Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 21 September 2014





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Before the coma, and after...

It was a nasty car accident and his survival seemed like a miracle but he had to be in a coma for almost one week. Twenty two-year-old Ben McMahon was in a terrible car crash in Melbourne that left him battling for his life.

It was a bizarre twist that occurred when he regained consciousness a week later - his brain simply decided to switch from English to Mandarin.

When he woke up from the coma instead of English he started speaking fluent Mandarin.

"Most of its hazy, but when I woke up seeing a Chinese nurse, I thought I was in China," recalled Ben. "It was like a dream. It was surreal.

It was like my brain was in one place but my body was in another. I just started speaking Chinese - they were the first words that left my mouth."

According to the Asian nurse who was attending to Ben at the time, his first words upon waking up were: "Excuse me nurse, I feel really sore here." He apparently said the whole thing in Mandarin. Then, he asked for a piece of paper and a pen and wrote on it in Mandarin script: "I love my mum, I love my dad, I will recover."

Ben's doctors and family were His newfound language skills did come at a price - Ben does get tired easily and he needs to sleep more. But a host of opportunities have also opened up for him.

He has conducted Chinese tours of his hometown Melbourne, and he's now hosting a Mandarin TV program called 'Au My Ga' that explains Australian culture to Chinese expats.

"They've really welcomed me with open arms," said Ben. "There aren't too many people that studied the Mandarin language at this level. That really gives you a lot of force behind yourself to just keep going and going." Ben also said that he's just really glad he survived and that he's able to speak a second language.

Although he had learned Mandarin at school and traveled to Beijing before the accident, he had never really mastered the language.

"I wasn't consciously thinking I was speaking Mandarin, it was what just came out and it was what was most natural to me," he said.

It actually took a couple of days before he remembered to speak English.

Giraffe woman's odd obsession

A long neck is a notable sign of beauty and females with long necks are the envy of most women and the centre of attention of most of the men I suppose.

But 28-year-old Sydney v. Smith of Los Angeles was inspired by her lifelong fascination with body modification especially done by the tribal women of Thailand and Burma, who encase their necks in rings at an early age.

"I've always had a long neck," said Sydney. "In middle school, they called me 'giraffe girl'. Then I saw pictures of the long-necked tribes in Thailand and Burma in National Geographic and I became fascinated with them."

That's when she began to cut up coat hangers and wrap them around her neck at bed time. Naturally, her parents thought the idea was ridiculous. But she persisted, and she believes that her night-time ritual actually helped elongate her neck.

"After a few years, it became obvious that my neck was longer than the other girls, but not freakishly," said Sydney. "So I stopped for a while to consider if being a long-necked woman was what I really wanted." But soon, it became clear to her that she was quite attached to the rings.

"I had missed the comfort from the pressure on the top of my neck and shoulders and had been thinking about doing it again for a while. The comfort and exhilaration of this process was really what I was after."

So in 2011, Sydney started wearing a tight-fitting copper necklace made specifically to her requirements.

She took it slow and added an extra ring when she needed it. But she's always been rather shy about displaying her neck rings.

When she lived in Maryland, she used to wear thick turtleneck sweaters to hide them. She also chose restaurant jobs behind the scenes to avoid unwanted attention. Soon, Sydney's neck muscles couldn't support the weight of her head without the rings. At this point, she needed to make a decision - to wear the rings forever or get rid of them.

"I asked myself, 'Should I stop or should I go for it?' knowing that I would be enslaved to a ringed necklace for the rest of my life," she said. But after attending a Lady Gaga concert, Sydney was finally able to decide. "Her freak empowerment message made a special kind of sense for me. I figure if she can wear meat dresses, I can be a giraffe woman."

The rings that Sydney wears were customized by a friend. They are soldered around her neck, but feature a special screw so they can be detached in case of medical emergencies. But as far as she's concerned, they are permanently attached.

"He managed to do it safely, though I did get burned a little," she said. She estimates that her neck might be 10 to 11 inches long, thanks to the elongating effect of the rings.

Although there are complications regarding health issues nothing's stopping Sydney - she's actually contemplating adding a 12th ring. She also hopes to make some money out of her unique physique. "I'd like to work as a specialty model, but my original intent was not to exploit myself," she said. "However, it seems to be my calling."

If you're too proud to apologise, assign an agency to do the job

When you have done something wrong to someone it is with the greatest difficulty you tend to say 'sorry." Most people would like to avoid it entirely if possible. But there is an easy way out and save your pride. Only issue is that you have to be in Japan.

Representative of an apology agency saying “sorry”

In Japan there are these "apology agencies" through which you would be able to pay someone to say sorry on your behalf.

It can be seen why these businesses are so successful - it's really tough to face the person you've wronged and tell them that you're sorry. It's a highly uncomfortable situation, especially if you've made someone angry or hurt their feelings.

By hiring an expert, not only do you get to avoid the discomfort, you also make sure that the person gets a proper apology. These people are professionals, and it looks like they can get you out of all sorts of sticky situations.

For example, they may send a person pretending to be your parent or friend to break up with a clingy lover. Or they may call your workplace pretending to be your wife and tell them you're sick, on those days when you'd rather not go into to work.

Anyhow, these businesses are doing pretty well for themselves. About 40 percent of their customer base is believed to be female, between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Some of the most popular reasons for approaching apology agencies are problems with money or love.

Prices vary depending on the nature of apology required. The Shazaiya Aiga Pro Agency charges 25,000 yen ($240) for a face-to-face apology, and 10,000 yen ($96) for an email or phone apology. Nihon Shazai Daikokao, on the other hand, charges 3,500 yen ($33) per hour.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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