Posts Tagged brain

Observing Noumea

Noumea city view

Sometimes you have to stand on a tagged trash can to get a good panoramic photo

It was nice to be back in a warm beach climate after the winter weather in New Zealand.  The beaches in Nouméa were beautiful despite being marred by graffiti.  Everything was tagged — trash cans, park benches, picnic tables, bathrooms.  I find tagging ugly, unnecessary, and uninspired.  But when we ventured into the city, we discovered that some of the graffiti was actually art.

Noumea graffiti

Some of the graffiti in downtown Nouméa wasn't bad

We soon began to notice that we were surrounded by triathletes in the beach areas.  We would often share the sidewalk with runners, see others on expensive racing bikes in the street, and watch swimmers in caps and goggles training in the ocean.  When you’re on vacation, it’s strange to be surrounded by exercise fiends.  It made me feel like a bit of a slacker.

Speaking of sharing the sidewalk, Mr. HalfFull and I had to retrain our brains after 1 week in Fiji and 3 weeks in New Zealand doing it the British way.  New Caledonia is French, so they drive and walk on the right side of the road, like us.  It was surprising that this was actually a retraining exercise, since walking on the left had originally felt so unnatural.

The other surprising thing we discovered on the sidewalk was a complete disregard for other humans.  Fiji was an exceptionally friendly culture where strangers yelled, “Bula” as they passed us on the sidewalk.  But each time we said, “Bonjour” in Nouméa, we were met with silence.  Perhaps it’s the cool aloofness inherited from the French.

We were also bewildered by another unfriendly sidewalk practice.  Generally, Mr. HalfFull and I walk next to each other.  But if we see another person or group approaching, we move to single file until we pass the other party.  In Nouméa, no one else did this!  They could be walking with five people across and make no effort to move over and allow us to pass.  Eventually, it became a game to see if they would actually run into us; I put Mr. HalfFull in front for those experiments since he could block better.

Noumea pétanque

City workers play pétanque in Nouméa

On the other side of the spectrum, we witnessed the relaxed, playful side of New Caledonian culture in the form of daily pétanque matches.  Pétanque is a French game similar to bocce.  Around 11 AM each morning, we would see the city workers park their trucks and congregate to play on the court adjacent to the beach.  They played for hours; I wonder if they were on the clock.  Mr. HalfFull thinks this might be his next career.

I have mixed impressions about Nouméa.  At times, people made it feel cold, but the joy of the city workers meeting to play was a nice contrast.

  • Does graffiti change your impression of a place?
  • Do you exercise on vacation?
  • Did you need to retrain your brain after travel?
  • Do you acknowledge and/or greet strangers on the sidewalk?
  • Do you practice sidewalk etiquette?
  • Are the pétanque players lazy or are they fostering meaningful camaraderie?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Half Full Malfunction

Last month, one of my dear readers (if it wasn’t you, it was the other one) brought an article to my attention that gave me some hope about my half emptiness.  In fact, I felt a bit vindicated.

The article is succinctly titled, “Is your glass always half full? Optimism could be down to a brain malfunction – and it may have caused the banking crisis.”  That’s quite an assertion!  Should I start to worry about my husband’s brain malfunction???

“According to research published today, blind optimism is related to ‘faulty’ functioning of the brain’s frontal lobes.”

Jumping in the Desert

Mr. HalfFull is quite optimistic despite being in a desert in the United Arab Emirates with temperatures over 100°F!

Whew!  I’m not so worried now because Mr. HalfFull doesn’t exhibit blind optimism.  He looks on the bright side of things and is generally a happy person, but still has a range of emotions.

During the brain imaging study in London,

“…all participants showed increased activity in the frontal lobes of the brain when the information given was better than expected.

However, when the information was worse than estimated, the more optimistic a participant was, according to a personality questionnaire, there was less activity in these frontal regions.”

Upset in Barcelona

After a bird poops on my foot in Barcelona, I'm not going to be optimistic!

I guess my frontal lobes are super active all the time!  Can you really fault me for responding to all the information?  I’m just exhibiting healthy half empty brain function.

I realize that optimists tend to cope better with life’s challenges and may be less stressed, but is that only because they are ignoring the facts?  Isn’t it good to see things as they are?  As a woman firmly entrenched in the half empty camp, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the negative too!  Perhaps you shouldn’t dwell on it, but ignoring it completely doesn’t seem like a good practice either.

  • Do you know a blindly optimistic person?  Is he/she annoying?
  • Are you worried about your frontal lobe brain function?
  • Do you tend to ignore negative information?
  • Do optimists have better coping skills and less stress?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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