Confusion: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week, the challenge is to show confusion.

Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.

Roger Ebert

As photographers, all the advice we get given is to have a clear subject, follow this rule of thirds, follow that rule of using a tripod, follow yet another rule about the right lens, the right ISO, the right exposure time, the right sort of post-processing…

Throw it all out. Right now.

Start from an empty slate. Don’t even try to make sense. Just take a photo!

My photo is of a taxi I saw near Shanghai. I’d been living in China for about a year at this point. I snapped the picture while we were both moving at around 50mph. I was inside another taxi (you should be able to see the window reflection). This guy was just driving down the motorway with his boot open and seemed to have no idea that the white lines were supposed to show you where to drive!

I wanted to get the shot, because I’d never seen anyone driving like this before; most drivers in China are excellent. But there was no way this would ever fit those rules we impose on ourselves as photographers.

I was so confused about how anyone could just drive down the road so oblivious to the fact his boot was open (he must not have looked in his rear view mirror once the whole journey) or the fact that he was straddling two lanes.

What can you come up with?

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Jagged: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge!

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s challenge is jagged.

When something is jagged, it is pointy, uneven, and dangerous. We think of the jagged teeth of a shark or the jagged rocks near a lighthouse. But some people believe jaggedness is a positive attribute, because without it, nothing would ever change.

The good work is done by people with jagged, broken edges, because those edges cut things and leave an imprint, a design.

Harry Crews

My photo is of a cactus I found in Arizona, which looked exactly like a skater doing a spiral, or a ballerina doing that really hard part with the suitors in Sleeping Beauty (I forget what it is called). The jagged spikes surrounding it almost fade away but they are still there, protecting the plant from being eaten.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

The beauty trends to know for 2021 (Guest post by Wang Fang in Mandarin)

这些美容和化妆趋势将主导2021年 
无论您是要更新妆容,头发,指甲还是皮肤,我们都会请专家(例如Vincent Oqendo和Elle)来告诉我们本年度最佳的美容和彩妆趋势。
去年是改变一切的一年-包括我们的美容习惯。我们中的许多人发现自己在家里被隔离,无法修指甲,少化妆,甚至剪自己的头发。豪华水疗,睫毛膏和鲜艳的唇膏的时代已经一去不复返了-我们将它们换成面膜,环光灯和精选护肤品。
随着我们翻开新的一页并进入2021年,美容趋势已经适应了这一时刻-明亮动人的眼睛在面膜后弹出,大量有趣的指甲趋势等等。我们聘请了化妆,指甲,头发和皮肤方面的专家,向我们提供了一些有关到2021年将要出现的最大趋势的内幕信息。
多彩的眼睛
在2019年,亮妆出现了。从那时起,五颜六色的化妆就变得最受欢迎了-特别是现在我们戴着口罩。名人化妆师文森特·奥肯多(Vincent Oqendo)预测,大胆的眼影膏颜色将在2021年流行,在每种彩虹色中都如此。
裸钉
名人指甲艺术家埃勒(Elle)预测,今年中性凝胶修指甲将成为主流。她说:“它可以是哑光或有光泽的,可以看作是手的延伸,可以延长手指的外观。”如果您想使外观更上一层楼,她建议您添加金色饰物或一些火花,以打造精致而又不至于过于压倒性的外观。专家提示:选择杏仁或圆形指甲形状可以使手指看起来更长。
大胆的眉头
奥昆多说,他今年已经看到了更多的眉毛。“我听到很多人说,隔离区使他们终于长出了眉毛,”奥昆多说。走。”
柔和的指甲设计
根据Elle的说法,花卉印花设计在2021年春季的跑道上非常庞大。您可以在沙龙里索要花卉粉彩,但在家里比您想象的要容易得多。挑选出香蕉黄色的阴影,然后选择淡粉色或绿色等花瓣颜色。将牙签浸入花瓣阴影中,使点围绕中心点形成花瓣。薄荷色阴影也可用于在花朵周围创建叶子。”
秀色可餐
现在是时候用前所未有的眼妆玩游戏了:“我发现眼睛周围有很多贴花,” Oquendo说。考虑在眼影周围添加珠宝或闪闪发光,或尝试使用阴燃的眼线笔-这是本季的另一大趋势。
自然皮肤
许多人选择抛弃沉重的粉底和遮瑕膏,以不间断地炫耀其皮肤。这种趋势全都围绕着您所处的皮肤。Kagha博士说,她看到越来越多的患者进入办公室,例如填充剂和提拉皮肤,这些过程可以使皮肤无需化妆即可看起来新鲜。
您想尝试什么新趋势?在评论中让我知道!谢谢

Translation:

The American trends in 2021 are very exciting. Make up artists share their fashions for the face and nails in this article.

Our beauty habits have changed. We did not make our nails, wear cosmetics or cut our hair. In the new world, trends transformed into the new era.

  1. Eye color is bright and inspirational.
  2. Nails are plain with neutral colors and gel manicures.
  3. Eyebrows thicker and darker people will not have thin eyebrows because they were at home with no threading.
  4. Flower nails a second design for nails is flower blossom or lotus flower design.
  5. Jewel eyes stick jewel to eyes to make attract attention on video conference.
  6. Natural skin with no foundation or powder, skin will mention the times without hesitation!

What new trends do you want to try? Let me know in the comments! Xiè xiè!

Flow: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome to the weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos! Anyone can join in, all you need is a WordPress blog and a picture you have taken with your camera!

This week’s challenge is flow. This is a super open-ended one, so it’s going to be hard to choose your picture!

Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.

Lao Tzu

Mine is from an artistic waterfall in the Dubai Mall near the Burj Khalifa. The Dubai Mall is possibly my favourite shopping centre in the whole world. I really adored visiting Dubai and look forward to going again in the future.

Alongside all the myriad literal interpretations of flow, you could go metaphysical and look at the flow of life’s rhythms, or perhaps examine the impact of too much or too little water flow, cash flow or electricity flow on a community. If you’re in Minnesota or Canada, a frozen waterfall might be the way to go! I look forward to seeing what you can come up with.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Reviewed: The best courses and apps to learn Chinese

If you are planning to move to China or travel there, you are probably thinking of learning some Chinese. Which Chinese do you need to learn? Mandarin is the standard Chinese, and that is what I’m talking about in this article. Nearly everyone speaks Mandarin in addition to their local dialect. It would benefit you to learn some before you go, but also to take a class once you arrive. In this article I am going to review:

Apps:

Duolingo:
Type: App
Cost: Free
Duration: No time limit

As a concept, I really love the idea of Duolingo, however, in practice, the app isn’t grounded in enough context for a beginner, and it’s certainly no good as a standalone language-learning app.

It starts with asking a question, and if you are a total beginner, you have to obviously guess the answer. This is supposed to be based on a particular type of learning theory but as a qualified teacher, I have long-felt this type of learning, by guessing and getting things wrong, might improve understanding/participation at the time of the learning, but it doesn’t encourage long term retention of the information. As an example, I spent about 8 hours working my way through Duolingo and I learned only the word for milk. And now I can’t even remember that.

I think as an accompaniment to an organized course it can be useful but you absolutely do need to take a proper course, especially if you are serious about going to China. With Mandarin, the most important things you need to know are the sentence structures.

Without these, knowing random words is really unhelpful because people in China don’t guess what you are trying to say, they will wait for inspiration to hit you and for you to magically speak the correct complete sentence. Since there are no “yes” and “no” (your guidebook lied), you must learn how to say each sentence in the positive. For example, if you wanted to say “I understand” you would say “wo dong” and if you didn’t understand, you couldn’t just say “no” to “do you understand?”, you have to say the whole sentence, “wo bu dong”.

This is the same for all Chinese (it’s also true of Irish). So an app where you learn single words will help you expand your vocab but it will not help you to get by in China. I still recommend it as long as you’re not expecting to rely on it to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Courses:

Peking University: Chinese for Beginners
Type: Online
Cost: Free
Duration: 7 weeks
Sign up here.

This is a free online course, but it is delivered in realtime (if you want a certificate you have to complete it in a certain timeframe), so you need to complete each week’s work before the next course. It has a lot of videos in it, and honestly I found that each “week” took more than a week to learn. If I was just passively watching the videos rather than trying to learn and digest the course material, I could see this taking 7 weeks, or if I wasn’t working full-time.

It did cover a lot of content, although using my Chinese out and about, I found that people didn’t always understand what I was saying, and I feel like this course skipped over the most important basics for learning Chinese — the tones and how to properly shape your mouth/throat to pronounce words. Without that basis, any course in Chinese is not aimed at complete beginners.

I did like the fact we covered Chinese characters from the first week, and this was what I learned best and remembered the most from this course. One advantage of this course is that it is the “official” approved Chinese lessons taught by registered Chinese teachers.

With that in mind, this was a really good, comprehensive course, but it is not really for beginners, it’s more for people who have already done some basic Mandarin but now want to learn it in more depth or if they are rusty. There is a lot packed into every “week” of this course. If you have the time I think you could learn quite a lot of the basics from this course.

Queen’s University Belfast Languages Course: Chinese
Type: Online
Cost: Free
Duration: 6 weeks
Sign up here.

This is another free online course. You might be wondering why Belfast would be the place to learn Chinese. What I liked most about this course (and it’s tragic I only took this course after I had left China) was the way the teacher covered pronunciation in more depth than any other course I’ve taken. I felt like after taking this course, I had a much better foundation in pronunciation of the tones than I’ve gained from any other course I’ve taken.

Having said that, it did suffer a little from the same problem as the Peking University course, in that they were trying to cram too much learning into one “week” of study. It would better for all these courses to cover about half the amount of content so students have time to properly memorize it, especially since they all build on the content week-by-week. I felt like I was in a hard position of either skating over reams of content or missing large chunks and maybe learning 2-3 new phrases each week. Luckily, this course wasn’t done in realtime but there was still the pressure that I never knew if or when the course content would be taken down.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Learn Mandarin Chinese
Type: Online
Cost: Free
Duration: 15 weeks
Sign up here.

This is a longer course than the first two, and aims to teach you 1000 words of Chinese, including 30 real-life situations. There are regular starting points around the year and you do need to complete this course within a set time if you want to earn a certificate.

I felt like this one took a slower pace than the previous two, but because it ran for 3 and a half months, it meant there was time between classes to be able to digest the information and to practice the new phrases while I was out and about in China. I don’t know if it’s because this one was run by a Shanghai university, but I felt like I learned a lot more Chinese that people responded to from this course than from the one run by Peking university (I lived about 200 miles from Shanghai).

Dance: Thursday Photo Challenge

Welcome to the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s challenge is dance.

Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand they danced in the light of the moon.

Edward Lear

Dancing is one of my favourite things to do. I never had ballet lessons as a child because my mum thought girls shouldn’t be girly. I miss the childhood I never got, with the princesses and dance shows. I grew up to be an ice skater (amongst many other jobs). Go figure.

I have taught dance and one of the things I loved as an elementary teacher was incorporating dance into my classes’ daily routines. We danced good morning, we danced goodbye at the end of the day. In between, we sometimes all stood up and had a wiggle to get the energy out. Seven-year-olds need to get their energy out sometimes.

So this theme is one I wish I had more photos for. Unfortunately, when I’m dancing, the last thing I can do is take a photo. So I have chosen a photo of feathery ice crystals frozen in their intricate dance, instead.

How does dance inspire you to create a photo?

Anyone can join in! Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your post so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Shadows: Join the Thursday Photo Challenge!

Welcome to the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s theme is shadows.

The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.

Gregory Maguire

Shadows lurk around the edges of our consciousnesses, intensifying our feelings, darkening our thoughts and making us question things. But without shadows, we wouldn’t be able to see anything at all! Your challenge is to capture an image of a shadow.

These can be real shadows or imaginary ones. They can be images representing the shadows which hold you back or make you doubt yourself, or the shadows that dance under the kitchen light when you make a midnight snack. I can’t wait to see what you can come up with!

My photo is of the shadows that formed beneath a staircase in Seoul, South Korea, at twilight. I love the way these shadows seem to show the spiral isn’t at the same angle across the three turns of the stairway. At the top was a beautiful flower-filled bridge with trees planted in containers that seemed to be floating in the half-light.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution and check out your blog.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Gift: Come join the Thursday photo challenge!

Welcome to the Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos! You don’t have to be an expert artistic photographer (I’m not), just someone with a passion for pictures!

This week’s Thursday photo challenge theme is gift. Share a photo you have taken of a gift. It doesn’t have to be a present, it could be a gift like a talent, or a gift of kindness toward someone, or any other way you choose to interpret it! I love the things people come up with for photo challenges!

“The past is history. The future is a mystery. But today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Oogway, Kung Fu Panda

My photo of a gift is from Seoul, South Korea, where we found vending machines selling bunches of mixed flowers and beautiful arrangements of roses and greenery for people who needed a gift for their loved ones on the way home from a long day at the office. I thought it was such a beautiful idea. A gift vending machine brings joy to people and reminds us to think of others amidst the daily hustle.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Vibrant: Come and join the Thursday photo challenge!

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s topic is… vibrant.

Life is a sea of vibrant colour. Jump in.

A.D. Posey

Vibrant colours are all around us, lifting our souls and energising our senses. Studies have even shown different colours behave differently at a molecular level (colour chemistry is a whole branch of the natural sciences).

So join us in celebrating the many brilliant and diverse colours in the world! You can show a photo with lots of colours, one particular colour, or an absence of colour. Whatever the word “vibrant” means to you!

I can’t wait to see what you share!

My photo is of some tins of sardines I found in a supermarket in China. I thought it fitted this challenge in a sort of pop art way.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then I will be back in the New Year to post the next challenge!

Postcards to my baby: Cambodia

Dear Jellyfish,

I don’t think I will ever go back to Cambodia unless it changes enormously. It’s taken me three years to gain some perspective on my time there and to be able to actually write about it.

There’s an elephant in the room which no naive, bright-eyed twentysomething travel blogger seems able to write about.

Cambodia is grotesque. I’m sorry, but it is.

The whole thing is a manufactured tourist trap designed (presumably by organized criminals) to appeal to the American “white saviour” complex that gets American tourists parting with as much money as possible at every point in their journey. I’m not American, by the way, so I know this will offend those who are.

I don’t think I had a single genuine interaction the whole time I was there. Every word people spoke was patter. The child selling postcards for one dollar apiece, that would have cost 20p in England. The museum, expensively decked out in stark contrast to the unpaved roads to Angkor Wat. The museum gift shop, full of $40 crocheted bags that you could pick up for $10 in Thailand. It was all purposely designed to appeal to fortysomething and fiftysomething Americans. The people with the money.

One thing that deeply bothered me was the fact no locals can afford in a million years to go and see Angkor Wat, despite the fact it’s their heritage that’s being exploited, sacrificed in a sickening cargo cult designed to lure in rich American tourists. It’s only full of tourists.

The entire country is just scam after scam. Looking around at all the people begging, and all the American tourists blithely handing over money thinking they were helping the poor, I wanted to vomit, because they’re making things worse.

Stop thinking with your heart and think with your head.

Let’s look at the floating village.

A bag of rice doesn’t cost $50 and neither does a 24 pack of pencils for the school.

But let’s imagine it does. How many dozens of American tourists on boats get whizzed past the same floating village, told the same tale of woe, and hand over $50 or $100 for a $5 bag of rice in ONE day? Why, then, have the villagers still not got any rice? Americans have been going there for about 15 years, now, and you’re telling me these people are still hungry? Why?

Because the money isn’t going to them. It’s going to organized criminal gangs.

How much money does the child flogging $1 postcards actually get? Nothing. He hands it over to his master.

How much does the taxi driver get when you give him a tip? Or the beggar when you give them money (and be sure, they’re not begging from other Cambodians, they’re begging from tourists)? Where is the museum entry fee going? Why are there still no paved roads outside the cities?

I am in no doubt the poverty you see in Cambodia is genuine, but everything about the way it is presented to you, the way it is exploited, and the way you are told you can “help” is fake. People who get drawn into the lie are not helping, they are part of the problem. Every time someone hands over $50 for a bag of rice or $1 for a 20p postcard, this justifies in the minds of the sellers that their scam has worked, so they keep doing it.

It’s painfully awkward being in Cambodia, seeing the scams, having to engage with people who see you as a big target. Whatever the country’s identity was going to be, tourism has ravaged it. I’ve seen scams before, but never anything on this scale. It’s just so well-orchestrated.

Tourism is a huge and very busy industry, but none of that money is going back into the local community, it’s being siphoned off.

Something in Cambodia needs to change massively at an organizational level.

I hope, little one, that by the time you grow up, Cambodia has sorted out its problems and works properly for the people who live there. But while “white saviours” are busy doing bad deeds to ease their own consciences, that’s not going to happen.