My Sunset Photo Is Published in a Local Newspaper

Hyperlocal news has taken off in Moscow in the last couple of years. And so this week I’m a contributor to My Neighbourhood newspaper with my photo of the sunset seen from my window. I’ve said previously that I’ve always watched breathtaking sunsets in Moscow. This was something that I terribly missed, while in England. It’s all the more pleasing that the local news paid attention to one of these splendid captures and has made it available to everyone to see.

Sketches to Portraits by Terentiy Travnik

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Terentiy Travnik and Darya Khanedany’an, Sketches to Portraits. Translated into English, Spanish and French by Julia Shuvalova and Patrick Jackson.

One of the milestone events of this year for me is a publication of a book Sketches to Portraits with the aphorisms by Terentiy Travnik and illustrations by Darya Khanedany’an.

Terentiy Travnik is a poet, artist and musician, a native Muscovite. Darya Khanedanyan was also born in Moscow into a family of artists, however her own creative career started in Spain. I took part in making the book as a literary editor, an editor of the English translation of aphorisms, and a translator into French. I also translated the opening article into English.

The pronounced Iberian facial traits is obviously a hommage to Spain; Travnik’s aphorisms retain their Russian heritage in form as in the intellectual depth. A harmonious combination of words and images is therefore all the more striking, strengthened by artistic editing by Travnik himself. The vibrant colours, ethnic rhythms and avant-garde stylisation all bring out a truly cosmic dimension in Sketches to Portraits.

The aphorisms by Terentiy Travnik deserve a special mention. One of his best-known books, A Splinter, that has seen 4 editions since it was first published in 1990s, is a collection of aphorisms that embrace practically all spheres of human life. One can note here a loyalty to the tradition of La Bruyère, Schopenhauer and other philosophers who found endless creative possibilities in the concise and succinct form of an aphorism. Ever after A Splinter Travnik’s work has been marked by the mentioned qualities (e.g. Tabulas, 49 Tabulas etc.).

Sketches to Portraits by Terentiy Travnik includes 41 aphorisms translated into English, Spanish and French languages. Great happiness matures slowly; There is a lot of grass in the field, but we can only remember the flower; Time does everything on the go; Touch the roots, and the crown will blossom; To do a foolish thing and to make a mistake are two different things; Wisdom does not take money; Education is the path from authority to truth; Treat the fatigue of the body with rest and the fatigue of the soul with work. This is but a little part of what the author invites the reader to think about. Perhaps, this openness to the dialogue is the most remarkable trait of these aphorisms. Nowadays the Internet is saturated with many an interesting and deep quote, but the most popular are those presented in a mentoring or affirmative voice. Do this; don’t do that; the meaning of that is this. Terentiy Travnik’s aphorisms, while speaking directly to the reader, don’t insist on their ultimate truth. Their deceptive simplicity disguises some really deep reflections.

Terentiy Travnik’s website

Other posts in Julia Shuvalova: Poetry and Prose archives

How to Pass any Exam in Flying Colours

I’ve recently written an article for one portal detailing the tips for sitting in any exam. These tips are based entirely on my personal experience of going through an examination, but especially Foreign Language exams. Whether it is a GSCE, an A-Level exam, TOEFL/IELTS or any other international language exam, I am sure this advice will help you pass your exam in flying colours.

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An exam is an important and therefore stressful experience but you can cope with it

Whatever exam we have to pass, and no matter how old we are, this is always a stressful experience, especially if the stakes are high. On the day of your exam you are stressed, either bouncing or frustrated, so you need something solid to stand on. Not only did these tips help me in the past, they have been helping my students for the last seven years to achieve excellent results in any exam they had to sit in.

1.A journey to the top mark begins with the first correct answer

If you want to do something well, do well in every aspect of it. Exams, like everything else in life, has got room for improvisation, but the core remains the same: you have to answer each and every question calmly and methodically.

2.If you can’t do it, leave it

“I’m in a block”, “don’t remember anything” etc. is normal. You are overly conscious of how high the stakes are. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths – and move on to another task. Don’t waste time on that which causes panick and insecurity.

3.Take breaks

Listen to yourself. Once you’ve noticed fatigue, put your pen away. Instead of looking at the exam paper, look at the window. Whatever is the season, there will be something nice to see. Especially so if you pass your exam in spring or summer. Breaks + positive thinking = success.

4.Think about yourself

This sounds selfish, but an exam is one’s own business. Every man for himself. If your friend believes it is good to be at her wits’ end before the exam, good for her. You don’t need to help her and wind yourself up. Think about yourself.

5.An exam is you

It is usually thought that an exam checks the knowledge in a discipline. However, it is also a check on our personal qualities. Composure, accuracy, time management are just as important as knowing the difference between Passe Compose and Passe Simple.

6.Be calm!

Dont’ worry about what you cannot change. Strange noises, an unpleasant interlocutor, the wrong kind of weather outside – are all of these really more important that your exam result? These things are beyond your influence. Therefore look into your exam paper and do the tasks.

7.Focus is king

Imagine that you are a racehorse. You’re got blinders on your eyes, and the finishing line somewhere ahead. You can take your blinders off when you did all tasks, checked them, transferred onto the exam paper, submitted it and closed the door behind you. Only then can you breathe out. But while you are in the room, the focus is on the exam.

8.Trust your intuition

There are forces that move in mysterious ways, and whatever you personally think of it, these forces exist and are ready to help. Colloquially we call them the sixth sense, or intuition. So if in the exam you stumble into a question you don’t know, ask these forces to help you. It’s quite likely that you will get a correct answer.

9.Choose your order

The main thing is a good result. Foreign Language exams usually start with Listening Paper, but you are free to choose the order of the papers that follow. Same goes for any other exam. Therefore, if, upon looking through the paper, you notice some very easy tasks, do them first. Accumulate the positives.

10.Think positive

Positive thinking finds opportunities, negative thinking sees problems. For some reason not all recognise this. This year, as you pass your exams, make a point of consciously noticing every positive aspect or moment. You’ll see for youself: an exam will go smoothly, and your mark will be higher than the one you expected.

Some useful advice

1.Aim higher

If you want, say, 100 points, prepare like you need to get 120. If you are ready exactly for 100 points, the chance is, your mark will be lower.

2.Prepare in advance.

There are situations in life when last-minute preparation isn’t going to work wonders. An exam is one of these situations.

3.Know thy subject.

The best way to pass an exam in flying colours is to know the subject, rather than do various tests. If you have to write an essay in History, for example, it’s easier to memorise the History course than to cram 20 essay samples.

And finally…

Listen to yourself

If someone tells your passing an exam in this or that subject is unrealistic, remember: this person talks about his or her ability in this subject. Believe in yourself, love your subject, and you will succeed!

A Retired Easy-Rider

The English pensioners sometimes drive these motorised wheelchairs. They are quite expensive, so are more rarely seen compared to a usual wheelchair. This photo was taken in Stockport, England, but I recall narrowly avoiding a collision in Salford. I was slowly walking to a shop when suddenly I thought something was moving behind me. You know, a kind of a thriller movie scene when you feel someone breathing you in the neck. I looked across my shoulder and barely managed to jump to the left, to a fence of someone’s house. A typical English lady, complete with a pastel fleece zip jacket and permed lilac hair, confidently drove past me at a pretty high speed, without any warning. It took me time to come to terms with the fact that she nearly ran me over…

A Roman Bath Morning

Encircled by four-legged friends, it’s so tempting to stay in bed longer. But you still have to get up. Now, just about every visitor to this hall in the Louvre stops at this bath to admire it. I and a few tourists from Australia decided that we would happily accommodate this one at our houses. And so, the question: if indeed this bath were yours and you knew it was waiting for you, would it make you more eager to get up in the morning?

A Roman Hall at the Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Georgy Beregovoy – Spacе Begins on Earth

Extracts from the book by the Russian cosmonaut, the Hero of the Soviet Union Georgy Beregovoy “Space Begins on Earth” (translated from Russian by Julia Shuvalova).

“Aldrin is wrong, perhaps, on one point: the feeling of unity with mankind has nothing mystical about it. It is a natural consequence of man’s going out into Space where he has acutely realised that he innately belongs to Earth. The alien nature of Space makes people understand more deeply and clearly what these are – the Earth and its human inhabitants. Today mankind is no longer a mere mass of people who lived once or are living now; mankind is something that exists nowhere in the entire universe – except on Earth.

It has long been noted that a parasite consumes far more than someone who lives an active life, who is passionate about his work, interesting work. The parasite strives to fill the void of his existence with objects; they are the only things that preoccupy him. The one who leads an active life creates objects rather than consumes them. For him, things are not the end of it all; they are just the interior of life, and their sense lies in a man’s self-expression, in making use of whatever capabilities and opportunities he has got. These people usually give more to the world than take away from it.

The creative mind is great because it aims at what can be achieved and created, not what has been done. It strives to the future instead of sinking into the present.

The life of a man is but a particle of time; the life of mankind is an uninterrupted chain of these particles that to us is the image of Time itself. And just as it is impossible to either stop the time or to turn it back, so the mankind can only move forward. This is why the Space exploration is inevitable unless we want the mankind to disappear along with our, sadly, mortal planet. Earth is but a humanity’s cradle, in the words of Tsiolkovsky, and its real home is an infinite universe, not bound by either time, or space.

We simply have no choice… We may only choose the means to the goal, not the goal itself. And the goal of delving into Space and its exploration has been set by the very nature of rational life.

Each of us follows his own path to reach the goals of his epoch… I have always strived to do as much as I am capable of, and not less – and I hope to continue to do so! Yet even this skill is rather usual, in that anyone may acquire it, given the desire.

Of course, I didn’t want to waste my life on nonsense, I wanted to serve people. And for that, I knew well, I had to give my all, to live so that I had no energy left of what had been given to me.

In physics they say that when a system energy reaches its critical level, a threshold, it inevitably acquires a new, previously inexistant quality. So I, too, have eventually reached my critical threshold beyond which there lay the road to Space”.

Marc Chagall Fridge Magnet Arrives from Vitebsk

My students have recently been to Belarus, and before they left, I had asked them to bring me a souvenir: a fridge magnet from Vitebsk, possibly featuring Marc Chagall, one of the city’s best-known sons. So last week I received this truly wonderful present: it is an easel with Chagall’s portrait. The artist is posing with his own painting in the background. Needless to say, it is one of the unique fridge magnets in my collection.

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