikes Law in California. A bit over-the-top. The tram cost is 2,40 Euros one way for all destinations farther than 3 stops, so pretty much everyone pays, and the system runs great.

I know it costs more in Manhattan, something around $100 per offense. And the jury is still out in Los Angeles, as the whole inner-city rail concept is just now being brought back to life. At one time, Los Angeles had one of the most extensive light rail systems in the country, so I am sure the city will figure that out.

I learned by using the wrong, small piece of paper. I mistakenly used the receipt-for-the-purchase-paper (who knew?), paper-clipped together with the bunch of tickets my father-in–law had given me.

I stamped them in the machine inside the tram, as I had seen others do, and when the tram-police-guy came up and asked for my tickets, (the first and only time to date) I proudly handed him the stamped paperlet. He looked at them, gave a smug laugh, and told me they were Müll, trash. I was shocked, and tried to explain in my imperfect German that my father-in-law had given them to me, and I did not know the difference between them, so I did not think I used an invalid ticket.

It did not go over too well, trying to explain to him that I am not yet fluent with the language or the system. He asked how long I had been in Bremen and if I was a citizen. No, I am an American married to a German. Then he asked for my passport–– of course I didn’t have it. He did not like that answer, so I informed him I was a permanent resident and produced my card. He told me to learn German, and wrote me a ticket and admonished me not to develop a criminal record. Not fun. Public transport does not take kindly to fare evasion, it taxes everyone more.

Now that I am an immigrant, I just couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if I didn’t have my residency card…would it be something like not having your green card while Mexican in California? I think I will avoid that experiment.

3. The Market

Shopping for food is another way to begin assimilating into a new culture, and one that still comes with a bit of stress. In the markets, people are usually in a hurry, and everyone packs their own bags. There is no standing around while the checker or “bag-person” does it for you like in American markets, although we always packed our own bags in Los Angeles, much to the shock and appreciation of the clerk at the checkout stand. It seems only logical to help things move along.

In Germany it goes very fast, and between trying to pack my cloth bags, not break the eggs and translate in my head the amount the checker has just quoted me, I always break into a small sweat. Things can pile up quickly with the press of impatient shoppers breathing down your neck. You must learn to ignore them and pack with deftness and speed.

I remember the first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena on Arroyo Parkway in the 1970’, and until I moved to Germany I had no idea that it was bought by the German Aldi Nord Company, known here as Aldi. When I go to the Aldi discount market near us, I walk away with California Almond and California Walnut packages bearing the Trader Joe’s logo! However, I have to say, the Almonds are not as good as the California Almonds I get at the California Trader Joe’s. But it still makes me smile.

Buying food is different here. You absolutely have to go to the market every day, or every other day, max if you want to have fresh produce. The produce here does not last more than 2-3 days in the fridge. That is good on one hand, because you know with certainty that nothing has been done to prolong the freshness. It is bad on the other hand, because it takes more time, and is especially not fun in sub-zero temperatures to run out for lettuce and tomatoes.

Fresh Hummus here from the Turkish fruit and vegetable stand is utterly delicious and goes bad after two days, so I manage to eat it up. In the states, Hummus can last for a week in the fridge. Same goes for all dairy products.

Occasionally a piece of fruit, usually one out of season, will rot from the inside out. Aha! Evidence of being previously frozen. But I still prefer that to artificially prolonged food. I never understood why the Horizon Organic Half and Half lasted for a month? That just ain’t right.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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10 Facts About the Education System of Brazil

June 13, 2013

brazil

This week, we’d like to focus on Brazil, the largest country in both South American and the Latin American region. It is the world’s 5th largest country both by geographical area and by population. Brazil’s population according to a 2011 World Bank report is 196.7 million.

brazilmap
Source: http://www.cia.gov

1. Pre-school education (Educação Infantil) is entirely optional. Nursing school is for children up to 3 years old and kindergarten for children from 4 to 6 years old.

2. Primary and lower secondary education (Ensino Fundamental) or Fundamental Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6-14.

kids
Source: http://www.economist.com

3. Upper secondary education (Ensino Medio) is ages 15 to 18. It is also free but not compulsory.

4. Higher education (Ensino Superior) is provided at public or private universities. Higher education is free at public universities.

university
Source: http://www.universitiesnews.com

5. The typical school year runs from February/March through November/December. Summer vacation is from mid-December to early February.

6. Admission to a public university requires students to sit an entrance exam known as vestibular for their specific course of study.

students
Source: guangziedu.net

7. Brazil increased public spending on education from 10.5% of total public expenditure in 2000, to 14.5% in 2005, and to 16.8% in 2009. Source: OECD (2012)

8. There are 50,972.61 students enrolled in basic (fundamental) education of whom 43,053,942 are in the public school system and 7,918,677 are in the private school system. Source: Bunge Fundacao 2012

9. Brazil has 357,418 practicing teachers and 6,739,689 students are enrolled in 30,616 undergraduate education programs. Source: INEP 2011 Higher Education Census

10. 187,760 students are enrolled in graduate studies. Source: Bunge Fundacao 2012

Alan
Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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