THE CONGO

This is an English language lesson which attempts to give a general and realistic interpretation about the Congo.

The keywords of the lesson are highlighted in bold.

The Congo is a geographic region which lies at the ehart of the African continent.

It is identified by the Congo river, the second largest in Africa.  Only the River Nile is larger.

The Congo river flows in from the Atlantic ocean to the west and runs through waterfalls, rapids and dense forest for more than three thousand kilometres.

We associate the Congo not only with the setting for the Tarzan adventure stories but with its discovery and mapping by British explorers David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.

The Congo region is rich in natural resources such as diamonds, copper, rubber and diamonds as well as wildlife such as elephants, rhinos and hippos which make it a prime target for smuggling and poaching.

There are, in fact, two countries named the Congo.

The Republic of Congo lies to the north of the river and is an area which was first colonised by the French.

The much larger area of the Congo to the south of the river is called the Democratic Republic of Congo.

King Leopold II of Belgium laid claim to the Congo region south of the river as his own personal domain in the late nineteenth century and acted in contravention of the mandate given to him at the Berlin Conference of 1884 at which all of the major European nation states attended.

King Leopold called the country the ‘Congo Free State’ and vowed to stop slave labour but nothing can be further from the truth as he ruthlessly used mercenaries to deprive the local Congolese of their liberty, dignity and also their lives.

It is estimated that ten million Congolese people died during twenty years of barbarity until the Begian government intervened in 1908 against a universal outcry.

The Congo Free State eventually became an independent nation state in 1960.

The Congo should be one of the richest countries in the world but exploitation, corruption and political in-fighting make it one of the poorest.

For a relatively short time between 1971 ands 1997, the Congo was called Zaire following the pronounciation of the tributary to the Congo as spoken by the earlier Portugese colonists.

The capital city, formerly called Leopoldsville after the Belgian King, is now called Kinshasa and lies across the Congo river from Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo.

The Congo is probably most famous for the World Heavyweight boxing title contest which was held there in 1974 when the late Mohammed Ali fought and beat George Foreman iu the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.

That is the end of the lesson about the Congo.

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CULTURE AND BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

I often have to go away on a business trip to another country and meet someone who has a different culture from my own.

So this English lesson focuses on differences in culture and business etiquette.

Some important cultural matters to consider are appearance and dress code, timekeeping,, meetings, the giving of gifts, business cards and the basics of introductions and greetings.

I have come to understand that culture in business is all about values, beliefs, behavior, appearance, time-keeping, ethics and etiquette.

Get off on the right foot and you can seal the deal.  Do something considered inappropriate or culturally improper by your business associate and the whole deal can go up in smoke.

Small talk plays an essential part of a business meeting, especially across cultures and in building up rapport with your business counterpart.

Do not, however, make your personal questions too intrusive or interrogative and recognize during communication that there needs to be time for silence and reflection.

Being able, however,  to speak a few words in the local language and knowing something about the country of your host, certainly goes a long way towards grace and favour.

During a meeting, consider being less confrontational and direct, more gentle, persuasive and certainly patient, embracing group solidarity rather than an individual approach.

As a rule of thumb in most countries, age equals seniority and is paramount.

Time-keeping comes to the fore as a cultural conflict for a business meeting.

I myself like to be punctual and on time but that is not always the case with many of my business counterparts who consider the scheduled time to meet as merely a suggestion or a flexible time rather than in any way fixed.

One thing for sure is never schedule a business meeting during an important religious holiday such as Christmas  or Idul Eid or invite a muslim associate to dine with you during the fasting month of Ramadan between dawn and dusk.

In fact, planning a business meeting and a lengthy one at that with a muslim on a Friday, the islamic day of prayer, is absolutely a bad idea.

For a formal meeting, I would expect to wear a suit with a collared shirt, tie and black shoes but for an informal meeting, casual appearance would be considered acceptable.

In some countries such as Indonesia and Japan, it is wholly respectful to adapt a little to their dress code and if invited to do so, wear batik clothing, head dress  or a kimono as the situation requires.

It is also quite customary to give a small token gift from my own country which is always appreciated.  I am always careful to do a little research beforehand to make sure that whatever I give does not cause embarrassment or offense to my host.

In the west, we are accustomed to greeting people with  a handshake and eye contact but I know from experience that in Japan and in Arab countries for example, the method of greeting is very different and somewhat more reverent.

A great deal of importance is placed on addressing someone in a business meeting.

It is always recommended that you address someone you meet in business by their family name or job title.  It is certainly considered impolite to address someone iin business meeting by their first name unless invited to do so.

The importance of the business card is most definitely underestimated.

The business card will often be seen as an extension of your identity and should be handed directly to your business counterpart whose own business card should not be immediately placed in your wallet or back pocket but kept in view as a sign of respect,.

As we can see, there are many diversities of culture which a business traveller must be prepared for.

There are many more which have not been mentioned.

Please use the lesson to continue your practice of English through reading, writing and speaking.

Thank you for coming by and oh yes.  Why not stop by a bit longer and leave a comment on the blogsite so that Mr. Paul, the keeper of the blogsite, can update and improve the blogs written and posted.

Thank you and God bless1  Happy Days!

 

 

TOWERS OF THE WORLD

I thought it would be interesting in this lesson to take a look at the tallest towers in the world.

There is certainly an infinite fascination in climbing the steps of a tall tower for a spectacular panoramic view.

I can still recall the ascent of many of the dark, narrow, twisting stairways  which lead to the top, some as many as five hundred steps in towers such as at Cologne Cathredal in Germany.

The Tokyo Skytree is actually officially the tallest tower in the world at a height of 634 metres or 2080 feet but it is probably the psychadelic orange and white tower in Tokyo which grabs greater attention.

In modern life, we have come to understand tall towers as a man made structure for observation, satelite, radio or televison communication.

Before the advancement of technology, humans built much more modest sized look-out towers at castles and fortresses, clock towers, bell towers and lighthouses.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris France and the Statue of Liberty in New York City America are two of a kind and probably the two most famous and visited towers in the world.

In fact, both towers have a French connection.

The Statue of Liberty was a French gift to celebrate a centenary of American Independence in 1886 and a French engineer gave his name to the tower he designed to stand three years later in 1889 beside the river seine in Paris itself for the World Trade Fair.

By comparison, the Eiffel Tower is a much larger structure at 342 metres compared to the Statue of Liberty at 93 metres.

Indonesians are familiar with Monas, otherwise known as the Monument National, a symbolic tower for independence of Indonesia erected in 1961, standing gloriously at a height of 132 metres in the centre of Jakarta city with an obelisk of pure gold at the head.

When we think of towers, not necessarily tall towers, everybody has surely heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy which has been a bell tower for over seven hundred years.  It is only 55 metres high but its claim to fame is due to the fact that it is  five metres off perpendicular!

There are several towers in England which come to mind such as Blackpool Tower in the north west,  very much modelled in 1894 on the Eiffel Tower and which rises to a height of 158 metres next to a splendid sandy beach.

You will no doubt have seen images of the Big Ben Clock Tower adjacent to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster London which is 16 storeys and 96 metres high while the nearby Nelsons Column in the middle of Trafalgar Square is a mere 52 metres high.

Just to set the record straight, the Tower of London down river from there is a building and not a tower, although the 27 metre White Tower within its environs and which gave its name to the Tower of London does count as an historic tower.

As a summary, it might be useful to make a note of the ten tallest towers in the world.  They are:

  1. Tokyo Skytree (634m)
  2. Canton Tower in Guanghou China (600m)
  3. CNN Tower in Toronto Canada (553m)
  4. Ustenkino Tower in Moscow Russia (540m)
  5. Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai China (568m)
  6. Milad Tower in Iran (435m)
  7. KL Tower in Malaysia (421m)
  8. Tianjin Tower in China (415m)
  9. Central Radio/TV Tower Beijing China (405m)
  10. Zhongyan Tower in China (388m)

As a further summary, it might also be useful to make a note of the ten most well known towers and which may not appear to the list above for the top ten tallest towers.

  1. CNN Tower in Toronto Canada
  2. Eiffel Tower in Paris France
  3. Statue of Liberty in New York City USA
  4. Monument National (Monas) in Jakarta Indonesia
  5. Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy
  6. Big Ben Clock Tower in London England
  7. KL Tower in Malaysia
  8. Yokohama (Lighthouse0 Marine Tower in Japan (106m)
  9. Blackpool Tower in Lancashire England
  10. Tower of the Reformer in Gautemala City Central America (75m)

Enjoy the Lesson!

A lot of the information can be used for a General Knowledge Quiz about tall and famous towers.

HOME FROM HOME

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea of living in somebody else’s home in another part of the world completely for free while they lived in my home in exchange.

At first, i was very apprehensive but after exchanging a few emails and a whole load of photos of our home, we were able to find a suitable match and have enough trust to put the holiday plan into action.

There are six people in my family and we live in a three bedroom terraced house in a suburb of north London.

My home offers an excellent base for anyone with a similar sized family as mine who would want to come to London England for sightseeing, shopping or sporting events.

The idea of experiencing to live in someone else’s home on vacation was definitely more appealing instead of a hotel, resort bungalow or self-catering apartment.

After trying the arrangement a few times, despite some glitches in terms of timing, I must tell you that i have become hooked on the ‘Home from Home’ concept.  The only significant financial outlay is the air fares.

To be honest, as a family, we have had some amazing holidays this way and nurtured some great friendships with people from other countries and cultures which we would not have otherwise.

We have experienced real Cambodian culture by staying in a traditional still house on the banks of the Mekong river while by contrast, we have enjoyed the spectacular, stunning views of New York City’s skyline from an ultra-modern penthouse.

We have been fortunate to live like royalty in a magnificent, hsitoric French chateau and to get back to nature in a fantastic tree-house deep inside the rain forest of Costa Rica.

This summer, we are to set sail to the crystal clear waters of the meditterean sea on a luxurious yacht and embark on a magical journey through the Greek islands.

For Christmas, we have planned the perfect winter getaway to a splendid log cabin at a fashionable ski resort where we can relax in front of a fireplace or soak in the hot tub after a long hard day on the ski slopes.

For all these experiences, guests have enjoyed the comforts and delights of our humble abode in the historic city of London.

What we have all experienced is living somewhere for a short time which is completely different from our own normal habitat and which provides complimentary facilities and activities for our holiday needs.

Thanks to the internet and to like-minded people, there are endless opportunities for the holiday-maker to experience ‘home from home’ and the world really has become our oyster.  Quite literally.

CULTURAL TOURISM

This is an interesting insight into the world of cultural tourism.

We are all people of the world.  We have received an education in a school and have been taught.  We have knowledge.  We are literate.  We can both read and write.  We can communicate in one or more languages.

We have books.  There are libraries.  There is television, radio, internet and means for socialisation such as social media and public gatherings.

We have multiple sources of information.

We are aware of the history and heritage, not only of our own country but also of countries and places far away from us.

We have the means to travel by road, rail, air and sea.

We have the financial means to afford the journey.

We have the curiosity to know.

Suddenly, the world is a smaller place and we have begun to live in the global village.

Thomas Cook, an enterprising Englishman, had the vision that ordinary people and not just  rich aristocrats, could and would one day want to know more about the world in which they lived.

So cultural tourism meets a cultural need in every one of us because we question, why have we not learnt about it if not to know more and to see it with our own eyes?

There are three distinct categories of culture which engages our interest.

They are firstly buildings and monuments.  Secondly works of art and thirdly events, shows, exhibitions, festivals and theatre.

The many sources of information and knowledge have told us about the ancient pyramids and pharaoh temples of Egypt, bibilical lands of Israel, the empires of Rome, Turkey, Greece, Khmer, Mayans, Aztecs and Incas amongst others.

We know about colonialism and war.

We know that the age of renaissance (meaning rebirth) and the age of enlightenment which both happened in the last millenium have played pivotal roles in history.

They are all integral to the legacy of world culture.

The cultural tourist seeks out places of worship such as churches, cathredals, temples and mosques which were built by people in history who were expressing their own cultural ideals of the time.

The cultural tourist visits museums which have been established, much in a way a library of books has, as a depository of artIfacts and antiquitiies for the public at large to behold.

The Colliseum in Rome.  The Acropolis Temple in Athens.  The Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico.  The Louvre Art Museum in Paris.  Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The Eiffel Tower in Paris and  the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Taj Mahal in India.  Trafalgar Square and  Stonehenge in England.

Life is not all work and no play, so we want to be entertained.  The foundation of our desire to be entertained is what we understand from our education.

Our social interactions develop interests, ranging from sport to singing, dancing and acting.

We enjoy the live performance of drama in a theatre, musical concerts as well as movies at the cinema.

Are comedy, horror, action and adventure escapism not a cultural experience too?

We attend outdoor concerts.  We watch football matches.  We go to beer festivals, book fairs, exhibitions and fairs.

Beyond that, we are pilgrims of our religious faith, christians looking to go to Jerusalem and muslims to Mecca.

The act of being a cultural tourist has been belittled in modern times with the ‘selfie’, a photographic recall of yourself aside a statue, monument or artifact of great cultural significance.

You are a culture vulture, preying on the history of the past for social enjoyment, middling between sightseeing and living your culture dream.

There you are, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland, touching a real life Egyptian Mummy, posing provocatively in front of the Mona Lisa or pretending to be a real life knight at a medieval castle.

It is a field trip out of context,  This is no guilt trip.  Every one of us has done it.  Or wants to.

After all, cultural tourism is all about understanding and coming into contact with traditions, arts, crafts, customs and lifestyle not necessarily of our own.  It provides enjoyment of past human achievement and gives us objects to admire, to be proud of and a way to connect with our ancestors.

Cultural tourism is just the vehicle between the past, the present and the future.

History gave us culture.  Our debt of grattitude is to yesteryear.

It is now the responsibility of mankind to embrace it today and preserve it for tomorrow.

 

DESCRIBE A VISA APPLICANT

This is an English language lesson taking a look at the details of a visa applicant.

The connected lessons are:

  1. The Visa Application
  2. Types of Visas
  3. The Visa Applicant (this lesson)
  4. The Visa Interview – Anticipate the Questions
  5. Approval or Rejection of the Visa

Antonio is a foreign national who wants to make a ten day holiday to England next year.  He needs to obtain a Visa from the British Embassy.

Antonio is twenty years old.  He is still living at home with his parents.  He is single, not in a relationship with anyone and is jobless.  He is a committed muslim but dresses conservatively.  He is straight (sexually) and is in the second year of study at a local University where he studies Media and Public Relations.

He is a person of good health and has no criminal convictions.

He wants to visit England for a holiday.  He watches a lot of English football on television and Hollywood movies at the cinema.

He has a lot of international friends on social media and he has plans to meet one or two of them when he is in England.

He has been attending a language-course in his home country twice a week to bolster his English.

He does not know too much about England except there are two rival football teams in Manchester and Liverpool, that London is the capital city, Pound Sterling is the monetary currency and Queen Elizabeth lives in a  big palace.

He is jobless and has never done a paid job.

His only trip out of Indonesia was to Singapore on a school trip for three days three years ago.

He holds a valid passport which will expire in nine months time.

He proposes to travel alone and visit England for ten days staying in cheap guest houses and/or dormitory accommodation.

Antonio will finance the trip through financial assistance from his parents.  His Father is a doctor and his Mother a schoolteacher.

He has enquired about the cost of a return flight and a first night at a guest house in London but nothing is confirmed.

He has, however, bought a guidebook, downloaded other useful travel-related material and announced on social media he is definitely going to England for a holiday.

Antonio must now prepare for and anticipate the eight questions he will be asked at the visa interview.

 

DESCRIBE A VISA APPLICATION

The aim of this lesson is to look at the necessary steps for obtaining a visa.

These are the key aspects of a visa application:

  1. Researching what might be required to submit a visa application, where, when and how to do it
  2. Preparing the supporting documentation
  3. Preparing and submitting the visa application
  4. Arranging the visa interview
  5. Anticipate the questions which might be asked at the visa interview
  6. Put yourself in the position of the Consulate officer and write an objective email approving or denying a visa application

A visa is usually needed together with a passport in order to enter a foreign country.

The model country for our lesson is England, otherwise known as United Kingdom or Great Britain.

Not every foreign national requires a visa but for the purposes of this lesson, please assume that they do.

It is also not necessary for every visa applicant to attend for an interview but again, for the purposes of this lesson, please assume that they do.

Businessmen, workers, tourists, students, artists and diplomants all require a visa.

A visa must be applied for in advance to the consulate of the country you are visiting.

There will usually be a consulate office for that country in your home country.

The application can be downloaded from the website of the consulate or a printed copy collected from the consulate offices.

The visa application should be fully completed and submitted as required to the consulate offices for processing.

A lot of detail is required to be stated on the visa application form.

Your full name and address, date of birth, contact telephone number and email address.

Your sexual gender, status whether married, single, divorced or widowed.

The name, address and contact name for your present employer.

Your nationality and passport number, its date of issue and expiry.

Your reason for visiting England.  How long you will be there for.  Whether you know anyone there.  How the trip will be financed.  When you propose to go.

Additional information is asked about your health and criminal record.

The second step is to collate all the information which you might need to produce for the visa interview.

The applicant needs to be thorough in the preparation.

Evidence of funds in a bank account to finance the trip, of communication with a sponsor, of current employment or study, of the health and criminal record plus a proposed itinerary from a reputable travel agent  may all be necessary documents to produce at the interview.

The third step is to arrange the interview.  This will usually be done by an automated telephone processing system which will confirm the date and time for the visa interview.

Fourthly, a prudent visa applicant should anticipate questions at the visa interview and practice answering them.

The visa interview will only last a few minutes and the interviewing officer will ask likely no more than eight standard questions based on the information you provided on the visa application submitted.

It is a good idea to read the lesson related to this called ‘Describe a Visa Applicant’ and consider how you would write an email approving or rejecting a visa application for Antonio.

The visa applicant will not be notified of the result of the visa interview until several days later by email.

If the visa application is successful, the applicant will be able to travel to England within ninety days of the date of issue of the visa.  That is the fifth and final step.

If the visa application is unsuccessful, the applicant will be sent a detailed email or letter explaining the reasons for this and giving the applicant time and opportunity for an appeal.

The grant of the Visa by the Consulate is not an absolute guarantee that the immigration officer at the airport or other port of entry will stamp your passport and allow you to enter the country but it would have to take something exceptional to persuade that immigration officer otherwise.

This lesson has attempted at least to set out what an applicant must consider when a visa application is necessary.

None of the steps should be underestimated.  All of them should be meticulously planned for, just like a military operation, job placement interview or a school examination.

Keep in mind also that money is at stake and the hefty fee paid to the consulate to seek the visa will not be refunded if the visa is denied.