Tisha b’Av is the day when those of the Jewish faith remember andTisha b'Av
commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen them, throughout history, on the 9th day of the month of Av in the Jewish Lunar Calendar. This year it takes place on the 28th of July.  It is a very sad day in the Jewish calendar.  As is customary in Jewish tradition, fasting denotes a sign of mourning and as such Jews fast on this day.

“It is closer than you think” is the theme for this year’s World Hepatitis Day.

World Hepatitis Day

The day was first launched in 2008 by World Hepatitis Alliance with the purpose to increase awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis. There are approximately 240 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B, and 150 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C in the world today. Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

This year’s theme was chosen to highlight the fact that, around the world, hepatitis is still unknown, undiagnosed, and untreated. This July, the World Hepatitis Alliance is attempting a world record by having the most people performing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” actions in 24 hours at multiple venues around the world. 

When I first arrived in London, in 2009, the BT tower was counting days to the Olympics. The countdown was slowly moving down from the 900s. Now, the moment is only a day away! The Olympic Games 2012 open tomorrow.Olympics

Over the past few months London has had mixed feelings about the games. Some Londoners deeply resent them and have long ago made plans to escape the city, others grumble about the traffic the games will bring but are secretly excited, and the rest have been counting days with the BT tower and are warmly welcoming the event.

To get an idea of the enormity of the games, watch the BBC animation on Olympics people in numbers, or the more general Guardian animation on Olympics in numbers. You’ll learn that this is the third time London is hosting the Olympics, and 203 countries are participating this year. The global audience to watch the opening ceremony tomorrow evening is estimated to be around 4 billion people. That’s 60% of the world’s population.

Today, three years have passed since the death of Edward T. Hall, an American anthologist and cultural researcher.

His work on nonverbal communication was groundbreaking at the time but today is accepted as normal in the world of anthropology. His legacy as an anthropologist is immense – however, his legacy to the ‘new comers’ – the interculturalists – is inspirational. Much of the work we do in the field of intercultural studies, cross-cultural communication and cultural diversity has its base firmly planted in the foundations of the understanding and insights he laid down.

I’m sitting in a hot, rickety van on a foldable seat. We are six, big Western people in the van, with our big, Western luggage stored at the back and among our feet. The air is humid, the road long and bumpy.


In addition to vans, tuk-tuks are a common ride in Cambodia.

The six of us make a group of volunteers teaching English in the small village of Bakod in Southern Cambodia. We are on our way to the capital, Phnom Penh, to indulge, for a weekend, with luxuries such as air-conditioning, cold drinks, and Internet connection. In Bakod, there is no electricity, only a few electric light bulbs to light up the quiet hours from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am. It goes without saying that we are all looking forward to be in the buzz of a city.

The van picked us up from the village this morning, a very unusual practice. To catch a ride, people in Cambodia usually gather along a high way to find someone going to the same general direction as them. But we are the foreigners, the barang, thought to get lost in such endeavors. So, the van man agreed to pick us up.

In Bakod the van man had a short conversation in Khmer with our local school instructor. “A few locals may hop in on the way,” our instructor translated to us, laughing.  A few locals. No problem. It was van, after all.

But now, sitting on the wobbly seats in the moving van, bouncing up and down with our luggage, hoping not to bang our heads to the ceiling, we look around in the van and find that space is scarce.

“We can probably fit a couple more people at the back,” someone says. Yes, couple of people seems reasonable, three or four more will be a stretch.

Once we get to the high way the driver stops the van and begins to advertise our destination with a piece of cardboard, which supposedly says ‘Phnom Penh’. After 10 minutes, two young men climb in and take the seats at the back. Shortly after them, a couple with a small baby enters the van, miraculously finding more seating at the back.

Everyone is sweating. When the car is still, without the breeze of driving, the road is suffocatingly hot. Even inside the car, in the shade, my hair becomes glued to my forehead.

“Do you think we’re ready to go now?” someone rhetorically asks.

Hoping for the best, we all forgot to prepare for the worst. We were nowhere near ready to go…

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

– Nelson Mandela

Mandela fought for freedom, peace, and equality.

Today is the fourth year the world celebrates Nelson Mandela Day. On the 90th birthday celebration of Mandela, in Hyde Park in 2008, the UN and the Nelson Mandela Foundation decided that this day should be an annual day to celebrate the life and work of Mandela and of a culture of freedom and peace. The basic idea behind the day is simple: The United Nations calls everyone to give 67 minutes of their day for advocating human rights, whether it means supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community. The 67 minutes are based on the 67 years Nelson Mandela gave of his life fighting for conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, peace, and reconciliation.

Mandela was born in South Africa, in 1918. He became one of the most well-known anti-apartheid activists, and was imprisoned in 1964 for his views. He spent more than 27 years in prison, during which the political climate of South Africa stormed but essentially stayed unchanged. Straight after his release in 1990, Mandela plunged into his life’s work, and in 1991 was elected the first black president of South Africa. In 1993, he was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today is World Population Day.

The world's population is over 7 billion people.

In the year 1810 the world had one billion people. Today, in 2012, the world is a home to more than seven billion people. July 11th was declared as the World Population Day in 1989 as a response to population issues, such as growth, food shortage, and the right to plan a family.

This year’s theme is Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services. The United Nations Population Fund Website (UNFPA) presents the theme well in the following slogan: “Delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” The slogan illustrates how population issues are not just about the number of births, but that factors such as the human right to plan a family, the mother’s health and wellbeing, and the quality of the baby’s future upbringing must also be recognized.

According to the UNFPA website, there are 222 million women every year who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy but lack access to reproductive health services. In addition, 800 women die every day in the process of giving birth, and every year 1.8 billion adolescents grow up without the knowledge or services that they need in order to protect themselves.

These facts are shocking and instead of the business-political side they highlight the human side of population growth.

There are several lectures, talks, plays, conferences, and films viewings going on in various cities today. For events that are going on in London click here.

Also in July:

Dharma Day – July 3rd

After having lived in many countries, traveled through various cultures, and read piles of academic books it’s always humbling to discover that there’s still basic knowledge in this world that I haven’t acquired.

Martyrdom of Bab

Mount Carmel is a place of pilgrimage

Today is the Martyrdom of the Bab, (according to the BBC: “a major holy day”) and until this morning I had never heard about it. My immediate reaction was skepticism: the day must not be that major…Turns out, Martyrdom of the Bab is not only a holiday I’ve never heard of, but that it’s a part of the Baha’i fate, a religion completely unknown to me.

And, this religion is not even a very distant one: there are approximately 6 million Baha’is in the world, 6,000 of them in the UK. Realising that there is a world religion out there (or, out here, in London, probably!) which I had never heard of felt the same as finding out that Pluto is no longer a planet. The row of paper mache planets I had built in third grade is now dated and inaccurate because it includes Pluto, a whole extra paper mache ball which, I found out a few years ago, has not been considered a planet since 2006.

Anyway, I am, and was, both dumbfounded and thrilled. Today is the Martyrdom of the Bab and I looked into it a bit further…

International Day of Cooperatives was proclaimed by the UN in 1992, but only in the recent years has the day grown in significance.

International Day of Cooperatives

2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives

Globalisation and changing economy have highlighted the importance of the international cooperative movement and the idea of international community, and, to quote the UN secretary Ban Ki Moon, “The global financial and economic crisis has demonstrated the resilience of alternative financial institutions such as cooperative banks and credit unions.” 2012 was, thus, named the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations.

There are over 1.4 million cooperative businesses across the world, and over 3 billion people rely to cooperative businesses for their livelihood. In the UK, there are 5450 cooperative businesses. This year, we can expect to see a range of fairs, exhibits, contests, and campaigns world wide, all looking to raise awareness of cooperative businesses, and strengthen relationships between cooperatives and other actors such as governments.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Buddha and his five disciples

This widely spread Buddhist saying captures the essence of Dharma day: a day to celebrate the first teachings of Buddha. The word Dharma translates to ‘truth’ or to ‘the way to enlightenment.’ This date, every full moon of July, marks the day in Siddhartha’s life when he, right after his enlightenment, sought out his five original disciples and begun teaching them what he had learned.

This day is also known as Dharmachakra, or the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, which implies that Dharma day was the day the Buddhist fate begun to form and spread. In ancient times, the Dharma day also used to mark the beginning of rainy season…