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Hello, this is Owen and this is my podcast for Thursday 29th March, 2018. Happy Easter, everyone! I’m back in the UK for Easter. I had a very interesting time in Greece. There was a lot to take in , some of it good and some of it bad. All in all , it was a very memorable trip. I flew back to the UK from Sofia in Bulgaria. Sofia is actually closer to Thessaloniki than Athens is and it’s a lot cheaper to fly from Sofia than from Athens. Having spent so much time in China and India recently, I’m always surprised by the short distances between places in Europe. Everything is so close. Sofia was ok, I guess, but a bit cold and grey to be honest.
Today, I’ll be talking about a presentation I went to in Thessaloniki and a book I’ve been reading about meditation.
One of the things I really enjoyed seeing in Greece was the activism. I saw so many people protesting and demonstrating in the streets. It made me realise how little of that you see in China. It was ? refreshing  to see people actively demanding change and being able to do so out in the open . Activism in China is very different, it’s a lot less - visible; . You don’t see it out in the open as much. My reason for going to Greece was obviously to learn more about the refugee crisis and I went to a few presentations about the crisis in order to learn more. The first presentation I went to was given by an organisation that works with refugees. They give weekly presentations about the history of the current crisis and what the situation looks like now. Anyone can attend these presentations and they are very ; 'informative . I learnt a lot. The presentation I want to tell you more about, though, is the one I went to the next day. It was given by a German photographer. He’s been volunteering and taking pictures of the crisis from the beginning. His presentation wasn’t about facts and numbers. It was about actual people. He showed us pictures of children and families that he’d met in the Idomeni camp and simply told us their stories. Where they came from, how they got to Greece, where they were hoping to go. There were pictures of children’s birthday celebrations in the camp and pictures of volunteers from all over the world. He told us about a family that he’d become very close to  and how they just disappeared  one night. He didn’t know what had happened to them. And then he got a message from them months later from Germany. He talked about the sorts of problems people face  in the camp on a daily basis and what it’s like to never know what’s going to happen next. There was a rumour in the camp at one point that the Macedonians were going to open their border. So thousands of people packed up their things and walked to the border from the camp. At the border they were met by the Macedonian army who used tear gas  to stop people from crossing into Macedonia. He talked about the chaos and the boredom  in the camp and the struggle to feed so many people. He told us about an organisation called Team Bananas that started when a couple of volunteers went to a local supermarket and bought all the bananas. They handed the bananas out  to the kids in the camp and the whole thing just grew from there. Soon they were handing out thousands of bananas every day to all the kids for breakfast. He told us all these stories that everyone could relate to  and he showed us all these beautiful pictures of the people he was talking about. The stories and pictures of actual people really showed the human side of the crisis. It was a very powerful and personal presentation.
In my last podcast I talked about a Spanish volunteer that I worked with who caused lots of problems. Armin wrote to say that it probably had something to do with the Spanish volunteer’s self-esteem , or I should say lack of  self-esteem. First of all, thank you, Armin, for your comment. The Spanish volunteer was definitely struggling with something. He was very angry and he didn’t really seem to be in control of himself. The whole situation made me think a lot about a book I’ve been reading recently called “Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment”. The book isn’t about Buddhism in any religious sense. It’s not about karma or reincarnation. It’s about how we don’t see the world very clearly because our feelings get in the way  and how meditation can help us to see things more clearly. The author is a psychologist and he thinks that modern psychology shows that Buddha was right about a lot of things. There are evolutionary reasons for emotions like anxiety  or jealousy or anger, but in the modern world these emotions often prevent  us from seeing things clearly. This was one of Buddha’s central teachings. Meditation is a way of seeing things more clearly. The book sees meditation as a kind of therapy. One of the things you do when you meditate is analyse your feelings. You sit and you try to focus on your breathing but, of course, your mind wanders . Those feelings of anxiety or jealousy or anger come up and you start to analyse those feelings. You locate  the feeling in your body. You picture the feeling and by confronting the feeling it starts to lose its strength. You create a distance between yourself and the feeling and maybe you start to see things more clearly. Since my time in India, I’ve tried to meditate regularly. After my Vipassana course, they told us to meditate for two hours every day, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. That’s too much for me but I do try to meditate a little every day. After working with the angry Spanish volunteer, I wish I’d given him a copy of the book. All those negative emotions were clearly causing him and the people around him lots of problems. I’m sure a little bit of meditation would help him a lot.
Well, that’s about all from me. If you’d like to leave a comment or ask me a question, please do so. Before I go, I just want to congratulate my colleague Isabelle on the 50th episode of her French podcast ‘Balades’. You can find her podcast along with all our other podcasts on our website podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find me on Instagram using the hashtags #PodClubOwen and #oweninchina. Gerry will be back in two weeks and I’ll be back on Friday 27th April when I’ll be talking about Hong Kong. Take care everyone and goodbye!