Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 5 October 2014





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Man and beast in tug-of-war

Who is stronger? Man or tiger?

To find the answer to this elusive question China’s Changsha Ecological Zoo has introduced a unique test to visitors who would like to try their strength against a tiger.

It is a tug-of-war between man and caged tigers using live chicken.The game is as simple as it gets: the visitors pull at one end of a rope and at the other, the tiger bites and pulls at a hessian bag with a live chicken inside. The chicken is an added bonus meant to engage the tiger’s interest and keep him on his toes.

The game was designed as a mean of entertainment and for 45 yuan ($7), anyone can play and it seems there are many courageous folks willing to measure their strength against the powerful beasts.

So far, the tigers are in the lead, winning most of the tug-of- war games, with one four-year-old Siberian tiger demonstrating his muscle superiority by tackling seven men at the same time.

According to the zoo staff, when lying around with nothing to do and having food served to them, zoo animals often become lazy, overweight and even lose interest in any kind of physical or intellectual stimulation.

They came up with this very interesting way of keeping the animals in shape through tug-of-war games.

Chinese history teacher draws world map from memory

Anyone can draw the map of the world but not as accurately as the Chinese history teacher whose achievement was featured on the Chinese website Weibo.

According to the photographs uploaded in the website the teacher whose last name is Zhao obviously does not need a map or a text book to teach his students.

He possesses a photographic memory and is able to intricately draw the world map freehand on the blackboard without referring to a real map even once. The student who uploaded the photographs wrote that this teacher was teaching his brother and that it takes only a minute for him to draw the whole world.

Another student writing in the Sina Weibo says; "Looks like my Dongbei [Northeast] Normal University Affiliated Middle School’s Teacher Zhao Dengming has become famous! He taught me, so would I make this up? Would I lie about personally seeing him draw the map in class? This old man is very adorable, teaching class with his loud, northwest accent. May he have good health!"

Living with an iron lung for 61 years

Can you ever think of spending rest of your life being immobilised and attached to an iron lung? And for that matter to live in that miserable state for 61 years?

If you have to face such an experience you might want to kill yourself to put an end to the misery.

But 71 year old late Ms Martha Meson from Lattimore, a small town about 50 miles from Chaarlotte,was made of different mettle.

Ms Mason was an extraordinary human being who spent over 60 years of her life immobilised and attached to an Iron Lung after becoming paralysed in her childhood years as a result of polio. Despite her seemingly tragic situation, she lived a fulfilling life, graduating from high-school and college with the highest honours, hosting many dinner parties and even writing a book called “Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung”, in which she portrayed the challenges and joys of her life.

Martha Mason was born on May 31, 1937, and her life took a tragic turn when she was only 11 years old, after the death of her brother Gaston who had suffered from a terrible condition which left him paralysed before eventually killing him.

After his burial, young Martha realised she had also contracted the dangerous viral illness but kept it to herself as not to distress her parents even more.

“I knew that I had polio. I didn’t want anyone else to know,” she wrote in her book.

“The day before I had heard Mother talking to a friend about the iron lung Gaston had been in. . . . I knew I wouldn’t have that difficulty because I had excellent lungs.” But soon she too found herself immobilised in the iron lung, dependent on it to do the breathing for her.

“Iron lung” is only a colloquial term used to describe a pressure ventilator, a type of medical device which helps paralysed people breathe by decreasing and increasing air pressure inside of a large iron tank. Ms. Mason has lived almost her entire life in such a tank with the pressure contracting and expanding her lungs when her weak muscles couldn’t.

Doctors told Martha’s parents to take her home and make her happy for a year, as that was how long she had left to live. She outlived them both thanks to an avid curiosity and a desire to learn about the world.

But the iron lung didn’t stop Martha from enjoying life and learning as much as she could.

With the help of her mother and her school colleagues she managed to finish high school top of her class. She then went on to graduate from two colleges – now universities, receiving an associate’s degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. After returning home she started a job as a writer for the local newspaper which she managed to do by dictating the words to her mother.

This went on until her mother became too busy for her helping her invalid father who had suffered from a heart attack. Years later, in 1977, he passed away.

It was only decades later, in the mid 90s, that Ms. Mason was able to write again with the use of a voice-activated computer connected to the Internet. She soon began to work on her book, a memoir dedicated to her loving mother.

Despite her mother’s descent into dementia and her abusive behaviour towards her daughter, Ms. Mason took of her and hired helping aids which soon became her family.

Although obviously limited by her iron lung, Ms. Mason lived a fulfilling life among people who loved her.

They held dinner parties and book club meetings at her house and made her a part of their graduations, weddings and trips around the world.

In 2009 Ms. Mason passed away at 71, having spent 60 years with her cold life-companion, more than anyone else has ever lived in an iron lung.

“I’m happy with who I am, where I am,” Ms. Mason said, adding “I wouldn’t have chosen this life, certainly. But given this life, I’ve probably had the best situation anyone could ask for.”


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