Flying lanterns & Safe Returns

Lanterns made of biodegradable material, big and small, yellow colored with more bold red and blue checkered patterns, floated to the sky by the dozens, accompanied by fireworks, on the Saturday of the Resurrection. Traditions such as these, as well as a simple lighting of candles are customary to Orthodox Christians celebrating Easter week in several towns and villages in Greece and other parts of Eastern Europe.

I was in awe of the spectacle in the town of Leonidio former municipality of southern Arcadia, Eastern Peloponnesus. A small town with a traditional “Tsakonika” language dialect, and modern traditions including rock climbing, Leonidio will also have a summer feast of the eggplant  (aubergine) in the summer “Melitzazz” festival with jazz music 🎼

Yes, there are many pagan traditions that have made it across to religious Christian traditions as a fellow blogger rightfully addresses (Aratta) and the above are a welcomed change adding value to our trip while helping the local economy.

However, some practices are more difficult to fathom at close range including fireworks and other “poppers” including shooting guns for “fun”. This includes a random bullet on Easter Sunday landing in an 8-year-old’s head who is now fighting for her life in the town of Thiva, and a cameraman who lost his life at 58 from a misfired firework in the town of Kalamata. Many towns every year have fireworks to bring in tourism but at what costs? And we as viewers need to keep our healthy distance to prevent injury.

Health literacy people, to prevent injury by safe practices! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out some good guidelines  to be safe around fireworks (CPSC) particularly for young children who may be “curious” or sensation-seeking teens and adults who tinker with danger.

May Wreaths

On May 1st we make wreaths from the earth’s bounty!

Take a moment this May 1st to pick your flowers and dance around the May pole (May energy) or rethink labor “rights” traditionally celebrated as “Labour Day” by many countries, neither North America nor Australia (hmm!) , on the side of safety first and occupational health.

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Violets in the Spring

Spring is here in full bloom and many of us have seasonal allergies, others use this time for  a stricter diet — perhaps for lent but most to reshape our body after our seasonal eating and drinking “escapades” as natural to take on weight during winter and hibernate …Well I’m trying?! I gave in with my friend for her namesake and had a Spring inspired dessert …Pavlova with strawberries and Violet ice cream 🍨! Yes you heard it right … infused with essence of violet.D401FB7B-EE66-4572-8251-068A07F444E2

Turns out that the inspiration for that light fluffy Pavlova dessert was inspired by the Russian ballerina’s “tutu” Anna Pavlova in the 1920s according to history of food site! After eating this, surely feeling light and jubilant inside. In the name of health please enjoy everything in moderation and with friends …less guilt, more enjoyment!

Turns out that this low ground flower is traced back to Greco-Roman myths in Greek also called “Io” and it also symbolizes sexuality as well as humility  (see all violet myths described by blogger Herb Rowe).  Thus the color purple is considered a spiritual color and in some cultures even used in times of lamentation. It is also a color of the quartz stone Amethyst, the birthstone of February. Amethyst comes from the Greek  “amethistos” meaning one who doesn’t get intoxicated or drunk, have any of you drunk alcohol from an amethyst goblet or ‘drinking vessel’ to test this?  Let’s stick to Spring and flowers shall we? Keep the stone for your own crystal therapy (see blog on Energy Muse)! Regardless if it is considered a questionable practice with not enough scientific proof it is still fun to learn about.

F084389D-5E66-49F1-A029-A074191846DAThese lovely purple violets were bought at my friend’s small business called “Flower Bar” in Southern Attica (Greece)  — let’s support locally! There are over 200 types of violets, these with deep purple leaves and a yellow color center are “African violets” to be exact, made a family couple very happy for their Golden 50th anniversary! Check out the Farmer’s Almanac for caring for these gorgeous violets. 

Inspired by the flowers and spiritual color of purple is a common poem (written in 1784_ source) we used to say or sing as children and even in our romantic years! Bring back more romance people, it’s good for your relationship health ….

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you! 

The Audacity of Hope…Public Health week

The U.S. celebrates initiatives that make people’s lives better during April 1 – 7th national public health week and April 7th is World Health day (celebrated since 1948)!  There are so many issues to ponder over and one to focus on is giving people hope for better communities with less crime, more positivity, better infrastructure, building health literacy and overall wellness.

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Keep areas clean

Before Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. President I read his book “The Audacity of Hope” and years before a book about the community project titled “Streets of Hope” reflecting the community reorganization of a downtrodden area in Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood initiative. It is vital to understand how to motivate people and what community organizing is about — sustained efforts long-term. Reframing everything for positive changes does not mean turning a blind eye, but rethinking community strengths and addressing weaknesses. Understanding this first-hand I am constantly checking in to past efforts started and understand what Prochaska and Diclemente did so much research on years ago, the Stages of Change, a great one to add to our tool kits.

Taking the streets of most parts of Athens one sees many historic areas falling apart, trash, many run-down neoclassical buildings and mainly dirty tagging and more trash everywhere. As I travel to various places, I take photos of people’s work in trying to beautify their neighborhoods, often doing it with their own money and supervision. Change starts here, it starts with us, but we need to also maintain these efforts.

We know from the Broken Windows Theory (criminology article by Wilson & Kelling, 1982) that once one person creates a problematic situation like breaking a window other people soon follow. This can extend to modern ‘trashing’ of cities like the images featured above.  One friend’s motivational speech reminded me about social modeling (Bandura, social psychologist, would be  joyous with this) as her quote rings in my ears “if they can, we can too!” Let’s move away from negative to positive changes, see ‘what works’ in other societies and adapt for our own benefit towards long-term community health. Thus the concept of eudemonia goes beyond traditional wellness to incorporate physical, mental, and spiritual health extending beyond our  ‘selves’ to the larger community and global initiatives for all.

We have the right to:

1) clean cities without trash everywhere (Kondo’s method of cleaning house applied here) and most buildings desecrated by vandals. Respect cities.

2) hope for fellow humans to respect themselves and others by caring and helping each other and their environments.  Getting into positions of power to do away with corrupt politicians or any world self-centered mongul, let’s tell them to “take a hike.”

3) invest in health and focus on prevention — efforts like those by the CDC Foundation are prime examples of innovation and high-impact programs. Whether it’s an effort to combat depression or one to increase awareness of the need for vaccinations, efforts like the recent MIT Hacking event prove worthy of collaborative and volunteer work.

4) build infrastructure towards these goals, and be the change you want!

5) promote personal skills and efforts that have the potential to go global. This includes leadership and public speaking from clubs such as Boys and Girls clubs, Scouts, Lions or Toastmasters International (Toastmasters Greece link), and other similar local efforts reflective of these.

Yes we do, and have the right to the ‘audacity’ of hope!

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Do clean up the trash people (a positive reminder, Athens)

Flags and our Community’s Health

 

Flags as symbols used across nations imply “allegiance” to a cause, a country, used to more easily communicate across boundaries seen from afar. A white flag indicates surrender, while we have the sea/ocean ratings using flags and the coveted blue flag as an eco-label to indicate a clean swimmable beach area.

As we are in the age of globalization and people’s struggle (or not) for identity, it seems that flags have positive and negative perceptions.  There is a lot of work put into their design and symbolism. People have both celebrated and lost their lives for the cause their flag’s allegiance represents. Identity is indeed an evolving and necessary part of our personality as well as the people we put our trust in. This includes our family, educators, healthcare providers, politicians. And all these individuals can help our overall community well-being and health literacy. 

This March gave me an opportunity to compare two countries and festivities that involve the showcasing (or choosing not) of the respective country’s flag. Is it relevant to larger community health? Or at least indicative of it? I think so. Let’s start with the two flag images first — one from Dublin, Ireland and the second from a small village in Greece. 

In Dublin we had many festive images and there was a lot of drinking (whiskey and Guinness) for St. Patrick’s day March 17th — see post: Luck o’ the Irish. In Greece a lot of food (supposedly healthier foods like fried cod (called «μπακαλιάρο»)  beets or greens, and the infamous garlic concoction of “skordalia” (σκορδαλιά — see recipe by Alkis!)  and wine or ouzo (similar to zambuco) lots of it…alcohol always in need of temperance.

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Typical March 25th meal of cod (μπακαλιάρο), beets or greens, and the very garlicky “skordalia”

It seems in Dublin flags were everywhere outside and inside like hotel lobbies in bars/pubs and restaurants, combined with the Shamrock which symbolizes the four life goals — hope, faith, love, luck, but do these also imply health or do we hope to have faith and are lucky in love which hopefully means long term health?!Dublin hotel

In Greece flags as in all countries flow outside public buildings and some homes but it seems in the last years due to crisis and some extremism (e.g. Golden Dawn extreme right group who display both a Nazi-style flag and a Greek flag) people are less inclined to put out flags that once they used to more commonly display. One person specifically commented that he used to have a flag representing his island but due to his neighborhood’s flag being the same one flown by an extremist  group he refused to put it up again in celebrating Independence Day.  Imagine the U.S. or other parts of the world not having their flags flowing in patriotism?

If some people post images or write a post on behalf of their country’s  day of independence there should be no shame or people avoiding putting “likes” for fear of being  perceived as “nationalists”.  This is problematic, as this indeed takes away from the positive side of a person’s identity.

We  have multiple identities and it’s very unfair for people to feel pressured into elements of shame. Worse, the burning of a flag in the name of anarchy (hooded anarchists do not even know why they do it….’government’ is not the same as a country and what they have fought for). This I agree with this Greek author who calls the hooded youth pictured “idiots” in this Greek article.

In countries where people are very proud of displaying their flags such in France for the United States it would seem rather odd if you did not include a flag outside your immediate home or the community for days of independence. Let’s rethink and keep discussing  for the sake of community health shall we?! Be proud, be grateful, respect ✊!

 

Spring pickings

FA6C45A9-89C0-4C00-AC03-56CCE1A3C830I love Spring and visiting the countryside of Greece to partake in nature’s bounty. During peak pollen season I suffer greatly from allergies but I take the chance (and my antihistamines if needed) since the experience is a wonderful way to gather sunlight in the form of Vitamin D, as well as overall healing for the spirit.

As it turns out due to climate changes, the number of sufferers has been increasing according to the World Allergy Association’s WAA 2016 report. AND March 24th is world tuberculosis (TB) awareness day. So many things to be aware and health literate about (see past allergies post)!

Years ago, I read a book about a doctor who has worked with clinics around the world (Peru, Russia, Haiti)  and on his own building hospitals in downtrodden areas of Haiti and increasing awareness around TB. The book by Tracy Kidder published in 2003 was titled “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” This was the real-world story of how one person can make a difference in world health matters…. hail the idealists! However 16 years later TB is back at its peak in many parts of the globe including the Mediterranean due to population flux and lack of taking antibiotics appropriately (too many, wrong doses).

This hits me every time I see grand hotels built in the mountains as it was believed that clean air — more oxygen in essence — would help cure people thus many of these seemingly sanatoriums are considered exotic locations for other purposes (thankfully) today whether it be for skiing, sightseeing or simply taking a break! One of my favorite grand must-see hotels is the Mt. Washington hotel in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods which dates back to the early 1900s was the place where the formation of the World Bank began after the famous Bretton World Conference to deal with the aftermath of the World War, as well as a later movie with Jack Nicholson called “The Shining”. Note, financial literacy is ONE part of health literacy is an entire new section to ponder for this blog…. stay tuned.

I posted a question about SPRING activities on a social media site,  “Each Spring since living here, I pick chamomile (despite pollen symptoms 😁) to remind myself the importance of nature helping calm the mind as well as our body with necessary healing. What do you do? Do you recognize nature’s bounties or simply pass them by?” Perhaps it goes along with the question about awareness as posed “do you stop to smell the roses?” or other small flowers, I certainly hope so!

Even though one should pick chamomile in late April or even beginning of May, I did so today …and here are some steps for that wonderful tea. Does wonders for one’s skin, stomach, great for anti-cancer and anti-diabetes regimens considered one of nature’s miracle teas (see article) . The word in Greek is χαμομήλι stems from the words “chamo” and “mile” meaning the apple of the earth …hmm sounds similar to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

4 easy steps:

1) ensure the herb is indeed chamomile by smelling it first, and noticing the high hill-like shaped yellow middle (since some  mini daisies look similar!)

2) pick many tips and stems (careful don’t damage any roots to allow for regrowing) as if running a comb through nature’s “hair”. Enjoy each moment using all your senses of sight, smell and touch.

3) take home and allow it to dry for a week and more so it can be stored in glass jars for use any season (for drying use cool dry areas, careful of windy spots and consider a tulle cover).

4) boil yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea and you’ll feel healthy and calm even just recalling that lovely day you picked it!

I close with a quote by past U. S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with an image of my wonderful tea …. all well worth it.

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Luck O’ the ☘️ Irish!

2E8E2A7B-0BE8-4F57-B4E1-6741CA508BE4“Healthy Ireland” …. a great motto that we found got people’s attention printed on a lime green bag, as we walked around Dublin, Ireland this St. Patrick’s weekend. It seems this city fits the health literate cities model in terms of safety particularly since most of us are used to looking to the left side as we cross the street (drivers come from the right here as in the UK) so we need clear street markings and precautions to avoid pedestrian disasters!

Contributing  to the idea of “respecting cities” as locals or visitors, we observed  easily accessible cycling and walking paths, relatively spotless city streets with little to no dirty tagging  or “tag bombing” on city signs and historical buildings, clear signage and very helpful locals!

As with every westernized country that is over consuming sugar, fat, alcohol marketed to us daily,  all contribute to many chronic health issues if unmonitored (cardiovascular disease, obesity, alcoholism, cancer, etc.) it is important for us to keep our consumer populations informed about their health choices and habits. It’s ok to consume that “fat free in the middle” donut (LOL about the pink sign we saw outside a popular donut chain), a perfect Irish whiskey or apple cider once in a while but we also need to exercise a bit, take care around binge drinking (which happens on many college campuses and beyond) and enjoy all …. in moderation!

Thoroughly enjoyed the 4th EU Health Literacy conference in Dublin hearing about some great initiatives and building local and international networks.  We looked for shamrocks and leprechauns — no luck there — but at the end we had some great walks near the woods, ponds and castles (we recommend the half-day tour in Dublin at Malahide Castle).

Éirinn go Brách (Erin go Bragh phrase)! The Guinness was great and we toast to our luck in being there for the St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) festivities  preparations  …. hoping the Luck O’ the Irish rubs off for all of us working together for healthier communities around the globe!

Be the change…the message of love and unity

The “morning after” Valentine’s Day I came across short video cartoon part of a series meant to help people understand about relationships a series by Fabiosa Better World. This featured a woman who felt disgruntled in her 10 year marriage, and no longer smiled at her husband, didn’t make his favorite food, was basically indifferent  and thus he was ready to divorce or I’m sure look elsewhere. He called his elder father who basically gave him basic advice — have you kept your end of the “bargain” have you kept your promises? He thought about it. He changed his behavior. This included having a “date night”, buying her a gift, helping with the house chores. Surprisingly to him, everything he used to have came back and his marriage made it successfully…simple things make the difference, BE the change in love  (by the way the 8-10 year mark is important because you either “make” it or “break” it as a couple, according to statistics).

I also participated in a training by organization Fractality on “appreciative inquiry”, who had invited an elder wise guest speaker a “yogi” in my mind, to work with mindfulness in our group on finding the goodness and inner peace in very difficult situations whether they be individuals or communities. We randomly got cards and my two are featured here reminds me of the important health literacy work in our community. BE the change in your community. Use your networks, get training to build skills, work with goodness and peace of mind.

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