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Before GPS: the Lighthouse: yesterday's hi tech

Imagine being on a boat, in darkest night, pounded by waves, off a dangerous coast. Without GPS!

All you had were maps telling you to keep your eyes open for a distant lighthouse that will give you some idea of your whereabouts. Pelted by rain, an adolescent boy, perched high up on the highest mast, scans the darkness for a distant light that flickers. Seeing it on time spells the difference between life and death.

This is how navigation was done in the years after the hi tech wonder that was the lighthouse started appearing on the globe's most treacherous coasts. And some of them, like this one in the video, are still rotating their lonely beams at nights, romantic and haunting at the same time...

#nomadimitritravel
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How apples get born

We consume so many apples while knowing so little about them. Where were apples born, for example? Answer: in Kazakhstan.

But we have other, even more basic gaps in our understanding. Though we have a general sense that fruit comes from flowers, most people don't understand how this happens literally: that the very same stem that you pick off from the apple in your fridge, used to be the stem of the parental flower.

And what about the other, the "back end" of the apple, who knows where that came from?

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If I were a man!

"One morning she woke up with an extra thing!" This is the byline for the new French comedy "If I were a man!"
If you think French cinema is still about the experimentation of auteurs such as Truffaut, Godard etc, think again!
The cinematic gems that are still being produced in France are definitely swamped by a plethora of "entertainment" films of this genre. It is not just the US: Hollywood's influence is spread far and wide...

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Nazi bunkers on the beach

There are still plenty of sobering mementos of WWII lingering in Europe. One of the most telling reminders of how scary it got: hundreds of German-built bunkers on French beaches designed to prevent Allied landfall.

If they had not lost the war, you can easily imagine the Germans strengthening this defensive network to deflect future American incursions. An impenetrable wall of beachfront fire-power to keep the Yanks out of a Nazi-occupied Europe.

Suddenly, today's news for the West seems tame and innocent...

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International Women's Day 2017

Four young girls come up with an idea to make a difference. In the middle of the street, armed with bright eyes and wide smiles, they ask the people passing by for their definition of love. One of them is shyer than the rest: she holds the bulletin board from behind, leaving only her eyes visible.
They hand me the pen and I scribble a smiley where her hidden mouth is. They laugh, the ice is broken, the quick intimacy of well-meaning strangers is the oasis where we meet.
They want me to write my definition of love on a Post-It and stick it on the board. I shift to Greek: they are young and I know they will appreciate the exoticism of a foreign tongue. I write: "Ή αγάπη είναι το παν" ("Love is all").

They are here to raise awareness on domestic violence. My admiration for them is bittersweet: at their age, I did not even know such a thing even existed. I wish them the best and walk away, a flash of friendship in a sea of strangers on a rainy afternoon.

#SheInspiresMe
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How people live without running water

Drinking a glass of clean water from your own tap in your own house is a miracle for most of the world's population.

Clean drinking water is out of reach because most people :
- don't have a secure, permanent "house"
- for those that actually have a house, the problem is not being connected to any infrastructure, including water pipes, sanitation, etc
- for those that are connected, the problem is that the water is often polluted or toxic (from Addis Ababa to Flint, Michigan)

So, to most of the world's population, the incredibly luxurious solution is something that, in the West, we abandoned a couple of centuries ago: the Village Fountain. In the video, we explore a particularly nice one, in the tiny square of the highest village in Europe.

Anyone who has visited a village fountain still in use in the developing world, is in for a treat: the energy & joy of people filling their containers with the precious liquid, the very source of life. Women & children, in saris, in batiks, in bamboo hats, in desert robes, smiling & giggling & splashing under the bright sunlight and then parading back to their homes, with urns on their heads & buckets in their hands.

Incredibly picturesque for the visitor - but imagine having to haul home all the water we use daily...

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Knowing when to give up: the "failed" hike

In the mountains, as in life, knowing when *it's time to give up is an essential skill". It is, unfortunately, not a fashionable one. We live in a time inflated with the expectation that everything is achievable, that we all merit to "reach for the stars", if only we "simply" focus our incredible potential.
*Failure", surrender, knowing when to stop, when to give up, are frowned on as character faults, of "not having what it takes" (which is usually defined as willpower or stamina).

Yet, failure, especially among perfectionistic youth, builds character. Recovering from failure is far more empowering than basking on a string of successes. Knowing how to preserve your strength for what it's most central to your life is a lost art in this age of distraction.

All this I think of when the mountain trail gets too scary and with a downcast smile, I decide to turn back.

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2017 New Year Wish: Let's build bridges

Bridges of understanding. Bridges of compassion.
Last year once again reminded us of the incredible messiness of the human condition. Suddenly, the world seems all the more complicated, its problems unsolvable, its polarizations unbridgeable.
Predictably, a certain type of individual has emerged in several countries promising to clean it all up for us and in one masterstroke restore our lost paradises. It is only (s)he that can restore purity by ridding us of the pollution of multiplicity and diversity.
Don't believe him/her!
(But neither believe those with entrenched interests in the status quo. It is their arrogance that has brought the fundamentalists to power).
Democracy is messy because humans are messy irrational creatures. This cannot change. It is part of our innate silliness and loveliness.
The only thing we can do is to try to migrate from the "*us versus them*" to the "*you and I*". It's the toughest bridge to build...

#nomadimitritravel
#newyear
#2017
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Fashion victim / Fashionista

Fashion affects all of us, whether we like it or not. Don't think for a moment that the urban youngster uniform of jeans/sneakers/T-shirt is not fashion. They spend hours picking them.

Many people are annoyed by fashion. At the same time, they admire the beads braided in the hair of an African tribe or the silky majesty of an Indian sari. These things are also fashion.

Fashion is there to differentiate us from each other. It is part of the same sort of competition that has evolved the peacock's tail.
But fashion can also be ridiculous, showy or elitist. Let's take a look at some examples from this holiday season!

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The Pope in jail

How did the West evolve into a separation of church and state?
This is an essential question today when wars are being fought to prevent a shift towards theocracy (where religious leaders govern).

So how did it happen in the West?

There were certainly NOT elections, nor referendums, where the people's vote would determine who would rule over them.
Instead, it was more like a game of chess, an intricate behind-the-scenes dance between power players that determined the outcome. And it was deadly!

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