Coping with COVID

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

 

It’s my eleventh week in a lock-down life, which means that I’ve spent most of 2020 in a weird limbo situation and my experiences and thoughts on the world, on you and I and COVID-19 have honestly, been through a lot. My eleventh week means that I’m pretty experienced. I’ve seen it all. From my last blog in China to today in the UK, I have a lot to compare and talk about, but actually, I’ve mostly pretty over it all. Our information is SO toxic and so many people around me are struggling to deal with the situation, so I just want to share and help using what I know and what I’ve been doing. For eleven weeks. ELEVEN WEEKS. You’ll go through stages, a buzz and hope, maybe anger, boredom and grief, then more of a content stage, which is where I’m at! I hope this brings you all some positivity and hope.

THE MEDIA IS POOP

I’m gonna start a little rough but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned and how much I hate about western media and our toxic relationship with it all. Stop watching the news, stop sharing stuff over WhatsApp and your IG stories, and don’t take in too much of the ‘well my sister knows someone who lives next to someone who saw 5G and bat soup walk into a bar together….’, it will not make you or anyone else feel better. Every day is different and changing and no-one knows it all right now, not even the experts. And it’s on steroids. Don’t believe it, don’t share it and don’t spread it.

From me to you:

  1. If you want to keep updated, try WHO and the government websites, both of which will change and can’t fully predict it all either, but they’re the important ones.
  2. Remove news channels and apps so you’re controlling the amount you see and share yourself. I don’t even recommend watching the BBC news but that’s me.
  3. If you are curious and feel passionate enough to share something to the hundreds on your social media world, then check the facts of it first. Is it reliable? Is it in context? Is it real? Is it important?
  4. Find other things happening in the world today. There’s lots going on that we’re not hearing about anymore (links below), and there’s lots of ways to make a positive difference and positive news even with COVID. 

Do your best

Since the virus has reached the western world, I’ve seen so much more pressure and shame on how to live through this. Super toxic and annoying. Every day, every person and every country are different and there’s no right or wrong way when dealing with something unexpected and inexperienced. Start a new project and be happy one day, spend the day in bed and cry into your chocolate bar the next. Who bloody cares? Do what you need to do to feel good and to manage.

From me to you:

  1. Try to have some balance. I need days where I switch off and binge Netflix in my pjs alone but if I did that every day, then I’d be super depressed. Try to be proactive and do something you love away from the screen to kill time, bring some happiness and a sense of achievement. Balance bbz.
  2. Don’t compare your time to others and remove anything that makes you feel bad. Social media is just a snippet, it’s not all real. And it can be a source of inspiration, but when your fave travel girl from Bali is posting her lock-down pics in her bikini and her villa, it doesn’t hit the same. Life is different and limited right now, say ‘see you soon’ and mute that.
  3. Do try new things. You don’t need to fill every minute with tasks and hobbies, but this time is rare. Some of us have never had so long at home to ourselves so don’t be scared to try new things, no matter who you are or what you’re used to. Links for inspo at the bottom and will be on my IG.

 

Stay healthy

It’s so easy to fall into bad habits when you’re out of routine and stuck at home. And I’m no angel, but I think it’s about balance and making small additions to be good to your body and mind, especially right now. I honestly hate exercise, but it always makes me feel better and after so long at home, you do notice the bad side effects like neck and back pain… trust me. Even your food intake will affect your mood. I balance the below with things I love. A coffee to wake me up, wine some evenings, naughty food at the weekend and some chocolate every day.

From me to you:

  1. Every day I try to have apple cider vinegar mixed with honey and warm water, a vitamin C, garlic extract and zinc tablet, a heap of natural yoghurt with live bio cultures, plenty of water, sometimes turmeric and warm coconut milk then usually a load of veggies. I don’t enjoy it all but I’m sure my body loves me for it.
  2. Do a workout on YouTube, walk around your garden or do some yoga. I usually like dancing, martial arts and Pilates. And every now and then, stick on some loud music and dance around the room. Immediate happiness and health. Links at the bottom.
  3. Have a bit of a routine. Doing things like showering, putting on make up and doing your nails seems silly when you’re not leaving the house, but it’ll make you feel better most days. Self-care my people, practice that shizz.
  4. Remember that everything you take in, mentally and physically will influence you. A few weeks ago, I read ‘The tattooist of Auschwitz’ and the sequel book, which I loved but maaaan were they dark. Read, watch, do and listen to things that will give you a lift, not a downer. Links at the bottom but please bring me suggestions too!

GO WITH THE FLOW

Lives will change, jobs will change, things will change and lots of it sucks, but it’s happening. To think about the future for some people is scary and uncertain, but it’s not helpful to anyone right now, including yourself. It’s hard but we’re literally all in this together. You’re not alone. And out of all the conspiracies and nonsense, my favourite theory is that this time has come to teach us all what’s really important in life, to take a pause away from our destructiveness and let the world and its people heal, together. Nothing is forever, we can’t control it all and having a ‘whatever happens happens’ attitude doesn’t mean you don’t care, just that you have hope and trust life.

From me to you:

  1. Have hope amongst the uncertainty that new information, happiness and support will come as life goes on. It’s okay to grieve and feel sad but we must have more hope. Live in the present with patience and do what you can today. Imagine how good life and all those little things will feel again soon!
  2. I make a rough plan to try and stay productive, but it changes all the time. Take each day as it comes and don’t try to control anything but make a no pressure plan to keep you excited about things and to give purpose.
  3. Meditate and breathe. I use a tonne of apps (links below) to help me sleep and be calm. My sleep is super messed up right now but again, I try not to feel bad about it. Go easy on yourself.

Count your blessings and be kind always.

Like I said earlier, so many of us have never and might never experience such a time like this again, and though it’s hard, we’re so lucky still. Please don’t feel guilty, just take in with full gratitude and realise how amazingly blessed most of us are. These are the worst of our times, yet the sun is shining, most of us are safe in our nice homes, we have an abundance of food, clean and safe water, electricity, WIFI, working from home or government security, home entertainment, the amazing NHS in the UK and most of us are loved by someone, boy I could go on.

From me to you;

  1. Sadly, many people’s time on earth will come to an end, and the whole world will hurt together. Show more love to those around you today and every day, make phone calls, text people, and give love to yourself. Each day we wake is a blessing.
  2. This awful time has connected us all, yet I still see so much hurt and racism. Call out or report abuse or anyone trying to incite hate and harm. We’re all fighting the same battle, and so many have it unimaginably worse, so practice and create more kindness for all. Fight for the good and lift those hurting.
  3. Now is the time to be better for humanity, to create a better world for us all to go back to and to appreciate all that we have. Let’s practice kindness, patience, gratitude, community, hope, strength and positivity. Let’s create change and learn something from this.
  4. Donate to local food banks, get involved with online quizzes, shop locally, have online mate dates, check in on your neighbours, help charities suffering and all the rest of it. There are so many ways to give back (you don’t have to do them all!) and it will bring you and many others joy. I’ve listed some charities below and causes that I know are especially suffering now.

Wear a mask if you can. Clean your hands regularly and properly. Contact the recommended if you’re feeling the symptoms. Please get in touch with me if you need any tutorials, links, advice , if you can send more recommendations for things or if you just need a little chat.

Stay indoors. Stay sane. Have hope. Look after each other and be kind always.

 

Sending peace and love to you,

Vanisha

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Follow my Instagram at @vanishamay

Art

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcR1TUaD8Zn6P6O8hOA-xYA

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPRuDp5qn2_Q41sE-bfP4uA/videos

https://www.instagram.com/koketit/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMJyHCbGKnUhpuPP0jsZV-w

https://www.instagram.com/kristythepainter/

https://www.instagram.com/gisellefenig/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtwlKDPqmumk_J0tGUVu7A

Mind, Body and Soul

https://breethe.com/

https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/sleep/id1447478883

https://www.calm.com/

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/slumber-fall-asleep-insomnia/id1109543953

https://www.youtube.com/user/popsugartvfit

https://www.todaysthebestday.com/50-things-to-do-for-yourself-during-a-quarantine-coronavirus/

Watch, Read, Listen and Do

https://www.netflix.com/title/80017537

https://www.netflix.com/title/81115994

https://www.netflix.com/title/80160037

https://healthyhappyimpactful.com/how-start-journal/

https://www.happify.com/hd/8-podcasts-that-will-give-you-a-happiness-boost/

https://www.happify.com/public/happify-daily/

https://relaxily.tumblr.com/post/614939036671492096/things-to-do-during-quarantine

Community

https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://helprefugees.org/

https://www.crisis.org.uk/

https://www.shelter.org.uk/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

The Respect phone line 0808 8024040 is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

 

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/

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/

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;

refugee-camp-syria

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

Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

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Dating in China

Once upon a time, in lands far far away, there was a princess. After travelling every corner of the earth and kissing many-a-frog in search of her handsome, clever, bilingual prince, the princess found herself slowly losing hope in her big love adventure. Until one day, in the exotic lands of South China…

 

Dating in a foreign country. Sounds exciting right? And the big quest for love! Ah….

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I imagined that foreigners here would have similar mindsets and experiences as me, with exciting dates filled with stories of adventure, passion, excitement and rides home on the back of a vespa.

Wrong country. But you get the gist. Travel romance is meant to be just like in the movies!

And it is. Sometimes. But as I’m writing, I’m afraid to say, this princess is still very much solo.

 

First lickle problem; everyone knows everyone. All expats and foreigners hang out in the same two spots of my city which means that dating becomes almost incestuous.

China dating lesson number 1: look smoking at all times. You will bump into people at the worst of times. On other dates, at the bar, in the lift…

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Secondly, China is a bit of a limbo land for people. Those on their gap years or the lost souls filling in time (I’ve now been both…fab) and people trying to earn business bucks in an easy-ish to live country. Expats hearts and minds are not so aligned with mine. Not here anyway, and not that I’ve met yet anyway.

China dating lessons number 2: Expats and travellers are two v similar, but different things. Do. Not. Get. Confused.

 

Whilst travelling, I’ve met all sort of people from all cultures, walks of life and backgrounds. The guys I’ve dated from the expat community in China are like no other group I’ve been around. Narcissistic, entitled and uninspiring. Sounds harsh and just plain unfair right?!

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It also doesn’t help that my mandarin sucks, and I’m not fully attracted to Chinese men. So, very limited options over here (which Tinder reminds me of when it runs out of people to search for me every five minute) leaving me so full of hope…!

 

I’ve written about dating/travelling life before (like this one here) but never like this. I am about to give you the 411.

FYI, all names have been changed to protect identities and stories are slightly tweaked to add humour to what otherwise might seem a completely disappointing and sad series of events whilst travelling and finding love. It’s not all so bad my huns but it’s deffo worth a story or two!

 

Let’s start with Jay. Claimed to be a lover of art, coffee shops and all things ‘edgy’.

Went on a date to the art district and all he said was “if the art moves me then it moves me”…  Turns out nothing in life really moved him.

China dating lessons number 3: If someone refers to themselves as edgy, then they’re probably completing the opposite.

 

Then there was Arjun. He was older, well-travelled and quite interesting. At last!

A classic example of someone trying so hard to be ‘individual’ that unfortunately, he was like many people I’ve met before. The opinionated, self-entitled, arrogant, the-world-owes-me-everything-and-I-owe-nothing type of man.

China dating lessons number 4: Never date someone with hair longer than yours, who turns up at the club in 30 degrees heat wearing a Macklemore fur coat and nothing on underneath. Then hits on your colleagues and makes a joke about it afterwards.

I genuinely hope he finds happiness in life and himself one day.

 

Then came Darren. Also claimed to be a ‘creative’ person who loves poetry and travel. We spent our short lived days eating dinner together, watching Netflix and bickering like an old married couple.

Turns out he was also very full of the talk, drama and all-right bizarreness; a running theme here in China!

Like the time he said he was too busy to ‘fix us’ (quote by him a month after meeting), because he was going house-hunting in the Philippines. Sounds exciting right?! An excuse I’ll let you have.

Way to impress!

Except he’s never been to the Philippines, has never bought property, and never even booked the flight or left the city that weekend…

Way to impress…

China dating lessons number 5: People will say anything and everything to impress you, to fill silence, to be people they are not. Actions always speak louder than words my great ppl. 

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Then there’s…

Joe – Basketball player who texts ‘just hitting you up, wyd tonight?’ every now and then. Makes memes of his own face.

Rob – Lives 2 hours away. Thanks Tinder.

Mo – Leaves in a month. Invited himself to stay on my coach on our first date. That date never happened.

Javi – Owns a pizzeria and doesn’t understand people who never travel. Has no interest in pizzas and has barely travelled.

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Dating in China is, well, quite hilarious! And I sound like a serial dater! But, there you have it. It’s exhausting right? Three months in and full of stories already.

 

And as you might know, dating can be tough at the best of times, but in a country where your options are limited and them options are pretty dire, there seems no hope….

 

But there is hope! More lessons to be learned (and re-learned). A note to me from me:

  1. Actions speak louder than words. Especially need to remember when said person has a lot of words. Being in the presence of some of these guys reminded me how much I do for myself and the things I can make happen. Alone. I’m all action, not words. You don’t wanna be with someone who drags you down, un-inspires you or leaves you to do all the work.
  2. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your gut and stop forcing things (even if he’s the only Latino guy you’ve met in months).
  3. If the conversation is all about him, he doesn’t even ask how you are, and he’s fully aware of it, then just say ‘thanks’ and leave. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Not in England, China or Timbuktu.
  4. Never stop trying! I laughed whilst writing this because it’s all quite funny, but it’s all part of travel and life. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re missing out on unless you try and put yourself out there. Do it for yourself and do it for the lols. I’m putting it all in my experience box.
  5. YOU ARE FAB. All on your own. And you are enough. One day you’ll meet someone who’ll have real stories to tell just like you and love every single inch of your crazy life and self. Until then, carry on doing great stuff in this world.

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Nine more months to go. Who knows what life will bring me next?! I’m full of hope… and in the meantime will carry on enjoying my life to the very max and filling it with all different kinds of love, frog kissing and passion! You go do the same too.

 

Stay tuned to find out more and follow my adventures on IG @vanishamay

Have a fab day my loves! Thanks for reading.

V

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Water is a women’s issue.

Believe it or not, water IS a women’s issue. The physical act of fetching water is part of gender inequality. Sanitation, which is a blessing thanks to water, is also a major challenge for those who have no idea what safe sanitation is. That is why I am walking 70,000 steps over the next 7 days for the organisation Care International UK. It’s my first proper fundraiser and my first week of teaching again in China (eeeek!) so it’s a super busy week for me! Plus, I’m new to the city of Shenzhen so all these steps will involve exciting new places and probably me getting lost a lot. But why am I going on about girls and gender inequality again? Who does it actually affect? And what’s the point?

But what about boys that make that same journey?

Someone asked me the other day, “but what about boys that make that same journey? Why is the focus on girls and women?” and I thought this was a brilliant starting point to explain why. Honestly, not many people have donated to the fundraiser yet, hence why I’m writing this blog. And aside from the fact that Care International are a women and children’s focused charity (due to the *crazy* idea that girls can eradicate poverty), perhaps not everyone understands the connection or importance of women and water. So please, you don’t have to donate or even speak to me again, but for your knowledge and for the future of our daughters, please just read this blog.

On a global scale, having better and safer water options helps women and girls in phenomenal ways, which in turn could see the eradication of global poverty.

Here are 10 facts on why water is a women’s issue…

  1. Safe water options reduce violence against girls and women. Walking at the age of 10 years old, along empty paths and across isolated lands means that girls like Ambie are at risk every day from sexual violence and harm. Issues that boys rarely face, and issues that girls face way too often. And in Ambie’s case, she’s just getting water so that her and her family can see another day…
  2. In addition to this, inadequate sanitation facilities like having actual toilets means that girls (especially those in cultures where shame and insecurity play major factors) will wait until it’s dark to defecate and urinate, which in itself causes three big problems – girls can’t go to school, health issues occur where they’re holding in too much for too long, and nightfall increases their risk (again) to sexual violence and harm.
  3. The lack of sanitation in schools for girls also means that when they reach puberty, they’re physically unable to attend school thanks to the facilities being catered for guys.
  4. School performance and school enrolment increases for girls in areas that have safer and better water access.
  5. Reduction in violence, education and work opportunities for girls mean that they grow to be women who will lift not only their families out of poverty, but their communities too. There is a huge correlation between focusing aid and opportunities on women rather than men to reduce poverty levels.
  6. In countries where water remains a problem, women also bear the majority of the housework. This means that it’s a woman’s duty to still walk 3 hours a day in some of the hottest places of the earth, carrying litres of water, and holding her youngest child whilst being 8 months pregnant. That’s not even an exaggeration. It really does happen. And that’s a woman’s problem.
  7. Contamination and exposure to hygiene related diseases such as sepsis and hepatitis means that periods and pregnancy in general can be extremely dangerous for these millions of women and their babies.
  8. This water that’s collected is not even always safe or clean. These women just have no other option but to give contaminated water to their families. As a result, 500,000 children die every year from dirty water, diarrhoea and many more to cholera.
  9. In Africa, 90% of this burden will be carried by women. Girls under 12 years old will be twice as likely to carry this responsibility than boys under the age of 15 years old.
  10. Unless gender is integrated and implemented in targets like safe water for all, then global goals like poverty eradication by 2030 will never be achieved.

And aside from all of that, shouldn’t water be a basic human right for anyone? How lucky are we to turn on a tap and sit on a toilet, thanks to luck and location. Why do millions not have that same basic human right and we have no limits?

 

And on a personal scale…

  1. I’ve attended two women’s marches in the last year, both organized by Care International. Both were filled with inspirational women from all around the world, with inspiring, life-changing and heart-breaking stories. As an organization, I’ve really grown to love their work and believe in the good that they do for the world.
  2. Nearly 1/2 of the world live in poverty, in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. I’ve travelled and seen extreme poverty, worked with children who come from difficult backgrounds and met incredible people who might never receive the same opportunities as you and I, just because of the location, circumstance and luck they were born in to. If there’s anything I can do to change this, then I’m gonna try my absolute best, no matter how small. And you can help too!

How can you help?

There are so many things that you can do to help me and them! You can join me! Or straight up donate to my fundraiser! This is the lovely link….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vanisha-sparks

Or if you really can’t spare even £5 (which will turn into £10 when you donate before the 22nd!!) then you can share this story and link around to your friends and family in hope that it’ll reach more people and I can actually hit my very small target for women and girls all over this world who need it so bad, and who could literally change this planets future given the right opportunities and chances.

So, from Monday 16th April – Sunday 22nd April join me in my 70,000 steps in China. The UK government are also DOUBLING all donations made during this time which is incredible so be sure to click gift aid on all of your donations!

Thanks for reading if you got this far! It’s so important for me and for girls like Precious up there! Keep up with my stuff on Instagram and snapchat this week! You da best.

V

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Research and useful links

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/when-women-no-longer-have-walk-water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/world-water-day-how-women-farmers-can-overcome-drought

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/search/content/water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/walk-her-shoes-journey-no-other

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/gender.shtml

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bEtqZoD4V4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_o_oqEHluw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–uWCAOehOo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfjEcOp-SeQ

10 steps to the best year yet!

YAY! It’s finally 2018. Which usually means nothing to me. I’m not one to shout around “new year, new me” but this new year is an exception. This new year has come at a time where I’ve needed change and a reason to change more than ever before. This new year, I’m all about new focuses, new hopes, and perhaps not a new me but, a bolder, fiercer and better me. And I can’t bloody wait for it all. So, in line with a ‘new year, new me’ comes my New Year resolutions. Here are my 10 goals/resolutions/guidelines for 2018 which I hope may spark some inspiration and oomph for all of you who may need it too 😊

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  1. Do good for your own good

I recently read that being kinder was one of the most life-changing New Year resolutions for anybody to practice. One small deed a day could change a life, including your own. Go out of your way to do something positive in the world like helping a stranger or volunteering. Not only will you be doing good, but you’ll automatically feel good too.

My goals:

  • One deed a day.

Tips: Buy flowers for someone, cook for your family, plant a tree, volunteer, smile at a stranger, campaign more.

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  1. Healthy body

This year I vow to try it all. Yoga, karate, gym, eating less meat, and getting my 5-a-day. Living a healthy life isn’t just about losing weight, but also about being physically fit, and giving lots of love to your body, plus it’s all better for the planet.Last year, I climbed Machu Picchu mountain and it was bloody hard! This year, I want to climb a mountain with less struggle. And it’s also true, a healthy body brings a healthy mind and life, hence resolution #3…

My goals:

  • Join the gym (which I done today, yay)
  • By the end of the year: to feel physically better, lose extra rolls, gain body confidence
  • Climb a mountain

Tips: Join the local gym, make a food plan, walk more, try a new class, buy fresher food.

  1. Healthy mind

My mental health took a bit of a bash in last year, so, this year I vow to do all that I can to move away from that place and into a better, healthier and more positive mindset. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and a healthy life. You’d be a fool not to invest so much into your own self and mind.

I’m going to measure this by –

  • breaking unhealthy habits and placing them with good habits like nail biting (caused by stress and is abso rank) –> Reading, painting, writing (de-stress, get clever, get creative, keep the hands busy).
  • De-cluttering my life, selling old clothes, and living more minimally (check out the documentary on Netflix – Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, it will change your life!). I’ve recently wiped my iTunes too and started fresh with the music and things I listen to everyday. It feels so good to start fresh and get rid.

Tips: Cut down alcohol intake, adapt a better sleep pattern, regulate the time that you spend on social media, write a diary, exercise.

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  1. Know your worth

The tough times from 2017 left me feeling like I was not worthy of being loved, like I didn’t deserve the truth and that people thought it was okay to treat me like sh*t. The lessons I learnt from this? Some people lie, cheat, and will find all sorts of ways to hurt you. That’s life, and that’s them. It’s not a reflection on you. It does not mean that you are not enough, or unworthy or are undeserving of ever being treated well. Not everyone has the same heart as you, and the way people treat you reflects them, not you. YOU ARE A QUEEN. Or a King. And you’ve done incredible things, and you’re an amazing person, and probably achieved a lot more than these people ever will. So, forget them, treat yourself well, find peace, give yourself a break and trust yourself so much that you can erase anyone who thinks it’s ever okay to break any part of you (pep talk to myself right there!).

Tips: This is obviously hard to measure but I’ve just bought a book called You can heal your life by Louise Hay which is dedicated to helping you find your own self-worth, love and acceptance. I’ll let you know how it goes… and if in 6 months time you find yourself erased from my life, sorry not sorry.

  1. Give, give, give! But not to them…

My career and life are both spent giving, which is fine considering I volunteer and have dreams of being in the humanitarian sector. But, does that mean everyone deserves all that I have to give? Ha-ha no. One of the toughest life lessons is knowing when to stop giving. Know the difference between someone who needs, deserves and cherishes the time, attention and love that you give, to someone who is fully taking advantage of you. In 2017, people drained me from all that I had to give until I felt empty. This year, I’m taking all of that back and giving it all to myself and the people who truly appreciate it all, whilst laughing in 2017’s face.

Tips: volunteer, spend time with my loved ones, spend time with myself

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  1. Be bold, be brave and never stop dreaming

The path to achieve my dream job is a long and messy one. It requires years of unpaid volunteer work, which means years of savings to back me up. Hello 2018, my year of money making and saving (made challenging due to my needs of being far away). So, I’ve made the bold and brave decision to move to China, I’ve signed a year-long contract and will be leaving soon to start the next chapter of my life. It doesn’t always have to be so extreme, but never stop chasing your passions. There’s endless amounts of discovery and ways to achieve your dreams.

My goals:

  • Move to a new country
  • Save money to volunteer

Tips: JUST GO FOR IT. Life is too short. Be brave. Go for it all. And realistically, create a savings account, do some research, plan your steps.

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  1. Try new things

Ever seen Jim Carrey in Yes Man? My goal is to be him this year. Obviously not literally, and only to a certain extent, but I want my year to be filled with “oh wells” and “why not’s?” rather than “what ifs”. I want to try everything. And I won’t be scared to fail, which is a lesson I learnt thanks to my great pal, 2017. But, to keep it realistic, my goal is 10 new things. From saying yes to a new food to visiting a new country to trying a new gym class.

My goals:

  1. Joined a gym!                          6.
  2. New job in China                   7.
  3.                                                    8.
  4.                                                    9.
  5.                                                  10.

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  1. Feed the brain

This year, I also vow to keep learning. I want to read more books, I plan to re-start my mandarin, I’d like to blog more, and I want to fill my brain with new things from all over the world. Educate, learn, be productive and stuff the brain. It’s all possible and easier than ever. You’re never too old, or too young, and it’s never too late.

My goals:

  • Update my website and blog more
  • Buy new books to read
  • Cut down Netflix and learn Chinese </3

Tips: Make lists of things you’d like to achieve for daily, weekly and even yearly. Find a book genre that you’re in to, or even watch more documentaries! Research things and never stop asking questions.

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  1. Stay motivated

It’s so hard to stay on track and be inspired when you’re stuck in a rut and life seems to be going wrong on every level. BUT, it’s so important. In 2017, I lost so much focus and inspo that it completely messed me up. Until I found it again. I started reading again, making my lists, getting organised and finding ways to motivate myself again. And now I feel on top form. But just in case…

My goals:

  • Surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you
  • Make lists (like this one) to track progress and give reminders

Tips: Make a power playlist that makes you want to run the world every time you listen to it, remind yourself how phenomenal you are, think about all the greatness you’ve yet to achieve.

  1. LOVE YOURSELF

If you didn’t get the jist already, my 2018 priority is me. I’ve grown, and I’ve changed, and I fully choose myself. All the love, happiness and kindness that I so freely gave out before, I’m giving to myself. Why? Because self-love is the most important kind of love. Because I am going to smash 2018. Because I deserve it all.

And if you’re reading this, you probably deserve it too! Love yourself and love your life HARD. Make some goals, get inspired and make 2018 a wonderful year for you. I am too excited for it all.

Cheers! Here’s to me, you and 2018 🎉

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

Things we forget as tourists…

A Peruvian protest

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world, Machu Picchu in Peru. Our three-day Inca Jungle Trek was fully-packed with activities including biking through the Andes Mountains, mountain hiking and the infamous Inca city of Machu Picchu. However, our trip was full of unexpected surprises too due to the recent protests in Peru which brings me on to my next little rant about things that happen whilst travelling!

 

Our first occurrence with the protesters was on our first journey to the mountains. We had no idea what was going on when the minivan stopped in a road rammed with traffic and was held there for nearly two hours! Turns out the protesters were actually Peruvian teachers fighting for higher wages. They’d been protesting for over 20 days all over Peru, and their main destination were the tourist roads to Machu Picchu which disrupted travel for days and lasted for weeks. Fair enough!

  

Would you work for that?

The teachers were on strike, placing rocks, stones and wood in the roads and on the train tracks leading up to Machu Picchu. They were angry about the fact that the government who receives millions of US dollars thanks to the tourism industry, but Peruvians don’t see a single bit. We ventured out of the minivan to see the lines of hundreds of teachers and protesters and ended up speaking to one teacher who explained how they care, clean and teach doing jobs that they shouldn’t be doing and all for the monthly wage of 210 Peruvian Soles. That’s equivalent to £50.

 

By the last day of our trip the protests had got so bad that the teachers had apparently derailed the train tracks which meant that after a day of mountain hiking and walking around Machu Picchu, Becca and I trekked for another three hours along the train tracks in the dark to the next village to then catch a 7-hour minibus back to Cusco.

 

I won’t lie, the whole thing was pretty tiring, but I was disgusted by the cheek of the tourists around us who had every right to be annoyed by the slight inconvenience, but to display it so openly to the locals and people who tried so hard to help? Who do you think you are? Not forgetting the idiot guy who thought it would be funny to shout to the protesters and joke about whilst juggling in amongst the police and crowds.

 

Think about the teaching staff in our own westernised countries and how we think they get paid pennies (which they do in my opinion compared to some not as deserving occupations!), and then think about receiving 50 bloody pounds a month for all that love, care and demanding work. Nah, sit back down in your air-con minibus, on your £3,000 two-week trip and think hard before you speak.

 

Waiting for karma…

It’s funny, and there’s literally always one person who just never fails to shock you with how they even made it this far out in the world without karma knocking them out first, but the ignorance of some people when they’re in someone else’s lands and lives is unreal. Who do we think we are? Aren’t we forgetting something? That this is their country. And their fight is extremely worthwhile and incredibly important. And at the end of the day, who cares if we had to walk through the jungle and see fireflies with a couple of Peruvian people (turned out to be a highlight of the trip!), the thing that matters is that their voices were heard and that they get to exercise their rights with complete freedom.

Thanks for reading my little rant guys!

You can keep up with my adventure on instagram @vanishamay

Happy travels!

Vanisha

Dreams of Tapachula

Day one in the life of a volunteer!

 

So, I’ve been in Tapachula for 24 hours now and so much has happened already including an evening stroll around the pretty city center which was filled with friendly people, a fair and churros and an emotional goodbye to my big, eventful, backpacking trip as I hopped into a taxi to Mision Mexico. Hello new adventure!

 

My journey here started in January when I was in full stress/productive mode writing my final major project at university in London whilst attempting to plan the rest of my life (and I still have no idea for those of you wondering)!

 

I’m deeply interested in education, aid, crisis, children and women’s rights, and am aiming to spend my life dedicated to the humanitarian sector. So what better way to start than by volunteering?

 

One night in my productive/stress mode, I googled ‘volunteering in Mexico’ and Mision Mexico’s Children’s organisation happened to be one of the first to pop up! And the website was in English (I speak zero Spanish even after three months of being in Spanish speaking countries!), and they were looking for volunteers! I sent an email, had a quick reply back and the rest is history! 7 months later and here I am.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. Dreaming about volunteering, about the start of the rest of my life, and of recently, dreams of Tapachula.

 

I didn’t come with many expectations but my knowledge of Tapachula itself was that it was completely the opposite to the rich, modern city that I’d left behind. A fairly poor and typically Mexican city found on the border of Guatemala, my research told me that poverty, crime and gender inequality were all traits of the area (tiny butterflies in my tummy as a criminology and sociology graduate!) but, so far so good! It’s all quite charming including the people!

Pulling up to the grande casa verde was nerve-wracking! This is it. Here I am. Dreams becoming a reality!

 

I was shown up to my room which is in a separate volunteers house and has its own living space, kitchen, bathroom and balcony! Again, I was pleasantly surprised because I have my own bedroom with furniture and places to put my clothes, and my own fan. All huge luxuries after backpacking! Mision Mexico is full of colour, big palm-like trees and there’s even a volcano in the distance!

 

Everyone was so friendly and gave me space to chill. Good job regarding the lunch that followed a few hours later was filled with heaps of cheeky introductions, lots of little happy faces and many, many new names! Definitely a good way to start the next part of my life!

 

Keep with the adventures here on Instagram @misionmexicovolunteers and @vanishamay and keep your eyes peeled for many more blogs to come!

 

For all those interested in volunteering please don’t hesitate to ask further. Please apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com. We’re in need of volunteers throughout October-December 2017. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

 

Mision Mexico,

Tapachula,

Mexico,

http://www.lovelifehope.com

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**