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As happy as Finns?


If there was a Eurovision Happiness contest, we can bet that Finland would get a magnificent "Twelve points". This country is presented as the one where we are apparently the happiest and lots of media reports speak about it. Let’s us try to discover Finland such as it is by means of some French people who choose to live there.       They are called Axia, Augustin and Marion. They are young French people that studies, a loving meeting or both led to live at the edge of the Baltic. Axia discovered Finland via an internship made during her educator's training path specialized for young children. After graduation, her first escapade tempted her to return to Helsinki where she works today in a French-Finnish nursery school. Augustin had met his girlfriend according to the Erasmus program a few years earlier. She is Finnish, so he is installed for more than two years now in the Finnish capital. A six month Erasmus course led Marion in Lapland where she met her companion and decided to stay one more year.   There's no smoke without fire …   Is Finland a country of bliss? It seems that Finn are proud and happy of the lifestyle they chose and aware to protect it. When we speak about this northern country of 5.3 million inhabitants, some references return indefatigably. Are they clichés? Not really because it is about facts or practices which are clearly in the Finnish DNA; Fast overview of these essential features.     No matter what the weather looks like, Finns love nature. That is the way it is! They live in a land of thousand lakes and forests which cover 70 % of the territory. Augustin underlines with humour: "A happy Finn is a single Finn in the middle of wood ". In fact, most of the families possess a Mökki, small rustic chalet, often without water or electricity, near a lake and rather perfectly isolated. That is the archetypal holiday resort where we rush for the weekend or the holidays, passing time by picking blueberries and mushrooms, fishing and bathing. Let’s forget the endless Finnish name of the legal concept which gives to each one here the common law to come and go freely in the natural spaces of the country. We ignore moreover if words as "barrier" or "fence" exist in Finnish, it will be necessary to check it yourself.   The nature enthralls and fascinates, especially during winter with its auroras borealis (revontulet in the Sami language) firing the sky and in summer with 70 days of continuous midnight sun in Lapland.       From her arrival in Rovaniemi in Lapland, Marion noticed the humility of Finns about the nature. "The Finnish nature is an excellent place to learn to know its limits but also to push away". She evokes Sisu, a local expression describing the courage and the robustness. And we just understand what she means, when delivering a real-life anecdote "With -30 ° in the morning to go to work in bike, hair freezes immediately. The slightest hair around your face becomes ice". Not for cold sensitive.   Did you ever heard about Rovaniemi? Yes, it is THE capital of Santa Claus (the real one) in Lapland. In the North of the country, it is the native region of the Sami, famous nomadic people and reindeer herders. If the Egyptians have pyramids and Pharaohs, Finnish mythology gives a good place to elves, sprites and to this nice bearded chap who deserves well a visit.   One thing which urges the media to set up this small country as a model, it is its education system. If Marion specifies "A remarkable system, the central point are the well-being of children and the equity", Axia confirms its excellence by the example. "Many things are thought for the children and the education system is really respectful of their rhythm and needs. At first, the maternity leave which borders one year without loss of salary and the parental leave accessible to the fathers for a long time already". The young educator also underlines the way children are educated and associated to their natural environment from the youngest age. "In nursery schools, we go out at least twice a day during one hour, no matter the weather. It can be in a park or even in forest. And I was surprised very fast seeing how the children know the nature". The environment is used as a learning and socialization support. "Somewhere else, we could think it dangerous to let a kid climb a rock or not hygienic to play with some sand, not here."     Finally, there is a word of the Finnish language that we know all: sauna. It is a real emblem of Finland. We consider it here as more effective than a shower especially as it does not cleanse only the body but also the spirit. Qualified as "medicine of the poor man ", the sauna is in Finland a rite marked with serenity and respect which plays an essential role in social relationships. The must being of course to have your sauna in a mökki and to have a swim in the very fresh waters of a lake immediately after … If you do not want to test it, you will need a good excuse, especially as there are 3.3 million private and public saunas for 5.3 million inhabitants!   Less well-known facts…   A short informal summary of other characteristics of the Finnish culture has to be done.   If you think that the highlight of Scandinavian design comes from a big Swedish brand … you are wrong. Number of concepts and objects appreciated all over the world arose from crazily creative brains of Finn designers and architects. The local inventiveness also concerns Angry Birds and others mobile apps universally known.   Among the specificities of Finland, Axia told us " what also marked me here, it is that we can feel safe at any time, wherever ". That is a fact! the feeling of safety contributes to the quality of life which all our interlocutors underline. Of course, the country remains little populated and relatively urbanized, but a world survey leaded by the Reader’s Digest shows a lot about the state of mind of Finn: on 12 fat wallets, deliberately dropped on public roads, 11 were spontaneously returned to their owners! (Ok, one is still missing)       Concerning comfort and quality of life, Augustin reminds us "the labor law leaves a lot of free time. Most of people leave their work between 16 and 17 pm. Here, the legal duration of work is scrupulously respected".   Would it be due to the extreme temperatures? In any case, Finland holds the world record of coffee consumption and we can find coffee rooms everywhere.   We could add that the culinary scene of Helsinki is one of the best in Europe (Axia recommends you moreover to taste a salmon and potatoes soup on the marina), that the Finn water is the purest or that on 330 km of tracks, the season of ski lasts 6 months; Without forgetting that the Finnish ice hockey and heavy metal conquered aficionados all over the world.     Some of you could think that Finland has some defects, come on!     If the polar cold is considered as a defect, the answer is yes. But the magic beauty of the winter and the midnight sun compensate coldness. Moreover, the harshness of the climate leads the inhabitants to simplicity both in their lifestyle and in social relationships. Augustin admits "that has good sides and inconveniences, with a very direct approach where certain confrontations with the Latin culture can be rather rough. Finns can sometimes seem to us aggressive in their communication. The polite phrases are useless, it is necessary to get straight to the point ". But he hurries to add that in spite of a quite distant approach, Finns are charming and will become faithful friends.   Objectively, Finnish language could be difficult to learn. Besides some endless words, any common or proper noun can spell in more than 200 grammatical forms there! Let us admit that French is not easy either and let us feel reassured, most of the Finns speak English. And then, you already know Mökki, Sisu and sauna …         And we get attached to this country     When we ask what connects them strongly to this country, our three French companions all evoke the variety and the beauty of the Finnish nature and a quality of life difficult to match. But each one has a more personal conclusion.   For Augustin, poet at times, it is "a rich but not snooty culture and the harsh but magnificent winter which transforms the appearing of first buds in a moment of intense happiness ".   For Axia, charmed, "the lifestyle suits me perfectly. I had come to be inspired by the education system and bring it back. But I discovered much more than that and had beautiful meetings which tempted me to return and not to leave any more ".   Marion and her Finnish companion Samuli, installed in France for some time, think of returning definitively to Lapland. "Obviously my companion, his family and my friends bind me strongly to Finland. But it is especially the country which deeply fit to my aspiration and my vision of the world".    
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Carlos Llano committed to give children a smile


Carlos ran The Track in 2015 and the Ultra Africa Race in 2017. Today, we want to share another challenge to which this Spanish runner dedicates himself for several years; such a demanding action with HIV victims in Burkina Faso, especially children.         The meeting   Carlos had no tie with the African continent, just a long-time attraction and the desire to discover it. The running led him to realize this dream.  In 2012, he runs the Epic 5 challenge Epic 5 to collect funds useful for the project Wend Be Ne Do led in Burkina.  Next year, he leaves to see how it works, to cooperate and definitively falls in love with Africa.  Carlos underlines that Africa changes unmistakably her visitors. "There is no more beautiful place in the world. The wild nature, the humanity of the African… It is a really unique, incomparable place ".   This stay teaches him that most of the local projects are supported or led by people attached to the church. Wend Be Ne Do does not escape the rule. The project federates men and women worried of fighting against the pandemic very present in countries of Sahel. Workers or voluntary, they all are assisting adults and children victims in particular children orphans of parents died from this disease.         Burkina Faso, locked in dry lands, far from the sea, is the third poorest country of the world.   In this corner of deep Africa where the drought makes farming so risky, it is also difficult to develop tourism. In such conditions, we imagine the isolation of sick people. But Carlos underlines "people here are matchless; the nobility of the human being appears when he overtakes difficulties and suffering."       Childhood Smile, a NGO offering children a future   Willingness and the desire to help can bring a lot. But Carlos wanted to make more. To give itself the means to support at best this project, he created Childhood Smile, an association became approved NGO. Today driven by three employees and a fighting team of local volunteers, it supports more than 600 beneficiaries and 340 children. Childhood Smile is already a big family.         The objectives are at the same time simply human and ambitious: Welcome, listen to, estimate and restore some lives marked by AIDSImprove the health of many victims by stabilizing the viral load, by assuring prevention and treatment. Improve the psychic and moral situation of the program grantees.   Carlos feels blessed to rely on the support of the local administration but naturally, it is the commitment and the daily work that count. When he evokes the "results", it is not about figures. "Here, it is difficult to have reliable data. I can say that I knew orphan children, very sick children who today go to school and no more suffer malnutrition. We manage to give them a little hope ". Their modest site also reveals how the team tries to supply bicycles to the children to ride the 20 km which separate them from the school … The approach of Childhood Smile is marked out by pains as the death of Bouba, a boy who was helped since the creation and by happiness as the imminent departure of Zoenabo, the first one of the girls to be entering the university.           Projects, efforts and hope   Of course, it is the economic resources which are lacking most of the time. But the NGO chains and concretizes smart projects as building a multi-purpose hall which welcomes a library and the creation of a computer room. Give to the children the access to internet and tools to open them to the world, here is the beautiful project. Just like the idea to open in a few months a sewing workshop for three of the accompanied young people. You suspect it this brave team would be delighted to receive books for the library, any kind of computer hardware, donations and soon maybe, tools useful for sewing …    
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In Saint-Tropez, Australia and New Zealand burst on the movie screen


Roadsign was born in Australia. We like telling you the southern lands and today, it will be facing the camera. Beyond the natural magic of the landscapes, these countries and their inhabitants have a strong personality, a rich culture and quite a devastating humor revealed by beautiful movies, often unknown in our hemisphere. Who will be our guide? Bernard Bories, founder of the Antipodes Cinema Festival whose close partner we are, and who, from 8 till 14 October, has just celebrated its 20 autumns.       It begins by a Picnic at Hanging Rock… In 1977, Bernard Bories receives an emotional shock by seeing this Peter Weir's movie. He falls in love with Australia and with a cinema embodied by this director (who since realized Dead Poets Society, Witness or Master and Commander). From then, he will never stop discovering other pictures coming from the antipodes and will try to share them with the European public. Over the years, from Australian and New Zealand festivals to movie markets, Bernard knocks at every door, succeeds in broadcasting some films in Chambéry or Cannes. But it is not enough. Convinced that he has to value the 7th Oceanian art, to arouse the desire of buyers and the interest of a large audience, he "invents" the Antipodes Film Festival.   … And then goes on in Saint-Tropez. To welcome the event, it was necessary to find a place which has some affinities with the southern atmosphere. The sun, the sea and the cinematic fame of Saint-Tropez placed it at the top of the casting. Thanks to the help of a friend, Bernard Bories succeeds in submitting his project to the mayor who accepts the idea of lasting days projections in the unique cinema of Saint-Tropez. In October 1998, the first edition of the festival presented 3 movies. Twenty years later, the program gathers 16 films, 4 documentaries and 16 short films. We lived an intense week which attracted this year between 3500 and 4000 spectators of any ages and any horizons.         A cinema made for exploration and discovery Bernard Bories defines Australian and New Zealand cinemas as "a kind of genetic crossing between the best of American cinema and the best of European cinema". He evokes effective movies, well built, launching a wild eye on the society; artworks proposing strong sub-themes, often illustrated by a sharp humor, without ever giving up the real esthetics. This 20th edition welcomed several first movies, realized with great talent and sometimes no money, and prestigious and involved juries. The prizes rewarded West of Sunshine, Stray, Breath and Three wise cousins, films going from comedy drama to natural road movie, from initiative journey to urban road-trip. The best short film award crowned the "delirious" The Eleven o' clock. In brief, varies movies made for all tastes, to discover on       A festival based on passion and partnership His passion for the southern lands and the antipodes cinema, Bernard Bories shares it with so faithful volunteers coming of almost everywhere; a wonderful team making the festival successful for 20 years now. He did not miss the chance to have this year as special guest, the unclassifiable, New Zealand director-scriptwriter, Oscar-winning and Golden Palm in Cannes, Jane Campion. But without committed partners, it would not have been enough. He evokes the support of the city, the France-Australia Association, embassies of both countries and adds "Roadsign is an emblem of Australia, as a front door. A partner who enriches the festival, in particular with gifts for the festival-goers and of course thanks to the trophies recognizable between all."     A 20th celebrated anniversary For this anniversary, organize one Roadsign Australia night in the Papagayo Saint-Tropez, a famous club seen frequently by more stars than we could not imagine… A party where directors, actors, members and presidents of juries came to blow the birthday candles of the festival with M. Angus Mac Kenzie, Australian ambassador of Unesco; a way to come back home with good memories and to thank Bernard Bories who never stops increasing the reputation of this beautiful festival.   For the moment, he already returns to his cinematic and physical journeys, travels and meetings of any kinds with directors, producers and sellers; such an annual treasure hunt necessary to prepare the next edition of the Antipodes Film Festival.    
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