“It’s a respite” …. positive change in a public space

Her place of respite

Soula often comes to this part of town to go to the public beaches in the area, a southern city of Greater Attica. She takes a break, before she takes a bus back to her home several kilometers, and cities away. She sits on a bench listening to the water falling like rain, smiles taking in the “Indian summer” sun rays.

My brief conversation with Soula, an older woman who loves swimming in the sea as much as she can, revealed a person very aware of her own well-being (physical and mental health), seeing this specific spot as a ‘respite’ place to relax before her day goes on. She emphasized, “the Mayor is doing a wonderful job, hopefully he will continue for many years to come” hoping that regardless of political party we give credit when it is due. She likes (as I do) the modern designed fountains, the trees (fig trees, acorn trees, daphne herb trees) planted in the area, symbolic to the community, and enhancing the ecosystem. 

Water Fountains and trees planted last year, city center of Glyfada, Attica Greece

For years before, this part of the center had trash and small beach-type selling kiosk points that never seemed to be making enough to keep afloat. After many tries, the local Mayor made big changes. He is one of many around the country making changes for those who live in constant crisis (financial, emotional) and even physical crisis (destroyed playgrounds, dirty tagging everywhere, trash even hypodermic needles that threaten the public’s health …. see post on ‘Riding the Crisis’ in HealthyselfHealthyWorld).

Besides repainting parking space lines, adding clothing recycling points by Recycom — whose main webpage indicates “Together we can make a difference” — the Mayor has managed to ‘win the hearts’ of all people whom I talk to, as the idiom says, keep my ear to the ground to listen to the voices of local communities and visitors. It seems that public space, at least what is done to it, affects the perception of all passersby. At least those who really notice the changes. And then there is the position of unlawfulness and vandalism….and this city is no exception.

I recently came across why police would intervene in a public space with the question of ‘What is public space protection order?’ in the U.K. and these “nuisances” include keeping dogs on a leash, no public use of alcohol, and in general as “having a detrimental effect on the quality of life” (Para 1).  So what about trash in general and the issue of dirty tagging on public and private buildings?  Hmmm.  The Urban Dictionary has some interesting quotes and general comments about tagging by both taggers and individual community members (Urb Dict: tagging comments). There are clean-up efforts like ‘Athens Un-tag’ (LIFO article 2018) but in this part of the world and it turns out in most of our cities, the epidemic of vandalistic style graffiti has gone amok.  But with the bad, there are amazing graffiti art areas and international as well as local artists like Dreyk the Pirate truly make an effort to beautify otherwise dull and depressing areas.  In a past interview with Penna he indicated that yes, if artists don’t get permission and they vandalize it is a problem and reflects negatively even to his very positive street artwork (the law in Greece and in other European countries is similar and involves getting permission as well as taking into account the community ‘value’). 

So how about this? Get the popular graffiti artists to help us increase our graffiti literacies which is one of the many in the umbrella of health literacy. Develop some type of App where people take photos and the community and the local governance decides if they should ‘keep’ it or get rid of it….for the sake of peace of mind, community well-being, and finding our own points of respite for all ages and peoples to enjoy. This has been done in hundreds of cities, and all it takes is a bit of organization and local community building…. step by step.

Love your City, seaside.

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Missing blood

Do you donate blood? You should as it benefits everyone. I ❤️❤️ This link listing 14 reasons  to donate blood from CarterBloodCare.

This weekend, given the opportunity to speak to a group of people who help organize issues around giving blood at a national level here in Greece, and address many issues or should I say “barriers” we all learned from each other. The concept of the Amfiktionia (αμφικτιονία) was new for me and indeed a most positive community effort to bring key issues to the forefront (see site organization dedicated to Amfiktionia).

The National day of blood donation was June 14th and this year World Blood Donation day!

My presentation was about building volunteers, collective trust and health literacy.  Anyone doing anything related to relaying health information on crucial topics such as giving blood indeed builds community health literacy. A big “Bravo!” for all these hard-working people. Also, let’s not forget corporate sponsors that make these events possible — for this event it was Vikos – Βίκος refreshing water and softdrinks (note all of us were volunteer speakers 📍❤️).

There are many barriers including recent GDPR changes, and for blood donors (at least here in Greece) who have to do too much running around with paperwork to both donate and receive blood! There are rumors of political “interventions” but as one speaker Dr. Michalis Christakis (President of local municipality Kleisthenis) well said if you follow procedure and municipalities manage well there is no problem.

However I better understand the issues around a procedural problem of getting a blood donor card. Who has the time to “report” to the association of these problems ? This should all be easy and there needs to be quality control. The continuing problem — communication, organization, and legal or municipal  action if procedures and laws are not followed.  Make it easier.

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We need national  social marketing campaigns like the one by the British NHS above, else we keep “missing blood.” Other places around the world do great short “spots” that get people to donate blood like this family oriented one from Thailand (Donate Blood Save Lives)

One older cartoon (1985 clip) created by Bulgarians showing the elves as blood donors saving their beloved Snow White with the help of the prince of course! Let’s keep it flowing … please donate blood today.

Checkers versus Fortnite: strategy against “gaming”

Kids nowadays get easily hooked with on-line gaming that seemingly never ends. Games like Fortnite are free “strategy” games that are supposed to be played by 12-year-olds or older, but parents around the globe are complaining that even 8-year-olds are showing addictive tendencies.  There are good articles with recommendations (see here) and this game does not display blood but we need to be on alert and continue discussion with our child or teen.

Cognitive psychology studies prove that the brain increases its “energy” to the point that the child behaves aggressively and even has trouble falling asleep. It’s like “on-line cocaine”, a plague of our modern times. Parents are tired, their digital literacy (one of the health literacies) may not include understanding how problems about addiction start, mainly due to ongoing immediate gratification.

Many games have beautiful graphics, I must admit, and kids learn the English language better as they interact with their “friends” locally and globally.  Fortnite added character dancing so players can mimic (this is a good thing) for exercise.  But the negative aspects of firearms and shooting (the sound alone creates stress on the brain), screen time and staying up late at night affects health negatively . There are countless studies now that contribute to growing evidence that we need to do something about it, and this is not unlike the growing obesity problem.

If you don’t teach your kid to control it early you can literally lose your child to the virtual world.  Parents and other caretakers need to get control back in strategic ways and keep it fun so it’s sustainable.

So after trying to find a zillion ways to get my pre-teen off this potential addiction — including sports, movies, art, social events — I realized the biggest issue is the lack of patience. Music and bedtime stories may work but all this changes as “tweens” move to teens.

The other day my hairdresser told me about her client a single mother who has “lost” her 15-year-old to the virtual world of gaming and of course Fortnite and other online games make millions at the expense of our children’s health — mental, physical, and even spiritual. Our kids would rather stay in, not eat or drink, and they are constantly adrenaline ridden (and learning swear words) which in itself is dangerous to their body’s organs and our social interactions. Anger management for teens anyone?

So I took the step …despite the odds of losing interest to the fast-paced game I challenged my kid to a game of checkers. Yep that 12th century game that we all played as kids did it, and we even involved grandma! So this was a bit frustrating to relearn but it involves slowing down and thinking of the next move. And it involved inter-generational fun.

Be creative and rethink how you can re-teach others what they need to remember …simple strategy and patience, we all need that.

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Beauty and the trash…

Communities can be absolutely beautiful if they are maintained and people live, eat, and drink, healthy! However it seems every year during high tourist season there are some communities that are ridden with trash or vandalism and it only gets worse …. photos are from the mainland and islands below.

These have a lot to do with “respect” (or not) to towns and cities! Those of us who respect architecture and understand the value of classical buildings, also understand a city can soon turn into a ghetto because random scribbles or tagging soon opens the community to crime, drugs etc. as proven time and time again. Never mind the rats and animals who then contribute to harmful diseases, thus we need to be continuously “on alert”!

In contrast, see how sea urchins flourish in these beautiful clean waters.796C7216-0A31-4F69-9AEF-89DD39C9F209

And how art and creative “writing” — in this case a mermaid painted on a small boat, and poetry on abandoned village walls — can add value to communities!  Think smart, and work on positive contributions today for a better tomorrow.

 

Lifespan publication this month!

It’s here!  A year plus later, coming out this month….  very grateful to be given the opportunity to write a chapter in this book that one can purchase both hardcover or through Amazon Kindle.  The book published this month is the “International Handbook of Health Literacy: Research Practice and Policy across the Life-Span” Edited by Orkan Okan, Ullrich Bauer, and Paulo Pinheiro, Bielefeld University, Diane Levin-Zamir, University of Haifa, and Kristine Sørensen, Global Health Literacy Academy. Book description (insert):   

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Health literacy addresses a range of social dimensions of health including knowledge, navigation, communication as well as individual and organizational skills for accessing, understanding, evaluating and using of information. Especially over the past decade, health literacy has become a major public health concern globally as an asset for promoting health, wellbeing and sustainable development.

This comprehensive handbook provides an invaluable overview of current international thinking about health literacy, highlighting cutting edge research, policy and practice in the eld. With a diverse team of contributors, the book addresses health literacy across the life-span and offers insights from different populations and settings. Providing a wide range of major findings, the book outlines current discourse in the field and examines necessary future dialogues and new perspectives.

My own contribution includes many lessons taught via a lifespan course I have been teaching in Developmental Psychology these last 14+ years….. the life cycle. Chapter 41: A lifespan perspective on health literacy: Ageing and end-of-life issues, may not be anything particularly new, but we can age better, we acknowledge that we are now living longer, and dealing with many issues and life ‘decisions’ that affect our own health as well as those around us. We are all interconnected. Special cultural nuances and traditions can help us heal when dealing with loss, and we cannot ignore caring for ourselves.

A few summer ‘reminders’ from past posts before we head on to our next summer excursion (coming soon):

  • Consuming alcohol please ‘mind the cup‘ as we are toasting to our success with this textbook publication we need to hydrate our body and our soul this summer!
  • Eating choices, even our favorite summer ice cream… we can eat wisely to cool down this summer. Teaching both young and older people certain ‘tricks’ can help them live longer and happier. Snoopy, the famous beagle from Charlie Brown, is one of my fondest characters, thus we can add ‘heart health‘ on top of our checklist!
  • Protecting our skin — I often hear people who are darker complexioned say they don’t ‘need’ to wear sunscreen, actually this is not so. We all need to wear at least an SPF of 15 because of the change of our global phenomena (heat waves, etc.), and particularly if one is visiting very hot, dry places.  Several we have written about in past posts include the Greek Cycladic island of Naxos.
    • cleansing skin properly is one thing, taking vitamins to help keep up the production of collagen and keeping our skin levels hydrated is another, thus why I love Truvivity by Nutrilite (see: hydrating system)!IMG_2173
    • On the other hand, I am always unimpressed by products that seem to ‘do nothing’ like this one that eventually wound up in my recycle bin…. better to eat rosemary or make your own ‘rosemary oil’ to put on your skin than pay for a product that is seemingly useless (despite the fact that I supported the local economy).
  • Being mentally and spiritually astute — this should be on top of our list if we truly aspire to reach the mind-body-spirit ideals. This includes helping our caregivers understand that ‘self-care’ is absolutely necessary and paying attention to the messages we give to other people…. written, oral, body language.
    • Try a bit of ‘coloring’ fun this summer to help you deal with any annoyances (careful because if you are a bit ‘obsessive compulsive’ you cannot get unglued from finishing your drawing… very addictive).  Anyone try any of these fun adult coloring books? I really liked this article on “The Muse” about the ‘21 Best Adult Coloring Books‘ especially the fact that these help us in essence relive some aspects of our childhood imagination and for sure we all need that!

Thus I dedicate this to all of you…. happy end-of-month fun.

Make sure you take care, be smart, and be safe!

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Coloring in one of the pages of “Colour me Mindful – Underwater” by Anastasia Catris (c) 2015 was a lot of fun to do.

Carbonara, Coal mining, Carbon dioxide, and Capitalism

The 4 Cs, not in this order, are key local and global issues. Well here is what we “left over” from our Italian “carbonara” a delicious mix of pasta, meat (usually ham/pork), Parmesan cheese, and egg, all grilled over a hot stove inspired by coal miner’s foodstuff. Nowadays this meal may contribute to our over-eating and high calorie cholesterol diet which is to be avoided but, for hard labor and athletes this is the food to help keep them going!

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Capitalism is never 100% bad as I say and many others prove that “responsibility” lies in balance ….much of the time progress for cities and towns that otherwise would be ages backwards ….indeed brought by capitalism but we don’t “see” it until centuries later. We need to reflect on improving quality and create more opportunities as well as maintain worker’s health.

This is an example of Lavrio (Laurium), a city in Southern Attica marked by a long history of mining (the ancient site for the first minting of silver coins used as money happened here). Factories contribute to depleted ozone with emissions and the so-called greenhouse effect by harmful gases like sulfur oxide or carbon dioxide.  Let’s keep up with our scientific and civic literacy — both components of health literacy— shall we? I particularly liked this scientific article.  Thus this place has an oxymoronic history, even though it was a place of progress, with many problems around mining worker’s rights …. many people died and sacrificed in the late 1800’s so that others don’t have to work straight 12-13 hour days (similar issues even in modern day with migrant workers!).

Lavrio overlooks Makronisos (the island in East of Attica, a place where those considered “opposing” the Greek state were sent to political prison in 1940s through 1970s). Many neoclassical buildings are now starting to be rebuilt as we say “respect cities” to be able to attract more tourism on land and sea.  As statues and memorials are built, universities in Greece now use the old mining areas for places of study it occurred to me that we can all be ‘transformers’ and as I thought this a beautiful rainbow appeared on the road back home …. after the rain, hope and promise are soon behind but we need to grab the opportunity when it arises!

 

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The gods, history, art, food and agriculture of the Isle of Naxos, Greece

There are a lot of pages and references  dedicated to the Greek donkey as of late. A sturdy animal used often for the purpose of agriculture by farmers or by villagers without cars to carry heavy weight in incredibly hot temperatures. This is what they were built for as they are similar to the desert camel.  So, please people, unless the donkey owners are untrained or ruthless “meanies” most of these animals are beloved in Greece. I should know, we owned several in our family in years past.

Greece is considered the “hottest” country in Europe with summer temperatures  exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The last “hydration” post is most important to review as one can even get sunburnt if they don’t wear a hat often — it happened to me! Health literacy indeed should include the “donkey” holistic model described on this site if we are to look at the bigger picture.

Greece has over 6,000 islands but only 227 are inhabited. So this post will be one of several where I will be sharing some extraordinary experiences with the hope that you will visit there too!

4783E0CD-5D4B-4609-9D92-23BDA16D81FALast year, during this summer period,  we were privileged to stay at the “Princess of Naxos” on the isle of Naxos main town, and interview the owner and island hotel association rep. who was very proud about his island and more recent tourism developments. It’s an island for “all tastes” for families, couples, or individual adventurers. We had the chance to walk and drive around various parts of the island enjoying the pristine blue waters of the sea (Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Agios Georgios were personal favorites) visiting museums with remnants from ancient, medieval, to modern times. An island of antithesis yet complementary sites, smells, sounds and tastes. Also a geological marvel with stones and minerals, including Naxos marble, would make anyone want to “dig” for more!

The marble Sphinx is proof of the Hellenistic and Egyptian relationships while the marble “portal” door welcomes visitors to the island. 8110DEED-9A7E-41EE-AC52-469304D7F4F1.jpegAs if a sleeping pharaoh, the gigantic statue of Apollo is carved on the mountain side for worshipers and the majestic pillars of the temples of Artemis and Demeter (female goddesses of fertility and earth’s bounty), or the site of Dionysus (merriment and “wine god”) remind one of how important fertile land and the bounty of food is for human survival.  The gods of pagan times likely affected the mentality of Christianity as various saints are important to Orthodox Christians. We remain with elements of various personality types and the cosmos: earth, air, fire, and water — ancient philosophy, astrology, and later psychologist Carl Jung aspired personality experts Myers & Briggs to better understand ourselves and others.

One can take a side trip to neighboring islands of Paros or Mykonos, and the small (uninhabited) isle of Delos dedicated to the sun god Apollo with a fabulous “terrace of the lions” built around 600 B.C. with infamous Naxos marble showcasing the strength of dominance of the island as biggest sea trades happened here of all the Cyclade islands, the name of the island “group”—  see fellow blogger’s site here.

 

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Following Artemis’ path, I became a “huntress” of sorts to try and understand the island “identity” and driving towards semi-mountainous Filoti (Φιλώτι), we stopped right before at at a local pottery maker whose family art goes back three generations. We still admire his work today in our home and they deliver goods almost anywhere globally. The impressive “wine glass of equality” was fascinating as all drinkers could only have equal amounts — if you went over the ‘line’ wine would be lost pouring to the floor (one would not be happy).

A small shop owner told us stories of agriculture and dedications to the ancient gods as people aspired to live off the land and how Naxos became the main trading isle of the region. Some of the popular trades of the island continue to be their cheeses like my favorite graviera (γραβιέρα), Naxos potatoes (something similar to the U.S. Idaho potato), or their famous citron (κίτρο) green colored liqueur.

His shop was full with handwoven baskets, and anything from mountain oregano to sheep’s bells or khoudounia (there is a site on their origins in Greece here) in smaller animals the smaller bell is called a “trokani” (τροκάνι). Noteworthy is the fact that there are similar herbs and medicinal plants shared among other islands and mainland Greece (Alan Touwaide’s research work is highlighted in a past post on ancient and medicinal plants). This shop is a cultural treasure that will hopefully make it through the ongoing financial crisis of the country.

 

Find out more about this “must visit” Greek island via the website Naxos.gr — from museums to gastronomy, or simply a relaxing seaside vacation, that will leave everyone wanting to return.