July, the dog days of summer!
It is so hot and humid!
Have you ever heard of the “dog days” of summer? No, it is not about the dog owners having their dogs meet at the beach in the summer months. It is actually related to astronomy. The ancient Romans named it that way because they associated it with the star, Sirius! It’s because Sirius is known as the “Dog Star” or sometimes known as Canis Major. Watch this to find out more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBtjweC5nN8.
July, the 7th month in the Julian and Gregorian calendar is one of the warmest months in the northern hemisphere. It is named after Julius Caesar, the famous Roman general. Many national days are celebrated during this month. We begin with the “Canadian Day” on the 1st of July, moving on to the “Independence Day” for the USA on the 4th of July, and then the “Bastille Day” for France on the 14th of July. Happy celebrations!
To start the month rolling, let’s have some fun with our photo contest:
Where in the world was the above picture taken ?
Result of June’s photo contest:
The photo was taken in Venice, a city with a glorious past, a gateway for trades in the Eastern Mediterranean. Made famous by Canaletto, Casanova, Shakespeare and Vivaldi, the city is enchanting! With its masked carnivals, singing gondoliers, beautiful glassware, millions of tourists still flock to Venice each year…
A Journey A Month…
Your Story. Our Story. The Human Story.
I visited Venice in late April. It was the right decision because the spring weather was temperate, and it was just before the arrival of busloads of tourists. As I didn’t want to pack an extra pair of boots, just to experience the Venetian “aqua alta” (high water), the timing was perfect!
Whenever someone mentions about Venice, we always think of a romantic city and its many waterways, Venetian masks and gondolas. But, when one takes a deeper look beyond these tourist attractions, Venice actually offers quite some practical and insightful life lessons to its visitors.
1) From the Merchants of Venice: While walking up the grand staircase of one of the palaces, I noted that there were two beautiful marble statues facing each other at each side of the stairs. Out of curiously, I asked my guide to tell me the story of these statues. She explained that one statue represented the goddess of abundance, while the other represented the goddess of charity. They were placed side by side to remind the merchants that they needed to take care of the poor while they enjoyed good fortunes given to them. I was very impressed, because such thoughtful practice certainly helped to maintain a harmonious coexistence between the “haves” and “have-nots”. A very practical advice for residents of fast-growing cities with increasing “wealth” gap challenge.
(2) From the Administrators of Venice: The noblemen of the city had devised a very thorough and complex election machinery to elect the top office bearer (the Doge). This complex election system ensured checks and balances on power of the Doge, and minimised any possible conflict of interest of the administrative officers. To me, it was a surprising good guide for office bearers in many sense. Perhaps not the complex election system (https://www.venetoinside.com/hidden-treasures/post/the-election-of-the-doge-of-the-republic-of-venice/), but the concept of good ethics is applicable even today!
(3) From Marco Polo: Yes, this great Venetian merchant cum traveller was born in the Republic of Venice in 1254. He followed his father and uncle, traveled through Asia and went all the way to China. If you have read “The Book of the Marvels of the World” (also known as “The Travels of Marco Polo”), I believe you will agree that Marco Polo was a successful cross-cultural expert in his days.
If Marco Polo had taken a Cultural Intelligence (CQ) assessment test today, he would probably have a high score for his CQ motivation. Just look at the detailed chronicle of his travels, it showed a traveller with immense curiosity and interest to discover those who were culturally different from him. Though no one believed Marco’s stories when he first told them, no one could discount that he did return to Venice with a vast fortune. Besides, just like the title of the book, he discovered the marvels of the world, so he certainly believed he had had an interesting and rewarding life!
We always hear the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants”. In today’s interconnected world, what can we learn from Marco Polo? His curiosity? His courage to explore? His willingness to accept things different from what he knew? His mercantile trade ability to strike a “win-win” relationship? There are so many things we can learn from this Venetian merchant that can help us develop our cross-cultural skills!
Looking beyond the popular touristic sites, I have definitely gained a very different perspective of Venice. It was a far richer trip than what I’ve initially expected.
Let’s be as curious as Marco Polo. Every encounter we have with another fellow being may tell an unexpected and a richer story! Let’s enjoy the summer and live life to the fullest!