Volahanta Raharimanana

Volahanta Raharimanana

Due to the critical situation triggered by the current covid-19 pandemic, the number of people who work from home has highly increased. In the United States, the number of remote workers peaked at 42 percent amid the covid-19 crisis, yet only 2.5 percent prior to the crisis. It even appears that work-from-home would turn out to be a permanent option even after the pandemic.

Some employees who are not really accustomed to work from home may probably struggle to remain productive as the work environment does not match their real needs and expectations for the fulfillment of some tasks assigned to them. For some, working from home is so distracting and draining as they are not alone at home; they may deal with unceasing disruptions while working. Therefore, they find themselves less productive in their remote work experience than if they work in an office. From the article “Are employees more productive working from home?” written by Baruch Silvermann, founder and CEO at The Smart Investor, a GetAbstract study revealed that 43 percent of Americans would prefer to work remotely even once the current crisis has ended. Another research outcome from Buffer survey showed that 99 percent of workers would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time, and 40 percent of remote workers explain that the biggest benefit is the flexible schedule.

However, there are some challenges: 22 percent of survey respondents found it difficult to obtain a healthy work-life balance, and 19 percent reported feeling lonely. In some research cases, it is revealed that working from home makes better at some tasks and worse at others, gradually depending on employees’ remote work environment and their adaptation capacity. Indeed, work productivity which goes hand to hand with creativity and performance will definitely decrease when remote worker continuously struggles with a boring assignment and repetitive ordinary distractions while working.

Tips to boost productivity 

To remain highly productive while working from home requires good habits and practices as it is not always an easy choice to engage in a remote work experience. In fact, the ability to successfully work from home is not a prerogative that can be granted to everybody; however, it can be enhanced by following some productive-enhancing remote work tips. Here are a few practical tips proposed by Michael J . Breus, a clinical psychologist and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, on Psychology Today to boost work productivity: 

  • Do avoid using the bedroom as a workspace, bedrooms are meant for sleep and sex as he repeatedly reminds his patients. If workers persist on working in their bedrooms, he suggests creating a workspace – away from bed – to use for work.
  • Do set concrete hours for working – and stick to them. time management skills are fundamental in enhancing productivity whether it is in a worker’s or a student’s life. It is always important to create a dedicated work time by avoiding distractions and make sure all tasks get done at the end of the day. 

Sources: Business.com/ Psychology Today

Madagascar is well-known for its various endemic, yet endangered species. Thanks to its unique biodiversity that abounds in exceptional wildlife, it is not uncommon to come across a multitude of endemic species dispersed in all over the Big Island’s regions.

Apart from lemurs and other endemic reptiles, tortoises are among the living treasures that the country has to offer. Madagascar’s tortoises are seen as the most beautiful terrestrial turtles in the world. Due to their rarities, tortoises are mostly object to trafficking and poaching.

The tortoise named Astrochelys radiata, also called star turtle or radiated tortoise, “sokatra” of its Malagasy name is a terrestrial turtle that belongs to testunidae race. Madagascar is home to 13 turtle and tortoise species, including species which are among the rarest in the world. These species include Spider tortoise named Pyxis arachnoids; Flat-tailed Tortoise or Pyxis planicauda;  Madagascar Big-headed Turtle or Erymnochelys madagascariensis;  Radiated Tortoise or Astrochelys radiatePloughshare Tortoise also called Astrochelys yniphora ; Eastern Hinged-Back Tortoise or Kinixys zombensis; Hawksbill Turtle or Eretmochelys imbricata; Leatherback Sea Turtle or Dermochelys coriacea; Green Turtle or Chelonia mydas; Olive Ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea; Loggerhead Sea Turtle, also named Caretta caretta; Yellowbelly Mud Turtle, Pelusios castanoides; and Helmed Turtle or Pelomedusa subrufa.

Many of these endemic turtle species are now critically threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and illicit trade. For instance, the survival of the radiated tortoise and the Hawksbill turtle – a sumptuous marine species with yellow and brown-marbled shell – is in real danger. This sea turtle lives in tropical oceans and is present in the north of Madagascar. In contrast, the radiated tortoise or sokatra, characterized by a dark and dome-shaped carapace, is mostly observed in the south. The “sokatra”, is also perceived as a “Fady” – literally translated “taboo” –in some tribes of Madagascar. In the Mahafaly and Antandroy tribes, for instance, it is forbidden to feed on turtles and shoot them.

Turtles conservation strategies

The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) has been entitled the global leader in preserving Madagascar’s endemic turtles and is currently in charge of 25,000 tortoises. Through their programs “zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century” which aim to eradicate wildlife trafficking and illicit market of terrestrial turtles, the TSA committed to providing vital service and care to protect the Big Island’s endemic turtle species, especially the radiated tortoises which are at the highest risk of extinction. The Alliance also engages in teaching and raising community’s awareness on the importance of biodiversity conservation. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the TSA was concerned with a serious problem in managing the conservation of these endemic species. In this case, the US Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP), agreed to support the TSA with a grant of up to USD 150,000 to care for more than 24,000 rescued tortoises until their safe return to the wild.

Note: Basically, both tortoises and turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines but each one of them belongs to a distinct family classification. The primary distinction between a tortoise and a turtle is the place where they live. Tortoises generally dwell on land while turtles live in the water for most of their lives. However, there are other characteristics which help us spot the difference between a tortoise and a turtle: physical appearance, habitat and distribution, lifespan, diet, and reproduction and birth.

Sources: ONTM / WWF Madagascar/ USAID / World Atlas

Saturday, 02 January 2021 19:36

How to become the best version of yourself?

What does it really mean to be you? Is that feeling confident with whom you are and with all what you have and what you do? Is that living up to the fullest of your potential and enjoying every single day no matter what may come your way, opportunities or challenges, fulfillment or failure, happiness or adversity? Or is there anything else to describe it well?

It is obviously true that life is constantly changing; however, it appears to most people living on this earth to not accept life as really it is so. Like with what happened when 2020 year began, many lives have been stirred up and turned upside down. Consequently, people lose sight of what they have always so long sought, such as their unceasing search for freedom, identity, fulfillment, hope and more others associated to the quest of the “self”.  It actually seems like all things have been vanishing just in a blink of an eye.  In fact, we are just starting a new year. As last year was characterized by long-suffering hardships and breakdowns, for 2021, what people may probably expect for is that everything will turn back to normal. Indeed, what people really need is a positive life-changing trigger through focusing on the self and continuously seeking to maximize personal growth so as to become the best version of themselves even in times of crisis.

Tony Robbins – an American author, coach, motivational speaker and philanthropist - in his article “How to reach your ideal self” explains that the best approach towards reaching a better version of yourself consists in defining your best self first. That is, learning to listen to your inner voice by paying attention to all of your feelings, emotions, expectations and desires. It is all about having a deep conversation with yourself by pondering on some essential points and answering to some existential questions, which may surely lead you to have an insight on your ideal self. Therefore, you will be able to find ways to maximize your self-improvement and then become this best version of yourself you have overly searched for. Then after reflecting on and identifying yourself, it will be easier for you to take concrete steps to reach the ideal self and get wherever you desire to be. However, it is always important to note that this is a long life-changing process that particularly requires constant self-awareness and discipline. Here are a few guidelines taken from the article of Tony Robbins that can help you define well and remain your best self version at any time:

  • Always be willing to get rid of your old identity. Do not let your old past and experience hold you back and prevent you from pursuing the best version or yourself. Always embrace your search of new identity.
  • Tame your fears. When you find yourself feeling anxious, identify it and write it down so that you can control your fear, you should first know its source.
  • Set reasonable goals and prioritize outcomes. Let your ideal self set goals and do not let your mind be popped up with trivial details or unimportant information that do not correspond to your goal; and when setting goals, make sure these ones are measurable and achievable.
  • Amplify your strengths and manage yourself effectively. Along the process of becoming your best version, you always need to focus on your strengths and manage yourself by learning to effectively optimize your time and better organize your life.

Source: The Official Website of Tony Robbins

Time flies. Here we are, 2020 is coming to an end. New Year is just around the corner and making new resolutions is what comes to most people’s mind.

By definition, New Year’s resolution is a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year (Cambridge dictionary). In other words, you make a promise for the coming New Year to adjust the future by reflecting on the past. However, there are two kinds of people, those who perfectly plan their future by establishing long goals lists whether they are daily, monthly, or annually, and those who merely content to live day to day without worrying about setting any resolution throughout their life. Some people who decide to no longer plan their year might have repeatedly struggled in achieving the goal they set up when the year began. According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions, US clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani explains. Another survey conducted by Franklin Covey, the company that published the famous book “The seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, shows that 35 percent – or one-third – of those who make New Year’s resolutions break them by the end of January. In fact, there are multiple reasons why resolutions fail, which may vary from how resolutioners fix goals and how they handle them. The way they approach their fixed goals plays a major role in reaching them. Most of the time, people set irrelevant and unrealistic goals or just make resolutions in haste as New Year arrives quickly.

Three Malagasy young people – two men and one woman – share their opinions about New Year’s resolutions. The younger argued that setting resolutions is not really of much importance. He explains that sooner or later, such resolutions established from the very start of a new year will always change by the time and correspondingly, are more likely to break. He also added that resolutioners sometimes fail to appreciate the present time, as they are quite too busy to plan their future life. The other two agree that setting up goals – not any goals though, but relevant, meaningful, and achievable ones – is always of a paramount importance and remains a key part to any successes, more particularly when a new year begins. Indeed, setting resolutions may obviously seem to be a waste of time for some, whereas it means so much for resolution-makers. Whether you do not rely on New Year’s resolutions to survive or you are used to making long lists for your fulfillment, know that using SMART method is always helpful and a must for achieving one’s goal. Set a few Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals!

Sources: The New York Times, US news and world report

Located only three kilometers away from Antananarivo, Mantadia National Park is one of the protected areas aside the Analamazoatra special reserve in Andasibe, on National Road 2.

The two protected areas of Andasibe are made up of primary forests sheltering many species varying from amphibians, reptiles, lemurs, and birds. Specifically, the primary dense forest of Mantadia National Park is home to a multitude of endemic species and habitat for more than 112 bird species. Mantadia is well-known as one of the perfect sites for birdwatching in Madagascar. In fact, many circuits for bird lovers and spotters are accessible in Mantadia Park, which mostly encompass birdwatching and ornithologist tours via trekking. The “Tsakoaka circuit” stands out among the most common accessible circuits in the area. In a three-hour hike guide, you can explore the avifauna of a few rare bird species such as the Aterlonis pittoides, Pitalèques, scaili, short ligd, and red bristed. While other bird species can be spotted in the park; only four of them are the most visible species: the Aterlonis pittoides, the Eutriorchis astur, the Tyto soumagnei and the Accipiter henstii.

Here are two endemic birds among the recorded 112 species found in the avifauna of Mantadia National Park: the Red-breasted Coua and the Helmet Vanga

Red-breasted Coua also named Coua serriana – belonging to the cuculifores order and the family of cuculidae – is an endemic bird only visible in the eastern and north eastern part of the Island. Although the Red-breasted Coua is not a threatened species and is present in several protected areas, it has restricted range. This large, long-tailed, multi-colored bird – bronze to green-brown upperparts with red breast and blue-black facial skin, and black under parts – is mainly seen in the undisturbed evergreen humid forest and is known for being a quiet and shy bird. However, it is very noisy during the breeding season. The common call is a melodious high-pitched whistle “treeooo” ending with a resonant “eeow”. In addition, the red-breasted coua is a terrestrial bird that rarely flies and is used to walking on the ground when feeding itself, as it feeds on insects and fallen fruits beneath the trees.

Helmet Vanga (Euryceros prevostii), of a Passeriformes order, a family of Vangidae, is an endangered endemic species found both in eastern and northeastern rainforest of Madagascar, more precisely in the lowland of the Masoala Peninsula located in the north east of the big Island (Masoala National Park). This bird species with large arched blue beak is listed as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Due to forest clearance at low elevation, these unique feathered creatures currently run the risk of losing their habitat. The Helmet vanga or “Siketribe” in Malagasy, is a beautiful bird with a highly distinctive trait. Its blue-black plumage with a rufous back perfectly contrasts with its huge hooked blue bill with black tip. You are more likely to come across a “Siketribe” in evergreen humid forests of up to 400 meters of elevation. It feeds on large insects such as cockroaches, butterflies, crickets and various invertebrates and vertebrates such as snails, spiders, frogs, and chameleons.  

Both red-breasted coua and Helmet vanga are among the 112 bird species found in the protected area of the primary forest of Andasibe and in Mantadia National Park. For an optimal experience, tourists are advised to visit the park between October and December, an excellent period for birdwatching.

Sources: ONTM / Madagascar National Park/ ebird.org

2020 year has been mostly characterized by the spread and the prevalence of the deadly virus covid-19 contracting 80 million people as of 26 December 2020 and turning human lives upside down. Many sectors have been affected by the pandemic virus ranging from health, education, economy and more others as well as the human core values have been hugely disrupted leading both to social unrest and inducing a large number of mental breakdowns.

With its scope and long duration, the pandemic crisis has enormously caused havoc at many levels. More than 56 million of infected patients recovered while 1.76 million lives were lost. Besides, the pandemic has also provoked a high rate of stress, anxiety and depression associated with post-traumatic disorders. These are triggered by various factors such as the heavy toll of the virus, a family member loss, isolation due to lockdown restrictions, lay-offs, or business bankruptcies. Indeed, disparities have been found when dealing with the challenges posed by covid-19 like it has been proven by a study conducted by the international aid organization CARE. The study found that women were more likely to encounter mental health problems than men during the pandemic. The study outcome of indirect impacts of the crises revealed that among more than 10,000 men and women, 27 percent of women – compared to 10 percent of men – had reported increases in mental health issues. The report has also identified that due to the increasing number of unemployed, a lot of households worry about food, work, and health care. Women were also almost twice as likely to report that accessing quality healthcare services that they needed had been harder during the pandemic.

Promoting mental well-being

Mental health problem was so long taken for granted until it finally had to be addressed as it has turned into a serious global issue. Obviously, 2020 has been a difficult year for all people around the world but somehow behind any challenges and hardships there always lie opportunities and solutions. That is most importantly what this year taught each of us. The sanitary crisis gave rise to mental health awareness, promotion, and some prevention programmes. Mental health does not include only emotional and psychological well-being but also considers its social aspect. Being aware of the importance of one’s mental well-being is the first key step towards preventing mental health disorder and coping with stress. A few practical tips to maintain and promote one’s mental wellness especially in those times of crisis include practicing mindfulness and meditation, engaging in regular physical exercises, following a well-balanced diet, and maintaining healthier relationships. When lockdown restrictions end, go have a nature walk as well, it will help so much in handling stress. With the vaccine being rolled out in many countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, there is hope for better days. We start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sources: Forbes / mentalhealth.gov / Covid-19 Statistics

The 59th quadrennial presidential election that was held on November 3 is a milestone in US history. The United States has entered a brand new era of political, economic and social changes with the arrival of the new President-elect Joe Biden alongside his teammate Kamala Harris, the elected Vice President.

After getting more than 270 Electoral College votes, Former vice president Joe Biden has won the presidency over incumbent President Donald Trump leading him to become the 46th US president. Joe Biden or Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in the Blue collar city of Scranton, Pennsylvania. At his age 78, he is considered as being the oldest president in US history. Although the newly-elected president was born in Pennsylvania, he spent a large majority of his early life in Delaware, area, where he attended the elite preparatory high school Archmere Academy, the University of Delaware where he graduated with a double major in history and political science and got a law degree from Syracuse University shortly after. These are two things people may ignore about Joe Biden, the first one is, he was once struggling with stutter or speech impediment but eventually overcame it. The second is, he excelled so much in sports. Prior to his race for the Presidency, he had already served for over 36 years as a senator making him Delaware’s long-serving US senator and then accepted to work side by side with Barack Obama to become the 47th US vice president.

For the first time in American history, the vice president position is portrayed by a female profile that was quite so long expected by many Americans, particularly, Black American women. Kamala Devi Harris, born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, is the first US female vice president with incredibly diverse race mixture ranging from African to Asian American. She is actually descended from a Jamaican-born father and an Indian mother. From her earliest age, the Harris dwelt with her mother and her sister in California, Berkeley, where she spent her entire life and dedicated it to studying law by attending Howard University and then the University of California’s Hastings College of the law. After she graduated, she was immediately offered a position at the state bar of California where she started to work as an attorney until she ended up with establishing the state’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice and emerged as state attorney general in 2010. In 2016, she won a seat in the US Senate which made her the second African-American woman and the first south Asian-American to hold such a position. Before Joe Biden chose her as his running mate, she had already planned to run for 2020 US presidential election.

They both will take office after official inauguration which is expected to take place on January 20, 2021.

Sources: The Washington post / History

Monday, 21 December 2020 21:15

How do Americans celebrate Christmas?

In the United States of America, Christmas celebration starts right after Thanksgiving Day in late November. On the day following Thanksgiving – Black Friday – the Christmas shopping season starts as well. Indeed, department stores, shopping malls and small stores pursue Black Friday sales by offering good deals on holiday items as Christmas trees, gifts, apparels, and greeting cards.  American people embrace the true spirit of the holiday by engaging in `Christmasy` activities throughout the month of December. These include decorating the house – inside and outside, decorating the streets with colored lights, tinsel, angels, stars and other seasonal ornaments. A well decorated Christmas tree is often found as the centerpiece in public places. Christmas traditions also include sending Christmas cards, exchanging gifts, wrapping presents under the Christmas tree, singing traditional carols, and attending church services to commemorate the birth of Jesus-Christ, which is held either in the late afternoon or early evening of Christmas Eve.

There are more other traditional ways to celebrate Christmas in America. Although the traditions and customs of Christmas vary from State to State because of the multi-cultural nature and observance of the Holiday, the purpose of Christmas celebration does not change, but remains a family and community-centered celebration. Christmas is a real occasion for American people to honor family and help others through volunteering and doing good deeds.

In normal times, people gather with family and friends, to share joy, expressing gratitude and enjoying the traditional Christmas food and drinks on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve dinner mainly consists of roast turkey or ham, potatoes and pies, cakes, baked breads and cookies. Eggnog, the typical American traditional drink for adults made of cream, milk, sugar, beaten eggs and brandy or rum is also part of the dinner list. In addition to gathering with family around Christmas Eve dinner, some Americans get involved in charitable and volunteer work for the benefit of the neediest people.

Overall, this is how actually the festive season of Christmas is celebrated in the United States of America.  American people have many different traditions and ways to celebrate it according to their views of the Holiday. Furthermore, it is important to note that we are still living in a critical situation which does not allow families to meet. This Christmas will be a different one.

 

Edited by Volahanta Raharimanana

Source: ShareAmerica

The multi-talented female figure of the Civil Rights era “Maya Angelou”

Among figures of outstanding talents throughout the United States are Black people, who have learnt to stand out and put their mark on the US history. One them is Maya Angelou, the African-American woman with many-facetted career that ranged from author, playwright, poet, dancer, actress and singer to civil rights activist and politician.

Biography of Maya Angelou

The famous American poet, activist and autobiographical Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928 and died on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. Before dedicating her life to writing and the education field, she had already worked as a singer, dancer, actress, and even became Hollywood’s first female black director. As she was more acclaimed for her writing skills, she started first a carrier as a poet and then continued as an autobiographer that increasingly propelled her to be mostly noticed and highly appreciated. One of her autobiographical book that made it an immediate bestseller shortly after it was published is entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and was also nominated for the National Book Award. Across her autobiography she partly depicts her early years in Long Beach, St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas when she dealt with great hardships all along her childhood such as the time when she had been raped at 7, her early pregnancy when she was just 17 and the death of her mother. Those hard trials she had to undergo had actually matured her from a shy and vulnerable girl into a self-confident and strong woman that still continues to inspire numerous worldwide lives, more particularly those of her female counterparts.

As far as her career as a civil rights activist is concerned, she became acquainted with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after she heard about Dr King’s message that led her to take part into the struggle for civil rights. As a result, she had been appointed as Southerner Christian Leadership Conference’s northern coordinator in 1960 and was then assigned to organize a march in 1968. She had also befriended Malcolm X when she was living in Ghana and helped him build the newly formed Organization of African American Unity. Unfortunately, both Dr King and Malcolm X were assassinated. Devastated again, Maya Angelou had however overcome her grief - as she always did since then - when she met James Baldwin, the one who mostly encouraged her to write it all down and to hone her writing skills. Thanks to her many achievements, Angelou had been awarded over 50 honorary degrees before her death. She was also awarded the National Medal Arts by President Bill Clinton in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama (2011), the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation (2013), and the Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2013. Here is one of her poetry work entitled “Still I Rise” published in 1978:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Sources : Thought Co / Poets.org

 

Is Christmas only observed as a religious holiday?

Christmas is known as an annual worldwide celebration that is observed on the 25th of December. In the United States, it is a winter holiday season starting just after the Thanksgiving Day on the4th Thursday of November.

Whether it is in America or in other countries, Christmas celebration commonly refers to the birth of Jesus Christ commemorated by Christians every December 25.That means, Christians view it as more of a religious holiday rather than a simple winter holiday season. Unlike other religiously unaffiliated group of individuals which include non-Christians and people of other faiths who see it as more of a cultural occasion. Although they have differing views of Christmas, Christians and non-Christians alike celebrate it and both rejoice into the spirit of Christmas. According to a Pew research survey, 96 percent of US Christians celebrate Christmas, so do 81 percent of non-Christians; essentially testifying American society’s wide acceptance of and involvement into the holiday. However, both religiously affiliated and unaffiliated don’t observe Christmas the same way. A 2013 Pew research survey shows 51 percent of Americans see Christmas as a religious holiday, while 32 percent say it is more of a cultural occasion; the remaining17 percent do not see it neither a religious nor a cultural holiday, few of the respondents even say they do not celebrate it. This survey actually proves that America still embraces diversity.

Although American people do not share the same views of the holiday, that doesn’t necessarily mean they celebrate it differently. In American society- regardless any religious and cultural aspects of the holiday- The winter holiday season remains an occasion for family to spend time together by always honoring the traditions and customs of Christmas and by getting into the spirit of the festivity such as decorating the Christmas tree, gathering around a bountiful dinner, and exchanging gifts. The Kwanzaa, a seven day festival, that falls exactly into the winter holiday season - between December 26 to January 1 - is a festival that celebrates African Americans’ culture and history along with Christmas celebration. This consists in using a special candle holder called a kinara and is lit each night during the seven days of celebration; and alike Christmas, kwanzaa is a family-centered celebration. Similarly, the African American tradition using candles is quite similar to that of the menorah in the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, also celebrated all along Christmas season. This is indeed an eight-day Jewish celebration, known as Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the second Temple of Jerusalem. Both Kwanzaa and Hanukkah traditions reflect the cultural diversity of Christmas celebration in America, which is not only defined as a religious holiday.

Sources: Share America / Pew Research Center

 

 

 

An initiative by

Initiate by

 

Funding provided by

Supported by

 

AmCham sponsors

sponsorsponsor

Disclaimer:


This website was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.