The Complex Case of Shamima Begum

The case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year old girl who flew the UK four years ago to join ISIS is extremely complex. Her story made the headlines when her and two other friends left London to join one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Now, four years later, her two friends have died, she’s lost two children, she’s just given birth in a refugee camp, and Begum wants to return back home to the UK and her family.

**** update: Shamima’s baby son has lost his life to pneumonia after freezing to death in the refugee camp that Begum has been living in since the UK government stripped her illegally from her citizenship.

The UK’s reaction

For lots of people in the UK, this has caused outrage. Her citizenship has since been revoked meaning that she is now stateless. Most people won’t know what that means, but it’s a pretty dire and dangerous situation to be in. Being stateless strips her of all her rights and to do this is actually illegal under international law. Marie Lecont says “I find the issue of young people who’ve joined ISIS as teenagers and now want to come back very complex to be honest. I’m not sure where I stand on it. I’m amazed so many of you have confidently picked a side once and for all.” For me, it shows the extremity and online bravery of so many uneducated people who seem to be detached from the international world.

From reading online, I’ve seen the jokes made of professors, educators and academics. Where the awful woman that is Katie Hopkins (who makes the most unrelated points) is actually being given more of a platform than people who understand and are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to cases of terrorism, psychology, human rights and international relations, which is ultimately what this case is about. It’s much deeper and complex than most would even care to understand. And what an easy bandwagon it is to jump on when you hear the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Muslim girl’ and ‘ISIS’.

It’s funny as most people are quick to think that Shamima is fully responsible for being groomed and abused by ISIS, but are still furiously angry at the Rotherham and Oldham cases where girls of the same age were also groomed and abused. Perhaps it’s because the ethnicities have been switched? We need to also remember that no man has ever been treated like this. Her issue is made more of an issue because of the complexities regarding her gender, race and religion.

People have also been quick to compare her responsibility to that of the boys in the James Bulger case. A case where the boys had committed a gruesome murder at the ages of 10 years old and were convicted as the UK’s youngest criminals. A case where people only take into consideration that first part, and not the part where they served only 8 years in prison, and were assessed and monitored throughout, to then be given second chances with normal lives and under new alias.

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An eye for an eye

Shamima is not the first and won’t be the last to have fallen for the tricks of ISIS and now wishes to return home. An estimated 400 people have left and returned back to the UK from Syria and ISIS. The girls are groomed online for a long period of time, sold a dream of a life overseas by people that they think they can trust, only to discover a life of the opposite. When they arrive, they’re usually sold as wives to unknown men, raped, abused over and over, and taken to areas where they lack food, water and electricity. It’s not like she could just book a flight home. She didn’t have the access, knowledge or capability. The friends that she went with have since died, so it’s a miracle that Shamima has even escaped, not forgetting that she has literally just given birth.

Her interviews

In her recent interviews where she discovers that her identity has been revoked and she is stating that she wants to come home, it seems she lacks remorse or even a great understanding on the seriousness of her case. I watched it and was a little shocked myself. However, I looked a bit further into this too. Shamima’s answers are short, she seems unbothered and says she has little regrets about her last 4 years. But let’s take into consideration that….

  • She had just given birth in a refugee camp before one of the interviews. Of course, she is tired, probably suffering from PTSD and is facing a backlash regardless of what she says or does.
  • She’s also spent the last four years in vulnerable states surrounded by men. The only people that have interviewed her so far are men.
  • There’s such thing called Stockholm Syndrome where you grow to love your abuser or kidnapper. Though the people who surround her and her life might be the most terrifying people in the world to us, to her, they’ve been her family for years and probably shine in a very different light. This actually makes her even more vulnerable.

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She is not innocent, but she’s still a victim

It’s complex because she is not innocent. She’s witnessed and been involved with one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Therefore, she should be, rightly, tried before the courts and completely and thoroughly assessed and monitored with her baby taken into care. If you want to understand why and how people can be radicalised, if you don’t understand why she got on that plane in the first place, then the most logical thing would be to fly her back, question her and try to understand it all from her point of view. We could really learn a lot from this and learn to prevent situations like this.

We must take into consideration the complexity, back story and situation where she has made such an awful decision that will affect her for life. A decision that has left her suffering, bereaved, confused and lost. A decision that would obviously affect her words when it comes to news reports. A decision made where she had little or no control and was completely vulnerable. A decision that we can learn from to ensure that this never happens again.

We must also take into consideration that “At 19; she’s lived in a war zone, aware she’s betrayed her family and caused them pain, she’s lost two children, lost a husband and is living in a refugee camp” – @BLKMimiLD says on twitter. We must remember that for three of her four years, Shamima was pregnant, which means that she was not out running around, beheading our men and fighting on behalf of ISIS, as most of you seem to think. We must also consider her current mental state, her PTSD and the battles that are now seeded in her mind.

As a humanitarian, I believe she needs intensive mental care, restorative justice and rehabilitation. She is not innocent, and she will never be able to live a free life again, but she is a human who has lived her last four years in unimaginable circumstances, whose life may have been different if we as a society hadn’t failed her to begin with. What kind of life did we provide her in the UK where the option to join ISIS seemed far better?

I say, by unpopular opinion, that we should allow her to come back, we should learn from her and her last years in captivity and we should also ensure that we are not creating or allowing more souls to be damaged and affected in this world. If you hate ISIS and everything they’re doing to our world so much, then you should be fighting for the root cause of cases like this, not at the victims who are the end result of their doings.

Peace and love to you all,

Vanisha

X

To support organisations who are working in refugee camps, with online abusers and terrorism, click the links below;

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If you want to educate yourself more on the topics of terrorism before feeding into the likes of Katie Hopkins and The Sun, then below I’ve created a list of helpful readings, books and materials;

Books

  • Human rights in the ‘War on Terror’ by R.Wilson
  • Enemies Everywhere: Terrorism, Moral Panic, and US Civil Society by Rothe, D. and Muzzatti, S.
  • Terror vs. terror by Mallow, B.
  • Terrorism by Howard, L.
  • Women, Gender and Terrorism by Laura Sjoberg

Watch and listen

  • Three Girls, BBC
  • Woman’s Hour, The Shamima Begum Case Podcast
  • The High Low, The Complicated Case of Shamima Begum Podcast

Online Readings

A Guide to Bali

Bali is one of my favourite places on the planet. The island and its surrounding places have a weird and wonderful mix of modern day eateries and shops alongside a beautiful culture rich with religion and traditions. The island caters for every type of traveller and I would recommend it to everyone! It’s one of the most Instagram-able places ever, but also a developing country, so the island relies completely on tourism. The people are truly some of the kindest and nicest that I’ve ever come across, and that really makes a difference when you’re travelling! They’re completely go-with-the-flow, happy, caring and they looove music. It’s great. So, what to do and where to go?

Get spiritual and find your chill in the jungles of Ubud. 

Ubus is my favourite and the list of things to see and do is endless! Start with the must-sees like the Tegallang rice terraces where you can get your ‘gram’ shot in a swing (note that the shot is not as easy as it looks lol and the swings have a harness which might ruin your ‘floaty dress’ image. Wear a kimono or shorts underneath so the men can put the harness around it). 

Cleanse your soul and bathe in the holy water of the Pura Tirta Empul Temple. This was one of my favourite things to do. What’s the point in going anywhere if you’re not going to immerse yourself fully and just stand at the side to watch?! Pay one of the local guides to talk you through the ritual and avoid praying to the death stones! 

Have a spa day with a flower bath. It was so hard to get that ‘gram’ shot again. How do IG people do it?! Me and my bestie were half in the nude and in the dark of the bath with the petals floating away from us…. lol. The spa package was perfect on the other hand.

Visit the elephants at the numerous parks and safaris that Bali has. We went to Taro which was the closest and it felt like most of the elephants were in good care. 

Visit the art market which is the best place (I think) to buy all your clothes, accessories and gifts from. It covers a huge area with small shops winding round, up, down and through endless covers. It’s a great place to haggle too!

Tegenungan Waterfall was a fun day out and I think we saw Bedugul lakes and temple in the same trip too. Climb Mount Batur and watch the sunrise… this one is still on my to-do-list, but I’ve hear great things!

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Party, eat and shop in Canggu, Seminyak and Kuta

I honestly didn’t do much in these areas but eat, sleep and drink! The beaches are filled with surfers and the water isn’t safe to swim in so I’d recommend a place with a pool or visiting the beach clubs like Potato head and Mr Sippy. I’m sure there’s lots we missed but I prefer the islands and Ubud so we didn’t stick around for long.

Take the fast boat to Gili Trawangan Island

Gili T is the largest and most popular of the three Gili islands. It’s got a strip of restaurants, shops and bars with a bunch of activities and day trips to do.

Watch the sunset over at Sunset point. Head over to the other side of the island, grab some drinks (or a special shroom shake!) at happy hour and sit in a bean bag to watch one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen! Even on a rainy day, the sky was covered in pink.

­ Rent a bike! The island is the biggest of the three, but actually it’s tiny still! You can cycle around the whole island and back through within an hour. There’s only one path around and with no cars and a tonne of places to hire from, it’s the dreamiest place to cycle around.

Do a day trip. We spent the day island hopping and snorkelling which was lots of fun and at a pretty decent price! It’s great to get out on the sea and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s a great way to meet people too! We also rented out a gopro for the day which was completely worth it for the shots and underwater statues that lie below the water.

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­ Go diving! Gili T has some of the bluest waters around. On my first visit, me and my best friend completed our PADI Open Water certificate. We went with Diversia and it was so much fun! The water is pretty clear when the weather is good and you can see pretty corals, fish and even turtles!

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

– Nick’s Hidden Cottages, Ubud

– Bima Sakti Hostel, Canggu

– Coconut Garden Retort, Gili Trawangan

– Blue Moon Homestay, Gili Trawangan

And if you have a stopover try….

– ZEN Rooms Cipete, Jakarta

– Favehotel, Makassar and Jakarta

– And if you have time, visit the island of South Sulawesi with the magical lands of Tana Toraja…. Read more here!

 

You can use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of these hotels and more with booking.com!

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

X

#metoo

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” – C.S. Lewis

 

There are some people out there who will never understand what it’s like to be a female, to be treated as an object, disposable, and used. No exaggerations. They’ll never understand our daily struggles from the most mundane things like being extra wary on our walk home, to the extreme cases like rape and sexual violence.

And I hope they’ll never experience what it’s like,

but I hope more people will understand.

 

2017’s boom of the #metoo movement bought to light how prolific sexual violence is, how many people are affected, how many people suffer in silence and how little is done to help the healing, to fix our rape culture and to stand by those who suffer the most in our societies. The massive movement highlighted the abuse that takes place within the most influential and powerful circles which hit home just how vulnerable we all are to men, their power and violence.

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It proved once again how sexual violence, abuse and rape knows no boundaries, classes, cliques, race or ages.

 

Then came 2018’s hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasley Ford which took another toll on the hurt we all feel as women in a society that fails to keep us safe, that fails to hear us and that fails to even stand by us.

The social media trends that followed were both incredibly inspiring and incredibly heart breaking. I could barely sleep that first night of the Kavanaugh hearings. I watched as millions of men and women took to their social media platforms, using their voices to tell their stories and showing support for the horrible ordeal that Ford was put through.

#ibelieveher #whyididntreport and #metoo all became top trends.

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Fast forward to today; 19th January 2019. The King of R&B is under criminal investigation after a docuseries brought together the survivors of R Kelly’s 30 year-long abusive horror stories. People were once again taking to social media to make a stand and highlighting one of the worst issues we have in modern day society.

 

Millions of men and women coming forward and telling their stories of rape, abuse and sexual violence.

Millions of men and women coming forward with millions of reasons why their stories went unreported.

And then millions of men and women who are still silently healing and hurting, who can’t find the right words and are still figuring out or moving on from their stories. Millions just like me.

 

These movements and trends are one of the positive and best things that have come out of 21st century technology. And unlike the feelings of isolation and shame that sexual violence brings, the trends and sense of community from social media instead brings us together. It gives comfort, support and the bravery needed to tell your story and bring you one step closer to dealing with it. To healing from it. Which is why, although it’s taken me more than 6 months of writing, re-editing and brave moments, I’m feeling braver and able to talk about my own experiences.

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Today, I feel ready to say that I’m with her, I believe her, and me too. I’m one of the statistics that didn’t report it, and it’s something that has stayed with me heavily ever since.

And like millions of others, there were and still are so many reasons why I felt like I couldn’t report it.

 

I’m a girl who stands up for others in acts like this. I preach and research and even wrote my whole dissertation about injustices against girls.

But when it happened to me, I did nothing.

I lost my voice then so much more.

It felt like something from a movie.

Like something you’d seen a hundred times before.

You’re watching clips of someone doing something to your body,

in your safe space, and you have no control because you’re barely conscious.

He leaves you and the scene.

You wake up the next morning sore and in autopilot.

Your body just walks straight to the shower and you clean.

You scrub your skin and you brush every bit of your mouth.

You feel dirty.

And you hurt for days.

And you cry.

Then you get on with your life.

Because it’s not like real-life, and it couldn’t have happened to you.

But, as dramatic as it sounds, it happened just like that.

 

And it’s so easy, to try and brush it to the side. Something so common.

Because what’s the point in fighting?

There’s not enough help. There’s victim blaming. There’s court. And police. And proof. And no support. It’s scary, and costly, and lengthy, and in many cases, just one word against the other.

Then there’s feelings of shame, embarrassment and loneliness, and the feelings from the aftermath which are so much worse than the feelings of the actual incident. Feeling dirty, used and completely unworthy.

Because of society, and a boy, and the behaviours we allow and brush to the side. And all of this makes me feel angrier at society and myself than at him.

More than one year later, and after yet another horrific incident, I’m not sure how much stronger I feel. But I’m still angry and I want change. And that makes me want to fight harder.

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63% of sexual assaults will never be reported to the police. And out of 1000 rapes, 994 abusers will walk free.

How is abuse against women so rampant in every society around the world? How is it one of the only things that are showing no signs of improvement?! How are we failing so many girls and women around the world every single day? Mocking our basic human rights of safety and love.

 

I don’t want it to define me, ever. I don’t want people to see me and think of these incidents. I don’t want to be a victim because I’m so much more than what happened them nights. That’s not what this is about.

 

And for so many of us, it’s not simply about justice or seeking revenge. It’s not about getting even. It’s about building a future and creating the change needed to ensure that society can keep our women and girls safe from abuse, rape and violence.

 

We need better ways and more options for reporting and supporting. Even now, I don’t believe the people from my incidents should be locked away. I think they, like many others, need rehabilitation and restoration because simply locking these people away will not solve this social and global epidemic or stop the cycles of abuse.

 

We shouldn’t be afraid about making conversation around these topics and instead teaching our young men and women what is right and what is wrong. We need to teach and learn to recognise the stages of abuse, what our options are when it comes to abuse and to create a safe space where we can have real conversations about it all with our abusers, with a support system, with our communities and even with ourselves. We need to call it out before it happens, when it happens and keep that conversation going if there is an after.

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In times surrounding these events and movements, know that these women will be rethinking and reliving some of their darkest times, many in silence and many still healing. Look at the women in your lives and love them hard, support them and tell them “I believe you”.

 

I’m so proud and grateful for every single person who has come forward, for every #metoo, #ibelieveher and #whyididintreport for their bravery, power, support, and inspiration. For anyone struggling, know you’re not alone, you’re worthy, you are loved and you’ll have better days. The actions of someone else is not your fault.

For anyone affected or for anyone who wants to talk, you can message me privately on here, on my Instagram @Vanishamay or email vanishamay@googlemail.com.

 

I hope you all find some happiness, strength and courage today,

V

X

 

For more support;

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/

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

Merry Christmas from Misión México!

Merry Christmas from Misión México! Like many of you around the world, our family has been busy preparing and celebrating the Christmas holidays and New Year festivities! Our home has seen more than 250 kids walk through those big green gates, which is why Christmas is extra special for all of us and a day that we all look forward to!

Throughout the year, our mission is funded through individual supporters, one-off donations, business and fundraising events. The support generated from around the world funds our Education Program, medical and health care, extra-curricular activities, our Youth Transition Program and all our daily necessities like food, electricity and water.

Every Christmas, a group of our older kids, staff and volunteers take part in their own challenging fundraiser which helps fund a specific cause that is needed at that time.  Last year, we raised funds for a new family van which now helps transport the kids to school, their extra-curricular clubs and our family outings!

 

Our kids and teens come from backgrounds of poverty, neglect, abuse and abandonment from all over Mexico and the countries that surround us. They’re some of societies most vulnerable children, which is why this year, our annual fundraiser has two crucial and life-changing focuses.

Our Goals

For 2019, we aim to provide long-term therapeutic and psychological support for those that have experienced imaginable trauma and suffer from anxiety, trust issues and PTSD. We also plan to deliver a number of female and youth empowerment workshops for each one of our kids and teens.

Things like self-defence classes, healthy body image workshops, the importance of consent and respecting boundaries and teen resilience will help to bridge the inequality gap that is often felt within the culture and traditions here in Latin America. It will also help to provide options and raise consciousness for both our girls and our boys when it comes to situations of violence, exploitation, sex and trafficking. All of which sound extreme and serious but are very common threats and issues that our kids face.

What are the statistics?

  • The second leading cause of death for young people around the world (aged 15-29) is suicide, with depression being more common in females than males (5.1% females to 3.6% males).
  • The Child Mind Institute found that globally almost 17 million children have mental-health issues, many of which are never addressed. Our kids and teens face some of the most unimaginable and harsh upbringings with many sufferings from issues like PTSD, anger, trauma and anxiety, all of which is not always obvious from the surface.

Education, job opportunities and the programmes that we provide are amazing for them and allow them to have options as they adult, but psychologically, they don’t always have as many options to recover. Providing them with long-term therapy and support will help them to better understand their experiences, enable conversation and give them the chance to heal.

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  • In Mexico, it’s estimated that 14,000 women are raped every year. That’s 38 women and girls every day.
  • Statistics also suggest that 44% of women in Mexico will face some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, with 91% of these cases going unreported, and of the cases that are reported, not even 8% will end in a conviction.
  • As of 2014, Mexico has the 16th highest rates of homicides committed against women in the world. This rate has been on the rise ever since.

Offering empowerment, raising awareness and enabling conversation with our youth about self-image, equality and rights will help their understandings of their roles in a society that isn’t always fair. Without support, education or knowledge of their rights, our girls’ choices would be limited and their ability to access employment, education and participation in political and public life would be further reduced. The machismo and societal pressures also affect our young boys and men which just adds to the cycle.

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What are we doing?

Over the festive period our first ever ALL FEMALE group of Misión Mexico teenagers, staff and volunteers are joining together to summit Volcano Tacana, Central America’s second biggest peak! At 4,092 meters, the hike takes on average 15 hours and will take over 2 days. It’s going to be a huge challenge for our hikers, but our girls are determined to succeed!

How can you help?

Your donations this year will help fund psychological and therapeutic support as well as female and youth empowerment. Together, the focuses are life-changing, and both approaches will offer our young adults more choices, help our children cope better with their traumas, and help crush the boundaries that they face.

If you are giving from Australia you have the option to take part in Workplace Giving, a simple way to donate direct from your pay, and get your donation matched by your company to double your impact!

If you are giving from the UK and are a UK tax payer, you can opt into the Gift Aid scheme and increase the value of your donation by 25%, at no extra cost to you.

For updates, to follow our family throughout the holidays and for news on the big fundraiser, follow us on;

We’re so grateful and blessed for all of the support and for all that we’ve achieved in the last 18 years. We couldn’t do any of it without you, so THANK YOU! We hope you all have the happiest of holidays and a happy new year!

Love Vanisha and the Mision Mexico family

x

 

A Q&A with Skye and Moacir from Cielo Collective

Introducing Moacir and Skye, the Cielo Collective and the wonderful refuge of Mision Mexico in Tapachula! What do they all have in common? They bring love, life and hope to so many men, women and especially children from Mexico and its surrounding countries. But why is the connection so important? And why are Moacir and Skye such a big part of our family and life here in Tapachula today? For those who can’t wait to hear more, for those who love ethical and sustainable fashion, and for those who just want to give back to the world; we’ve put together a small Q&A about our wonderful Moacir and Skye’s story and their inspiring Cielo Collective! Enjoy!

Hola Moacir and Skye! Firstly, tell us what’s new! How are you? Where are you both? 

Hola!! We are both very well, thank you. We are currently living in Australia, in a beautiful beach side town on the Sunshine Coast called Mudjimba. Skye grew up not far from here and it is close to where I lived when I first came to Australia for a high school exchange all those years ago. It is a wonderful community!

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So, what is Cielo Collective? Where did it all start and why?

Cielo Collective started just 2 years ago, in 2016. When Skye first visited Misión Mexico in 2011, I took her to some local markets in Tapachula. We wandered through the markets for hours talking to the artisans and small business owners there. Skye fell in love with the textiles, hearing about the artistic processes and learning about the traditions behind each piece. It really opened my eyes up to the incredible artistry of my home country. We agreed then that one day we would like to start a business that would allow us to support Mexican artisans but also give back to Misión Mexico.

In 2016 after many years of thinking about it, we made it happen! We flew to Mexico City and travelled down to various artisan communities throughout Mexico and Guatemala. During that trip we met some incredibly humble, inspirational and creative artisans. We were lucky enough to partner with 3 women’s cooperative groups and 1 small family business. We sourced and developed so many beautiful designs that we couldn’t wait to share with the world. Pam also accompanied us on parts of the trip and it was amazing to share the experience with her.

In July we arrived back in Australia with our handcrafted products and launched our online store www.cielocollective.com.au in October. Since then we have been working with each artisan group from afar to develop new designs and perfect old ones and have also connected with more artisan groups that we now work with. We also attend local markets in our area and love sharing the stories of each piece and artisan group with people in Australia and throughout the world.

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What’s the big dream for it all? 

Our dream is to provide our artisan partners with a sustainable partnership so that we can continue working with them and support them into the future. We are growing bit by bit and have been proudly creating more and more designs each year.

We want to share the beauty, skill, spirit and traditions of our artisan partners with the world, so that people all over develop a deeper appreciation for their craft and culture. We also want to continue growing our brand, so that we can not only continue working creatively on something we love, but also increase our donation to Misión Mexico year by year.

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What is the connection with Mision Mexico and why is it so important to keep the connection?

I was rescued by Misión Mexico in 2004. Pam and Alan (mum and dad) gave me a home, a family, an education and a brighter future. Because of them, my life is filled with opportunity, happiness and purpose. Not only did they put me on the right track, but they also gave me the most incredible (and large) family who continue to support me to this day. I am so grateful for everything Misión Mexico has done for me and that is why it is so important for us to give back through Cielo Collective.

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How can we check out your pieces, donate or find out more about Cielo Collective? 

You can check out our pieces online at www.cielocollective.com.au. Here you can read more information about our story, Misión Mexico and our artisan partners as well as blog posts from our travels. We are also on Facebook and Instagram as Cielo Collective.

If you live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, you can see us at the Peregian Beach Markets every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and at the Sunshine Coast Collective Markets every 4th Sunday of the month. We also have a range of clutches available at The Travelling Kimono store in the Noosa Junction. Our home studio is also open by appointment, so you can get in touch through our website or social media channels if you would like to visit.

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And tell us about you two! The big wedding this year? We can’t wait!

Yes!! After 8 years together, we are finally tying the knot! We are so excited that both our families will be together to celebrate, which is so rare. Mum and dad (Pam and Alan) have touched down in Australia and Maria, Lupita and Sammy from MM will be there to celebrate with us too! It is going to be an amazing day filled with love and happiness. We can’t wait to finally be Mr and Mrs and hopefully we can honeymoon in Mexico and celebrate with the kids in Tapachula sometime in the future!

Thank you so much to our wonderful Moacir and Skye for all the great they do, not only for us, but for so many others too! We want to congratulate them again on their wedding, because they’ve since got married! We can’t wait to see them soon! Wishing them all the best for the future and all the love in the world!

Love the Mision Mexico family

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You can watch Moacir’s story here; 

And support Cielo Collective here; 

And support Mision Mexico with these links; 

Life in China

So, I’m officially more than 6 months in to my latest adventure of living back in China and life is flying by. Some days it feels like I’ve just stepped off the plane, and others it feels like I’ve never left. China can be a crazy country, that’s for sure, and I still see things that make me mutter ‘wtf’ under my breath, but let’s be real, coming from a small town in the countryside of England, most places around the world will seem daunting and strange!

 

          People ask me, “Why China?”, and to most people back at home, it seems like a ridiculous choice where everyone eats dog and the government watches your every move. But actually, China is a fairly easy country to live in (once you get the hang of chopsticks and you get past the visa process all you brits). And for the first time in a while, I feel pretty settled.

 

 

But what’s life really like? Here she goes…

  1. I’m surrounded by cheeky little monkeys

Chinese babies and the children in general are of course, the first things that come to mind when I think of China. THEY SO CUTE. The kids are potty trained by the special pants that they wear, so you’ll see lots of little chubby children walking around with their saggy baby butts out, and it’s SO CUTE. The kids I work with are cheeky, funny and pretty darn clever. Their lives as Chinese children aren’t always easy and there’s lots of societal and family pressures, which is why I admire them every day for learning a second language that’s so different to their own. Something I can’t manage to do….

 

  1. I’ve fallen back in love with my hobbies!

China is full of surprises and life in the mega city of Shenzhen is completely different to my village life when I was here 4 years ago. There’s a huge art area, as well as a huge mix of cultures and different events, which has meant painting classes, salsa and dance lessons and meeting people from all around the world who all have similar interests as me. Having the time to do the things I love and being around like-minded people makes me happy and is so good for ma creative soul.

  1. It’s super safe

There’s not many places that I can walk around at 4am, home from the club with my headphones in, phone out and not be looking over my shoulder, but here in China. It’s one of the safest places I have ever been. Overall, crime levels are quite low as repercussions are so severe. Which great news for us girl travellers where safety is always a concern! The Chinese sense of community and culture has meant that I’ve never felt threatened or even uneasy around pretty much anyone.

  1. I ❤ people

Culturally (and in many other ways), the Chinese are quite different to us Brits, and people still do things on a daily basis to shock/annoy me. BUT when you get to know each other, they’re some of the most hospitable and welcoming people who just want to help you, feed you and make you happy. I even have my regulars! Regular dumpling man, regular bread guy, regular BBQ couple, friends behind the bar, you get the jist, it’s the little comforts that make you feel at home! Shenzhen also has a big international community, which has meant that I’ve made some great friends from all over the world, including here in China. And they all love KTV. They’re not a bad bunch.

 

 

  1. My diet of dog…

Not gonna lie, I miss Chinese takeaway and lots of other food because, believe it or not, Chinese food in actual China is so different to Chinese food back at home. The things I’d do for a chicken ball…. It’s not all bad though, they do eat some bizarre things here, but overall it’s generally healthy, there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and veg, and in my city, there’s a tonne of Mexicans, Italians, Indians and delivery places to eat from. And I found good cheese and chocolate! What more could you need?

  1. Learning Chinese is hard but it’s okay

It’s not a language you pick up quickly, actually, it takes a lot of practice and learning, especially when you don’t really need to use it so often. I get by with the use of hand gestures, minimal language and all my fab apps like translator, maps and translator. HURRAH TO 21st CENTURY LAZY LIVIN. But I love living in a country where no one understands you and where you don’t always understand them either.

  1. Shenzhen is fab

The city itself is only around 30 years old, and home to over 10 million people already. It’s super green, clean and modern, and just across the border from Hong Kong! Travel is super cheap, you can ride the metro for like 30p and the buses for 20p. Amazing. You can buy dinner for £1 and there’s mountains here, the sea, huge skyscrapers, you can bike everywhere and there’s so much to see and do. It’s a nice place to live fo sho.

 

 

  1. China has it all

They have cheap buses, high speed rails and cheap flights which means travelling is so easy and you can see and do so much around the country. From huge modern cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, to rural rice terraces in Guilin, pandas in Chengdu, fishing villages, the Avatar mountains and Inner Mongolia, you literally can get sun, snow, mountains and beaches, and everything in between! The country is pretty impressive.

  1. Life is sweet

The Western media and outside views on China are as usual, mostly skewed. It’s not all bad air, over-populated spaces and scary harsh laws. In fact, I live really comfortably here, the skies are blue most days (with the exception of typhoons lol) and although there are many rules, people here make their own, and you know what? It works. China, thanks to modern day technology and apps, is one of the easiest and most comfortable places I’ve ever lived and been in. Sure, it’s a culture shock if you’ve never been to Asia, but generally speaking, life here is pretty sweet.

 

       Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing, but nothing worthwhile ever is, right? It’s far from home and always a risky decision to just up and leave. It’s not where I want to spend the rest of my life but I’m definitely happy here at the moment and that’s worth something. If you’re thinking of packing your bags, I’d say, GO. What’s the worst that could happen? That you hate it and decide to head back home? Be brave and live wildly wherever you may be my huns. And if I still haven’t persuaded you, then at least come and visit me here in China!

 

Get in touch if you have any questions about travelling, living abroad or China!

And catch my adventures on IG @vanishamay

祝你有美好的一天

Vanisha

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Tips for living in China:

  • Download A VPN before you arrive. China’s Government blocks most things that we use (IG, Facebook, Google), so be sure to unlock your phone and get a VPN. I use ExpressVPN 🙂
  • Do your research and don’t get scammed whether it’s with your visa, housing or shopping.
  • Use WeChat for everything. It’s the Chinese version of WhatsApp but 10x better. I pay my rent, find out about events and talk to my friends all in the same app. They’re one step ahead of us.
  • Salaries can be higher and cost of living is lower which means China is a good place to save money if you’re smart about it.
  • Make use of the places around you within China and visit the countries around too! Flights and transport is pretty cheap, and you have to try a sleeper train!
  • Have fun, eat the street food, prepare for squat toilets and don’t drink from the tap huns.

 

For more travel related blogs, check out what it’s like dating in china, my top 10 fave countries ever and many many more in that travel section up the top! Enjoy!

 

A lonely girls guide to being alone

“I like drinking coffee alone and reading alone. I like riding the bus alone and walking home alone. It gives me time to think and set my mind free. I like eating alone and listening to music alone. But when I see a mother with her child, a girl with her lover, or a friend laughing with their best friend, I realize that even though I like being alone, I don’t fancy being lonely.

You see, there’s a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely.

Being alone is power. A power that not everyone is capable of. It’s a state of being. Being alone is something you can enjoy, it’s something you own, it’s something you choose. You can be by yourself and find ways to make yourself smile. You connect with yourself hard. Being alone can bring you so much happiness.

Being lonely is the opposite. It’s an emotion. It’s not positive, it’s silence that hurts and the thought of all the things that you’re missing out from hovers like a black cloud. It’s not enjoyable at all. You can be in a room full of people but feel completely alone. You feel disconnected, and it’s not something you always choose. Being lonely brings you anything but happiness.

I know people that are terrified of being alone, they jump from relationship to relationship and would never imagine going to the movies, or travelling, or eating dinner alone. And I know people that have spent most of their lives in different states of loneliness, being with the wrong partner, spending years of their life alone or even people who travel, moving from city to city with no real roots.

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Sometimes, I am both. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve lived away from home, I’ve been single for a long time and I’m fiercely independent. Most days, I look back at the life I’ve had so far and I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, mostly by myself. I’ll come home from work, back to my little flat in China and close the door behind me. I’ll come home to silence and I look around my room, everything I own is mine and everything I do is for me. Most days I cherish this and am SO grateful for it all. But some days it feels empty and I wonder when I’ll close the door behind me and someone will be so happy to have me home, someone who’ll stick around to share it all with me (read about why travel is ruining my dating life here).

But my point is, I’m not alone, am I? Surveys are finding that more and more people are feeling lonely. And in a time where we’re more ‘connected’ than ever, loneliness is not something we talk about enough, especially if you’re male, a mother, a boss, or anything that might ‘weaken’ your image. But it’s okay to feel like this, I think most of us will at some point of our lives, and I hope you’ll find someone to talk to or a way to get out of it before it drags you down deeper. It’s a dangerous road but there are paths to overcome it all.

“I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.”

6 ways to conquer being alone and the feelings of loneliness:

  1. Firstly, it’s a basic tool but I’ve recently fell in love with this chatroom. Of course, I meet people from all around the world and I have a great support system back at home, but this thing is fab! It’s a safe space with controlled and positive communications. Use it regardless of how you’re feeling, send it to your loved ones and share the hell out of it… https://chat.itskoko.com/
  2. Make plans and find new connections/relationships. Be brave and embrace the good people around you. Human connection is meant to be the key to a happy and long life! Be kinder, love harder and smile bigger. Make plans so you stick to something and so you have something to look forward to. It really is the little things that can make a big difference.
  3. Find positives out of your situation. Like, yeah, I might be single AF (and therefore sometimes lonely) but I get to travel the world, do what I want every day AND starfish every night with no one judging my Netflix choices… just an example. And also, remove anything that triggers your feelings of loneliness like songs from your ex, old photos, you get me, just until you’re stronger.
  4. Find things you enjoy doing, whether it be alone or to meet new people. You have all this freedom, so use it! Discover new hobbies, do things you love and make your life about you. Join classes, the gym, venture out of the house and go for walks alone! It’ll all make you feel better, especially a bit of exercise (this is me convincing myself too)….
  5. Self-love. I’m not sure how many times I’ve used that word in my blogs, but I don’t give myself enough of it and I’m sure if you’re still reading this then you need a reminder too! You are not unwanted, unloved or unworthy. You deserve everything good in this life and this feeling won’t last forever. Remember this. You are your longest relationship, and you have to spend the rest of your life with you! Forgive yourself, love yourself and promise to do better for yourself.
  6. I also recommend reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’. It’s my favourite book in the world. If you’re still reading, you’ll need it. Read it, share it and remember it. He’s a genius.

So, embrace being alone and seek for something different if you’re feeling lonely. And one more thing, be kind, to each other and to yourself. You never know what battle people are fighting, what they must go home to every day or how hard their life has been. Call your mum more often, take your Nanna out for lunch and tell your best friend you love them. You’ll never regret being kinder.

Sending lots of love,

V

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For more reads check out my My 8 steps for healing.Mental health and me: bringing back my power.Mental health and me., and Thoughts of a single gal