Coronavirus, China and me

Fear is contagious and spreads quicker than any disease.

I’ve been living in China for more than two years now, and the last week or so have been completely overwhelming for me and so many people around. Just weeks into the new decade and the world finds out about a new strain of coronavirus that shakes the country that I call home. When things first got serious, I was sitting on a beach in the Philippines, and like most of you, just reading things from my phone. Then came the memes, then the tweets, then the texts, and then the constant headlines. It did seem scary. After coming back to China, and seeing things first-hand, I realise how worse it seems from the outside looking in. The mass hysteria and moral panic caused by some of the headlines that I’ve seen from social media and western news is absolutely damaging and draining. I am SO tired of it already. So, I’ve done what I do best. Read, researched and ranted. Welcome to my myth debunking and personal source of living in China today.

“Leave the country or you’ll get coronavirus.”

I understand the fear and why the Wuhan coronavirus is scary. It’s new, we don’t know the origin and there’s no known cure. I get why there is a fraction of fear. However, Zika, Swine Flu and even Influenza have all been declared public health emergencies in the last 10 years. Swine flu spread across the world and killed more than 200,000 people, infecting thousands more. We didn’t flee our countries from it.

The same can be said from the flu. People are saying that it’s different because we have a cure for that, we have vaccines to prevent the flu! Yet, in this winter season alone, more than 15 million Americans have been infected and more than 8,200 have died. The USA have also had their first human-to-human confirmed case for coronavirus. People aren’t fleeing.

China is my home right now, just like millions of others. And it’s a big old country who have taken precautions and measurements to prevent the spreading. In fact, WHO have even praised their actions, and thanks to the resources and power that the country has, they’ve seemed to cope and control things better than predicted. The situation could be much worse for a developing country and that’s the main reason why they’ve announced a health emergency.

The virus started because Chinese people are dirty and eat weird stuff.

Firstly, this is completely racist. Secondly, people all over the world eat things for different reasons that you may not. Thirdly, nothing has been officially confirmed. Just wanted to share these other recipes for you foodies out there…

Haggis in Scotland! Sheep heart, liver and lungs stuffed in a stomach. Guinea Pig found in South America. Dogs and Cats found in multiple places. Black pudding from UK and USA – blood stuffed in sausage skin. Fried pig brain sandwich in USA. Italian Casu Marzu cheese with live insect larvae…

I could go on….  But just because you’ve watched one video of an Asian man eat a rat, does not mean everyone in the whole of Asia eats rat. From my circle of friends and family, only a handful are vegan or vegetarian, so if you’d happily eat a big fat beef burger, then please stop sharing and calling out others for eating animals. It’s hypocritical and a whole other big boring debate. Got a problem? Stop eating animals.

We’re all going to die.

Okay, this obviously can’t be confirmed yet, maybe this is how the world will end. If that’s how it’s meant to happen, it’s gonna happen. But for now, most people that have died already are elderly, those with weakened immune systems or those who have underlying and pre-existing conditions. Except, the news isn’t talking about any of this. If you’re reading this, then the likelihood that you’re like me, young, fit and healthy is high, and so you probably wouldn’t die even if you were to ever catch the Wuhan coronavirus.

To say things like this in a time where people have died and families have been broken is insensitive, entitled and just plain stupid in the current situation. Know that if you’re sitting on your sofa with a cuppa in hand 9,732 miles away in the UK, this does not affect you right now. Think about what you’re saying over social media.

EVERYWHERE IS A GHOST CITY!

Okay, this is one of the headlines that is bugging me the most. Let me start by telling you something about the Chinese. They are some of the hardest workers ever. And once a year, they get a well-deserved break. Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration, most important and longest holiday period.

CNY is also a mass migration, the biggest in the world at one time in fact! With a population of more than 1 billion, people travel and leave the bigger cities so their families can come together and loved ones can visit their hometowns and villages after months apart. My city, Shenzhen, is a massive migrant city which means that EVERY year at this time, things close down. It’s not new to see shops, restaurants and homes shut… for the holidays… not for a virus. Yet still, I’ve been food shopping, went for an Indian last night and heading to Hong Kong for the weekend! I can’t say the same for Wuhan which is the epicenter, of course, I haven’t seen it for my own eyes, but life continues! It’s quiet, of course, but people need to live and eat still.

But the media said….

Don’t be foolish. The media, whether it’s the Sun, CNN or the Guardian, is never 100% reliable. With anything. ALWAYS do your own research before you reiterate and share the news that you read, see and hear. Especially when it spreads fear and affects peoples lives. Do you even know what coronavirus is? Are the images used real and updated? Question things and beware of the language used in any situation. Using words like “escape”, “fleeing”, ‘BREAKING”, “Coronavirus City” is toxic and used to create panic, clicks and engagement. Look at the numbers and compare things realistically. Wuhan has a population bigger than London, with more than 11 million people, so the figure of 9,692 people infected is still relatively small when that’s countrywide and over a population of more than 1 billion. The media are going to hype it as much as they can if it keeps us all talking and tweeting.

Just be cautious and responsible when you’re online.

  • Omg do you have to wear a mask? China is a mask wearing country, similarly to Japan and Korea. The bad air and billion people mean it’s not an uncommon sight. The country has made it necessary to wear in public places, a very smart and simple move.
  • BA have cancelled all flights! How will you leave?! No one flies British Airways, plus they’re just one of many. Flights have not stopped, and we’re not stuck in China… yet.

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How to be safe: Wear a mask. Clean your hands regularly and properly. Contact your doctor if you’re feeling the symptoms. Do your research and listen to the experts.

Sending peace and love to you 🖤

Vanisha

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Follow my adventures on Instagram at @vanishamay

https://www.who.int/

Guide 101 to fuckboys

As single people in a modern-day world with new ways of dating and new terminology, times can be tough. We live in a time where it’s easier to have five relationships on the go at one time, where you can break up with someone over Facebook, Instagram, email AND text message, and where finding love, connection and decency gets harder and harder even though we have millions of options at our fingertips.

And we’ve all heard of fuckboys… man oh man. Although pretty harmless and just generally underdeveloped, they are the kind we avoid dating at all costs. But, what exactly is a fuckboy?

BBC Radio 5’s Dating Expert Layla explains that; “a fuckboy (or fuckgirl) is basically someone who brings misery, stress, heartache, pain, deception, lies, hurt to the people that they’re romantically involved with. So, it’s when they have absolutely no degree of empathy or ability to protect the people that they’re seeing. You know, they don’t necessarily always go out there to hurt but they don’t care whether they do.” – Layla.

or…

A person who is a weak ass pussy that ain’t bout shit.

— bretb

A Fuckboy is the type of guy  who does shit that generally pisses the population of the earth off all the time. He will also lead girls on just for hook-ups, says he’s really into you but doesn’t want to deal with all the “relationship bullshit” just to fuck you. He thinks about himself and only himself all the time but pretends to be really nice. He also does really fucked up shit and then complains about people who do the same old shit as him. Once a fuckboy always a fuckboy, because fuck boys ganna be fuckboys.

— youngsnaps

Lol I love urban dictionary sometimes. But we are in an epidemic my people. Completely surrounded.

How can we spot the signs and save ourselves some time?

8 signs he’s a fuckboy

  1. He tells you straight up that he’s a fuckboy. There’s a difference between being a fun and single person enjoying people and life, to being someone who openly wants to use and disrespect the people around them. Choose wisely… Tell him to seek help and run for the hills.
  2. He’s all ‘no-labels’, carefree, takes things slow kinda guy. He says he’s into you, he’s not seeing anyone else, loves everything about you, but just isn’t ready for a relationship. Just wants everything that comes with a relationship… And is probably seeing someone else… Then when you confront him, he can say “well, we were never really together” Hm.
  3. He tells you that he wants to travel the world with you then after you have sex, he only texts you after a night out… and when you do go out, because you will go meet him, does he ever even buy you a drink? Does he even offer you a pillow? From one extreme to the next so quickly… willing to woo you then leaving you dry.                  You have a great start with flowers, morning texts, meeting the friends. Until one day you didn’t. And it’s all on his terms. Did you ever have a say in anything?
  4. He’ll have BAGS of confidence. Even if what they’re saying isn’t even remotely interesting. Even if they’re not saying anything. Fuckboys think they’re the shiiiiiiit. It’s in their DNA.
  5. He’s probably investing or planning a start-up. They love themselves, money and the ideas of creating something completely whimsical and “spontaneous” for their future. They think it helps to pull. In reality, their future, work life and income are probably a little unstable. Just like they are.
  6. He lies. You know the honeymoon period when you’re both just so into each other and everything’s exciting and you just want to know more and more about this new person? Well fuckboys aren’t interested in really getting to know much about you.

And when you call them out for their bad texting? A missed date? For being a general jerk? They apologise. HAAAAALLLEUJAH. You think he’s finally realising! He’s sorry and he’s taking responsibility. The 16th chance commences. Later on, do you realise that he apologizes more than he compliments and actually it’s just routine rubbish coming from his mouth…

7. Their communication is just generally off. Maybe they have an inability to answer your questions straight up, bouncing back with another question or perhaps they just love beating around the bush. They’re trying to be cool and mysterious, but stuff doesn’t add up and it leaves you questioning them more than you should be.

8. They rarely date, or the dating period ends quickly. Quick into your situationship, it’ll only be ‘dates’ at his place. Maybe he’s got a fridge full of food at his place? Or maybe even a new spot he wants to check out with you…. Underneath his place…. Bye bye to taking you out in public.

These boys don’t know how to treat you right because no-ones probably properly called them out. OR maybe they’re just stuck in their bubble and they think their game is working for them. Who knows? You can meet someone from Tinder, meet none of their friends, not really know anything about them or their lives, be completely screwed off and this guy can just delete you and disappear. The audacity of modern-day dating. There’s no accountability or care and thus they carry on.

How to stop being a fuckboy

Know that people can have fun, love being single and enjoy having sex but there’s a line. There’s a point when it stops being fun and feelings are hurt and if you don’t have much positivity coming from your experiences, then you’re probably deep into being a fuckboy. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘wowww how the shoe fits’, then learn something, grow and become a better person. You got this! And leave us alone until you’re all good.

How to get away from a fuckboy

Know that you’re not his mum. You’re not his healer. Read the signs, don’t ignore the red flags and get out away from that toxicity. Their self-worth probably comes from getting girls and that’s all. They got real issues. And you’re worth so much more than that. Stay woke, don’t make excuses or think you can change someone. Break them bad habits. You’re not the exception to the rule and we’re busy people. Get a real actual project that you can successfully complete. He is not it. Say “this could have been nice, but you’re not ready. Go get therapy” and move on until you meet someone who is ready to be a good person to you.

Sending peace and love to you. Go live yo best fuckboy free lives 🖤

Vanisha

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Follow my adventures on Instagram at @vanishamay

Artwork by @violetclair

Travelling to a country with conflict….

As I planned my trip to Myanmar, people were skeptical and worried mainly due to the big old fact that all we ever really hear about the country are headlines concerning the human rights violations and crisis that many are currently facing. But, as travel becomes ever more accessible and easy for us all, I want to share my thoughts on whether it’s ethical and good to travel to countries with conflict. I also want to add that these are just my thoughts and you might still have your own reservations after reading which is fine, as long as you’re not quick to reject the idea of visiting and boycotting a whole country and its population by not doing so.

There are SO many countries that we all travel to with conflicts and situations that we don’t all agree with. Whether it’s animal cruelty in Zimbabwe, detaining immigrants in America or gender discrimination in India, it doesn’t stop us visiting the entire country and it doesn’t mean that you’re directly support these issues either. I believe we can cause more good than harm by being aware and present, so where do we start?

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What’s the situation?

Before visiting any country, I do feel that it’s really important to understand and know about any situations that may cause concerns regarding ethics, safety and culture. Myanmar (what used to be known as Burma) is home to the world’s longest ongoing civil war with conflict plaguing the country since 1948. It’s currently under accusation of ethnic cleansing with many fleeing genocide, persecution and widespread rape. It’s a really serious conflict that many of us don’t know really know much about.

The Rohingya have been made stateless (though they’ve been living in Myanmar for centuries) meaning they’re without ID’s, unable to work, and are basically unrecognized people with no homes. They’ve been called the world’s most persecuted minority group with many seeking refuge in camps hosted by Bangladesh and India.

The news in Myanmar is also restricted, biased, fake and over-dramatized so many others around the country are not even fully aware of the atrocities happening, making it even worse.

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Is it safe?

Myanmar is one of the safest countries in Asia for tourists. Travelling to the areas of conflict are off limits and inaccessible, even for volunteer work and border crossings.

 

The people are not the government

Myanmar is one of the least wealthy populations in Asia with those living in the main city earning around $60 a month. Tourism keeps money in people’s pockets and not visiting will have a direct impact on them. I actually spoke to one man in particular who expressed his heartache for the fall in tourists due to the ideas of not visiting Bagan, a place where 85% of people rely on tourism. Ask yourself; are you helping anyone by not travelling? The military are mainly financed by exporting gas, stones and agricultural products so tourism money isn’t connected at all. The community needs more than people who are deciding not to visit. It’s not as simple as just turning a blind eye and doing nothing. Money and conversation helps the individual and brings awareness and access to things they might not know about otherwise.

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This type of travel isn’t for everyone

There are so many different types of travelers which is amazing, but for countries like Myanmar, I do feel like you have to be a more aware, more understanding and more responsible type of traveler regardless of the conflict.

Myanmar is not a country to party or to just flitter through. The religion, culture and traditions are all pretty untouched and unaffected by western influence and tourism which is what makes it so incredible and sets it apart from countries like Thailand and Vietnam. And the country itself is still a developing one. I think it’s important to know how to be around sensitive situations, to create genuine connections with people and to appreciate and take in their choices and culture without judgement and with honest intentions and respect.

You can visit places like Sanon in Bagan, a non-profit restaurant that trains underprivileged kids to work in the hospitality industry. Good food and a good cause! Could you do that from home?

Like I’ve said before, create little connections. That’s how we all benefit from tourism.

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Am I doing more harm than good or vice versa?

As I watched the sunset one night, I couldn’t help but think about the people who were not safe in that moment, not that far away from me. The crisis was always on my mind, but you have to remember that you can make a difference by being there. Ask yourself where is my money going? Where can I make a small impact? Small amounts of money and supporting locals can go a long way for so many here. Use the local taxi men, eat at small eateries and buy souvenirs and gifts from the stalls.

I’ve also worked at a school for Chin refugees, another minority group that fled Myanmar to Malaysia. You can volunteer your time, help to teach classes and hear the heartbreaking but inspiring stories told by the man who helps to run it, Tawk Lian Sang. You can contact me privately if you’d like to get involved with this project.

Educate yourself, educate others and be open to learning more

Be a conscious traveler with respect and understanding

Spend money locally

Support NGO’s

It’s a different kind of travel and a trip that left a mark on me in so many ways. I can’t express how beautifully natural and untouched the country was. I felt so safe and cared for and this was due to the people being the nicest and most welcoming I’ve ever come across. All in all, I really would encourage you to visit Myanmar if you truly want to (read my blog on travelling the country here). Let’s ensure we’re being better, more sustainable and more responsible travelers.

Just do as much good as you can, always, everywhere.

  Vanisha

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acs_0088

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/rohingya-refugee-relief-fund/

https://www.unhcr.org/rohingya-emergency.html

www.iyfubh.com/Myanmar_Travel_Essentials.cfm?http://www.dosanddontsfortourists.com/digital.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/09/rohingya-refugee-crisis-myanmar-burma-spd/

https://www.actionaid.org.uk/donate/emergency/rohingya-refugee-crisis

https://www.unicef.org.uk/donate/rohingya-refugees/

https://www.worldvision.com.au/global-issues/world-emergencies/rohingya-refugee-appeal

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/rohingya-refugee-crisis

https://www.peaceinsight.org/conflicts/myanmar/

Travelling my new favourite country; Myanmar

Myanmar is the biggest country in South East Asia yet remains pretty mysterious. And I always do research before I travel, you know, what to see, where to visit etc., but Myanmar’s travel tips were either super outdated or scarce, zzz…

… which is why I had no idea what to expect for my 10-day trip.

However, Myanmar is now one of my most favourite countries and the trip was incredible! I loved every single day. Travelling around is cheap and relatively safe, the food was amazing, and the people were genuinely the nicest I’ve ever met. They’re truly beautiful inside and out.

Explore the city of Yangon

My trip started on a Monday when most of the museums and markets are closed in the country’s biggest city, not so cool. So, I spent a few hours just riding the Yangon Circular Railroad and it was really cool. Hanging off the side, surrounded by locals, being in the middle of their daily routines and seeing the slums built around the railway, really gave a look into life for many in Myanmar. Though, there are museums and things to do, I’d definitely recommend a few hours on the train.

For food, I wondered around and found the Muslim Quarters and “Little India”. The streets are filled with people sitting outside and cables hang high above your heads. I ate some amazing indian fusion food and walked to the nearby Shwedagon Pagoda.

  • Start from Yangon Central Railroad with a ticket for just 300kyats (£0.15) super cheap! At the top of the line, you can visit the market and Insein Prison.

Beautiful Inle Lake

Inle lake is surrounded by the mountain and home to thousands of people who have built their lives around the lake. It’s unbelievably peaceful and full of natural beauty.

Take a boat for the day with a local. I spent the day on a boat with a local man where we skipped some of the more known places and he took me to all the places I wanted. We spent the whole day on his boat, chatting, sitting on the lake, watching the other locals, we had a traditional dinner together and it was a brilliant day. Visit Red Mountain winery or explore the ancient town of Sagar. Cycle, boat or tuk tuk to the other sites around the lake, like the pagodas of In Dein, the bridge and water village at Mine Thauk, and learn about the floating gardens.

Ancient Bagan

Ride around the North and see the 2,000 temples. Bagan is a dream land filled with dirt dust roads and temples from the 9th and 13th century. It’s really beautiful and super peaceful. Although many of the temples are now closed off for climbing due to conservation and safety regulations, you can find a local and they’ll show you to the few good spots. It’s the best way to see the hot air balloons at sunrise. I rented a bike for £2.50 a day and felt super safe on it because it was electric, and the roads are small and quiet. End each day with the sunset, try Nyaung Letpet Hill, open temple by Hitlominlo  or the field of Buledi Pagoda.

  • Eat at The Moon (Be Kind to Animals). There are two spots, one in New Bagan and one in Old Bagan. They’re both real cute with low prices and a mix of traditional Burmese and vegetarian foods.
  • Check out Sanon, a Non-profit restaurant that trains underprivileged kids to work in the hospitality industry. Good food and a good cause!

Beach at Ngapali

Ok, so reviews said that Ngapali had some of the best beaches in Asia which shook me because I’ve seen some incredible beaches before. Taking a flight is the easiest option and completely worth it. Not only were the beaches beautiful, but the place is untouched too. Locals spend their days fishing and the vibes are natural and sincere. I visited some local markets where I was the only foreigner and sat with some of the women there. Super, super chill and stunning scenery. Happy days.

Things to consider;

Buy from the locals, eat in the smaller restaurants and dress appropriately around the temples. Bagan is a great place for souvenirs, clothes and gifts. Most of the websites that I read expressed concerns with money and ATM machines. I had no issues getting money, with ATM’s now available in most tourist-y areas. In Myanmar, you can use USD and the local Kyat, I used mostly Kyat. Minus the visa, which was £50, everything is very cheap, food, drink, travel and places to stay.

How to get around:

I took a mix of overnight buses and flights, but I’d recommend the buses if you have time or want to save on a night’s stay. I’ve heard they’re the best and safest way to travel and they’re the main mode of transport. Myanmar’s trains and air travel are basic and more costly.  Use JJ Express Buses – you can book these in most places and online too; https://jjexpress.net/

Here is a list of the hostels and hotels I’ve stayed at,

I stayed in a mixture of budget hostels and pricey resorts (all were soo nice, especially the Serenity Inle Resort which was on the lake at Inle):

  • Bodhi Nava Boutique Hostel & Café, Yangon
  • The Serenity Inle Resort, Ywama
  • Ostello Bello, Bagan
  • Jasmine Ngapali Resort, Ngapali

Use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of my hotels and more!

https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

Lastly, I want to start this by saying that Myanmar was one of my favourite countries in Asia, the trip was incredible, and the people were the nicest and most welcoming that I’ve ever come across. Before visiting any country, I do feel that it’s important to understand, research and know about any political and current situations that may cause concerns regarding ethics, safety and culture. Myanmar (what used to be known as Burma) is currently in a crisis with many fleeing from genocide, persecution and rape. It’s a serious conflict that many don’t know about. As a humanitarian, charity worker and traveller, I was obviously conflicted about visiting, but I’m SO glad that I did and would encourage others to do so too. Not only did I learn and grow in understanding, but I also saw the importance of “the people are not the government”, spreading stories and causing more good than harm. You can read my deeper post about why I’d encourage travelling to Myanmar here (it’s in progress still, patience people patience)…

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Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram @vanishamay and

have a good day wherever you are

Vanisha

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Travel Stories

Seeing the world is a constant education about life and the people around us. Travel can open up so much about the world. So much history, so much pain and so many stories that we never hear about, all which co-exist as we go about our daily, lucky lives.

Many of these stories remain unknown to us. One of my first big experiences of being so moved by people and their lesser-known past was my trip to Cambodia in 2015. Excited by the incredible Angkor Wat, I had no idea about the history, the obvious trauma felt by the country still and how much of that I’d take away with me. Millions of lives affected by the Khmer Rouge and a country still recovering. Education, medical and landmines safety are all areas that still require help and assistance with today. It’s not on our news, we don’t learn it in schools and we generally don’t know much about the recent genocide. I especially knew nothing. So, I read books, watched documentaries and continued to learn about the lives beyond the skulls that we saw in the ground that day at the killing fields.

The Freedom Bridge in DMZ

Similarly, I was completely clueless about Korea too. The war, their current situation and their history is just something that I never learnt about or really came across (minus the odd headline in the news that honestly, never really held much importance because the background was so unknown to me). Until a couple of summers ago when I read a memoir by a girl called Yeonmi Park. Yeonmi tells her brave story of a life in North Korea, of her escape, her families abuse and how she was sex-trafficked through China, living to tell the horrors. Yeonmi was one of the lucky ones, now working for the UN and sharing her stories to raise awareness and promoting assistance for the people stuck inside.

On my visit to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that lies between the two Korea’s, all I thought about was her. The only safe land between two countries who are still technically at war, is now a tourist spot for people to come, see and (apparently) learn about the history and future hopes for the unification of Korea. It’s dangerous and important stuff. Now, I was probably being a bit naive but I genuinely thought I’d learn more from this tour. Instead, I found myself in a rant about mindless travellers, companies who profit from pain and plain ignorance.

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I’m disappointed because Yoenmi’s story is just one of many, but you don’t learn about the people or the humanitarian crisis on the tour; only the politics, money and photo opportunities. You visit Freedom Bridge which was made to safely bring prisoners over the landmines that still surround the land and is also a memorial, a place to leave ribbons for missing loved ones. It’s a beautiful place with deep meaning and sadness and a tonne of people taking photos with their thumbs up in front of the ribbon wall who seem to have no idea why or what the point of it is because we were never really told properly. And it’s not completely their fault when the rest of the tour takes you to a new train station built for joining South Korea through the North and to the rest of the world, photos of Trump’s recent visit (what a doofus) and the ongoing excitement about the abundance of wildlife that grows in the DMZ next to the fake propaganda village that you can see from the Dorasan Observatory. Which makes an interesting story for sure, but what about the real people and their stories?

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I thought about Yeonmi and the millions of stories still untold, the people living in one of the world’s most dangerous countries, whilst our tour guide (who was genuinely very lovely) was telling us funny stories about a flag competition between the countries…

And I guess that brings me back to travel. We’re constantly in someone else’s home, neighbourhoods, lands, eating their food and making friends with the locals. We should never forget that. When we visit these places, do further research, read books, talk to the people and learn their lives. It’s up to us to ask questions, think ethically and consider those whose countries we’re guests in. Seeing the world should expand our understanding when given the right knowledge and tools to see through the people’s eyes. When we know their stories, we form deeper connections with the world and life. We grow in empathy.

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Travelling isn’t always easy and it’s so much more than taking quirky Instagram pictures and island hopping. It’s important to move through the world with thought, understanding and responsibility, never forgetting how lucky we are because our lives are filled with connections, stories, a constant learning, feelings and people like Yeonmi who help us to understand it all.

 

Peace, love and happy conscious travelling people!

V

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Below is a list of books, documentaries and links to learn more, get involved and raise awareness about stories that matter from people in crisis’s that have stuck with me;

Korea

https://www.ted.com/talks/yeonmi_park_what_i_learned_about_freedom_after_escaping_north_korea

https://www.ted.com/talks/hyeonseo_lee_my_escape_from_north_korea

https://www.amazon.com/Order-Live-Korean-Journey-Freedom/dp/014310974X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=yeonmi+park&qid=1570171873&s=books&sr=1-1

China

https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_wudunn_our_century_s_greatest_injustice

https://www.amazon.com/Half-Sky-Oppression-Opportunity-Worldwide/dp/0307387097/ref=as_li_tf_tl?tag=teco06-20&ie=UTF8

Cambodia

https://www.ted.com/talks/sophal_ear_escaping_the_khmer_rouge

https://www.netflix.com/title/80067522

https://www.amazon.com/First-They-Killed-Father-Remembers/dp/0060856262/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=First+They+Killed+My+Father&qid=1570171859&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/the-khmer-rouge

Mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-07-10/mexico-faces-its-own-surge-of-refugees-entering-the-country

https://asylumaccess.org/program/mexico/

Indonesia

http://www.dofeve.org

http://28toomany.org/

https://plan-uk.org/about/our-work/fsgm

India

https://www.netflix.com/title/81076756

http://www.nirbhayajyotitrust.org/

Europe and the Middle East’s Refugee Crisis

https://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_fleming_a_boat_carrying_500_refugees_sunk_at_sea_the_story_of_two_survivors

https://helprefugees.org

https://www.rescue.org/

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-More-Powerful-Than-Sea/dp/1250105994/ref=as_li_tf_tl?tag=teco06-20&ie=UTF8

Unbelievable: A true story

Writing can be so hard. You have a million things that you want to say, things that you want to tell the world, but nothing comes for months and months. No inspiration and little motivation. In fact, this year, I’ve only written five blogs which sucks for me. But then, something happens… you have a moment of spark, something that kicks you straight outta bed and makes you run to your desk to write. My modern-day writers block was just cured, thanks to Netflix.

 

I could easily spend hours on end binge-watching all sorts on that platform, but it’s rare to watch something that is well made and important for the world. Netflix’s latest drama; Unbelievable is one of the best shows on there today (along with Delhi Crime which has a similar narrative, watch that too). It’s a real-life story based on the award winning journalism piece from Pro Publica and The Marshall Project which is super relevant and incredibly important to today’s current climate. A story that is far too common, a story that I share myself (read that here) and a story that made me cry silly ridiculously in my room after watching it all.

For anyone that wants to watch it, sorry for the spoilers. But also, if you’re not planning on watching it and you’re reading this now, I’m telling you to just watch it regardless.

 

The Story

The story starts with a young girl, Marie Adler, who is awoken in the night, raped repeatedly in her home and abused for hours. The guy leaves with little evidence and Marie is subjected to an awful few days in questioning, statement giving and suspicion from those around her following from her attack. The police involved were ill-trained, her support system was lacking, and she was made to believe that her story was not worthy of pursuing. Everyone doubted her which eventually flipped her life upside down due to charges of false reporting, joblessness, media reporting and social rejection. She took a plea deal and tried to forget about it all.

But a year later, and the rapist had committed five more attacks in the same way. He was caught and currently serves a 200+ year sentence thanks to a team led by two incredible women who worked relentlessly to seek justice for these survivors.

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What are the facts?

Violence against women is one of the only criminal statistics that gets higher every year. Violence against women has no race, no border, no age and no preferences. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experience physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives. Less than 40% seek help, and of those, less than 10% seek help from the police.

So, why don’t women report? This story highlights all the reasons why violence against women remains one of the most common and easiest crimes to get away with. Not only does every single system worldwide fail to support survivors but our social systems tend to preference male perpetrators, worrying about ruining their reputations and having a hard time believing that they’re capable of such things. Because of this, only 9% of all rapists will get prosecuted. Only 5% of cases lead to conviction, with 3% of rapists spending a full day in prison whilst the other 97% will walk free.

 

 

What can we take from this?

I’ve scrambled down five points that I believe every single person on this planet can reflect on from this story;

  1. Believe

At the centre of the violence is the shame and fear of not being believed. Societies around the world regard violence against women so low that when someone does speak out, they’re put on trial with their stories judged and dissected. That’s what it feels like anyway. Marie’s whole life was evaluated before the police even considered searching for her rapist. And it’s so rare that anyone would make this stuff up. In fact, men are more likely to be victims of a sexual assault themselves than to be falsely accused of committing one. We’re living in a global movement where people are feeling braver and stronger than ever with their stories, let’s believe survivors and stop treating them like the accused.

 2. Support 

Each time you must tell your story or think about the crime, the trauma is relived, and on days it feels endless. A moment, a smell, a touch in the wrong place, a feeling, and it sends you straight back to that moment, no matter how many years pass. There was one scene at the end where a survivor confronts her attacker in despair, she wants to know why he picked her because her life has never been the same which shows that violence is never an event that happens once. Going through an ordeal like this one, speaking out about it and living with the trauma that follows affects your whole life. It’s not easy. A good support system is crucial when healing and living through the processes of prosecution. Support those around you.

3. Share

As we’ve learned, most victims will never tell their stories fully, but for those that do, we must share and honour their stories. Their stories are examples of a society gone wrong and hold important lessons for our futures. Sharing and listening to survivors’ stories means that as a society, we’re taking their stories into account, we’re not dismissing them and we’re allowing others to feel safe to come forward with their own stories. In this case, the rapist was caught thanks to the sharing of other stories and multiple people coming forward.

 4. Fight

Most justice systems worldwide lack the services, training and support for those dealing with cases with women and violence. Creating more jobs for women in the justice system, training programs, and care support services for victims will enable the criminal process to be more effective, supportive and less distressing. Signing petitions, fighting for a more equal world and standing up for women will encourage and support everyone on the planet in multiple ways. 

5. Help

From catcalling in the street to rape and death; our stories, our perpetrators are almost always men. Yet, there are places around the world where a woman could be killed for declaring “I’ve been raped” whilst the rapist continues with his free life. Men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

Call out the men around you who show any signs of mistreatment or abuse to the women in this world. Make the treatment of women an everyday healthy conversation with your sons, boyfriends and people. And if you can’t keep us safe, be brave enough to seek help. Here’s a brilliant TedTalk to listen to about this;

Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

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“One in four women will be raped. Only 10% will report it. The other 90% will take refuge in silence. 50% of these be cause the perpetrator is a family member or someone they know. The other half think they won’t be believed. And they won’t be believed.” – Ines Hercovich

 

This story is just one in a million. The drama adaptation highlights everything that is important to understanding and creating a safer space for more than half of the world’s population. It’s hard to watch but I’m so glad it’s there for you all to see. I hope you take some time to watch and learn more about one of the longest running injustices to people on this planet.

Have a peaceful day and please get in touch if you ever need someone to listen;

Vanisha

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For anyone affected and to learn more, here’s some links below;

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger: Our story of rape and reconciliation

https://www.rainn.org/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/

http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

https://www.propublica.org/article/false-rape-accusations-an-unbelievable-story

Travelling Thailand

My first trip to Thailand was three years ago, when my best friend and I backpacked around Asia. Assuming the country was just one big tourist trap, steaming with hen parties and lads on the sesh, my expectations weren’t very high and I was just happy to flitter through and use it as a starting point. Never assume though eh? After a short weekend back this month, I was reminded of all the reasons why I love Asia. Thailand is back in my good books and I realize how much more the country has to offer. So, what’s good and where is best to go?

 

Explore the islands down South

Hike Ko Phi Phi. The island itself isn’t too big, but it’s got plenty of trails and walkways for you to hike around and enjoy the viewpoints from up high. It’s so pretty to see the two colours of the sea where the bay separates them.

Visit the beaches because Thailand is pretty well known for its beautiful bays and movie landscapes. It’s a great place to island hop and see which one suits you best! Koh Tao for diving, Koh Phangan for partying and around 8,000 others for everything else!

Surround yourself in the culture, amazing food and people

Visit the markets which are all around the country and the best places to buy all your clothes, food and gifts from. The food in Thailand is soooo good! I’ll recommend some places down below. Remember to haggle down in the markets too!

Never have I ever had a massage or watched a famous ‘show’…

Bangkok is full of weird and wonderful things, including their famous shows, markets and massages. Personally, I’m not a fan of massages wherever I am, but everyone I know who has been to Thailand has had a massage so, if I was you, I’d do some research and stick it on my list of things to try. Along with the rest of it…

Meet the tribes.

It wasn’t until after my visit that I read some mixed reviews about this experience. People said how visiting the tribe felt like a ‘zoo’ where the women had been put on display just for tourists to come and take photos. The tribe are a group of Burmese refugees who came to Thailand and weren’t originally able to work, be educated or live outside certain areas due to their status. Like many refugees around the world.

However, now they’re given choice. To go to school, to work outside or to carry on the tradition and earn a living through tourism. Like many in Thailand. And I think the most crucial part to the debate of them being in a ‘zoo’ is connection. There’s a difference between literally turning up, without conversation, without interest, without asking questions about the tourism and their welfare, taking photos without permission and not helping their tourism to doing the opposite to that. To making a connection, building understanding and appreciating their lifestyle, choice and culture. To treat and talk to them like humans.

This gally is 4 years old and liked being tickled. She is THE cutest. She laughed when my hair got tied to my hairband. Another lady laughed at me because she’s 23 and I’m 26 and she’s already married with children and I don’t even have a boyfriend…..

Little connections. That’s how we all benefit. 

Ride around the North and hit the temples

Learn about The Golden Triangle, the history and the global drug trade. And do it in a day trip! Thailand is home to thousands of beautiful temples. After a while of exploring them, you might feel like it’s the last thing you want to see, but make Wat Rung Khun an exception and visit the amazing white temple! Go earlier or late evening to avoid the crowds and be sure to wear respectable clothing or cover ups.

Meet the elephants! Do your research and visit the amazing Asian elephants at the numerous parks and sanctuaries around Thailand.

Things to consider; Thailand is a tourist hotspot for full moon parties, animal visits, cheap sex and cheap booze. The country is trying to recover from the tourist damage but it’s still so apparent in the ruined corals, the littered beaches and the high amount of trafficking that occurs. I’m also pretty wary about riding my own motorcycle, literally everyone I know has had an accident and I just don’t see the point when transport is so cheap. However, do whatever you need to do! Before visiting places, do your research, be respectful and do your bit to make life easier for the locals who live there.

Here is a list of the hostels, hotels and places to eat I’ve stayed at:

Lanna Oriental Hotel, Chiang Mai

Freedom Hostels @ Phi Phi, Ko Phi Phi

Good Souls Kitchen, Chiang Mai

Fern Forest Cafe, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of my hotels and more!

https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram @vanishamay and have a good day wherever you are!

Vanisha

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