Tag Archives: international

Don’t give up the fight

Tomorrow is probably the most important day of the year for some people. It’s World AIDS Day. There are more than 36 million people diagnosed with HIV worldwide who are invisible for the rest of the year. We don’t see them and we don’t even think about them, but why? What would you do if you met a nice person and after a while he or she tells you that there’s this thing called AIDS in his or her life? Would you leave them alone in this big and sometimes cruel world, or would you decide to stand above it and be a friend?

To understand what the World AIDS Day is about, we need to have a look into the past. Since 1988 the World AIDS Day has tried to inform society and create solidarity with slogans like “Kissing and hugging don’t spread HIV. Ignorance does.” as a reaction to the stigma people with HIV and AIDS suffer from. In addition, it tries to make people aware that the virus isn’t beaten yet. On this day, people all over the world fundraise in the form of dinner parties, bake sales, quiz nights or charity runs like they do at the Positive East’s Red Run on Sunday 27 November in London.

aidsAs a sign of your solidarity and to show your support, you can wear The Red Ribbon tomorrow, a red loop that indicates your awareness. Just put it on your bag or wherever you like. It’s very important to raise awareness in order to sensitize people and avoid the further spread of HIV and AIDS. But carrying the HI virus doesn’t mean you’re affected by AIDS. For example, 85% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are not infectious.

Back to the beginning, would you be a friend now?

“Don’t give AIDS a chance”!

Author & Pictures: Isabel Roth

Ready to go crazy? The weirdest New Year’s Eve traditions

Germans like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a sip of chilled sparkling wine, a rich fondue and the annual recurring appointment with the adorable Miss Sophie and her scatty butler James. However, apart from the widespread tradition of watching “Dinner for One”, we Germans don’t have any weird customs for the largest global celebration. But no worries – the rest of the world offers a wide range of strange traditions…

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First Stop: Ecuador

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It’s the end of December. The sparkling snow is falling and the air is cold but very refreshing. So it’s the perfect time to take your empty suitcase for a walk. No, I’m not crazy and I know that you can walk your dog, your cat and, okay, maybe your hamster, but your suitcase? Yes it’s true, at least in Ecuador. If the Ecuadorians are planning a trip sometime next year, they take their suitcases for a stroll. The tradition says that people who are dreaming of a holiday next year should take their empty suitcases for a little walk, so their dreams come true. But I’m not very convinced that this tradition could catch on in Germany. Nevertheless, please feel free to try it out: get your suitcase, go out, get some fresh air and try to ignore the gazing people.

Next Stop: Spain

You’re not a fan of fireworks at midnight and you really hate the emotion which comes with the New Year greetings? But what else could be done? Here’s the answer: just eat 12 grapes quickly, one with each chime of the bells at midnight. For the Spanish, each grape symbolises good luck for each month in the following year. And it wards off bad spirits! But be aware, it sounds easier than it actually is; some Spanish even practice beforehand. So let’s start practicing – New Year’s Eve is close. But don’t forget to chew – it might get a bit tight in your mouth.

Third Stop: Denmark

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If some of you would like to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Denmark, then please don’t call the police if your friends start throwing old dishes at your door. After all, they’ve been collecting Granny’s old china with difficulty all year. So please show a little respect and feel flattered! Why? Smashing old plates at your friend’s door is a special New Year’s Eve tradition in Denmark, and is a measure of your popularity. The more your door gets hit by a broken plate, the more likely friends enjoy being with you. There’s a heap of broken dishes at your doorsteps? Congrats, you’re a terrific friend!

Last Stop: Puerto Rico

A different kind of “bucket challenge” exists in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans throw buckets of water out of their window. And they clean their homes before the New Year arrives. In this way, they clean out the old year and all the evil spirits and welcome the New Year.

The end of the journey has arrived and I have to leave now. I’m very busy because I still have to walk my suitcase, eat some grapes and… well no, actually I’m just going to watch “Dinner for One”, enjoy the fireworks and drink some sparkling wine. Maybe I’ll try out some of the proposals next year, or maybe not, we’ll see! Cheers, Happy New Year to all of you!

Author & Pictures: Julia Huss

Confessions of a secret mermaid

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Mermaiding? What’s that?”

This is the answer Julia gets when she tells someone mermaiding is her hobby. “Mermaiding” is the practice of swimming with a mermaid tail costume; as I didn’t know anything about the sport, I decided to find out what it was all about.

A really new idea?

The idea of mermaiding actually dates back over 100 years ago: in 1911 the Australian professional swimmer and actress Anette Kellerman was the first actress to wear a swimmable mermaid costume in her first movie, called The Mermaid. Later, she acted many times as a real-life mermaid, designing her own costumes and sometimes tailoring them by herself. Since then, mermaiding has become popular in the US and all over the world. The must-see attraction for all mermaid fans is the Weeky Wachee Springs, Florida, which hosts mermaid shows in natural springs. The audience stays behind big, underwater windows to see the stunning show in the crystalline water on the floor of the sea. In 1984, with the movie Splash which tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman who is secretly a mermaid, the sport earned its place in pop culture.

A sport´s discipline?

Nowadays, mermaiding is not only practised in swimming pools, but also in the open sea. Often it’s not only considered a sport but also as an environmental activity which helps to protect sea animals. In order to find out what mermaiding is really about, I interviewed Julia, who does this sport regularly and who set up her own website recently.

You do mermaiding as a sport. Can you explain how it works?

Mermaiding is basically swimming with flippers. You swim with a „monoflipper“ on your feet and a kind of tube made of cloth or wetsuit material to cover your legs up to your belly, just like a mermaid. It´s quite similar to dolphin swimming. You have to learn the technique…but that´s not too difficult.

Where did you get the idea from? And how long have you been doing it?

It’s always been my dream to swim like Ariel. I discovered the website “Magictail,” where you can buy the mermaid tails. Last year for Christmas I bought one in my favourite colour and since then I’ve been practicing in a pool in Brandenburg. Of course, you should ask for permission to swim with the costume 🙂

If someone were to say to you „But that´s for kids; it´s not a real sport“, how would you respond?

I’d say that it’s an official sport! In many cities, there are even mermaid swimming schools.

What are the things you like most about mermaiding?

I like realizing my dream and the freedom you feel while doing it. And you get a lot of attention: because it’s not common, kids in the pool often shout, “Mum, look, there’s a mermaid!”

How does the training work? Is it really exhausting?

I do it by myself, because it’s difficult to find people who want to join. You have to focus on the technique (like a wave movement), and fitness: Freediving, holding your breath… is more difficult than it sounds! In order to move, you need a lot of energy!

Would you say that it’s a girls’ sport, or do men also participate?

Haha, good question! I would say men can also do it. I was swimming with my boyfriend half a year ago, me as a mermaid and he was just swimming “normally.” Then one day he wanted to try it himself, and one week later he bought his own mermaid tail.

I’ve heard that it’s really popular in the US, and also that the salary for professional mermaids is high. Is it similar in Germany?

Yes, there are more swimming schools and also professional models that do mermaiding. For example, Mermaidkat is quite a famous mermaid model. She also sells her own costumes. In Germany, it hasn’t become quite so popular yet; I don’t even know if there are any models.

What qualifications do you need to do mermaiding? And what kind of equipment do you need?

Well, first: You have to know how to swim and dive, as you spend more time underwater than swimming. Secondly, you need suitable equipment. The best things to have are a „monoflipper“ and the leg tube, which you can buy at different online shops or make yourself; there are a lot of tutorials about it on YouTube.

What’s the most difficult thing about the sport?

Being able to hold your breath for a long time. Also moving with the tail is really exhausting.

But it´s a lot of fun!

Author: Franziska Wühr
Picture: private

Why I’m giving up negativity during Lent

lent 1Ash Wednesday is today and that marks the beginning of Lent. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this religious holiday, Lent is a Christian holiday that lasts 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. During this time, people tend to fast or give something up, as for a lot of Christians it is a way of remembering when Jesus fasted in the desert and also a way of testing self-discipline.

I grew up in a very religious and conservative country, where people consider Lent as sacred time and even though I never really gave anything up or fasted during these 40 days while growing up I do know a lot of people who did. Personally, I never felt the need to make a sacrifice, probably because at a young age I really didn’t know what it was all about but I do remember seeing a lot of my classmates on Ash Wednesday with the cross on their foreheads really early in the morning or not eating red meat on Fridays during Lent.

I think it’s important to mention that my family was not as conservative as the rest of the families in my country and also while growing up I never really went to Church on Sundays; it was really rare if I did, not because I didn’t believe in God, but because I didn’t think it was important to leave your home when you could talk to God on your own through a prayer, which is what I usually did. All of this might sound really religious and I know it is a controversial topic, but for once I felt that the time was right for me to come clean with my story. I know that people come from different backgrounds and we have different beliefs but since I live in Bavaria now and it is considered the most conservative state in Germany I thought why not address this topic?

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Since the year started I decided I wanted to make a huge change in my life, even though I’m a happy person most of the times I do have my low points and most of them have to do with negative comments from people or rejection, which is why for this holy time I decided that instead of fasting I’m going to be giving up negativity. I think that giving this up is a bigger effort than giving up some sort of food or habit that I have and it will take me through an emotional journey of self- discovery and hopefully it will make me a better person.

The reason I chose to give up negativity is because in this day and age it is so hard to not make any negative comments about things or even be negative towards ourselves. Also because I’m a firm believer that when you have negative thoughts or are negative towards life in general, you’re only attracting more negativity and bad things to yourself that you definitely don’t need and I want to change this. I want to be a positive person and attract only positive things, and who knows, probably even inspire someone to change their mindset as well.

Have you ever had those moments where you think “I’m so dumb why did I have to do that?” or you found yourself criticizing someone by the way they look without even noticing? These are the type of things I want to battle against these next 40 days and beyond if possible.

I’m a very critical person when it comes to me, I try to do everything as perfect as I can while still having negative thoughts towards my work: what if I fail? What if my professor doesn’t like my writing? What if I never make my parents proud? This constant negativity is around every single thing of our lives and we’re bringing ourselves down without even thinking about it. Like I said before, I want to try and be a better person and make a change for me, try to finally start putting into work everything I believe in but still my doubts and negative thoughts haven’t allowed me to do yet. I want to stop gossiping about people for once or criticizing them just because I don’t like the way they look or what they’re wearing, I’m nobody to judge and people shouldn’t judge me either on any decision I make.

During the next 40 days by giving up negativity I will obviously gain something in return: I will practice patience, humility, self-discipline, things that are so common yet not everyone has the chance to put to practice. I am expecting to become a happier person, more open to the endless possibilities and overall to stop the constant nagging, complaining and whining about everything that goes wrong and finally look at it from a different perspective and grow from the experience.

I am really looking forward to the next 40 days of positivity and happiness. What are you giving up during Lent?

Author & Pictures: Roma Rodriguez