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72 segments Advanced Female
During a long day spent roaming the forest in search of edible grains and herbs, the weary divine farmer Shennong accidentally poisoned himself 72 times.
But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it revived him, and that is how we discovered tea. Or so an ancient legend goes at least.
Tea doesn't actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture, highlights tea's importance to ancient China.
Archaeological evidence suggests tea was first cultivated there as early as 6,000 years ago, or 1,500 years before the pharaohs built the Great Pyramids of Giza.
That original Chinese tea plant is the same type that's grown around the world today, yet it was originally consumed very differently. It was eaten as a vegetable or cooked with grain porridge.
Tea only shifted from food to drink 1,500 years ago when people realized that a combination of heat and moisture could create a complex and varied taste out of the leafy green. After hundreds of years of variations to the preparation method, the standard became to heat tea, pack it into portable cakes, grind it into powder, mix with hot water, and create a beverage called muo cha, or matcha. Matcha became so popular that a distinct Chinese tea culture emerged.
Tea was the subject of books and poetry, the favorite drink of emperors, and a medium for artists. They would draw extravagant pictures in the foam of the tea, very much like the espresso art you might see in coffee shops today.
In the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first tea plant to Japan. The Japanese eventually developed their own unique rituals around tea, leading to the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony. And in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese emperor shifted the standard from tea pressed into cakes to loose leaf tea.
At that point, China still held a virtual monopoly on the world's tea trees, making tea one of three essential Chinese export goods, along with porcelain and silk. This gave China a great deal of power and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world. That spread began in earnest around the early 1600s when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in large quantities.
Many credit Queen Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese noble woman, for making tea popular with the English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661. At the time, Great Britain was in the midst of expanding its colonial influence and becoming the new dominant world power. And as Great Britain grew, interest in tea spread around the world. By 1700, tea in Europe sold for ten times the price of coffee and the plant was still only grown in China.
The tea trade was so lucrative that the world's fastest sailboat, the clipper ship, was born out of intense competition between Western trading companies.
All were racing to bring their tea back to Europe first to maximize their profits.
At first, Britain paid for all this Chinese tea with silver. When that proved too expensive, they suggested trading tea for another substance, opium.
This triggered a public health problem within China as people became addicted to the drug. Then in 1839, a Chinese official ordered his men to destroy massive British shipments of opium as a statement against Britain's influence over China. This act triggered the First Opium War between the two nations. Fighting raged up and down the Chinese coast until 1842 when the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded the port of Hong Kong to the British and resumed trading on unfavorable terms. The war weakened China's global standing for over a century.
The British East India company also wanted to be able to grow tea themselves and further control the market. So they commissioned botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China in a covert operation. He disguised himself and took a perilous journey through China's mountainous tea regions, eventually smuggling tea trees and experienced tea workers into Darjeeling, India. From there, the plant spread further still, helping drive tea's rapid growth as an everyday commodity.
Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and from sugary Turkish Rize tea, to salty Tibetan butter tea, there are almost as many ways of preparing the beverage as there are cultures on the globe.
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  |  9165 learners#Culture #Stories

67 segments Intermediate Male
The Copperpod tree was in full bloom. Vibrant and vivacious it swayed gracefully from side to side, sending down a shower of copper yellow petals.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” exclaimed the other trees.

The Copperpod tree stood up straight and rustled its leaves, clearly enjoying the attention.

A gust of wind blew through the forest causing all the trees to bend westwards.

“Oh no…my flowers!” cried the Copperpod tree, trying its best to stand still.

Another gust of wind sent the trees swaying the other way.

“That’s enough!” said the Copperpod tree, as a bunch of flowers fell from its top most branches, “I’ve just about had enough!”

All the other trees turned to look.

“Now look here Mr. Wind, I refuse to dance to your tunes anymore! I wish to sway by myself! Not the way you want me to!” said the Copperpod tree firmly.

A gentle whisper broke out among the trees.

The wind stopped blowing. The din of dead silence rang through the forest.

A moment later the wind swept through the air again. It circled around the trees and made a whooshing sound. But it never touched the Copperpod tree.

The Copperpod tree watched the other trees giggle as the wind tickled their branches. Then it turned the other way and admired its flowers. Out of the corner of its eye it looked to see if any tree was watching. But they were all dancing with the wind.

The Copperpod tree tried to ruffle its flowers. But it couldn’t. It tried to shake its branches. But it couldn’t. It tried to lean closer to the other trees. But it couldn’t. All it could do was stand still.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” said the trees.

A few days later, the Copperpod tree opened its tired eyes with a glimmer of hope. But the other trees were looking elsewhere. They were looking at the Gulmohar tree, which was ablaze with fiery red flowers. It was scattering its petals in the air like tiny sparks of fire. The wind blew around it; tousling its branches and making its flowers flush an even brighter red.

Nobody paid any attention to the Copperpod tree which was all bent now. There wasn’t a single copper yellow flower on it. Dried flowers and leaves still clung to its branches.

The Copperpod tree let out a groan. Its trunk was hurting from standing so still. It longed to sway at least once! But the wind refused to even come near it.

“Alright, Mr. Wind, I’m sorry! The truth is that I need you,” sighed the Copperpod tree. It felt a slight waft of air near its side. The wind had come closer to listen.

“I know I’m a big beautiful tree, with lovely flowers and healthy branches and a nice strong trunk. But all that doesn’t matter, if all I can do is be still!” said the Copperpod tree.

“I want to sprinkle my petals over the little children that sit beneath me. I want to reach out my branches and kiss the sky. I want to stretch and protect the people that take shelter under me. I want to dance again. I want to be a living, breathing tree that sways with the wind!” the Copperpod tree hunched lower, unable to even stand up straight anymore.

A gentle breeze floated over the Copperpod tree. It started out at its roots, awakening them from their slumber. It travelled upwards wrapping itself around its trunk and permeating through its gnarled branches. It gave the tree a little shake, causing its dried flowers and leaves to fall away. It nuzzled the little flower buds which started blooming. The wind encompassed the Copperpod tree in a giant hug and swayed with it in a soft gentle dance.

The Copperpod tree threw its branches around the wind and danced like it had never danced before!
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  |  9782 learners#General #Stories

So, I was walking along the street, on my way to work, as usual, but for some reason I was in a hurry. I wasn't really sure why I was in a hurry. And then I realised that I was holding a banana in my hand. I didn't know why I was holding a banana in my hand, but I knew that the banana was really important for some reason. The banana had something to do with the reason that I was late, and in a hurry. It was a really important banana, only I didn't know why the banana was so important. Then I met my Aunty Ethel on the street corner. It was strange, because I hadn't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.

Hello, I said to her. I haven't seen you for about twenty years! I was really surprised to see her, but she didn't seem surprised to see me. Be careful with that banana, she said. And I laughed, because I knew that it was a really important banana, and yes, I had to be careful with it. Aunty Ethel decided to walk to work with me, which was a problem because I was late and in a hurry, and she walked really, really slowly. Then, when we went round the corner, there was an elephant blocking the street. It depends where you live, I guess, but in Manchester it's pretty strange to see an elephant blocking the street. The strange thing was, though, that I wasn't really that surprised. Oh no, I was thinking, another elephant blocking the street, what a pain. Especially this morning when I'm late and in a hurry, and with Aunty Ethel, and this really important banana. Then I started to get really worried, and then I woke up.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness for that I thought. How strange dreams are, I wonder why I was dreaming about elephants and bananas and Aunty Ethel. The radio was already on. The radio comes on automatically at 7 o'clock, to wake me up. I looked at the clock. It was already ten past seven. I had to get up quickly. I went into the shower, and I could hear the news on the radio. I couldn't hear it very well, but there was a story on the news about an elephant who had escaped from a local circus. The elephant was causing a lot of trouble walking around the town. I thought this was an incredible coincidence, but then I realised that I had probably heard the news story on the radio when I was half-asleep. That was why I was dreaming about an elephant. I quickly got dressed and went into the kitchen to get some coffee before I went to work. I work for a film company. We get ideas for films and film scripts, then we try to produce the films. I thought a film about an elephant in Manchester would be great.

There was a note on the kitchen table. It was from my wife. Don't forget to buy bananas on your way home from work today, it said. It was a good job she had written the note, because I had completely forgotten about the fact that she has to eat a lot of bananas because of the crazy diet she's on at the moment. I tried to remember to buy bananas on my way home from work, and rushed out of the house. As I was walking down the road my mobile rang. It was my mum. Hello mum, I said. What are you ringing at this time for? I've got some sad news, I'm afraid, love she said. Do you remember your Aunty Ethel? Just about I said, But I haven't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.

Yes, well she was very old, and I'm afraid she died last night. She'd been very ill, I told you a couple of weeks ago. That's sad I said.

So there I was, walking down the street, late for work, thinking about Aunty Ethel and bananas and elephants, and of course I realised that it was all exactly the same as my dream. And as I started to think more about this, I realised I was walking more and more slowly, and I looked down and saw that the street was turning into hot, wet, sticky toffee, and it was sticking to my shoes, and the quicker I tried to walk, the slower I went I looked at my watch and saw that my watch was going backwards. That's OK, I was thinking. If my watch is going backwards, then it means that it's early, and not late, so I'm not late for work at all and then I woke up. Again.

Now this was strange. This was very, very strange. I got up and pinched myself to make sure I was really awake this time. Ouch, the pinch hurt. This meant I really was awake, and not dreaming this time. It was early. I wasn't late. The radio alarm clock hadn't come on yet. It was only half past six. My wife was still at home.

Have you got enough bananas? I asked her. She looked at me as if I was crazy. What do you mean bananas? She asked. I thought you had to eat lots of bananas for your special diet. I have no idea what you're on about! She said. Why, do you think I need to go on a diet? Do you mean that I'm fat? No, no, no, not at all, by the way, have you heard anything about an elephant? An elephant. Yes, an elephant which has escaped from a circus. We live in Manchester. There aren't any circuses in Manchester. And there certainly aren't any elephants. Listen, are you suffering from stress or something. You're working too hard on that new film you're trying to produce, aren't you? Perhaps you should just stay at home today, take it easy. Perhaps you're right, I said. I'll just phone my mum. Why do you need to phone your mum at half past six in the morning? Oh, nothing important, I said Well, I'm off to work. See you later, and take it easy today, OK.

OK. I phoned my mum. Hello mum. Hello love. What are you calling this early for? Do you remember Aunty Ethel? Of course I do, but I haven't seen her for about twenty years or so. How is she? I've got no idea. Why on earth are you worried about your Aunty Ethel who you haven't seen for twenty years. Oh nothing, bye.

I made a cup of tea and went back to bed. Perhaps my wife was right. Perhaps I should just relax and take it easy today. I phoned up my boss. Listen I said. I'm not feeling too good today, perhaps too much stress with the production schedule of the new film project. That's a shame said my boss. We've just got a really exciting new idea for a film. I wanted to talk to you about it today. It's a kind of action movie. It's a great story. You have to hear this, an elephant escapes from a circus in a big city, and it has eaten some strange, radioactive bananas, so it's going completely crazy. They eventually manage to stop the elephant by covering all the streets with sticky toffee, so that it can't walk. I see I said. And where does my Aunty Ethel come into it. Aunty who?

I hung up the phone, and hoped that I would wake up. Soon.
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  |  9902 learners#General #Stories

The West African Republic of Senegal has a population of 10 million 95 percent Muslim and there are about 80000 cases of HIV-AIDS in the country. It seems like a large number but in fact, at about 2 percent of the population, it's very low in comparison to other countries. And this percentage rate has not increased for the last ten years. The United Nations recognises this success and has named Senegal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda, as countries which have done the most to fight HIV-AIDS. How has Senegal achieved this? The political stability of the country over the past few decades has been an important factor. But what other things may have contributed to this success story? There is no doubt that social and religious values are an important factor. The Senegalese culture is traditional and religious belief is strong. This means that there is less sexual activity outside of marriage than in many societies. And many young people still believe in the traditional values of no sex before marriage and being faithful to your husband or wife.

Many nations in the world have strong religious and social values, but the Senegalese government decided early on that the subject of HIV-AIDS must be discussed openly. Political, religious and community leaders could not treat it as a taboo subject. This wasn't easy. Speaking openly about the use of condoms means accepting that people may have sex outside of marriage. Religious leaders spoke about HIV-AIDS and condoms in the mosques. They still talked about sexual abstinence and fidelity as the best way to avoid becoming infected, but they also recommended condoms for those people who were not going to abstain from sex.

The National Plan to Fight HIV-AIDS was already in operation in 1987, less than a year after the first cases were diagnosed in Senegal. Its aim was information, education and prevention and it was the first such campaign in Africa. A compulsory class was introduced into the national curriculum in schools. Private companies were encouraged to hold classes for their workers. The government gave the campaign strong support and a regular budget and the religious leaders became strong supporters too. Senegal has a long tradition of local community organisations and there were marches and workshops all over the country. High-risk groups such as sex workers, soldiers and lorry drivers were specially targeted. Women were particularly important in this process. Senegal recognised that women need more than education and condoms. They need to have the economic and social power to say No to unprotected sex. Many young, popular musicians also became involved in the campaign reaching young people all over the country. Prostitution was legalised in Senegal in the 1960s. Sex workers were registered and had to have regular medical check-ups.

Anyone who was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease was treated free of charge. This system gave Senegal two big advantages in the war on HIV-AIDS. Firstly, it wasn't too difficult to extend the system of testing and treatment to HIV-AIDS. And secondly, the fact that sex workers were registered and known to the authorities meant that it was easy to reach them with education programmes. Many prostitutes themselves became involved in educating other women, and distributing free condoms. Twenty years ago fewer than 1 million condoms were used in Senegal. Now the figure is more than 10 million.

In 1970, Senegal began testing all the donated blood in its blood banks. So, unlike many Western countries, infected blood transfusions never caused the spread of the virus. Senegal has HIV-AIDS scientists who are known and respected all over the world. Professor Souleymane Mboup, is a world-renowned AIDS researcher. He is most famous for his work on documenting HIV2, a strain of the AIDS virus which is common in West Africa. Professor Mboup is in charge of his country's National AIDS Programme. He co-ordinates the Convention of Research between Senegal and Harvard University in the United States. He also works with the African AIDS Research Network. So far so good, but Senegal itself knows that it still has a long way to go. The biggest challenge is to hold on to what has already been achieved. Many experts are afraid that this initial success will spread a false sense of security and people will become less careful. One problem is that Senegal is a regional crossroads. Many men go to work in neighbouring countries and return infected with the virus.

There is still a great deal of poverty in the country and many people cannot read or write. HIV-AIDS grows well in these conditions. Large numbers of prostitutes are working secretly without registration. Many sex workers cannot afford to refuse customers who don't wear condoms. And if women had more economic power they would not have to turn to prostitution to feed their families in the first place. So Senegal must continue with the work. And maybe we can all learn a little from what the country has achieved so far.
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  |  9223 learners#Health #Stories

Charles Darwin made what might be the most important scientific discovery of all time the theory of evolution by natural selection. It was Darwin who first understood how it was that plants and animals evolved over time to produce new and different species. At first, this theory faced much opposition, but since that time it has been supported by evidence from many areas of science.

Darwin was born in a small town in England in 1809. When he was a young man, he went to university, first to study medicine, and later to study religion. However, Darwin found his schoolwork to be very boring. Instead, he preferred outdoor activities and was very interested in nature. While Darwin was at university, the British navy was planning to send one of its ships, called the Beagle, on a voyage of exploration. As part of this voyage, the ship would need a naturalist, who could study the various plants and animals that might be found. Darwin was recommended for this job by one of his professors, who had been impressed by Darwin. Darwin was chosen as the naturalist of the Beagle, and the ship left England in 1831. The ship's voyage took Darwin around the world, and he observed many species of plants and animals on his trip.

In one place near South America, known as the Galapagos Islands, Darwin observed many unusual species of birds. Several of these birds seemed closely related to each other, but they differed in interesting ways. For example, some birds had long beaks that could reach insects hidden in the bark of trees, but other birds had thick beaks that could break open the shells of nuts. What Darwin realized was that certain characteristics could help an animal or a plant to survive and reproduce. Individuals that lacked those characteristics would become more likely to die without reproducing.

Over many generations, the useful characteristics would then become more and more common, as the surviving individuals passed the characteristics on to their offspring. Eventually, after many generations, the changes would be so great that a new species would exist. In this way, a single species could divide into two or more new ones. This was called the process of evolution by natural selection. When Darwin returned to England, he studied plants and animals in more detail. After much research, he began writing a book about his theory of evolution by natural selection.

When the book, The Origin of Species, was published in 1859, it was very popular and very controversial. During the next twenty years, Darwin continued his scientific research, and he wrote several more books. By the time of his death, in 1882, many biologists had realized that Darwin had made one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. or the first time, scientists could understand the origin of the many different species of plants and animals.
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  |  8988 learners#Science #Stories

Many people admire the paintings and sculptures that artists create. Some very beautiful paintings and sculptures were created by two men who lived in the same country at the same time. These men were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. They both lived in Italy around the year 1500.

Leonardo da Vinci is most famous for his painting called the Mona Lisa. This is perhaps the best known painting in the world. The Mona Lisa shows the head and shoulders of a dark haired woman. When people look at this painting, they are often captivated by her smile and by her eyes, which have a look of mystery. Another painting of Leonardo's is called The Last Supper. This painting shows a famous scene from the Christian religion. In this painting, Jesus Christ is seated at the middle of a long table, with his followers the disciples seated around him. Many of the paintings that were created at this time have a religious theme.

Leonardo was not only an artist, he was also interested in engineering. He actually worked for some time as an advisor to a military leader, helping him to develop new machines for use in war. Leonardo also made rough drawings of machines that are similar to those that were invented much later, such as submarines and helicopters. Obviously, Leonardo was an extremely creative man.

Michelangelo was about 23 years younger than Leonardo. In addition to being a painter, Michelangelo was also a sculptor, and many experts consider him the greatest sculptor of all time. One of his most famous sculptures is David, which is a statue of a young man who was a famous figure in the Bible. Another great sculpture of Michelangelo's is called the Pieta. The Pieta shows Mary, mother of Jesus, holding the baby of her son across her lap.

Michelangelo is also famous for painting the ceiling of a church known as the Sistine Chapel. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Julius, asked Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of this new church. This project required many years of hard work, and the Pope complained that it took too long. However, when the work was finished, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was covered with beautiful paintings of many scenes from the Bible.

Fortunately, many of the works of Leonardo and of Michelangelo can still be seen today in the art galleries of Europe. During the past 500 years, the color of the paintings had faded somewhat, but in recent years, some work has been done to restore the paintings to their original appearance.
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  |  9174 learners#General #Stories

I have to get my tonsils out. I'm not really happy about it, but I'm tired of being sick and having sore throats. I have to go to the hospital two hours before my surgery. My mother will go with me. The nurses will take my temperature and check my blood pressure. They will make sure that I am ready for my operation. I will be dressed in a white gown, and I will be wheeled down the hall to the operating room. I can't have anything to eat or drink for a long time before my surgery. My mother will walk down the hall with me, then she will wave goodbye as they wheel me into the operating room.

The doctor and the nurses will be busy in the operating room. They will be getting ready to perform my surgery. The doctor will say hello to me and tell me that he is going to put me to sleep. He will put something into my arm. He will tell me to count backwards from ten. I think that I will only say ten, nine and then I will be fast asleep I won't be awake for the surgery.

When I wake up, I will be surprised that the surgery is over. My throat will hurt, and I probably won't feel very good. My mother will be there with me. The nurses will give me a drink and try to make me comfortable. I won't be in the hospital overnight. I will go home later in the day. My parents will have to make sure that I have a lot to drink. I can't eat any hard foods or they will hurt my throat. I will sleep a lot, because I will not feel very well for a couple of days. It won't take long before I recover from my surgery. Sometimes, we need surgery to make us feel better. Hospitals can be a bit frightening, but the doctors and nurses are very nice, and their job is to make you better.
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  |  9554 learners#Social #Stories

Have you ever heard the saying walk a mile in my shoes. I think it is a very good saying. Do you know what it means. It means, that before you judge someone, you should put yourself in his or her position. For example, if someone was running in a race, and they did very poorly and came in last It wouldn't be fair to say, oh he's just a terrible runner. You would have to look at all the circumstances that made the person lose the race. Maybe they pulled a muscle in their leg the day before, maybe this is their very first race. Maybe they are not in good form because something isn't right in their lives.

There can be so many things that affect a person's life, performance and moods. If someone was very quiet at a party, you couldn't just assume that they weren't friendly. You don't know what is happening in their lives. They could be feeling ill, or they might have just had a bad experience. Nobody can know exactly how another person feels. Even if someone tells you what he or she is experiencing, you still won't fully understand. What is going on inside the other person. Everyone perceives and feels things differently. To walk a mile in someone else's shoes is to try and understand things from that person's perspective. We are all shaped by the events that have taken place in our lives. No two people have gone through the exact same things. So, before you are quick to judge someone, stop and think about what it is that they might have gone through. You won't always understand why people do what they do, but you can try to understand and put yourself in their position.
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  |  9060 learners#Uncategorized #Stories
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