Cooling off in Madrid…

Arriving in Madrid in July from the Argentinian Winter was like stepping into an oven. I wondered how I would survive the raging temperatures, permanently hovering somewhere around 38-40 degrees Celsius. Even the Spaniards all get out of Madrid in July and August, heading to various locations in the mountains and along the coast.

Then I found this pool:

Swimming Pool, Madrid

Known as Centro Natacion M 86 the centre was especially built for Madrid’s World Swimming Championships in 1986. It offers some of the best facilities available in Europe, including seven swimming-pools in total (three indoor and four open-air).

I think the pool in the photo is probably the best swimming pool I have ever been to in terms of swimming lengths, and I end up there most mornings as a start to my working day… In fact, I’m heading there in about half an hour 🙂


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Video: Eco Yoga Park, Argentina

Here’s a short video compilation of clips I took whilst staying at the Eco Yoga Park just outside Buenos Aires in Argentina. You can also view a photo slide show of the Eco Yoga Park here, and listen to the Eco Yoga Park podcast here. Thanks to all who appear in the video. Pete, you’ll get it eventually :-).

Photos of the Eco Yoga Park

The pollution is covering Santiago, Chile

Pollution in Santiago
Pollution in Santiago

Santiago, being the capital city of Chile, is a big city. The city was founded and named Santiago de Nueva Estremadura on Feb. 12, 1541, by Pedro de Valdivia. Santiago has spread over a broad valley plain and is today one of the largest cities in South America. Low foothills surround the valley, and the snowcapped Andes, forming a beautiful backdrop, rise in the eastern distance. For most of the year the climate is nice: warm days and cool nights.

Santiago is the political, commercial, and financial heart of the country, although Valparaiso has been the seat of the Chilean congress since 1990. Much of Chile’s industry is distributed among other cities, but Santiago is an active manufacturing center. Textiles, foodstuffs, clothing, footwear, and other goods are produced. There are also large iron and steel foundries in the city, which has a subway and an international airport.

The industries are heavily felt. If you climb up to a view point in the city you will not be able to see very far in certain parts of the year. The smog is so heavy that even the mountains are hidden. So although I actually like Santiago a lot: the Chileans are very nice and the city (apart from the occasional demonstrations) is orderly, courteous and feels pretty safe, I would not like to live there. Having gone through a pollution emergency crisis in Thailand in 2007, I will never again live in a country with such heavy pollution – regardless of the salary – my health is priceless!!

Pucon: A beautiful lake-side village in Chile

Pucon: A beautiful lake-side village in Chile
Pucon: A beautiful lake-side village in Chile

Pucon is a beautiful lake-side village in Chile. It is located 25 km from Villarrica at the east end of lago Villarrica, Rio Pucon in the north and Volcan Villarrica to the south. It is a stunning place to visit during the day.

Pucon is an outdoor activity kind of place. In the summer you can swim in the lake, hike, go rafting or kayaking, and go biking. During the winter it is also a very pleasant place to go for a walk on the beach by the lake and enjoy the very friendly accommodation there.

However, it does get very smoky in the night time (after 6pm in the evening). Most houses are heated with fireplaces and this leaves the city full of smoke. I still liked my time there during the winter – but I am sure I would have loved it in the summer a lot more.

Video: Eco Truly Park, Peru

Eco Truly Park is a beautiful Peruvian Pacific coast ecological, artistic hare Krishna community located on Chacra y Mar beach, a district of Aucallama, in the province of Huaral, one hour by bus or car (63 km) north of the capital city, Lima.

It is an international community with about 30 members living there all year long and lots of volunteers visiting as well to enjoy the community living. I specially loved being among like-minded humans who were all vegetarians and lived according to the same principles as me – namely to live in harmony with each other and nature and not kill.

This was the comment I left on their website after spending an amazing time there in 2009:

“I spent 10 days in Eco Truly Park and really loved the time there. After six months of intense travel in Latin America it was like a sanctuary of peace, relaxation, learning and introspection.Everyone were tremendously welcoming and accommodating.
I loved the delicious vegetarian food and the yoga practise as well.I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a spiritually open mind.”

For more information, please check out the volunteer website: tp://

or visit their facebook page: Eco Truly Park, Peru

The video below is a tribute to the place – hopefully it will give you an idea about the beauty of the place and the people.

The 7 steps to stop smoking

As a smoker I was a late starter. While friends of mine started smoking at the age of 13, I was never the least tempted. My dad used to smoke on New Years Eve to light the fire works which was easier with a cigarette when there is an ice wind blowing (or maybe it was just a bad excuse for my dad who used to be a smoker for 15 years). Once when my sister and I was about 12 and 13 years old my dad gave us a cigarette to smoke to "show us how bad it taste" and we coughed and definitely thought it tasted bad really bad

Nevertheless, while living on a kibbutz in Israel I started smoking and managed to smoke for the next 11 years, but I don’t think I ever considered it something I would do all my life. I have stopped a few times in my life before – the longest period being 9 months. Now I have stopped again, but this time it is forever. You might think "yeahh right "until next time". But actually by now I have not smoked for nearly two years – so I think my advice to you about stopping to smoke is valid. Below I have lined up 7 steps which I found to be helpful when stopping to smoke or deciding that you will soon stop smoking:

    1. Never stick to the same cigarette brand all the time. As a smoker you of course have your favorite brand but this is also a major part of the addiction: the familiarity with a certain "smoky’ taste and the chemicals it contains. Try to buy a different brand it will not taste "nearly as good" (if you can actually say that cigarettes taste good in any way). In fact it will probably taste bad. Smoke it anyway – but only when you really crave the nicotine. This will reduce your smoking a lot.

    2. After smoking a brand of cigarettes that you don’t really like you will automatically cut down the cigarettes. However, most of us still continue smoking even if it tastes bad because we are addicted to the nicotine. But you will probably be able to cut down the amount of cigarettes you smoke. The benefit of not stopping completely from one day to the next is that you don’t suffer from nicotine withdrawal and insomnia (which makes it even harder to stop smoking). I started out by not smoking at work which meant that I would not smoke the whole day and then when I would come home from work in the evening I would smoke one or two cigarettes. But I would still smoke a lot when I would go out with friends socializing – especially if they were smoking.

    3. The next step is to stop the daily cigarettes and that was a bit hard. I was no longer craving the nicotine on a daily basis but it was more the ritual part of coming home and "relaxing" with a cigarette. I had to adjust my mind to the fact that relaxation is not related to cigarettes. Apart from the nicotine addiction, the major part of an addiction is the association with activities that is pleasant activities of course (like coffee with a cigarette, the after dinner cigarette, the relaxing cigarette, the social cigarette, the cigarette that goes together with drinks etc.). I am not suggesting that you give all of your associations up at one time I don’t think it’s possible. I prefer a slow path of changing habits and mind. Once I had quite the daily cigarettes and no longer associated relaxing and after-work with cigarettes I continued smoking for quite a while socially. Of course it would ideally be great to be able to stop from one day to the next (and not damage your body more) but I think it is equally important to do it in a way that makes the smoking stop last.

    4. I decided that smoking was only "allowed" when I was drinking alcohol. Now I am not a big drinker and I will usually not drink alcohol more than once a week at the most. But believe me even this step can be hard. Your addictive brain might try to pursued you to buy a drink (even from seven-eleven) just so that you can smoke a cigarette. Fight it. Try to observe how you are yourself justifying to continue polluting yourself .it’s quite ridiculous really. I did buy a drink a few times on a week day just to be able to smoke but the cigarette didn’t actually taste good so I would turn it out after smoking half. At this point in time you might already have been socially smoking for half a year and you are no longer addicted to nicotine or used to the taste.

    5. The fifth step requires that you stop buying cigarettes yourself. This means that you will have to ask other people for cigarettes. Perhaps you don’t have a problem with that but I personally don’t like to ask people all the time for cigarettes. So it will probably limit your smoking to 2-3 cigarettes on a big night out. Despite the small number of smoked cigarettes I always got a soar throat anyway after a night out because at this point in time your body is not used to the smoke either.

    6. Now you will have to make the crucial and hard decision to stop forever. And when I say forever, I mean until you die (from age hopefully). But I don’t go around announcing to people that I stopped and I suggest you don’t do that unless it is a promise you make to them and that it will put more pressure on you to keep the stop. Telling people that you have stopped will automatically make them ask you all the time how the cigarette stop is going you don’t want that. You don’t want to be reminded of cigarettes when you are trying your utmost to forget about them. It’s like having a bad break-up in a relationship and then people constantly reminding you of your loss .not fun at all.
    I made a clear promise to myself that I will never touch a cigarette again and that it is a sign that I have no strength and willpower at all if I smoke again (basically I am a loser). Perhaps you need to tell yourself other things but for me it is really important that I am in power "meaning the part of me that wants to keep me healthy is in control. Now there is never a good time to stop completely I am aware of that and you might be able to pursued yourself that only smoking 2-3 cigarettes when you socialize will not give you cancer. But how do you know? If you are genetically sensitive to smoke it might cause lung cancer, throat cancer or mouth cancer. Do you dare to take the risk? How much is your life worth? It is really sad that we only realize that our health is priceless when we get sick. I will bet you anything that if you ask a person who has got smokers lungs or lung cancer if they wish they had never smoked – they will all say ‘yes’. Who wants to be sick if they can chose to be healthy?I recommend stopping to smoke on a memorable date (like your daughter’s birthday or going somewhere important a date you will remember later). But then again don’t wait with stopping smoking until a memorable date comes up the sooner the better!! Your lungs take at least 10 years to regenerate and repair the self-inflicted damage .start today!

    7.I suggest that you try spending more time with friends who are non-smokers it’ will make life much easier for you in the beginning. However, it can also be a good idea to spend time with friends who smoke because you will notice how ugly your clothes smell afterwards.Try not to think about cigarettes and focus on the obvious advantages of being a non-smoker: Enjoy that every day you can smell flowers better, the food has more flavor, you don’t ruin the health of your loved ones by making them passive smokers, your clothes and fingers doesn’t smell anymore, you save lots of money and you don’t constantly feel guilty about destroying your own health. And most important: Keep the promise you made to yourself – after all it is your life which is at stake.

Good Luck!

Green activists ‘are keeping Africa poor’

I’ve just read a very interesting article in yesterday’s Times newspaper, where the British former chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, states that Western ‘do-gooders’ (in this instance NGOs) are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional organic farming methods at the expense of modern scientific agriculture.

The article states that NGOs from Europe and America are turning African countries against sophisticated farming methods, including GM crops (e.g. rice that resists flooding & drought), in favour of indigenous and organic approaches. These organic methods simply cannot deliver the continent’s much needed ‘Green Revolution’, and the end result is that millions of people are suffering unnecessarily.

“The problem is that the Western-world move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food – and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences.”

Full article at Times Online.