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martes, 31 de enero de 2017

Up Helly Aa

The cold night falls over the city but the little more than 7,000 inhabitants rush onto the streets. After a a day of celebrations, about 7.30 p.m, one thousand Vikings cross some of the streets engulfed in the darkness. Torch in hand, the fire reflects in their helmets, the coats of mail, the leather cloaks, the shields and the axes. The city is in darkness and the columns of the torches follow an enormous galley in the shape of a dragon. After the short speech of the Jarl Guizer, their leader, hundreds of voices sing old hymns in unison.

At 9 p.m., the torches set the gigantic ship (drakkar) on fire, which burns right until dawn. The Up Helly Aa festival has been celebrated in Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands on the last Tuesday in January since 1880s to  remember its Viking past.

The festival's webpage will broaden information and give details of the events going on.


jueves, 26 de enero de 2017

Chinese New Year

Chinese base their calendar on the movements of the moon. New Year's Day can fall between 21 Jan and 20 Feb; for instance, in 2017, New Year's Eve is 27 Jan. It is actually called a spring festival and was the time when farmers and peasants used to rest physically and spiritually before planting their seeds. Children are often given gifts of money "Lai see" and families wear brand new clothes, normally in red to symbolise a new beginning. They have 5-day national holiday.

Before that they decorate their houses and towns with coloured laterns, flowers and do a general cleaning to get rid of old things. This is to throw away bad luck from the previous year.
Among the meals, you will find a chicken dish meaning "happiness for the whole family", while a fish dish means "may there be surpluses every year".

According to their zodiac, it will be the Year of the Rooster. Roosters are said to be trustworthy and responsible with a good sense of timekeeping.

Some things that we have in common is beginning the new year with fireworks and making New Year's Resolutions. On the other hand, if you want to be lucky you should climb high and gaze far.

London has the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia. People on the West End will wish to each other "Xin Nian Kuai Le or "San Nin Faai Lok" either if they do it in Mandarin or Cantonese.
The day starts with a parade -with a 25-metre long dragon and floats- followed by stage performances in Trafalgar Square, with dance troupes, acrobats, and more dragon and flying lion dances -following the music of cymbals and drums-, opera and martial arts to end up with fireworks. During the parade, children represents the twelve animals of the Chinese zoodiac.


Chinatown in London started being formed as we know today in 1950s, when some restaurants opened there. It is located in the West End and it is easy to get around on foot as some of streets don't allow traffic. You will see Chinese gates at the entrances, being the the fourth and latest the one on Wardour Str, the largest one built in traditional Ching Dynasty style.

Other "Chinatowns" in the world can be found in San Francisco, New York, where I bought some Chinese tea, teaware and other goodies

Some activities in class could be:

  • Compare different traditions on New Year's Eve in the English speaking world to those in China.
  • Revise animals and even learn some adjectives describing personality with more advanced students. 
  • Revise the use of future by writing their own New Year's Resolutions.
  • In history class or reading class with legends, check out for different roles and shapes of dragons according to times and cultures. 
  • In Science revise the Moon Phases: New, waning, full and waxing (and crescent vs gibbous)

martes, 24 de enero de 2017


One of the most common mistakes for people is taking for granted that Australia's capital is Sydney. Well, it is not; it held the Olympic Games back there in 2000 and it is also the most populated city (4,627.345 ). The capital is Canberra, a foundation of the 20th to avoid rivalry between  the two biggest cities, the mentioned above and Melbourne.
Australia is the 6th biggest countries in the world; it is a federal state divided into 8 states and territories

New South Wales (NSW), Sydney, 50
Victoria (VIC), Melbourne, 37
Queensland (OLD), Brisbane, 27
South Australia (SA), Adelaide, 12
Western Australia (WA), Perth, 15
Tasmania (TAS), Hobart, 5
Northern Territory (NT), Darwin, 2
Australia Capital Territory (ACT), Canberra, 2

In terms of geography, Australia is mostly flat having three vast deserts, the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson, and the Great Victory, where the popular Ayers Rock can be found. But, what is Ayers Rock exactly?
Ayers Rock (NT) is actually named Uluru and it is sacred to the Aboriginals. It is a sandstone formation well-known when it glows read at dawn and sunset. It is a World Heritage Site.


SA is covered with tropical forests and savannah with creeks and rivers and that flow into lakes.
The Australian Cordilleras stand along the eastern coast and TAS. Their northern part is known as The Great Diving Range with begins in the York Peninsula, wheareas the southern tip is the Australian Alps, with Mt Kosciusco as the highest peak.


Although there is a national flag, the one with the Union Flag and five stars, two other flags are displayed, the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander.
The national anthem has been "Advance Australia Fair" since 1977

The Queen of UK is the head of the State, represented by a Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove since 2014; the Executive power is held by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull since Sep 2015; every state/territory has a Premier, a.k.a as the Chief Minister.

Their legislative power has two chambers, the Senate, representing the States (12 members from each of the States and two from each Territory) and a House of Representatives to stand for the people depending on each state's population with a total of 150 members. In Australia, voting is compulsory.

The judiciary system has got magistrates's courts at a local community, higher courts and the Hight Court of Australia.

The political panorama has got two main parties ruling the country, the Labor and the Liberal

Some history in a nutshell
Although the Dutch were the first settlers, Captain Cook claimed for Britain in 1770. On Jan 26 (Australia's Day) 1788, the first Fleet of 11 ships, carrying 1,500 people, half of the convicts, arrived in Sydney Harbour. By 1840 the free settlers outnumbered the convict population (this is why people insult Australian naming them as "convicts"); that was because of a policy of "land giveaways" in England.

There was a Gold Rush in 1851, bringing more people into Australia, being the first time that quota systems were implemented to reduce the number of "non-white" immigration.
Australia become a nation on Jan 1st 1901 as the Commonwealth of Australia; the capital wasn't chosen until 1913, avoiding rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.
In 1942 with the Statute of Westminster, Australia was enabled to follow its own foreign policy and appoint its own ambassadors as an independent country.


There were up to a million people living in about 700 different small groups, speaking between 200-250 languages. The Torres Strait Islanders are racially and culturally related to Melanesian people (Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands); on the other hand, the Aborigines, whose system of beliefs and laws is known as the "Dreaming". The Dreaming is composed of beliefs about the creation of the universe and all living and non-living things (cosmogony), concepts which give meaning and order to life (cosmology) and knowledge and responsibility for living with each other and the land (a kind of legal systems).
Among other features, they have totemic and kinship affiliation, most societies and patrilineal; the elders are highly respected as custodians of the "Dreaming"...and they are the inventors of boomerang. Some other words that you would know in Aboriginal languages are didgeridoo, a wind instrument, walkwabout, a long journey on foot.
If you wish to know more about them in an entertaining and at the same time spiritual way, read The Voices of the Desert by Marlo Morgan, a woman's spiritual odyssey through the Outback.

This is the reason why, Australia's Day is not well received among everybody as the colonisation brought them cultural clashes, deprived them of their lands and way of life, and what'smore and worse, higher mortality rate due to viruses, malnutrition and alcoholism. Since 1970s aboriginal activists call it "Survival Day" or "Invasion Day".

The formation of Australia as a nation coincided with the development of Social Darwinism, which segregated races according to a hierarchical scale of human development and Eugenics, the stury of methods to improve the mental and physical abitilies of humna beings by choosing who should become parents!! With these two stupid theories, the disappearance of Aboriginal people was seen as "natural evolution".
Fortunately, the Federal Parliament set up the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 1991 to respect identities, to rewrite the history

ANZAC Day is a public holiday since 1916 and it is observed on Apr 25th (the day the Gallipoli campaign began in 1915). The day symbolically begins with the "dawn service", which marks the ill-fated landing of the soldiers on the beaches of Gallipoli, at the time in the Otoman Empire.
There are also marches and people gathering at memorial for speeches, prayers and hyms.

Bibliography, Mackie, J, Australia