Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Though the World is still reeling from impacts the SARS-CoV-2 has wrought on terra firma since December 2019, today is World Oceans Day. As far as I know, the ocean is one place the virus has NOT wreaked havoc. So, let’s divert focus for a while and celebrate life…teeming below the sea.

If you are lucky enough to live on or near the coast, then you know the power of looking out over the sea. It’s a vista that can be inspiring, breathtaking, powerful, calming and foreboding; sometimes simultaneously. Remarkably, the ocean covers 71% of our planet’s surface and contains 97% of all water on Earth. Furthermore, about 80% of it has yet to be explored, mapped or even seen. Though the ocean is one, continuous body of water, humanity has divided it into 4 geographic regions: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic; 5 regions if you also include the newly designated Southern Ocean, around Antarctica (facts courtesy of National Geographic). Maybe you already knew all of this. That’s awesome.

But did you also know that today, June 8, is the United Nations designated World Oceans Day?

The proposal to mark June 8 to celebrate the ocean came from the Canadian delegation, at the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It didn’t pass an official resolution at the UN General Assembly until 2008. So, because June 8, 2021 is both the official relaunch of World Moms Network and UN World Oceans Day, I dedicate this post to both causes.

The theme for UN World Oceans Day 2021 is The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods. Because this is a post for World Moms Network, I’ll talk about how the ocean impacts my own family’s life.

Let me start by saying that the ocean has been a huge part of my life from inception.

I was born into a family of ocean lovers. My father served as a Navy Salvage Diver and my mother is an ocean devotee. As a child, I was surrounded by images, artifacts and elements of the sea. We spent lots of time at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, onboard boats and summering at the shore. In fact, when I think about it, I can hardly recall a family vacation that didn’t somehow involve being on, in or near the ocean. We spent hours at maritime museums, aquaria and gazing at painted seascapes in galleries near and far.

My college major had little to do with the ocean but one of the most impactful courses I took was Coral Reef Ecology. My college was located in Memphis, Tennessee. The lab portion of the course, however, was in The Bahamas. For one week in May, we lived at a science research station on the tiny island of San Salvador. We spent our mornings snorkeling and logging the biology of the island; and we spent our afternoons studying the geology of it. The sea enchanted me with the vibrant and complex societies just below its surface. I wanted to go deeper and learn more.

I knew I needed to get SCUBA certified.

In my early 20s, when I was living and working in Asia, I determined to get my diving certification so I could explore more of the world below the waves. Over the next decade, the journey took me to dive sites around Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean. Whenever there was time—and a nearby dive shop—I went.

When I met my husband in 2000, I encouraged him also to get PADI certified, so we could explore together. And we did. Early in our relationship, we spent a few days on a live-aboard dive boat in Thailand, in search of the ever elusive Whale Shark; we still haven’t spotted one. On our honeymoon, we did a wreck dive. Together we have seen reef sharks, barracuda, sail fish, and all kinds of rays. We have encountered pods of sea turtles, eels and octopus and infinite numbers of fish. Diving together was pure joy.

Then came kids.

In the past 15 years, we have dived just a handful of times; waiting for that day when maybe we could get our kids interested in diving too.

That day has arrived. This is the year, at 12 and 15, when our kids finally are ready to take on the adventure with us.

Though we all were born on one side of the Atlantic—the East Coast of the United States—we now live on the other side, the West Coast of Portugal. Back in northern New England, unless you’re diving for a lobster dinner, SCUBA diving isn’t a terribly popular past time. It’s COLD! And though the weather in Portugal is temperate and sunny year-round, the Atlantic here is even COLDER!

Diving in frigid, 17C/62F degree water with 7mm thick wetsuits, hoods and booties may not seem like ideal conditions but in Portugal, diving is a big deal. In fact, pretty much anything to do with the ocean is a big deal: surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, spear fishing, sport fishing, eating fish and, of course, sailing. The Portugese are a seafaring people. This is the home of The Discoverers after all.

In the middle of a pandemic, faced with social distance requirements, excessive screen time and lockdowns, what better place to escape than the ocean?

And that is what we did. We invested in getting our kids their SCUBA certifications; not because we plan to go diving every weekend nor even every vacation vacation. As World Moms, we’re all on a path to raise global citizens and part of that journey requires raising awareness at all levels. Sure, diving is a luxury—just like skiing or any sport that requires extensive gear—but when you experience an environment, when you truly spend time getting to know its surroundings and inhabitants, you become a citizen conservationist.

So today is World Oceans Day and to honor it, I’m happy to report that this past weekend, both of my kids did their first open water dive. When I descended 11m/33ft into the chilly waters off the coast of Sesimbra, Portugal and saw my kids kneeling on the sandy bottom, it was something akin to magic. I never got the chance to dive with my own father—the person who first planted the love of the sea deep within me—but by witnessing it planted in my own children, I know that I am passing on that legacy. I know that I am raising stewards of the sea.

Slide left or right for before and after

This is an original post to World Moms Network from our Managing Editor, Kyla P’an, who resides in Cascais, Portugal. All photos in this post are attributed to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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USA: Haiti in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

USA: Haiti in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

haiti62,000 people. That is the estimated number of Haitians who are still displaced from the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010; a heartbreaking disaster that claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced as many as 3 million people.

Kendy,

Naomie,

Emilien,

Mrs. Jean-Donald

Elouse’s aunt

Elouse’s four cousins

….this is only 1% of the 900 people who lost their lives in Haiti to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

900 lives…fathers, mothers, teachers, grandmas, little brothers, babies…lost in the waters of a sea that came on land and washed it out. A land crushed under debris created by a 145mph wind that knocked down concrete walls and tore down palm trees as if they were saplings just transplanted from a kindergarten classroom the day before.

To say that we feel for our sisters and brothers in Haiti is an understatement. My heart is heavy and it wants to scream because although it believes that we, together, will make things better, it is hard to see the road ahead when there is such a harsh wind blowing in one’s face.

To look at the state of Haiti now, with the lack of food and access, and the abundance of poverty, one may not remember how powerful a nation Haiti actually is.

In the 18th century, Toussaint-Louverture, Henri Christophe and Dessalines revolted in an effective guerilla war against the French colony. All three had been enslaved: they successfully ended slavery and regained freedom for the nation. They did this in 1791 against the French, in 1801 against the Spanish conquest, and in 1802 against an invasion ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte. They renamed Saint-Dominique after its original Arawak name, Haiti, which became the second independent nation in the Americas.

Such history should not go unnoticed because it is a significant example of the perseverance, love, and determination that courses through the veins of Haitians.

If I could say anything to my sisters and brothers in Haiti right now, if I could speak at all, I would say this:

“In the midst of the chaos; the heartbreak; the loss of life; the search for lives; the feeling that rebuilding will simply take too much energy…again; the pain; the tears that will run dry; the anguish, and all the feelings that weigh down your soul and may make you doubt your abilities, please remember who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. You do not stand alone, because we stand with you. You do not sit alone, you do not swim alone, you do not cry alone, you do not hug your loved ones alone, you do not cry alone.

You do not cry alone, and you will not rebuild alone.

We are with you.

We are with you and we will laugh together again and you will see that we can get out of this. Please believe with me. I know it’s hard right now, and I do not pretend to understand what you’re going through, but please believe with me”.

To anyone who would like to assist, you may consider contacting any and all of these organizations:

Care

Food For The Poor

Americares

Oxfam International

Save the Children

Please remember that there is also a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, and it is also claiming lives. Help is needed most urgently! Please lets do what we can.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this hurricane, not only in Haiti but in neighboring countries including the southern US states. Sending you all love and happiness in the hopes that you keep believing and looking forward to another sunrise.

Have you ever been directly affected by a devastating storm? What would you say to those who are trying to rebuild their lives?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia at ThinkSayBe. Photo credit: Ricardo’s Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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BRAZIL: Saving the World in Small Ways – Part II

BRAZIL: Saving the World in Small Ways – Part II

In an interview, a renowned academic in my field once said that when he was young he was certain about two things: 1) he didn’t want to teach, and 2) he didn’t want to write too much. He went on to teach in several famous universities and ended up writing 20 books. I found this very funny because although I have always loved to write, I always knew I didn’t want to teach, but I have been doing it for several years now.

This is something that comes to mind when I try to respond to some questions my husband and I often ask ourselves, as I listed in Part I of this post.  Are we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Or are we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Have we left our ideals aside in exchange for modern, middle class comforts? Are we still being true to our dreams? Above all, how can we be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing a decent life for our children? And what is a “decent life”? Can’t we live a simpler life? The list goes on. (more…)

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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SRI LANKA: Monsoon season arrives with Facebook Safety Checks

SRI LANKA: Monsoon season arrives with Facebook Safety Checks

Monsoon season is on the brink.

To make things interesting there was a Tropical Depression that started in Sri Lanka and made its way to India, flooding everything in it’s path. It turns out that “Flooding in Sri Lanka” made it to the Facebook Safety Check system and I promptly marked my family as “safe”.

There have unfortunately been a lot of displaced families and ruined homes. Landslides and too much water put Sri Lanka on the news. If you would like to donate to the flood victims please visit the site for YAMU that offers plenty of options for helping from abroad. Our family is in a safe area.

The two days of intense rain that cause the flooding got me thinking of how I always remember an occurrence of strong rain about every place I have lived in.

There are few things I like more than being inside at night with all the lights off and a thunderstorm raging. The way the lightning shines on everything for just a second; it’s like a dangerous magic sparkle.

The first time I ever saw real heavy rain was in Miami when I was 9 years old. I couldn’t believe that so much water could fall from the sky at once. In Lima, our rain was more like spittle in the air, making everything damp instead of washing away grime. The trees got moist but never really clean so the leaves stayed dirty from the soot that never washed away.

The rain in Miami was ruthless, it soaked you in seconds if you got caught outside, parks and streets flooded, the sky would explode in light and the wind would whistle between the houses. When I was 12 we experienced Hurricane Andrew and even if it was a bit scary, I fell in love with heavy rain. Since then, every place I have traveled to or lived in has been marked by episodes of rain.

When my oldest daughter was little, we lived in Cusco, a city in the Andes where rains are quite special. Rainbows are an every day occurrence and sun showers always took our breath away. Once in a while it would hail and the streets would get covered in little rivulets of ice pellets. I loved those days; the sound of hail hitting the roof was so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk.

When I left Cusco, the thing I missed the most was the beautiful cotton like clouds that formed against the crisp blue sky. I didn’t see those again until we arrived in Bangkok. What a sight, giant billowy formations over skyscrapers intertwined with wispy fingers over a deep blue sky that would suddenly turn grey and break loose like a thousand waterfalls. Rain so powerful that you couldn’t see the buildings across the street.

My kids have never been afraid of thunder and lightning, they get excited when they hear the rumbling getting closer and closer as a storm moves in. We watch from the window trying to guess where the next flash of lightning will strike.

Just another afternoon in Sri Lanka

A video posted by Crazy Little Family Adventure (@oranavelarde) on

I read a book once about a hippy commune in Goa, India. I clearly recall that the foreigners would disappear every year during the monsoon season. What a magical word, “monsoon”.

I didn’t realize the magnitude of a monsoon until we arrived in Phuket. The floods were maddening, the wind overpowering, the rains could last for days on end with no breaks or openings in the sky. Those were long, needless to say, wet days.

In the book Goa Freaks, the people that leave for the monsoon are the foreigners; obviously the locals stay. I am living this firsthand in Sri Lanka and the thing that surprises me the most is how people just go on with their lives, wading through the flood. The women in soaked saris going to work or getting things done without a care in the world. The strong rains are so common that it does not stop people from living. Life is just a little wet here on the shores of the Bengal Sea.

Is there a weather phenomenon that has stayed with you through time? Are your children scared of thunderstorms?

If you would like to donate to the Sri Lanka Flood Relief, please visit YAMU, there are plenty of online “from abroad” options if you are not in Sri Lanka

This is an original World Moms Blog post by Orana Velarde, Peruvian mother in Sri Lanka

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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BRAZIL: Saving the World in Small Ways – Part I

BRAZIL: Saving the World in Small Ways – Part I

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When I was a teenager/young adult I wanted to change the world (as it happens with so many youngsters). And changing the world usually meant Doing Big Things.

Now, three kids and more than twenty years later, my saving the world efforts seem so distant. I grapple with alternating days when I stay home with the kids, sorting socks and washing dishes, and days teaching classes at the university, advising students’ research, and trying to do some research of my own.

At one point of my life I thought my career would be in the non-profit sector; i.e., I would be a professional environmentalist, forever. By then my volunteering efforts had evolved into parallel paying jobs related to social-environmental issues, and this kind of lifestyle went on for 12+ years.

I continued on to graduate school not because I wanted to become an academic, but because I thought it would be a great addition to what I already did. I found it exciting to go from project to project, often working on more than one at once. I felt almost repulsed by the thought of staying in the same job for the rest of my life, always doing the same thing. I even got a certain thrill from not knowing where my salary would come from after the current project ended.

My husband (who worked for the same NGO) was not as thrilled and dreamed of the day at least one of us would have a more stable job. Since I was already on the academic path in one way or the other, that person became me.

When I first became a professor I wasn’t overjoyed. Although I love to do research, teaching is a different story and it was very hard in the beginning. At this point I already had three children and the “saving the world” type of projects were in the past. Another dream that I tried to pursue (to become a professional writer) had also been buried. I sadly realized I wasn’t really passionate about anything anymore – except, of course, my kids.

By this time my husband had gotten a relatively stable government job, although he didn’t really love it. We were finally okay financially and we were living a comfortable life. Nevertheless, we began to question ourselves about our choices.

Were we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Were we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Had we left our ideals aside for modern, middle class comforts? Were we still being true to our dreams?

At first I had a good excuse to avoid these issues because two of our kids were very small and I had to deal with all of the related motherhood issues. In parallel, I tried to make the most of my job focusing on the good things: stability, flexible hours, and the possibility of quantity time with my children even if that meant doing a lot of work at night and during the weekend. I told myself (and I still do), that there are many means to make a difference, even if in “small” ways.

After all, in practice, there are no real big things. Big things take place in small steps and often need more than one person involved. Also, what seems like small, local things, often involve a lot of work and may have a greater impact on the world than expected. No wonder one of the most popular environmentalist mottos is, “Think global, act local”.

Today, in my attempts to continue to be of service to the world, I try (for example) to be a good listener to my students because sometimes I sense they are more in need of a friendly ear than anything else. A great number of students suffer from depression and other related disorders, for instance. And it’s not that I serve as a psychologist or anything, but I frequently feel that just treating them kindly and making an effort to advise them extra well regarding academic issues makes a significant difference.

Yet the fact is, regardless of how we do in our present jobs, the sort of questions I listed before has been haunting us for the past few years. Now that our youngest is past three, these questions have resurfaced. The biggest issue that remains is how to be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing enough food on the table (and healthcare, and a good education etc., etc.)?

This post will be continued in Part 2.

Please share your story below on how you have managed (or not) to follow your dreams, personally and professionally.

This post was inspired by two other posts: “Surviving the turmoil” and “My frame world”.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.

Photo credit to Claremont Colleges Digital Library.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL: What to do when our role models die?

BRAZIL: What to do when our role models die?

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I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.

I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.

(more…)

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.

Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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