A vegetarian diet
There are many diets people can choose to follow and they do so for many different reasons. Some people follow the diet they believe is the healthiest for them and others follow diets only to lose weight in time for beach weather. I have been following a vegetarian diet for two years now. I love the taste of meat, so it hasn’t been easy! There are many reasons for becoming a vegetarian. Some people do so because they feel that following a diet that is low in fat and high in fibre is the most nutritious way to eat. But most people decide to follow a vegetarian diet for a combination of reasons.
The answer that the majority of people gave when asked about why they are following a vegetarian diet was that they didn’t approve of the conditions animals are kept in and the way they are treated and killed for food. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, poultry or products that come from animals after they are slaughtered for their meat. They mostly eat vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, such as peas and beans, and grains. Vegetarians also eat some animal products like eggs, milk and cheese, but they usually look for these to be ‘free-range’, meaning that the animals are not kept in small cages and live a life where they have space to move around and are not treated badly.
There are some people who do not eat any animal products. They are called vegans. Cutting down on meat is also good for the environment. F. M. Lappe wrote in his book, Diet for a Small Planet, that it takes 16 pounds of grain, 8,000 litres of water and at least 4 litres of petrol to produce only half a kilo of meat. In the US, over 70% of the grain farmland is used to feed the animals we eat. Because we eat so much meat, people are cutting down trees to grow grains to feed these animals. ‘Factory farms’, where the animals we eat are kept, produce hundreds of millions of tons of animal waste every year, which leaks into and pollutes rivers and streams.
Many people think that becoming a vegetarian is not a healthy lifestyle to follow. This is a myth. In fact, people who follow a well-balanced vegetarian diet actually eat most of the food that doctors recommend to us. It has been proven that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, diet-related diabetes, putting on too much weight from fattening foods and high blood pressure.
Another myth is that vegetarian food is boring and tasteless. Although I like the taste of meat and do miss it, there are many delicious vegetarian recipes to choose from. There are thousands of recipes from hundreds of different vegetables, grains, legumes and fruit to choose from. Also, vegetarian food tends to be cheaper than a meat-based diet! Going out to eat shouldn’t be a problem either. Most restaurants have vegetarian options in their menus. This is true especially here in Greece where there are so many traditional vegetarian dishes to choose from.
The increased availability of the Internet in households has changed the way consumers shop. Many people now purchase things online, as opposed to leaving their homes and hitting high street shops or going to the mall. There are advantages and disadvantages for each way of shopping. Which is better largely depends on the individual.
One reason people shop online is that their lives have become busier and, between the responsibilities at home and at work, shopping online saves them a lot of time and reduces stress. The hassle of driving forever looking for parking, or taking public transport is enough to prevent many people from venturing from their homes in search of products. Once at a shopping district or mall, you often have to wait in long lines, race from store to store comparing prices or searching for bargains and deal with pushy shop assistants. Online shopping, however, can be done from the comfort of your own home. With just a few clicks, consumers can browse through different stores and pick any items they want to buy.
Others, however, like having an excuse to leave their homes. They enjoy walking about the high street shops, window shopping and looking at things displayed in store windows with their friends. To them, it is an opportunity to go outside, shop, see friends, have a coffee and catch up. Also, many people find that online shopping can be a hassle too. To them, waiting for a denim jacket or high heels to be delivered, or going to the post office to pick them up if no one was home when they were being delivered, also causes stress.
Aside from stress, a major factor in determining how someone will shop is cost. Many people find that it is all too easy to go to the centre or the mall and get carried away. When consumers go to stores to shop, they often return home with more than they had intended. Initially, they’ll buy something that they need. Along the way, however, they’ll see other items in the stores around them and will very often make more purchases. Also, the price of items online is usually cheaper than in stores. Stores have more costs, such as paying rent and employees, and this usually pushes up the price of items.
On the other hand, although the above is true, there are other factors to consider which support the argument that shopping at stores is actually cheaper. Some people feel that because shopping online is so easy, people will generally buy more things. If someone doesn’t have to leave their house to purchase an item, it is easier for them to go online more often and buy things without thinking much about whether they really want them or not. Also, although the price of items is generally cheaper online, there are other costs to consider. Items bought online are sent to consumer by post. The shipping and handling charges added to the cost of the product often make it more expensive than what it is being sold for in shops.
In the end, there are arguments for and against each method of shopping. Which is best really does depend on what kind of a consumer you are.
Looking for work
Looking for work is something most people will have to deal with at some point in their life. Many teenagers begin this process early and start their search during the summer when school is out and they have more free time, or when they are in university. Starting early has many advantages, like developing a sense of responsibility and pride, as well as earning extra spending money. When searching for a job, however, it is a good idea to have a plan. Job hunting can be hard work and a good attitude and proper planning can certainly increase the chances of finding something that suits you.
Before beginning your search, there are some questions you should ask yourself:
- What are you really interested in? If you know the answer to this question it will help you knock on the right doors. Also, you are less likely to be upset once you start working. Your first work experiences are very important, which is why it is preferable that your first job is something you find interesting.
- Do I want to find a job in a field that I will work in after I finish school or university? The job you find can be work you do just to make extra money, gain a sense of responsibility or experience and meet new people. Or, it may be work that is related to what you are planning to do after you finish secondary school or university. For example, if you are interested in technology you might look for part-time work at a shop which sells computers.
- How much free time do I have and how many hours do I want to work? Students’ schedules can be very busy. Take a look at how much extra time you have before looking for work. Any job you find should not make finding time to complete your schoolwork more difficult for you.
- Do I want to work somewhere near home, or near school? Location is very important. People very often spend almost as much time getting to their work as they do working.
When you begin your search it is a good idea to speak with your parents, friends and teachers. They may have ideas to give you or may know people you can get in touch with about work. Search the employment section of your local newspapers and any announcements posted on boards in your university. Before you contact possible employers write an outline with information about yourself which you think is appropriate for the job you are applying to. Also, after speaking with employers, take notes on how things went. This way if you feel you made any mistakes, you can correct them for the next time you call or see someone for work. If you do not get a job somewhere be sure to thank them anyway and leave your contact information. This will make a good impression and they may get in touch with you in the future for work.
Planning a trip
My friends and I had been talking about taking a trip to Peru for years until we finally decided to do it. This spring we’ll be flying over the Atlantic on our way to Lima, the capital city of Peru. We’ll spend the next twelve days visiting places we’ve only seen in pictures. To say that we are excited would be an understatement.
We’ve booked a four-star hotel in Lima, where we’ll be staying for two days. We wanted to rent rooms somewhere safe in the city. Lima could be a bit dangerous, especially if you are carrying expensive camera equipment with you in unknown neighbourhoods. Two days is enough for us because we do not want to spend too much time in the crowded city. However, we have hired a guide who is going to give us a tour of the city sites and its museums.
From there, we are going to travel to Cuzco by bus. It’s going to be a long and tiring trip, as it takes anywhere between 17-23 hours to get from one city to the other. I’m sure it will also be a great way to see the countryside, though. Cuzco has a long history and is a very popular tourist destination. It used to be the greatest city of the Inca Empire and is the oldest populated city in South America. Today, it is the archaeological capital of North and South America. Tourism is good for its economy but, on the down side of it, the structure of the city has changed quite a bit because of this. Many of the buildings in the city are either, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, travel agencies, or Internet cafés. However, I’ve read that, fortunately, much of its interesting past can still be seen and felt. The city walls built by the Incas can still be seen today. Among the cobble stone streets and city squares, one can see how the people of the city live their day-to-day lives. Cuzco is also where we are going to begin our trek to Machu Picchu.
On the first day of the trek, our local guide will take us through the Sacred Valley and we will visit the picturesque town and Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. The next four days will be spent walking along the ancient trail of the Incas. We are going to see amazing ruins and beautiful mountain scenery every day. The last day will be the most exciting. We are going to reach the steps that take us to Intipunku, the ‘Sun Gate’. From here, we will walk through the ruins of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is an ancient city of the Incas tucked high away in the mountains. For many years, people in the west did not know of its existence until 1911 when American historian, Hiram Bingham, discovered it. It is the most popular archaeological site in South America. The next day we will return to Cuzco and begin our trip back home.
A film review
In 1998, director James Cameron won the Oscar for Best Picture for the film ‘Titanic’. Fifteen years later, he is sure to be a contender again for a number of awards. His latest film, ‘Avatar’, has been in theatres for a month now and the public response to this brilliant fantasy has been overwhelming.
There are a number of reasons responsible for the popularity of this film. James Cameron has developed a plot that is an allegory to the problems we have today, such as fighting wars and damaging the environment for money. The film tries to give viewers the message that we have a responsibility to respect nature and the relationship it has with us and other animals. He does this by combining a story of romance and adventure. He has created a beautiful fantasy world using the latest in 3D technology.
The movie takes place in the year 2154 on the planet of Pandora. Humans on Pandora are trying to take material they need from the planet to save the environment on Earth. To do this, they need to communicate with the Na’vi who live on Pandora. The Na’vi are 3 metres tall with blue skin and have a special relationship with the environment they live in. Dr. Grace Augustine (played by Sigourney Weaver) creates what is called an ‘Avatar’ to help the humans gain the trust of the Na’vi. Avatars look exactly like the Na’vi and are controlled by a human mind. She wants to form a peaceful relationship with them before the human soldiers come in and destroy their land. Joining Grace’s team is Sully (played by Sam Worthington), a soldier who cannot walk and is in a wheelchair.
As an Avatar, Sully can walk and run, as he is no longer handicapped. When he is on Pandora, he comes into contact with Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana), a princess of the Na'vi tribe. At first she is very suspicious of this soldier but then she decides to teach him about her culture and the world she lives in. From the start, Sully reports back to the soldiers but, as time passes, he finds himself torn between the two worlds.
The humans lose patience with Dr. Augustine and her methods and, eventually, decide to attack the Na’vi people who are trying to protect their planet. Sully, then, has to make a decision. Is he a soldier or is he now a Na’vi? He chooses the latter and together with Neytiri and the other Na’vi he fights for the planet of Pandora, against the human soldiers.
Avatar is the most expensive film ever made, reaching a budget of close to 400,000,000 euro! Most of the film budget has gone to the special effects in the movie and the result is absolutely amazing. The alien world of Pandora, the creatures that live there and the Na’vi are all stunning to look at. WETA Digital, which also worked on the highly successful ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, has brought the planet of Pandora and the Na’vi to life using 3D technology and the most advanced special effects to date.
Of course, the film is not only about the special effects, since one cannot deny the fact that the cast does a great job as well. Sam Worthington is very convincing and I am sure we will see him in many more films in the future. As usual, Sigourney Weaver is superb. Stephen Lang, who plays the Colonel, is a character you will love to hate as he leads the soldiers into Pandora. We never see Zoe Saldana, but we do hear her. She is the amazing voice of Neytiri, the Na’vi princess. Neytiri is a CGI character, meaning that she is not real but computer-animated.
Ever since I was a child I loved the sea. I would anxiously wait for school to break up so that my family and I could go to our summerhouse in Mani, in the Peloponnese. Once there, I would spend hours every day underwater with my snorkel and mask. I enjoyed team sports like football and volleyball, but not as much as many of my classmates. During the winter months my parents signed me up to a pool in a gym. I quickly got bored. I enjoy swimming, too, of course, but that isn’t what primarily attracts me to water. It’s observing life underwater that fascinates me most. It wasn’t long before I convinced my parents to sign me up for scuba diving lessons.
After watching many documentaries about the deep sea on television, I realised that I wanted to do what the deep-sea divers who film sea life were doing. Many people consider scuba diving an extreme sport and, at first, my parents didn’t want to sign me up for lessons. They were afraid that scuba diving would be too dangerous and too expensive as well. I researched diving and presented my parents with facts that prove scuba diving is not more dangerous than other sports and that it is also affordable. I found out, for example, that the number of accidents which occur while cycling is seven times that of diving. Of course, like with most sports, it is not danger free and there are many safety rules and procedures one must follow.
I signed up for an open water diving course at a diving school in Anavisos. A certified instructor taught me the basics and all the safety signals and practices a diver needs to understand. I also learned about injuries and common mistakes that divers make. I spent six Saturdays getting certified. It was fun because most of the training was done underwater. At the end I took a written test and I passed! I also met a lot of interesting people at the diving school. Some were beginners like me, while others were more experienced divers who rented out diving equipment like oxygen tanks, flippers and wet suits from the school. It is good to make friends with other divers because, this way, you can easily find someone to go diving with. You are not allowed to go diving by yourself; you must go with at least one buddy.
Today my ‘diving buddies’ are my dad and mum! After taking me for lessons and hearing me talk about the experiences of diving, they decided that they wanted to get certified too! They have even organised a diving trip to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt in this summer. It is going to be fantastic. Sharm el Sheikh is a coastal city located on the shores of the Red Sea. The Red Sea is famous for its rich underwater sea life and divers from all over the world travel there for the experience to encounter uncountable varieties of fish, corals and other sea life. I can’t wait!
Describing a region
If asked what the driest place on earth is, most people would probably answer the Sahara Desert in Africa or the Gobi Desert in Asia. Although these are much bigger deserts, with the Sahara being the biggest in the world, both of these answers would be wrong. The driest place on earth is neither in Africa nor in Asia; it is in South America. That’s right, South America does not only have rainforests, rivers and green mountains, it also has the driest place on earth and it is called the Atacama Desert in the country of Chile.
The Atacama Desert is located along the coast of Chile right next to the Pacific Ocean. It is a bit ironic that the driest place on earth would be located right next to the largest body of water on earth, isn’t it? When we think of deserts, we imagine scorching temperatures coming from a sun that beats down on us. Generally, this is true, but not at Atacama. Most of the desert is located on a high altitude, as much of it extends up into the Andes Mountains. The average elevation is at about 4,000 meters above sea level. Not only is Atacama the highest desert in the world, it is also one of the coldest with temperatures ranging from about 0°C to 25°C.
How hot a place is does not determine whether or not it is a desert. What matters is how dry the place is, and Atacama is the driest. Climatologists call the centre of Atacama “an absolute desert.” Ever since people have been recording the amount of rainfall in different regions, none has ever been measured this area. Areas beyond the centre of Atacama do get some water with an annual average of 0.6 millimetres to 2.1 millimetres. This is an extremely small amount of rain. Compare it, for example, to the annual rainfall that the Sahara receives, which measures between 100 millimetres to 200 millimetres! Atacama used to have more water in the distant past during the Ice Age. When the ice melted, lakes formed in the Andes Mountains. However, because Atacama is so dry, the water in the lakes is evaporating. As it evaporates, mineral salts get left behind making the water very salty.
Although it is a desert, Atacama really is a beautiful place with a lot of variety. High up in the mountains of Atacama you can see patches of snow that never melted because it never got hot enough. Amongst the snow-capped mountains, one can also see five volcanoes. Although conditions are very difficult for most animals to survive, there are some that do. There aren’t any forests or lush plains, but there are patches of vegetation where some insects and animals survive. Red algae live in the salt lakes, which is why one can see flocks of flamingos eating them.
People have been living the in Atacama for thousands of years. The Chinchorro mummies found in Atacama are the oldest mummies in the world. The oldest of them are dated between 5,000BC to 3,000BC, making them about 2,000 years older than the Egyptian mummies! Because of the climate there, the buried bodies of the Indians dried perfectly. Today, very few people live in the desert. Yet, there is a town called Calama located in the middle of the desert with a population of about 150,000.
A friend for everything
Communication is a piece of cake. In this day and age, it’s easy to keep in touch with friends, find old friends you’ve lost from the past, and make plenty of new friends or acquaintances. There are many clever, cheap ways to do this and it’s no surprise that people are more sociable and outgoing. They’re also more ready to share their experiences with the world than ever before.
Emailing, online chatting, and text messaging have already made communication fast and effective, but the social networking site has taken communication to a new level. A social networking site is an online place, so you need a computer and an internet connection. Basically, you create your own website. You can build a profile of yourself - a summary which expresses your likes, dislikes, whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, what your hobbies are, etc, and through the site you can connect to other users.
There are literally thousands of social networking sites. In the last five years there has been a steady growth in teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 using these sites. Now, approximately 55% of online teenagers in the US are regular users. These sites have many uses. You can share news, views, music and photos with friends on sites like Facebook, MySpace or Hi5. Some sites are created for people to speak their mind and share specific information or find answers to problems. Other sites help users meet new people with similar interests or find old friends.
But why do they use social networking sites? Well, these internet sites present a whole new approach to talking to friends. They allow people to open windows into their lives and share at the touch of a button. They also help with making work contacts and learning new things. They help you learn what’s happening in your friends’ world and in the world as a whole.
Technology will change our lives!
Have you ever forgotten to turn out the lights or left the oven on by accident, or even fallen asleep while watching the TV? Well, in the future the average home will be so clever that you won’t need to worry about this kind of thing anymore. Thanks to clever software engineering and wireless networks, houses will be literally thinking for the occupants.
It sounds like science-fiction but it’s not. Already many home owners have installed computerized systems in their homes which carry out mundane everyday tasks. These systems are still expensive and fairly complicated. However, not too far into the future, and with constant new technological developments the smart home will become an everyday reality and affordable.
People can expect their houses to perform all sorts of tasks automatically or just by pressing a few buttons, or even touching screens built into the home. Picture this - on entering the house, it says a friendly “Hello” and updates you on what has been happening. You find out, for example, the temperature of the rooms, if any visitors have rung the doorbell, which electrical systems have been running and the amount of energy they have consumed. The house will tell you whether it’s time to unload the washing machine or the dishwasher, and if the dinner is ready. It will even add up the cost of the energy consumption at different times of the day.
Switching lights on and off will become a thing of the past. Light will come on or turn off automatically depending on the natural light levels outside. Likewise temperature will be carefully controlled using heat sensors which are able to measure body temperature and react accordingly. Using the same sensor system the house will turn off a TV or stereo if it senses that there is no longer anybody in a room. Or, the music that you’re listening to will follow you as you move from room to room.
There are numerous advantages to the smart home. By monitoring heat, light and electrical devices the house uses the minimum amount of energy necessary at every moment of the day. In the long term a system like this could reduce the overall energy consumption of many countries. From the point of view of safety, a smart home allows you to keep an eye on what’s going on inside your home 24 hours a day either via the internet or via a mobile phone. You can check security systems and see what’s happening in the different rooms. This could mean that the number of burglaries and break-ins drop dramatically.
Homes are already smart but they’re going to get smarter thanks to the new technological age we’re living in.
Fashion changed dramatically in the twentieth century. If you look carefully at the times at which these changes came about, you can see that many of the developments in fashion were a direct result of social and economic change.
Until the early 20th century women continued to keep their ankles carefully covered. But by 1920, women’s skirts had risen scandalously to the knee. It was a period in which women had made great progress in their continuing fight for equality. This was reflected in the way they began to carry themselves in public for example they started smoking and drinking alcohol more freely.
In the 30s and 40s the economy first drifted into a deep recession and then World War II broke out. Nobody had money to spend on clothes, and clothing needed to use as little material as possible because all resources were needed for the war. As World War II continued, clothes became less and less detailed, cuffs, collars and buttons began to disappear and men began wearing two-piece suits instead of the four-piece suit of previous years, which had included a waistcoat and an extra pair of trousers. Women began to do men’s jobs – there was simply no-one else to do them - and women could sometimes be seen wearing trousers or even overalls.
In the 60s and 70s, conformity in clothing went straight out the window. The younger generation became more and more daring. Trousers got tighter around the hips but much wider around the ankles and flared trousers or ‘bell-bottoms’ were all the rage. Men started having their hair cut in totally different styles which were longer and more feminine looking. Women wore flowing ‘peasant blouses’ over jeans and men wore leather waistcoats and jeans, sometimes without shirts in an attempt to express their desire for comfort and freedom. From the ‘hippie’ look in the late 60s and early 70s, the disco culture developed. Disco became a way of life and men wore tight flared suits with brightly coloured shirts.
In the 80s and 90s a whole range of different styles came back into fashion from years past. Business women began wearing an even more severe version of the female business suit but in much brighter colours. More and more people started following fitness regimes and trying to keep in shape so sports clothes became very fashionable.
In the 21st century fashion is much freer than ever before basically if you like it, you wear it and many different looks are fashionable. Fashions come and go and past fashions are reinvented with a twist but today more than ever the emphasis is on comfort and self-expression and no longer on conformity. This is a sign of the times. Perhaps it would be right to say that you are what you wear.
From a blog
Japan, from a cultural point of view, is totally different to Europe. It’s my first day here and already my flight with Japan Airlines has been a real eye opener. I’m quite a seasoned traveller and many a flight has been delayed. But never have I seen the air stewards work their way through the cabin apologizing to each and every passenger individually. This was no doubt the first taste of the array of different customs to be encountered in Japan.
My hosts are a Japanese couple, Suwako and Masaki, old friends from university. They live on the outskirts of Tokyo in a small town called Kawasaki (like the motorbike). I expected a flat, having heard that Tokyo is so over-populated, but they have a small European style house with two floors and a small garden. There were some differences on the inside though. Outdoor shoes must never pass the entrance area or hall of a house or any living abode in Japan, and it’s quite normal for every home to have an array of slippers to offer guests on arrival. (My feet only just fit in the slippers on offer). It’s odd to walk into a house and struggle with your shoes before doing anything else. But it would be rude to do otherwise. I soon realized that it wasn’t just outdoor shoes that presented a problem. On entering the toilet I discovered a second set of slippers. These are the toilet slippers, only to be used in the toilet area. You slip them on and off when entering and leaving the area - very clean indeed!
Bathing was an experience. My host’s house is small, but a lot of space has been given over to the bathroom on the ground floor. There was a very large bath tub with a sliding cover and water sitting in it, as well as a large ‘wet room’ for showering. I was intrigued as to why the bath was filled. Suwako asked me if I wanted it heated. She explained that first you shower and scrub your body so that it’s squeaky clean. Only then can you get in the bath to soak and relax. The bath water is heated as and when you need it. So the bath water doesn’t get changed every time someone has a bath since the people that sit in the water are clean. A strange system but rather like an ‘at home’ spa, which is quite cool really. It seemed an odd way to do things but actually quite logical. The Japanese seem to be big on communal bathing. And Suwako has scheduled an onsen into our cultural itinerary, which is a hot spring where people can bath outside.
Our first trip into central Tokyo by train! Thankfully we had our guides because few non-Japanese speakers would have found their way alone. We could easily have ended up at an unknown destination. There were no signs in English anywhere. On the train I really felt like a foreigner. I towered above everybody else. My quest was to find some clothes for a posh lunch. My bag had got lost and I had nothing suitable to wear. It turned out that sizing in Japan was not created for people of my height or build. Suwako took me to the outsize section but it was a struggle to find something that fit and shoes were out of the question.
An outfit found, an enlightening day ended with karaoke, which the Japanese love. So do I. It’s strange, some of Suwako’s crowd were really shy, but they had no problem picking up a microphone and singing to a crowd. I got up after a few glasses of sake. I think it must be a way of letting go. Japanese people seem quite disciplined. They work long hours, don’t show negative emotion and don’t tend to disagree. It’s nice to see so many happy and smiling faces and perhaps we could learn a thing or two!
My bag has arrived and we’re taking the bullet train to Kyoto today – wow! I can’t wait to see all the temples. I’m also looking forward to spending the night in a monastery. Apparently we’ll be sleeping all together on the floor in a large Tatami room. We’ll be having a very special meal made up of flour and gluten. It sounds strange but I’m ready for anything; except, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to eat kneeling down in a robe for an extended dinner. …more soon …