Living At The Cultural And Technological Crossroad

Living At The Cultural And Technological Crossroad

Even though two people speak the same language, having come from different cultures, their understanding of the spoken language will be different.

An American, a Frenchmen and a Chinese, all owners of smartphones, found themselves in a locked room. Can you guess the outcome? No, really, this happened to me. Except that I was neither of them, belonging to a fourth nationality, the Romanian born South African.

Ah, South Africa! The “Rainbow Country”! The nation with 11 official languages where people from numerous cultural backgrounds live together in harmony and peace. Apart from the local Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Tswana to name but a few, we have Afrikaners, Portuguese, British, French, Dutch, Greeks, Italians, Romanians, and the list goes on and on. And no, we don’t communicate with each other in Esperanto but in English, mainly.

So what happened in this 21st century locked room mystery?

What are the consequences of bringing together folks from different cultural backgrounds during a dinner event in today’s modern times?

People using their smartphones throughout the course of the evening to send messages, connect to social media sites, surf the web or even play games; two out of five adults at my table, three out of seven at a nearby table, with various adults at neighboring tables joining them. And I doubt they were texting each other…

While I did my best to follow the proceedings of the evening a bothersome question nestled itself in my mind. Why would 20%-30% of educated individuals, coming from an array of cultural backgrounds, choose to ignore all rules of social mobile etiquette? What possessed them?

I believe that, leaving all social protocol aside, there are two theories behind this situation.

1. The intercultural theory

People from different cultural backgrounds for whom English is not the first language, when communicating in English will lose important cognitive information, thus being in danger of drifting off and losing interest on the information presented.

Lost in translation

In other words, when two people coming from different cultural backgrounds and for whom English is not their mother tongue listen to an English sentence each one will perceive, will absorb and will relate to it in a different way; the information it carries being filtered through the listener’s own cultural background.

Translator addressing his master, indoors, Late 15th Century, source Wikimedia
Translator addressing his master, indoors, Late 15th Century, source Wikimedia

This is similar to the color perception theory which says that when two people look at the same color they will see two different shades of it, but they will never know how the two shades differ, or what shade precisely the other one perceived.

So many words, so little time

Fact: statistics show that out of 7 billion people in the world, 1,500 million speak English, of whom only 375 million are native speakers. That’s 21.4% English speakers in the world and only 5.36% English native. For the rest of 20% English speakers English is not their first language.

Research also shows that in the United States there is an increase in the decision non-English natives make to use their mother tongue at home, as opposed to English.

2. The technological theory

Living in the über-technological 21st century the use of one’s smartphone has evolved from need to compulsion. The smartphone isn’t a utility anymore, but an addiction. We don’t watch nature anymore, we take pictures of it. We don’t experience the Supermoon, we view it through our phone’s screen instead. We attend a live event, yet we look at it through our mobile screen, detaching ourselves from real life, extracting ourselves from present.

Putting things into perspective as opposed to living them

Let’s not point fingers yet, as each generation’s digital inclination will translate into a greater easiness for the following one in the use of digital technology as a learning tool. This means less paper used, less trees cut, more oxygen and less greenhouse effect, yes, one has to put things into perspective.

Fact: globally, in one second: there are 7 368 Tweets sent, 745 Instagram photos uploaded, 1 166 Tumbler posts, 2 300 Skype calls, 38 579 GB internet traffic, 56 616 Google searches, 132 753 YouTube videos watched, 252 9486 emails sent, 67% of which are spam.

Mobile phones are IN and they’re here to stay.

Now let’s take a closer look at these two theories.

1. An in depth look at the intercultural theory: living the dream or a cultural migration?

In a world in which political barriers are falling (the Berlin Wall in 1989, Communism in Russia and eastern Europe, the Arab spring), economic barriers are falling (the introduction of the Euro currency in 2002 and countries joining the EU group in 2004 and after) or are being rebuilt (Brexit, 2016), people choose or find themselves forced to live outside their natural geographic barriers, migrating or emigrating.

It is the birth of the cultural diversity and we live it.

Still, no matter how many barriers we remove, other barriers fall in place. How and why are these new walls influencing our lives?

Why are we faced with cultural barriers in communication?

We all share ideas, beliefs, traditions and rituals – to some extent. What differentiates an individual from the next are the bits and bobs that have been handed down by past generations. These form our national, ethnic, religious self, through which we filter the outside world to, eventually, understand it and interpret it. It is our culture; it helps us understand the reality, make it our own and thus finding our place in the world. It is what makes us feel “at home” on an emotional level.

Everything we’ve inherited from our parents and from our immediate community will shape the way in which we understand and cope with reality. The culture inherited through our mother-tongue especially, as it is our second skin, our air bubble, our personalized atmosphere. It reshapes our brain thus filtering the way we perceive the reality. It influences our thoughts and behaviors, because different languages have different social realities. Even though two people speak the same language, having come from different cultures with different mother tongues, their perceptions and understanding of the spoken language will be different.

Culture as an air bubble

Take the Americans, for example. They’re used to communicate freely. Germans are known to be direct, Hispanics love physical closeness during a conversation, while for Indians being indirect while they communicate with each other is a way of life.

This is why cultural diversity can cause people speaking the same language to distance from each other; not on a physical level, but an emotional one. The culture we grew in will influence the way we think and communicate with others, our expectations and, at times, these factors can become barriers.

Culture as our air bubble. Patricia Furstenberg
Culture as our air bubble. Patricia Furstenberg

 

Think of the expat communities formed all over the world, the China-Towns, the Russian congregations, the Spanish communities or the Harlem. People share a need to be among like-minded, like-cultural, like-mother-tongue speakers. Among people who think along the same principles, share the same humor and understand the subtitles of each other’s body language. (The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, 1958-69)

Example: Time as it is viewed by different cultures

Internationally renowned linguist Richard Lewis explains how different cultures understand time.

Think of the word “time” and its English connotation. We associate it with “money” therefore we say that time can be “spent”, “saved”, “wasted” or “invested”. This linear vision of time is shared by the Anglo-Saxon world and the same goes for the Swiss, which turned precision and being on time into a national symbol. For them, time is an abstract commodity valued by what one CAN DO with it before it runs out. It is also a source of constant stress. Hurry, it ticks.

Now think of the southern and eastern Europeans, the Italians, Portuguese, Turks or Arabs. For them, WHOM you share your time with is much more important that the passing of the time itself. Finishing a conversation happening in present time is more important than cutting it short because of being late for a future appointment. Because “now” I share my time with you; now is enjoyable, therefore it is more important than a forthcoming appointment.  To them, time is a personal commodity valued by HOW IS one enjoying it – therefore not worrying since there is plenty of it anyway; time stretches out ad infinitum. Relax, it pulses.

For Asians, time goes around in a CIRCLE. Time must be observed from all perspectives before deciding which tasks are important and which ones needn’t worry about. At the same time, the other person’s time is seen as more valuable than their own time. To them, FOLLOWING TRADITIONS is more important than the actual passing of time. Think & meditate, it hums.

But be it American, Italian or Chinese, time and the way one relates to it, understands it and refers to it has a specific meaning, passed through generations and through their mother tongue; filtered by their culture.

Table1-Tell me where you’re from & I’ll tell you what’s your time worth. Tell me where you’re from & I’ll tell you what’s your time worth
Table1-Tell me where you’re from & I’ll tell you what’s your time worth. Tell me where you’re from & I’ll tell you what’s your time worth. Patricia Furstenberg

2. Looking at the technological theory: living in the über-connected 21st century

Today’s younger generation is the first one ever not to know what life was like without a cellphone.

*Gulp*

While our generation, the 40’s something, *grin*, is the last one to have experiencing life with a corded phone. A fixed phone with a rotating disc and a receiver attached to the phone by a spiral cord. And a chair nearby for those long distance conversations that could only happen at home, at work or in a phone booth – but in no other place. And, yes, some of these conversations were kept private and for good reason. Our generation is the last one to be able to tell stories about the neighbor’s ebonite phone resonating “tir-tir, tir-tir” all the way from the upstairs’ apartment.

*Sigh*

Only 500 years ago the Renaissance Man was both a scientist and an artist, a mathematician and an astronomer; an all-rounded scholar. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable. But knowledge had to be investigated and conquered. The reward had to wait.

Nowadays our neophilia, our need for novelty, is but a click away, a swipe of finger across the screen; right at our fingertips, rewarding in its promptitude but also exhaustingly hyper-stimulating.

Rewarding.

It is normal for the human race to crave rewards. Rewards are what fuels progress and humans have a physical need to experience rewards because they release dopamine in our brains. Whenever a pleasurable experience happens, a surge of dopamine, a neural chemical, is being released into our brain. We feel good and as a result we want to repeat the behavior. And the “dopamine pathway” is being reinforced. But drugs or other activities which produce instant pleasure, like over-texting, hijack this pathway becoming addictive.

Mobile phones, a reward or an addiction?

We post a comment and we get a Like. Happy! What’s our brain thinking? I’ll do it again! Click, click, click – happy, happy, happy!

We have a question, do a quick internet search and find the information needed. Happy! “Cool, new stuff,” thinks Brain! “Let’s do this again, soon!”

It’s easy to understand why over-texting and neophilia can be seen as a reward, thus becoming addictive.

Is it really this simple or is there MORE to over texting? Are we all the same, being conditioned in the same ways or is there MORE to it? A silent, underlying layer.

Example: Over-texting and its real life implications

A 2010 study done by scientists at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine on texting habits of 4 257 high school students discovered that 20% of them were over texting (sending over 120 texts/day). These teenagers were termed as “hyper-texters”. Teenagers who spent three or more hours/day on social networking sites were termed as “hyper-networking”. Study showed that the “hyper-texters” were twice more likely to have tried alcohol, 41% more likely to have used illegal drugs, and 3 and half times more likely to have had sex. Think it’s a lot? Wait, the “hyper-networkers” were at an even higher risk.

Today’s younger generation is fully immersed in social media and technology. But they are also the first generation to suffer a decline in face-to-face communication. The first generation to be disconnected from real life… because they are connected to an electronic device. A generation of faces lit in the dark only by the screen of a cell phone, the “glow kids” as Dr Nicholas Kardaras Executive Director of the Dunes, one of the world’s top rehabs, calls them.

The young generation is at risk of becoming a generation of "glow kids" with social skills in decline. Image courtesy Wikimedia.
The young generation is at risk of becoming a generation of “glow kids” with social skills in decline. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

It is a mobile-social generation on the rise, but with a worrying decline in social skills.

Warning: the physical social disconnection caused by over-connection to social media had been linked to an increase in depression cases across teens and adult in present days compared to 1980.

The mobile phone relationship: are you ready to go steady?

Look at your cell phone. How often do you use it? How much do you rely on it? Was it by choice or not? Are our mobile phones available to us OR are we available to them because we never switch them off? Ask yourself, who’s using who?

In the present world, with information and communication so easily accessible, with 9/10 American owning a cell phone (2015) are we really the owners of this advanced technology-or is IT owning us?

Cell phones are hugely utile and they give us freedom, but at the same time they enslave us, tying us to our social contact lists. We feel that we can’t postpone replying to a message because we see the sender shows online and we know that he, too, can see us online. We can’t leave the work issues at work-they come following us, beep-ing from the bedside table in the middle of the night or over the weekend.

Our mobile phone’s constant availability is no longer an advantage but a social expectation as our contacts assume we’re at their disposal 24/7 and, to be honest, so do we of them. In 2015 90% of Americans frequently carried their cell phone with them! No wonder a mobile phone has more germs on it than a toilet seat.

But our “mobile” availability has become a constant source of stress too. What freed us has also enslaved us.

The palpable reality is: our mobile phones own us. Sounds like the title of a B-rated horror movie, isn’t it? “Owned by the Mobile Phone!” *evil laugh*

What’s worse is that we are constantly being programmed to depend on our mobile devices. What are the chances of you landing a good job without owning a cell phone? What are the chances of making an emergency phone call without a cell phone? In 2015, 43% of American adults lived in a cellphone-only household.

Cell phones are a benediction and a spell. An instant connection and an endless interference.

Surfing the technological wave

So, is over cellphone usage an addiction, a mere social behavior or just part of the 21st century?

The number of world’s cell phone owners is expected to exceed 5 billion by 2019, siting at 4.61 billion in 2016. A PEW research conducted by Andrew Perrin shows that in 2015 90% of American young adults (ages 18 to 29) used social media compared to only 35% in the 65 years and older group. Internationally the numbers are comparable with the Germans leading by 86% followed by Britain with 81%, and France with 78%  of their young adults using social networking sites and only 8% of adults over the age of 50 years old (16% in Britain, 13% in France), as shown in a 2010 PEW research.

Signs and Symptoms of Cell Phone Addiction

Are you addicted to your smartphone? How brave are you? Take the self-assessment test.

Love thy neighbor

The inter-cultural communication can raise barriers but it can also be an opportunity for opening ourselves to new view-points, new prospects, and more harmony in the world.

How to overcome the cultural distance

  • Actively, willingly, by making an active effort of understanding each other and the cultural direction we both arrive from. By accepting that there might be a difference of view, yet willingly trying to understand in what this difference consists.
  • Emotionally, by being emphatic towards one another and choosing to overcome stereotypes. By actively understanding and being prepared to open ourselves to the other’s culture.
  • Academically, by choosing to be present in the moment and absorb the information we are being offered.

Marco Polo lived among the Chinese, absorbed their culture and brought back invaluable lessons and inventions. Christopher Columbus inaugurated centuries of European exploration in the Americas.

Choose real, not virtual

In the long run, is the social connectivity really paying off?

British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, now teaching at Magdalen College Oxford, is the author of How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Dunbar said: “We’re members of the primate family – and within the primates there is a general relationship between the size of the brain and the size of the social group. There are social circles beyond it and layers within – but there is a natural grouping of 150.”

150, Dunbar’s Number

A person can only have 150 acquaintances, but ONLY 5 close relationships. Because it is more difficult, although more significant and extremely rewarding to have fewer close relationships then lots of online followers.

Because, how Dundar puts it, “we actually have to get together to make a relationship work. In the end, we rely heavily on touch and we still haven’t figured out how to do virtual touch. Maybe once we can do that we will have cracked a big nut. Words are slippery; a touch is worth a 1,000 words any day.

Okay, you don’t have to hug your boss

Dunbar goes further with his explanations and this is something each new parent discovers, sooner or later… the sooner the better. Pick up a crying baby and chances are he will stop crying if you keep holding him, caressing him. And no, you’re not spoiling him.

The same principle is valid for human relationships.

The mammal’s skin has a huge amount of neurons that respond to light touch, but not to any other kind of touch. Light stroking triggers endorphins, also responsible for our happiness by reducing pain and stress. In the dolphin world, calves brush their bodies against their mothers, this helping to strengthen their bond as well as their social ties. The same result happens when primates groom each other. Humans are mammals too.

Sadly, as yet, social media does not include touch therefore it is not real human bonding. It has the opposite effect, destroying the natural paths of human interaction of which touch and physical contact are important – creating the “illusion” of connection.

But everybody’s doing it

Texting during meetings or social events, chasing up Likes and Followers on social media, yes, everybody’s doing it. Just remember that YOU are an individual. Like your mom always told you: “If your friends jump off a cliff, would you jump too?!”

Humanity survived and moved forward for over two millennia without the interference of mobile technology. Yet only twenty years of cellphone usage has already produced its first generation of possible social failures.

The way forward is by retracing the steps of history, learning from mistakes and bettering ourselves.

Choose life over virtual. Image courtesy Flickr.
Choose life over virtual. Image courtesy Flickr.

Change begins now

The question that lies ahead of all of us is: has the moment when we need to learn from these past 20 years of mobile technology mistakes arrived yet? Is it NOW that we must remind ourselves we are humans and technology is but a tool invented by us, to use as WE please-and not vice-versa?

And no, the answer to this question does not lies at the end of a search engine. *wink*

A 1000 words extract from this article has been published on the Huffington Post South Africa.

Even though two people speak the same language, having come from different cultures, their understanding of the spoken language will be different.

Huffington Post SA

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Waiting for Snow

Waiting for Snow

Waiting for Snow Image courtesy Unsplash
Waiting for Snow
Image courtesy Unsplash

Dad cheerful said: “We’ll have Snow tomorrow!”

So my human pup and I, brave Eskimos,

Early before breakfast went down below

And sat by the window, waiting for snow.

 

It must be someone special, went through my head,

Since we could, this morning, and quite by chance,

Not eat at the table. “Toast! Can I have some more?”

“On one condition: not a crumb on the floor!”

 

I’m looking left, towards the deep, dark woods.

I’m looking right, towards the town with goods.

Where will she come from, Mrs. Snow?

Will she take the bus? Will she arrive by noon?

 

There’s a little bus station right by our house,

It’s busy in the morning, you couldn’t spot a mouse.

Buses stop here often throughout the day.

But Snow doesn’t get off. What’s causing her delay?

 

Maybe she’ll ride a bicycle, red and bright and shiny.

Like the postman does each day, even when it’s rainy.

Maybe she’ll come by yellow taxi, honking any minute.

Like the doctor does; arriving in an instant.

 

But what if Snow will just walk here, like grandpa likes to do.

“Exercise is good for you, I’m never sick with flue!”

He always tells my human pup and winks at her some more.

Grandpa’s old and wrinkled; his exercise advice might work!

 

What if Snow arrives at tea time? Mom always sais to us:

“It’s fashionable to do so, but always come announced!”

Aunts and quite so many Ladies visit once a week.

And tea, cookies and cakes, so yummy, they always like to eat.

 

Who is this Snow? Nobody mentioned her before!

Why is she coming? Did Mom even agreed?

My human pup expects her to play games;

I just want to know: will she throws sticks, twice in a row?

 

Will she tell bedtime stories and like pups like me?

Is she a stern or friendly Lady? I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Will she share crumbs? And mostly,

Where will she sleep, if feeling lonely?

 

It’s way past lunch, we waited for sooo long.

My human pup is restless, Mom even hums a song.

I’ll tell Snow, when I’ll meet her, whenever that will be,

That being late is a no-no, please Ma’am, excuse me.

 

She didn’t come at all and it’s already time for bed.

Pajamas on, the story read, my human pup still sad.

“She’s here!” shouts Mom, so excited. “Hurry, get dressed!”

Get dressed? Go OUT? Why everyone’s so restless?

 

Is Snow a President?  What do I say, maybe she’s the Queen!

For all I know, from what I’ve seen, she’s a most expected being!

I won’t mention being late, but offer her some tea.

I only hope she brings presents, a little bone for me?

 

by Patricia Furstenberg

This is an edited version of the poem initially written for mypuppyclub.net

 

10 Enchanting Christmas and Bedtime Books for Babies and Young Readers

Redtricycle Spoke Contributor
Redtricycle Spoke Contributor

10 Enchanting Christmas and Bedtime Books for Babies and Young Readers

When my daughter was six month old I began reading to her “The Little Duckling.” We would cuddle together every day and enjoy the little bird’s adventures of bravery. It was a magical time for me and for my daughter as well. Later on she would look excited just seeing this book!

My son loved the touch and feel story of a puppy. It was a board book and, no matter how hard I tried, he would always put it in his mouth. I guess that’s what board books are for! He loved the touch of the puppy’s fur on the cover and, mostly, having his family around him at story time.

Later on I would read to both my children Enid Blyton’s “The Faraway Tree” and to this day my teen children remember the warm, fuzzy evenings and the big book we shared and delighted in together.

Continue reading Pat’s article on the Redtricycle website.

The newly adopted puppy: Time Out (Puppy Story – part 4)

The newly adopted puppy: Time Out

Dog digging
Dog digging? Oh no!

I’ve got to be quiet; I’ve got to lie still. They didn’t put me in a corner, but they did give me… time out. Only inside…

It was because of shredding the newspaper to bits on Sunday morning… and bumping over the trash can in the kitchen, which spilled the garbage…

I only tried to clean up!

Oh, and for scratching Mom’s bedroom door. But I tried to get in! It was a matter of life and death! It was past breakfast time and everybody was still sleeping!

I’m in the hallway now, on the carpet. This one is a rough carpet, not soft like the one in our bedroom. It tickles my tummy. I’ve got to scratch.

But I’ve got to sit still.

Oh, the carpet itches. My tummy itches.

“Sit still, puppy!” Mom had said…

But I’ve got an itch. Just one scratch?

Quick, while nobody’s watching.

Thump! Bang!

“Puppy!”

“The umbrella stand?! Whatever next?!”

I lay flat on the carpet. I wish I could melt in it and disappear.

I really didn’t, didn’t, didn’t want to bump it over!

It was just an itch.

A big itch and I’m a small puppy.

I’ve got to be quiet; I’ve got to lie still.

Now I’m outside.

Time out SHOULD take place outside? It only makes sense.

Mom hasn’t told me to sit still; she just opened the door and pointed outside. But I want to. To show her I’m a good puppy.

What does a good puppy do? I wonder if my friend Mole knows. He seems to know so much… There he is! He’s always busy digging. He’s such a good digger, he keeps all the plants fresh, Mom’s flowers pretty.

Mom loves flowers.

Maybe that’s what I should do! Pick some flowers for her. Dad brought her flowers last week and she was so happy she danced!

If I should make her so happy she’ll forget all about being upset with me!

I’ll do it! For Mom!

Here, a mouthful of flowers for Mom; freshly picked!

Flowers for Mom
Flowers for Mom

They did got a bit squashed in the process, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

“Mom, my puppy’s barking outside the door! Can I please let him in now? I’m sure he learned his lesson.”

“Puppy!! My flowers! And LOOK at ALL this mud! PUPPY!”

by Patricia Furstenberg

Initially wrote for mypuppuclub.net.

It is my first Sunday in my new home (Puppy Story – part 3)

It is my first Sunday in my new home

First Sunday Morning
First Sunday Morning

It is my first Sunday

In my new home

I open my eyes,

My human still sleeps.

 

I’m hoping for some bacon smell,

For the kettle to hum.

No flavor coming up,

No noises at all.

 

The house is quiet,

What could be the matter?

Surely IS the right time

For food on the table?

 

My human pup snores,

Sounds just like a baby kettle.

I lick her ear;

She doesn’t budge.

 

I jump off the bed,

I am on a mission.

To wake everyone

Before it’s too late.

 

I grab at her blanket;

It is a pup’s play

To pull it off the bed

And onto the floor.

 

But this puppy is small

And the blanket is heavy.

I try my best

And head for the door.

 

I listen for noises:

Where is Mom’s room?

That is the only room

I haven’t been into.

 

“No puppies in here.”

I remember the rule.

But surely for emergency

We can bend it a bit?

 

The door is closed

But I push with my nose.

I push with my paws,

I push with all my might.

 

I’ve got to get it open.

I’ve got to get inside.

They have to wake up,

It’s well past their time.

 

I can’t open the door.

It’s too heavy for me.

My paws slide off,

I even hurt my snout.

 

I whimper, I cry.

As quietly as can be.

Surely they will hear me,

Open for me?

 

A thump at the door!

Someone’s outside!

I’ve got to protect them!

Stand up for my pack!

 

I run down the stairs.

It was a big mistake;

My paws slide,

My bum gets ahead.

 

Thump! My bottom hits the floor

Then my head hits the carpet.

I need a second

To regain my balance.

 

No time to spare,

Someone’s at the door!

I’ve got to protect my family,

I’m heading ahead.

 

I’ll bark and I’ll fight.

I’ll tear them apart!

This is my home!

It’s under my guard!

 

Silence.

Whoever it was,

It got scared.

I am sure.

 

Such a vicious pup

Got them on the run!

They got so scared,

Didn’t even come inside.

 

They left just one thing,

Small item behind.

A paper! I’ll show them!

I grab it right away.

 

I’ll fight and I’ll bite

And if they dare come back,

They’ll see what’s waiting for them.

And be scared of me!

 

Good, now the paper is gone.

What did Father said?

Garbage belongs with garbage.

I’ll clean up in a sec.

 

Such a big mess

And such a small pup.

I’ll do my best,

Let me find the trash.

 

It’s easy to spot it,

My nose takes me straight.

There’s the trash can,

Hidden in the darkest place.

 

Sooo big,

Me, so short.

But I’ve got to clean

The shreds from the floor.

 

I jumped. It fell.

BUMP!

Its lid came off.

More trash rolled onto the floor.

 

Footsteps upstairs! Coming down the stairs!

I’ve got to hide,

But where? Where?

Sorry about the mess!

 

I had to protect…

I had to protect
I had to protect

by Patricia Furstenberg

Initially wrote for mypuppuclub.net. Images courtesy Unsplash

The newly adopted puppy: The Worm. (Puppy Story – part 2)

The newly adopted puppy: The Worm

Looking for my doggy treasure.
Looking for my doggy treasure.

I love my new place.

I love it during my sleep for I can smell my human pup cuddled tight against me. She smells of milk and of love, the stuff sweet dreams are made of.

I love my new place in the moments just before I wake up, when the aroma of freshly cooked breakfast creeps through under the door and through the keyhole, conquering our bedroom. What better way to start the day but knowing what sorts of scraps will fly off the table? And if I catch the titbits before Mother ever sees us I get a pat and a scratch behind my ear for showing such super skills! For it is against the house rules to feed me like this, but my human pup loves me so much she shares everything with me.

I share with my human pup too.

My new place comes with a big yard, so big that if I run all around once my tongue spills out of my mouth in search of water, so tired I am. It took me a few whole mornings to sniff all around it and learn it off by heart.

At its far end, by the corner of the fence, my new friend lives, Mr. Mole. He likes to dig tunnels through the ground and to share his wiggly worms with me. Nobody seems to feed him so I share some of my tasty morsels with him. I hope he likes them; he keeps on burying them into his tunnels.

It was here that I found the biggest, juiciest worm!

It made me remember my human pup and her toes. Mother calls them wiggly worms and she keeps on counting them each night at bedtime. I thought how she would laugh to discover an extra one! Would she be able to tell the difference? I thought not; they smelled the same to me.

That night I found out that…

Mothers can scream VERY loud.

I still want to make my human Mother laugh; when she does so she smells so much more of love. I’ll have to find something else to share next time.

How much is that doggie in the window? (Puppy Story – part 1)

How much is that doggie in the window?  (Feelings of a stray dog)

Dogs have feelings too.
Dogs have feelings too.

I like my new place. It is dry and I have water and food. Last night I fell asleep with a full tummy, on a soft blanket! It isn’t much, but it was dry and it kept me warm and I was out of the wind and the wet streets and nobody kicked me. Yesterday a friendly lady even gave me a cuddle. Her cheek was soft and warm; it felt good on the inside.

I like my clean water the most and my food, it’s the best I had in a very long time. I didn’t eat it all last night, I was too afraid that I’ll have nothing left for the morning. But, guess what, this morning they gave me fresh food and water! The man who came to feed me was very quiet so I stayed away in my corner. He didn’t seem interested in me, so I left him alone. Maybe the loving lady I saw yesterday will come to see me later.

This week I haven’t been hungry and I haven’t been cold or hurt.

I have food and water. My blanket smells like me, it is my home. It isn’t a big home. I have a patch of grass fenced with a high metal mesh, but it keeps me safe. Someone brings me food and water twice a day. There are a few other kennels like mine, but their occupants are much bigger than me and very noisy, especially at feeding time.

Today some people came and they looked at each one of us. They picked the occupant of the kennel to my right because she had long, silky ears. Mine are short, but they help me hear; very well. I know what happened to the occupant of the last kennel, the one in the corner. I heard him cry last night and then he was silent. They cleaned his kennel this morning and now it is empty.

Now people come and visit the kennels every day and each time another one of us leaves to a new home. I am happy for them because they used to cry every night. Now they would have found a family of their own.

I don’t cry. I am brave. My mommy told me to be brave when she last licked me goodbye. She had soft brown eyes and short ears just like mine. She had a loving owner too, who loved her for her sweet nature and big heart.

One day someone just like that will adopt me and take me to my new home.

One day.

Maybe today.

“How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale.”

A dog's heart is full of hopes.
A dog’s heart is full of hopes.

 

 

 

How to self-publish an eBook and become an Indie Author on a ZERO budget in ten steps

I wrote this blog post based on my own experience as an Indie Author, having illustrated and self-published my children’s book “Happy Friends” in March 2016. I advise you to bookmark and return to this page often as I intend to update it regularly.

You wrote a book or you’re almost done writing it.

What’s next?

You could go two ways. You could submit your manuscript to mainstream publishers and wait … then wait some more OR, with eye wide open and a dry mouth, you could take the road “less traveled” and become an Indie.

What does Indie means? Indie is the abbreviation for “independent”, a term first used in the 1920s with reference to film production.

Join a 100 years long industry. If they succeeded, so can YOU, you and your MS Word manuscript.

Self-publish your e-book on a ZERO BUDGET.

  1. “Stop wishing. Start doing.”

HOW TO PROOFREAD / EDIT your work for FREE.

This is crucial to your work, to good reviews and customers.

Search Twitter or Facebook for emerging proofreaders / editors willing do it for free in an exchange for a reference from you. Or find a student in the field looking to broaden his experience. If you don’t have social media accounts create them now, they’re FREE.

Proofreading means correcting spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation or formatting errors.

Editing looks into depths. It will consider the way you present your ideas, making your manuscript easier to read.

When on a zero budget you have to do what best works for you in order to move forward on your self-publishing road.

 

  1. “Don’t watch the clock. Do what it does, keep going.”

HOW TO get a FREE BOOK COVER.

Don’t worry about a book cover at this stage as Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP (Amazon’s own publishing platform) provides FREE templates you can edit and use.

 

  1. “Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.”

HOW TO get your book ON AMAZON for FREE.

One of the best places to first publish your eBook is on Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s eBook publishing platform. Publishing here will take a few minutes and subsequently your book will appear on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours, available for all Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps. Publish once and sell worldwide on all the Amazon sites.

What is great about self-publishing an eBook is that you can make changes even after publishing your book. You just upload the new file!

Step 1.Sign up for a free KDP account on www.kdp.amazon.com

Step 2.Format your book for FREE.

To publish your eBook on Amazon your manuscript must have specific formatting.

I recommend you read and use “Building Your Book for Kindle, Kindle Edition”. It is a VERY easy to follow, FREE step by step guide on how to format your book to easy self-publish it on Kindle found here.

If you’re a MAC user, then you might want to download “Building Your Book for Kindle for MAC, Kindle Edition“.

Your book cover will be taken care of at this step, during the uploading process.

Step 3.Enroll your book in KDP Select. It is a FREE PROMOTIONAL program.

At least for the first three month (as enrollment in KDP Select is renewed quarterly) I advise that you do enroll your book in KDP Select. You will be able to run promotions (list your book for FREE for up to five days over each three months or run a Kindle countdown deal, also for up to five days over each three months). Read more here.

 

  1. “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

HOW TO get your own, FREE Amazon AUTHOR PAGE.

Create a FREE account on Amazon Author Central.

On your Amazon Author Page you can add a short biography (keep it short and sweet. Include something funny about yourself. Look at what other authors wrote about themselves). You can also include a photo of yourself and have a blog (more about this later). Include links to your social media accounts for your readers to follow and get in touch.

Have a look at my Amazon Author Page.

If you don’t have your own website, then your Amazon Author Page can be your home online.

 

  1. “Stay focused. Never give up.”

HOW TO create a FREE Goodreads ACCOUNT for yourself and a get a FREE BLOG.

Step 1.Create a Goodreads account for yourself. Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. You can see what everyone is reading, their reviews and you can post your own books and meet like-minded authors, make connections.

Search for your book on Goodreads and add yourself as the author. Now you can request Goodreads to upgrade your account to a FREE Author Account. This is important because it will give you a BLOG. Blogging increases your visibility online, where your eBook is.

Step 2.LINK your Goodreads blog to your Amazon Author Page by using RSS feeds. This way your blog posts from Goodreads will be pulled into your Amazon Author Page, thus giving your readers more information about you, the Author, and giving you more credibility.

Have a look at my Goodreads Author page.

  1. “Action is the foundation key to success.”

HOW TO get Book REVIEWS for your book for FREE.

Step 1.Search Twitter and Facebook, there are great Book Reviewers there. Keep in mind that they will have a pile of books already awaiting their review so you might have to wait for your turn.

Step 2.When your book is on a free promotion on KDP Select ask family and friends to download it for free and post a review on Amazon.

Step 3.Do a review exchange with another emerging author.

Keep in mind that each reviewer has his / her own requirements for submitting your work. Follow them and respect their time as they do give out of the goodness of their hearts and love for books. For free.

 

  1. “When you feel like quitting think about why you started.”

HOW TO self-publish for FREE on Barnes & Noble and Apple. And get a FREE ISBN.

Step 1.If your three months subscription on KDP Select has ended (and do make sure it is), you can put your eggs in more than one basket.

Smashwords (eBooks for Independent Authors and Publishers) distributes to: Barnes and Noble (a Fortune 500 company, the largest retail bookseller in the United States), Kobo (Canadian company which sells e-books, e-readers and tablet computers), Amazon (but you’re here already so you can opt out for this one retailer), Apple, Inktera (selling the most popular e-book titles, formerly Page Foundry), Baker & Taylor Blio, Baker-Taylor Axis360, Library Direct, OverDrive, Scribd (digital library and e-book, audio-book and comic suetail, Yuzu, Tolino, Odilo, Gardners Library.

Create a FREE Smashwords account then edit your Smashwords Author page. There is even an interview that you can do there and, voila, you’ll have your very own Author Interview on your Smashwords Author Page. For FREE!

Have a look at my Smashwords Author Page.

Step 2.Format your manuscript for Smashwords as they have their own formatting requirements. You can download the Smashwords Style Guide for FREE.

Be patient and follow their requirements to the letter and soon enough you will be able to upload your eBook on Smashwords too.

Step 3.Now you will need a book cover. Smashwords does not provide a free book cover template.

 

  1. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

HOW TO create your own book cover for FREE, all by yourself.

This is your last push. You’ve come so far, you can do it. And you can do it in Paint! Remember, you want to design a book cover that looks good as a thumbnail, the way it would look on a webpage.

Step 1.Find a background picture that suits your book genre. Look at Unsplash, FREE high-resolution photos, as they have amazing pictures.

Step 2.Open the picture in Paint and include Title and Author Name only. This is important as what appears on your Smashwords Book Cover has to match 100% the info you include under title and author when you upload your eBook file.

Step 3.Save your cover. Follow the Smashwords Style Guide’s requirements for cover size. To edit your pictures you can download IrfanView for FREE.

Step 4.Upload work and cover onto Smashwords and patiently wait for their confirmation emails. You want to hear from them that your book made it into the Smashwords Premium Catalog. If they tell you there are things to be fixed, then fix them and upload again.

You can now upload your new book cover onto Amazon too, to keep your eBook’s appearance uniform on the internet.

 

  1. “Nothing great ever came that easy.”

Pricing your eBook.

Again, less is more. Books between $2.99 to $5.99 bring the most profits due to higher sales. Search similar books to yours to get an idea.

 

  1. “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

HOW TO MARKET your eBook for FREE.

Step 1.Marketing your book means creating awareness. This will require all the social platforms you’re on. You can create your own book promos by using pictures and text.

Step 2.Remember, Twitter and Facebook are great platforms to establish connections with like-minded authors and learn from them; they hardly sell your books. But you could land a few author interviews here, hosted on other author’s blogs – which will increase your exposure as an author, thus increasing your chances to sell more books.

Step 3.Use your blog. Write about what you like or what you know. It will create awareness about you, the Author.

Well done, now you’re a published eBook author!

by Patricia Furstenberg

REMEMBER: bookmark this page and return often to check for new updates as self-publishing and marketing are continuous activities.

This article was first published as a Guest Post on O.D.BookReviews on 15 October 2016.

Great dog characters in books for readers of all ages

Fiction books whose four-legged characters left memorable paw-prints on readers – of ALL AGES

I have vivid recollections of growing up reading a lime-green book about a Dachshund named Fridolin, “a happy story for children”, written by German author Franz Caspar. It was a heart-warming story about a little dog with a brave heart.

Fridolin by Franz Caspar
Fridolin by Franz Caspar

Later on, just when I thought I know everything there is to know about my favorite author, I discovered Agatha Christie’s “Dumb Witness: A Hercule Poirot Mystery”. I don’t know if it was the intelligence of Bob, the wire fox terrier, his never-ending attachment towards his mistress… or the surprisingly warm-heated side Hercule Poirot revealed in this detective novel.

Bob and Hercule Poirot in the movie adaptation of Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
Bob and Hercule Poirot in the movie adaptation of Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie

What is certain is that whenever I read this book my faith in the human race’s love and understanding towards animals is restored.

Stories passed on to generations

New generation, new interests, but the same passion for… classics. My daughter introduced me to Timmy, George’s mongrel from “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton.

Timmy’s a much loved dog, especially by his owner, and he gets to save the children from terrible fates.

My son preferred Scamper, Peter and Janet’s dog, loyal to the “Secret Seven”, also by Enid Blyton. Scamper loves all children. Good to know you’ve got a wagging tail always there for you.

Without Fridolin or Bob, Timmy, Scamper or Little Tail, adventures wouldn’t be the same and clothes would remain much cleaner – but at a cost of many smiles and giggles.

Inspirational dogs

I don’t know where Little Tail came from. I suppose I should know, since I wrote about him in “Happy Friends”. I guess he just grew in my heart, his story spinning out of the lives of all the dogs I loved throughout my life.

Little Tail is pretty much a do-er and a dream-er; a dog of contrasts. He’s small in size, but has the courage of a lion. He’s curious, yet cautious as he won’t easily venture outside his comfort zone. He’s a dreamer, fantasizing about things he doesn’t know, yet treasuring the old book’s advice.

But above all Little Tail from “Happy Friends” by South African author Patricia Furstenberg is a devoted friend, his adventures being filled with smiles, friends and…  ice-cream flavored clouds!

Happy Friends eBook cover
Happy Friends, Happy Friends: 12 Animal Stories of Friendship and Adventure, One Happy Ending

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was initially written for mypuppuclub.net and posted on 16 August 2016.

Dogs and the paw-prints they leave on the pages of our lives

“My dog can move mountains!”

That’s what I should have said each time our Rottweilers dug out the back yard! Instead, I moaned and complained about exposed roots and destroyed lawn.

Too late now; sadly they both passed away. But what they did left behind, except for a refashioned garden landscape, are fond memories.

Our dogs were do-ers

All dogs are. In a small or a big way they reshape our lives; always for the better.

Take Jock from “Jock of the Bushveld” by South African author Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick

Based on a real life friendship between a man and the bull terrier pup he rescued from drowning for being the runt of the litter. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century, on the backdrop of the gold mining era.

Jock grows up to become a fearless but well behaved dog, loyal to his master. Filled with authentic hunting stories the author’s love for his dog Jock transpires on every page, their genuine friendship standing out on the backdrop of a South African version of the American Wild West.

A subtle lesson

Other real life dogs made it into stories too and with a great purpose: to teach young readers empathy, how to become responsible pet owners and to hook them onto books.

Astro from “Astro’s Adventures” by Australian author Susan Day, a real dog in flesh and… shaggy fur

Astro’s companions into adventure and righteousness are also real. Susan Day’s collection of animals’ adventures, although fictional, gives you that warm feeling of justice been done. The small and the weak have been saved, the villains have received their punishment and our heroes walk into the sunset… wagging their tails.

Having Australia as a starting point, each book takes you on a fun and adventurous trip to a different location around the world.

PlayStation and Wii forgotten but story book finished and lesson learned, this is how you wish your child to end a busy day.

by Patricia Furstenberg

This article was initially written for mypuppuclub.net and posted on 9 August 2016 http://www.mypuppyclub.net/dogs-paw-prints-leave-pages-lives/

Books about dogs, war and life in between

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