Dinosaur of the week: Common Pheasant

pheasantThere are a number of Phasianus colchicus at home in the floodplains of the river March. Personally, I find them much better to look at in the field than on someone’s hat or plate. And people who think shooting birds is a fun activity are morons in my book.

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Native Speaker Privilege and Unprofessionalism within the ESL Industry by Kevin Hodgson 

This is a reblog from TEFL Equity Advocates. Totally worth reading twice, or more. And then start doing something about it.

TEFL Equity Advocates

These days, there is a lot of talk about privilege, particularly white male privilege, in English language media.  It is argued that people who fit these racial and gender profiles receive institutional benefits because they “…resemble the people who dominate the powerful positions in our institutions” (Kendall, 2002, p. 1).  However, others have argued that the term is problematic because the issue of inequity is much more dynamic or overlapping and ignores other important variables such as social and economic class.  A quick perusal of the comments section on any online article dealing with the topic will immediately reveal just how strongly opinionated people are on either side of the debate; it has only helped to create even more divisiveness in societies that are already ideologically separated by an ever growing political schism of conservatism vs. liberalism. 

Seen from a global perspective, however, one wonders why no mention is even…

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Wrocław – Animals

Wrocław, which we visited in mid-November, turned out to be full of creatures of all kinds, not only tourists. The beasts appeared in many forms, a selection of which follows here.

There’s plenty of beer to be had, and there are allegedly some bears roaming the forests. I can confirm many a gull flying around.

Wrocław is also home to a magnificent zoo. There they have real rhinos.

After WWII, Wrocław lay in ruins, but it has been rebuilt wonderfully. Buildings in the centre are marked with plaques in Polish, English, and sometimes German which inform about the building’s history and also the people who lived and/or worked there. Animalic decoration abounds.

The place is steeped in history and features lots of statues. And it came as a lovely surprise to find a memorial to all the slaughtered & eaten animals.animal-memorial

The only other place I’ve seen something vaguely similar is London – the memorial to the animals which died in wars.

Wrocław also used to have the third-biggest Jewish community in Germany before WWII. So, there are two Jewish cemeteries in town. We visited the older one, and found many birds, a stone butterfly and an agile cat.

Exiles and Geography

To read the world – what a quest this has turned out to be! In the books of this week’s post I read and marvelled about high and low tides of the North Sea, Green Turtles and cyclones in the Australian Coral Sea, and also rivers running through South American jungles. Many thanks to my cousin & his family for Exon’s book. I think this is a good contender for ‘farthest travelled book’ in this project.

84 Colombia: Gabriel García Márquez – The General in his Labyrinth

As I said above, reading about all the geographical features of Colombia and Venezuela was fascinating. Having said that, I found the actual story about the last days of Simon Bolivar not gripping at all. If the writer had in mind to show that the life of the exiled hero was full of tedious politics and military duties, he succeeded though.

85 Coral Sea Islands: Frank Exon – Solitude & Solecisms: A Willis Island Notebook

What a little gem! The Coral Sea Islands are an extra-territorial part of Australia. On top of that, Willis Islands, the only inhabited one, houses a weather observatory, which is where the writer of this book spent half a year with two other people, a puppy and lots of birds and turtles. He wasn’t an experienced writer, but he shows clearly how hard that life must have been. At the same time, a marvellous sense of humour shines through which must have helped a lot in the cyclone season and with all the spoiled food.

86 Georgia: Nino Haratischwili – Mein sanfter Zwilling

Hm, I’m still rather undecided about My Gentle Twin, as it’s called in its English translation. I loved the way the author used water in the novel, and I also liked the bits that were set in Georgia and on the North Sea. I didn’t like, however, how destructively the characters behaved towards themselves and each other. Although I have met people who acted in a very similar way … Anyway, it made me think, and surely this can’t be a bad thing.

Little Great Zoo

Back in October, we went to visit one of the top-ten zoos in Austria. It’s called Game park Ernstbrunn, and it’s easily reached by car from Vienna, Bratislava or Breclav (http://www.wildpark-ernstbrunn.at/de/).

Why is it great? Lots and lots of space for the animals. They live in areas which really closely resemble their natural habitat. And you won’t find any exotic (from a European angle) stuff there. Enjoy what woods and mountains in mid-Europe used to offer to the wanderer …

However, there’s even more. It’s very family friendly, so if you rather don’t want to share your deer-experience with a horde of toddlers, don’t go at a weekend. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.

And then, there are the wolves. The park is home to the Wolf Science Centre (http://www.wolfscience.at/en/), and it’s actually possible to have a very close encounter with those fascinating creatures. Details about times & prices are on their website. This is one of the best zoos I’ve ever been to.

wolves2wolves

Exploring the East: Spišské Podhradie

The tiny town of Spišské Podhradie is home to some awesome attractions and also a UNESCO Worlcathedral-in-spissky-podhradied Heritage site. First of all, there is Spišská Kapitula, or Spiš Chapter House. It is really like a town within a town.

I did a tour of the cathedral. The different styles of altars were all fascinating, tacky at times, beautifully crafted and not allowed to be photographed.

From the hill with the Chapter House on one has several hiking options and some lovely views. One such view is of the other main attraction of the village, Spiš Castle.

spissky-hrad-from-afar

To get to the village, you can take one of the many busses going there. I arrived early in the morning to beat the crowds, which turned out to be a rather good idea. In fact, when I got there, it was still foggy, the dew hanging in the cobwebs and I was the only one hiking up to the castle.

Once I had reached the top, the weather played along nicely and the fog lifted. The castle is one of the largest in Europe.spissky-hrad

I was there just after they had opened, and it filled up quite quickly. Yes, the place is huge, but there’s a small museum inside which soon became overcrowded. Actors in period costumes put on plays, and craftspeople sold lovely looking merchandise. I was quite fond of pottery items, but for fear of breaking them while walking around I didn’t buy any. Rather, I managed to escape the throngs and enjoyed the quieter parts of the castle.view-of-high-tatras-from-spissky-hrad

The castle is divided in a lower and an upper part. Architecturally, the upper one is probably the more exciting. Twarningshere is just more to see and explore. One has to beware of dangerous animals though.

The lower part is basically an open space surrounded by an enormous wall. It’s open grassland, and signs point out that there can be a number of birds and other animals. I only saw the spermophiles, but plenty of them. All in all, I spent about three hours on the castle grounds, and two or so in the Chapter House. Podhradie is only about 20km from Levoca, so it makes for a nice day trip from there.spermophil-1