Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Geography Project - Part 2 of 5 - First Stop - Beijing!

So from the topic of cycling I was brought to Beijing! Did you know that there are about a billion bicycles in the world, and that over half of them are from China?! That’s probably where that song ‘9 million bicycles in Beijing’ from Katie Melua came from, although '9 million' might be a bit of an exaggeration!

So here's a little information on the city of Beijing!
 I discovered that Beijing is capital of the People's Republic of China, and it is the nation's political, economic, cultural, educational and international trade and communication centre! (deep breath!) . It’s located in northern China, near the port city of Tianjin and it’s partially surrounded by Hebei Province. It’s also one of the most important transportation centres of China and most popular way of entering the country.

Beijing is one of the six ancient cities in China, has been the heart and soul of politics and society throughout its long history and as a result there is a wealth of discovery to intrigue travellers as they explore the city's ancient past and exciting modern development. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with about 140 million Chinese tourists and 4.4 million international visitors in a year.
One of the most famous things about China is the Great Wall, which can be seen form space, and goes through Beijing.

You haven’t been to Beijing if you haven’t watched a Peking opera, and it’s one of the most important aspects of Chinese culture. Peking opera is a combination of songs, dialogues, fighting, acrobatics, and more. Even if  you don’t enjoy it,you can’t deny that it’s one “unique” show.
When you order in restaurants, don’t expect to receive a dish just enough for yourself because food in Beijing is served family style and meant to be shared! More food in my book is always a plus!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Geography Project - Part 1 of 5

So picking up where I left off last time, I've been looking up cycling and bikes, as part of national Bike Week, and this blog post is part 1 of 5 instalments, where I'll be linking different things round the world, so you can see just how much of a 'small world' it really is! I have to say it’s really interesting so far! 

Here's some random Bike and Cycling facts just to entertain you and educate you! :

  • There are about a billion bicycles in the world!
  • The first bicycles were made without pedals. 
  • Cycling burns 600 calories an hour.
  • Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space taken up by one car.
  •   In China, bicycles out-number cars 250 to 1.
  • The longest “tandem” bike was over 20 meters long and it seated 35 people. It was recorded in the history of dumb ideas as a prime example.
  • Maintaining a bike annually costs twenty times less than maintaining and riding a car.
  • In Tokyo, a bicycle is faster than a car for most trips of less than 50 minutes!
  • Lance Armstrong was an American cyclist who after suffering from testicular cancer, went on to win the Tour de France not once but 7 times!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Run Forest Run! Wait scratch that - try cycling!

Last week was Bike Week in Ireland, to try to promote cycling as a fun, healthy low cost , environmentally friendly way to get around. So when Mr Kiely came around asking if we wanted to put our names into a draw to win a bike, I didn't really think much, because I never (really never) win stuff like that! So at the end of the day when 3 other names and my own was called out I was so surprised! Just shows - it doesn't hurt to try! We get to keep the bikes for 6 months, and use them as much as we like! We were presented them last Thursday and yesterday we took them for a spin to Castletown House with Greenschools. Just want to say thank to Mr Kiely and Greenschools for all their hard work, and congratulations to them as they were recently awarded with the school's 4th green flag. So seeing as we have come up with a topic for our Geography project, where we will be picking a subject and linking it to different places around the world, I thought I'd pick cycling because it's such a worldwide sport and I wanted to find out more! It seems really interesting so far - for example do you know that Lance Armstrong had cancer before winning the internationally famous 'Tour de France' for 7 consecutive years? I can't wait to get started!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Never Let Me Go

The book I read for this review was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I really enjoyed it. We see it through the eyes of Kathy H., who is thirty-one years old and introduces herself as a ‘carer’ who works with ‘donors’.  Her story begins some years earlier when she is a student at an institution called Hailsham, and the first chapters detail her friendships with a girl named Ruth and a short-tempered boy, Tommy, who is often teased by the other students.
Hailsham seems rather like a boarding school, but there are some abnormalities, that made me pause and wonder, adding an air of mystery to the book.  The students never leave the school or speak of having families, and they are sometimes visited by a woman known only as Madame, who chooses some of children’s artwork for her ‘gallery’. Then one day, a teacher reveals to the students what it is that distinguishes them from other people.  They are in fact clones who have been created in order to provide donor organs.  Once they have grown up, they will begin to donate their vital organs, and consequently they will all die young. This gave the book an air of mystery and tragicness, as it wasn’t spelt out, rather picked up and deduced after a number of chapters and kept my in suspense and curiosity all the way through.. This made Never Let Me Go a very interesting read which I would highly recommend to others. The fact that the book deals with such a strange and unheard of issue gave it uniqueness, and it dealt with in a very fresh and, in my opinion, almost factual yet compelling and emotional voice which is so unlike anything I expected. The children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter, which I suppose must have cushioned them from the unearthing of the truth.

In spite of this revelation, the students continue their lives without too much upheaval.  When they reach the age of sixteen they leave Hailsham and go to live with older students in an establishment called ‘the Cottages’.  They are now free to travel in the outside world, and have greater independence.  At this point, Ruth and Tommy form a relationship.

Kathy leaves the Cottages to become a carer, providing support to donors as they give up their organs.  It is assumed that she will soon become a donor herself, but she continues to be a carer for longer than most of her peers.  This means she is able to care for both Ruth and Tommy through their donations. So, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, the feelings that long ago fuelled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to stir, and Kathy remembers their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unworried, – even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of misunderstanding, that hints at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing cover.
The story is told with the aid of hindsight, as Kathy look s back on her childhood, and it was very compelling to see the three friends when facing the truth about their childhood, their lives now and the slim prospects of their future. 

Before her final donation and her ‘completion’, Ruth suggests that Kathy becomes Tommy’s carer.  She also advises her to form a relationship with Tommy, saying that she always thought they should have been together, and suggesting that if they are in love then there is a possibility they may be granted a deferral in their donations.  Watching the effect of this one sentence, and the hope it gave through out the novel was moving, and although I was silently cheering for it to work out, I feared for the final chapters.

Kathy begins to care for Tommy and a strong relationship develops.  This was one of my favourite parts of reading Never Let Me Go. Watching Tommy and Kathy fall in love, but fearing that it could not last, in the surreal situation that they were in. It was very conflicting and compelling and it really appealed to my sympathies - like reading Romeo and Juliet as they fall in love but knowing the tragic ending, and I feared that Never Let Me Go could have a similarly crushing finish.  By chance, Kathy sees Madame and discovers where she lives.  When she tells Tommy about the possibility of a deferral they decide to visit Madame and request it from her.  They travel to Madame’s house and find her with the Hailsham headmistress, Miss Emily.

But when they ask about the deferral, they are told by Miss Emily that there is no such thing.  She also explains that Hailsham was intended as a place where the clones could be educated and cultured; some had even tried to prove with exhibitions of the donor children's art that they were 'fully human' and should not be treated as medical resources.  However, places like Hailsham no longer exist and cloned organ donors now have soulless existences in ‘vast government homes’.
Grace D’Arcy
Shortly after this meeting, Tommy completes his donations and Kathy prepares to become a donor herself. I think that Never Let Me Go was an astonishing book. The irony of Hailsham trying to prove that the clones were ‘fully human’, while Tommy, Ruth and Kathy struggled through an emotional battle that no humans have had to deal with was tragic. I really enjoyed the haunting story of friendship and love, and their struggle to maintain their identities. The author raised so many questions with the moral dilemma of clones, and the hypothetical situation stayed in my head long after I left the book down. The effects of humans playing God, and scientific advances were what the author Kazuo Ishiguro  debated throughout the book, and in my opinion he left the issue unresolved at the end, leaving it with the reader to deliberate, which was very effective. I strongly recommend thid book to anyone who may ask, for a story of haunting love and friendship, in a sometimes hopeless situation.

Friday, 27 April 2012

♪ ♬ Im so excited! And I just can't hide it! ..♫ ♩

Well everyone in school right now certainly has 'That Friday Feeling!'. Today at 3 o'clock, around 30 of us are heading off to County Wicklow, to do our Gaisce hike. For those of you who don't  know what Gaisce is - It's called the Presidents award, and we have to do a certain number of hours of community involvement, physical activity, a new skill and an adventure hike, and then we receive an award. Well we have all the hours of activities are done so now it's time for the adventure hike!

We will be staying in Kippure Lodge in County Wicklow. The place looks really comfortable, and I'm so excited! Except for one thing ...........for the past couple of weeks I have been so excited about the food and staying overnight and packing and everything, I kind of overlooked the fact that we'll be hiking up a mountain for 25KM!! Oh lordy. From reading all the other blogposts I have done, you might have guessed I'm not great at hiking, or anything that comes in the 'excercise' category! Never fear though - I have a plan. Yesterday Elizabeth and I went shopping , and filled a whole trolley (no exaggeration) of sweets. So hopefully I'll be so hyper on jelly's and chocolate and everything that I wont even notice walking 25KM! Thats the theory anyway! (Let me tell you it was no mean feat to carry all those sweets into Celbridge today !They filled 2 suitcases! All thanks to Elizabeth who  lugged them all the way into school this morning! - Well done).
Anyway best be off,
Wish me luck!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Eiru Retreat

Last Tuesday, all of class Eiru piled into the bus and headed off .....(wait -  is it just me or does it seem like nearly every one of my blogs starts this way? - We actually have such a good time and go on so many trips!) Anyway, so we headed off to Glendalough in Wicklow, for our class retreat. An hour later, we pulled up in Glendalough (after passing through the town of Laragh - which my friend  Laragh got very excited about), so I'm currently on the hunt for a town named after me but no such luck! Well a song is something I suppose! Anyway after getting off the bus we (silently) explored the place where St Kevin had lived, and we walked around the mountains. It was a really peaceful day, and I really enjoyed it.
Best be off,

So I officially swam a mile!

I'm quite proud of myself right now. Last Friday, we all headed off on the bus to the National Aquatic Centre, in Blancherstown to take part in the Ian Daly 'Swim a Mile with a Smile' Challenge. We were greeted by Brian Daly, Ian's Dad, who welcomed us and wished us luck. We quickly got into our groups and went out to the pool to start. I was quite nervous , but once we all got in we were fine! I didn't drown, which for me is great achievment in itself, and everyone really pushed themselves to swim as much as they could for the great cause!

 Everyone got into the spirit of it, and although we were all exhausted we were all really happy with ourselves! Afterwards, we weren't exactly in a great hurry to get back to school, so we wandered around Blancherstown for a while, then we headed back on the bus (before being warned by the teachers to 'hide our shopping bags so it looked like we did something productive today'). I have to say it was one of the best parts of TY so far! (I know I 've said this about nearly every trip so far butI really mean it for this one!)

If you want to read about the 'Swim a Mile with a Smile' Challenge, click here :)