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; 

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

 

Things to follow:

Things to watch:

 

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

Yesterday marked what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, a day to celebrate a man that dedicated his life to global peace-making and a day to inspire others to continue the fight for what is right. He once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” and I couldn’t agree more! The big legend.

And, I get asked a lot about my volunteer and charity work. How do I do it? Where do you even start? There’s different prices, locations, different work involved, different lengths of time required, etc etc etc. There’s a lot to think about and consider when it comes to changing the world! Drum roll please….

  1. Start with the basics

Find your passions and think about what you’d like to do (or what you’d NOT like to do). There’s literally something for everyone from the usual teaching English and childcare to the unusual like turtle conservation and building with the Maasai Mara. Focus on organisations that resonate with your morals and passions. Research them, make sure they’re legit, follow them on insta and drop them an email, even if it’s just to say, ‘hey great work you’re doing!’, you’ll get to see the response, ask more questions and review their requirements and application details. You can do it!

  1. My first solo trip

When I was 19, all I knew was that something bigger was waiting for me, but like you guys, I had no bloody idea where to start! So, I took to the internet, searched for well-known organisations and booked my flight to Morocco. Volunteering with a well-knoen, global organisation like Original Volunteers, VSO or GVI are great for first timers and pretty straight-forward, but usually come at a high cost. You’ll usually pay for your meals, airport pick-up, in-land help and accommodation, which means that all you have to do is turn up! I went to Marrakesh where there were daily placements for us to choose from such as visiting nurseries, village schools and an orphanage. There was a huge group of us and the organisation ran fun sightseeing trips too. If you’re looking for cheaper options then this isn’t the best way to start, but it’s easy and fun, especially if you’re a beginner, and organisations like OV are worldwide!

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

Visit them here: https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

  1. Exchanges

Help X is an incredible website filled with individuals and smaller organisations that are seeking volunteers and help. Again, the work ranges from anything you can imagine and you can find work in the biggest cities of the world to the highest mountains (probably)! And the great thing about Help X is that there’s no middle man asking for big bucks for your help. Some places ask for donations which you’ll feel like you’ll want to by the end of your trip, but basically, they’ll offer accommodation and meals in exchange for your work. It’s pretty simple and a real great way to travel whilst volunteering. You really get a feel of people’s lives and get involved on a deeper level that you wouldn’t always experience with a bigger organisation.

Where? It’s worldwide but I’ve used Help X in Indonesia and my best gal has used it in Chile and Italy!

What? You can do all sorts! I stayed with a family and helped promote a fathers English School in South Sulawesi. One of the most interesting experiences of my life!

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

Go have a goosey-gander: https://www.helpx.net/

  1. The internet

I swear by google. It’s thanks to me simply typing in ‘volunteer in Kuala Lumpur’ and ‘volunteer in Mexico’ that I found two incredible causes and had the opportunity to visit both. Just type in ‘volunteering in (insert country)’ then email away! Read the websites, follow them and check their values, then just go ahead and message them! I’ll also make a list at the bottom of great people and organisations to follow and check out. Social media is great for this, you can see what organisations are about from your computer screen! Instagram is great too, people will tag and post things of their own experiences. It’s a great tool, use it.

The refugee school that I found in Malaysia is always seeking volunteers. They’re a marginalised group of wonderful teachers and children who are all just hoping for better lives. They don’t get much funding or help in general so travel friends, go drop by and say hey!

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

They don’t have official pages so feel free to ask me for contact details and addresses!

  1. Mexico

Thanks to google. I also found this inspiring group of people! Mision Mexico has been a blessing for me and if you follow my social media, you’ll definitely know these guys! I volunteered with them last year and have continued my work with them ever since! They’re a small refuge for children in the border town of Tapachula, and they depend wholly on donations, volunteers and sponsors. The kids learn to swim, surf and all sorts, so the work needed is pretty varied and they’re always in need of extra hands! It’s a great cause and they’re a fab bunch of people. Read more about life as a Misión México volunteer here.

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

Visit and follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

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And there you have it! Volunteering isn’t easy. The process can be long, expensive and the work itself can be tough, demanding and sometimes emotionally hard to deal with. You work with people who have been through the unimaginable and still manage to smile more times a day than you. And you work alongside people who commit their lives just like Mandela, to making the world a better place for all. It makes you question the world and life and what really matters. And that’s why it’s all worth it! You’ll be forever changed, and the world will be too 😊

I hope you feel inspired and I hope you go do some good today!

Feel free to message me if you have any questions about anything still!

Have a lovely day folks

V

X

I’ve tagged a load of people to follow on my latest post on IG too! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

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Finding home.

 

This year, I’ve found it challenging to define the word ‘home’. After travelling year upon year, with endless amounts of moves, I couldn’t be further from finding ‘my place in the world’.

The last five months, I’ve been living back in my hometown. And most people in the small town that I grew up in have lived in the same four walls for all their lives. I’ve had a total of 6 addresses just in that town alone. On top of that, I’ve spent a year of my life from my backpack travelling Asia, South America and unpacking my bag for a few months in China and Mexico. And more recently, I made my move to London where I stayed for 3 years under 3 more different addresses. And now I’m back ‘home’ but I’ve never felt so unsettled. *update I’m now back in China where I’ve semi-settled, found a new place, have a daily route to work and now have another home address. Deep breath*

So, in my head (and to you), I’ve been trying to work out what and where ‘home’ is. What does home really mean? Have I come home? Do I have to build a home in just one place? Is home even a building? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Or a person? (I know, cliché). Where is my place in the world and why am I struggling so hard to find it?

And you’re probably thinking why it’s so important. What on earth is she talking about now?! But seriously (when I was writing this over the Christmas period when families are supposedly all gathering in their ‘homes’ to spread joy and festive love) I couldn’t help but wonder that this word that people find so much comfort in, this word that’s meant to mean everything, the word we go to when we’re lost or run to for safety. What if someone doesn’t have this word? What do they have? Where do we go? I’m doing all the running, in fact I constantly have one foot out the door, why can I not just bloody settle? *and these thoughts caused me so much anxiety at the time I started this blog but it’s always in the back of my mind as I travel and try to find new places to be. The idea of being ‘lost’ and the pressures to ‘find your place’ can be overwhelming ok. Hence my brain going into overdrive*

Perhaps it’s because in my hometown I feel surrounded by ghosts of people that I left in my past, and memories that I don’t want to revisit, and versions of me that I don’t want to remember. My hometown will never feel like a home for me. And I think that’s the same for lots of people. You never know what people have to go home to. Home isn’t always a happy place. It’s not always safety or comforting. Home can be something we run from.

Or perhaps it’s because I’ve travelled and moved too much. Maybe settling will never be an option for me and that might be okay. I can’t think of one place that I’d want to spend even 5 years yet alone my life. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘home’ yet.

Or maybe it’s because home is a feeling. A few months after I started writing this and I’m in a strange place of between. But I’ve come to more of a conclusion now and feel a lot less anxiety lol. Home is a feeling. A feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety. A few months ago, I thought my childhood and choices in life meant I’d always have the feeling of instability and lack of safety, but, it might not be so bad. Maybe I’m still hunting for my ‘home’, someone to share this beautiful life with and he’ll remind me it’s not the about destination “it’s about the journey Vin”, he’ll say as he commits to a lifetime of journey-ing around the world with me…

Right now, for me, I feel at home in many countries, with many people. I walk around my new city in China and feel familiarity and warmth in people, like the last time I was here was four days ago and not four years. Every day I look forward to the day I’ll fly back to Mexico, the home of Mision Mexico and the people whose lives are still joined with mine. It’s the feeling after a Skype session with my loved ones then seeing them and hugging them after months of being apart. I’ve been on the run around the world leaving parts of myself everywhere. And now, my place in the world is all over the world and that is such a blessing. My home is in me and in my people.

Some food for thought and it’s a good watch!

Ever felt lost or need a chat? Give me a shout!

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

X

p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

My Top 10 Favourite Countries Ever

“To land in foreign worlds, where everything is new and exciting and scary, where you communicate through smiles and hand gestures, where you taste amazing foods and discover new smells, where you make the most life-changing experiences and learn the biggest life lessons.”

As many of you know, I LOVE to travel. And by travelling, I mean backpacking, exploring, fully immersing yourself into new cultures, countries and experiences. Reminiscing through these adventures for this blog has made me feel super lucky and grateful for my life of travel. I’ve worked hard and am super proud of my travel accomplishments and experiences. This world is incredible. And people always ask, “what’s your favourite place?!” which is the most impossible question to answer ever! So, in no particular order, I have managed to roughly give you guys my top 10 favourite places (so far) in the world!

1. Philippines

The Philippines was a dream. The islands were some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen and there are hundreds of them! The people were super friendly and there was so much to see and do. I’d definitely consider going back soon as it’s probably in my top 5 and I feel like there’s much more to explore! One thing in particular that I loved was the lack of tourism and tourists, and because of this the Philippines had so much beauty and authenticity still. It was also pretty cheap!

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2. Mexico

Mexico holds some of my most personal and best memories. It’s full of beauty, colour and great food. People seem hesitant to visit certain areas but I would encourage everyone to visit the country. Every place has it’s dodgy areas but as long as you’re reasonably cautious and vigilant, you’ll probably be fine! Cancun was great if you like resorts and package holidays but because of this and the over-westernisation, it was my least favourite. Tulum was a gem but slightly overpriced, Playa Del Carmen was full of fun, Mexico City was incredible and I loved the city but of course, my favourite was Tapachula; the home to some of my favourite people and Misión México. If you’d like to volunteer, donate or have any enquiries about the refuge then please don’t hesitate to message me 🙂

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3. Italy

Italy will always remain one of my favourite European countries and I’ve loved every city and town that I’ve visited. The food and wine is obviously a winner in itself, but it’s the romantic vibes that make the country a winner. Some of my silliest memories with my fave gal are here, like the time we stayed in an old monk’s monastery, the time we nearly died because we accidentally hiked onto a ski slope, when we bought items rhyming with Pisa for our photo-shoot at the famous tower… I won’t go on.

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4. India

Obviously on my list because of my heritage but also because it’s an incredible and insane country. It has absolute manic and diverse city scopes along with some of the most extreme poverty that I’ve ever seen, alongside absolute beauty, beaches and tropical landscapes. The culture and religion here is deep and adds to all of the beauty. Plus the food is obvs amazing too, which seems to be a running theme here in my top ten!

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4. Malaysia

Malaysia had it all! Beautiful islands, clear waters, culture, great foods, jungles and big cities. It had an incredible vibe and mix of cultures which was just beautiful. I’d definitely recommend visiting Penang, trekking in the Taman Negara jungle, volunteering a couple of your days with these munchkins and visiting some of the islands too.

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6. Peru

Peru was a country like no other. One of the worst bus journeys I’d ever experienced but some of the most incredible adventures. Trekking Machu Picchu, the salt mines, alpacas, the colourful culture and the mega cities, me and B both fell in love with the place. And Cusco was just magical! Literally, it felt like there was just magic in the air at times. We also felt pretty safe here which I know is an important factor if you’re travelling as a girl or alone. You can read more about this trip here.

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7. Brazil

Full of colour, happiness and beauty, Brazil was fun from the get go. Me and B visited a good mixture of places and loved them all. The cities, the islands, it all just got better and better. And there are black beans on every corner! My fave. We went to Rio, Sao Paolo and the heavenly island of Ilha Grande. Safety here is obviously a slight issue, be sure to stay in the touristy areas and don’t just wander accidentally into a favela. Common sense really people…!

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8. Indonesia

Indonesia was a right little adventure. Me and the girls did the usual Bali, Gili T islands, got our diving certificates and did yoga in Ubud, but we also visited some of the non-tourist islands like Sulawesi. Me and Ana did a work exchange there for two weeks, where we stayed with a Muslim family in their traditional home and were really immersed into their ways of life. I learnt so much on this trip. There’s also a place nearby called Tana Toraja which still remains to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It felt like I was an extra in a movie, it was so surreal. You can read more about that trip here!

 

9. Vietnam and Cambodia

Okay, I know technically these are two countries but I feel very similar for both so I’ve grouped them. I also visited both very briefly and at the same time, we managed to get a cheap coach across the border and back! Both countries are beautiful with fascinating and very recent dark histories. The countries are both re-building themselves but you can feel the pain of the past like no other countries that I’ve been to. They both really moved me. And they’re both really beautiful! Cambodia has Angkor Wat and Vietnam is full of beaches, beautiful mountain scenes and pretty little towns. The culture and religion is deep and that’s one of my favourite things to see and feel.

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10. China

China holds a big place in my heart because it was my first solo adventure, and my first working/living experience abroad. As a travel destination, it compares to no other. It’s full of variety, full of unusual sights and a one-of-a-kind culture (which will always surprise you and also make you think wtf on a daily basis!).  There’s so much to see and do, with the North being completely different to the South, plus everything in between. The country is so huge, you could spend a while visiting even the main sights, and that’s on their sleeper/fast trains! Also, you know what else bangs? The food. And of course, I’m back here again, because it’s a great country to live and work too.

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Pretty tricky to come up with just 10 because there’s been so many places that I’ve loved and every place leaves you with a different feeling for different reasons. Travel is one of the only things that I’ve ever been truly sure about and there’s not one moment that I regret. It brings you highs, lows, the biggest life lessons, the best experiences and all sorts of people. Think you aren’t lucky enough to travel? Think again (read more here… ). I encourage anyone to jump on that plane, do not be afraid to leave your hotel room and truly travel and immerse yourself as much as you can! It’ll always be worth it. The world is incredible.

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Special thanks to every single person who has made every single moment in my journeys so special. You da best for crossing ma path.

 

Thanks for reading guys! Give me a shout if you have any questions! Go book that ticket, live ya life to the bestest.

V

x

And follow me and my adventures here on instagram! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/

The Aziz Ansari Case: Sex, consent and common misbehaviour.

CONSENT.

What does that mean to you?

The Aziz Ansari case is why I’m up late writing today. Moving away from the poorly written exposé (click for the original here) and whether the account was true or not, I want to focus on why this story really matters. I want to focus on the root of the problem and how our society is failing women and men, all of which is evident in the reactions of this story. I am so sick of people missing the root of the problem. The whole bloody point is CONSENT (or lack of!) along with the normality and ignorance of common misbehaviour.

And it’s funny because so many people are reading her side of the story and wondering what all the fuss about. People cannot believe that he might be losing shows over something so bloody trivial like a ‘date gone wrong’. So, what if he seemed a bit eager, a bit too aggressive? They’d had a few drinks at his house, she stuck around, she coulda called a cab earlier? A scenario so common that it’s almost too easy to brush it aside because behaviour that is so common, a scenario that so many of us can relate to, is the whole reason that this story highlights how big of an issue consent, sexual assault and the misuse of power is. Something so serious should not be so common.

Life is not a porno. There is no situation where you can sneak into someone’s room, insert yourself in their body while they sleep, and not be violating their human rights. There is no situation where it would be okay if a girl starts by saying ‘no’, but you brush that aside, cos she might not be serious right? and tempt her into sex anyway. There is no situation where if you slide your hand up a girl’s skirt on the dancefloor and assume she’s gonna love it. Why are we still going so wrong in society? Where our behaviour is mirroring what we see on the TV and there are people who think it’s acceptable to be treated like that in 2018 without a full, clear, enthusiastic, big fat given consent?

The New York Times have just released an article headlined “Aziz Ansari is guilty. Of not being a mind reader”. Because when you’re in a situation where someone is forcing themselves on you, celebrity status or not, it’s kinda hard to scream out NO. Because we live in culture where men use sex as their power while women are still not fully heard in life, yet alone in the bedroom. Because the obvious, foundation and bottom line of consensual and therefore enjoyable sex, like asking “you sure you cool with this?” and hearing an enthusiastic “YES give it to me”, is non-existent in this scenario and many others.

I’m actually appalled at Bari Weiss and The New York Times for releasing the shameful article (which you can read here). Let me share one of Weiss’s thoughts that she had whilst reading the story, so you can understand why we still have a disgustingly huge problem in 2018…

“If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door” – Bari Weiss, letting down humanity at The New York Times

Thanks for that tip hun. I’ll take that into consideration for next time…

  1. “If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do?!” WHY is he pressuring me into doing something that I don’t want to do?! What is going wrong in his and her way of thinking that we’re even starting the sentence off with that scenario?
  2. That if played back on CCTV, we could see more clearly where the lines may be crossed but, men are so apparently unaware of their actions that they’re unable to read basic body language and use their own ears?? Should men be excused from reading social cues or do we need to work on their ability to be able to read another human beings body?
  3. Bari Weiss, have you ever been in a situation where you are not in control? When your whole body shuts down because you can’t believe this could be happening, so you physically can’t walk out his front door? Where your ideas of this person being someone that you liked, someone that is respected, someone who you thought liked and respected you too, were completely wrong and now he’s violating that trust with your own body? Where you are not strong and confident enough to shut a man down? When it’s 4am and dark outside, and you feel obligated and under more pressure to stay. Not because you want to, but because you’re there now, and it’s 4 am and it’s dark outside and society tells you not to be “one of them girls” and you’ll be leading him on, giving him mixed messages, when actually, an invitation to his house does not mean an invitation to my body.

Another one that made my whole soul ache was ‘The humiliation of Aziz Ansari” by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. She writes…

“Eventually, overcome by her emotions at the way the night was going, she told him, “You guys are all the fucking same,” and left crying. I thought it was the most significant line in the story: This has happened to her many times before. What led her to believe that this time would be different?

  1. Haha well Flanagan obviously has no hope in mankind, the one thing we have in common. Because we should just expect men to treat us like that? Because it’s happened to her before, so she should behave better? Because we should give up all hope now and assume that every story will lead to an ending where we are not in control of our own bodies and rights? Because he’s not to blame and she should have known? And that makes it all okay?

Flanagan ends her article with…

“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men.”

  1. I’m not a privileged young white woman hun.
  2. And you’re a fool to turn this important conversation around to race. This is not about race. The colour of your skin does not define whether you can mistreat, abuse or assault another human being. It’s not his skin colour that is problematic in this situation and he is not being called up on it because he is brown-skinned. He’s being called upon his actions because he supposedly forced her hand on his dick 5-7 times, whilst she expressed her discomfort and cried all the way home as a result of her whole experience.

Women should not carry the burden of getting ourselves out of dangerous situations. There should not be any dangerous situations in the first place. Men need to start taking full responsibility for their actions. And questioning whether their partner said ‘YES’, and whether she is in a fit and able situation where she feels comfortable or bloody conscious enough to say ‘YES’. There should be no ‘if he pressures you’ or ‘if you’re in a situation like this’ because otherwise we are failing to address the safety of women and the bottom line of his actions and CONSENT. And I’m fully aware that I’m talking as a female and that men do suffer sometimes too, but the reality is that women suffer so much more. Whether you want to hear it or not, women are usually the victims and men are usually the perpetrators. And this needs to change.

Even if Ansari’s alleged actions are not criminally wrong, the story suggest that our society is a mess when it comes to sex. Thanks to porn, clubbing culture, music videos, college culture and machismo culture, boys are taught to treat girls with disrespect, like toys to play with, like objects where a ‘no’ is taken as a challenge. Whilst girls are still unsure whether they can speak up, we sit and take it, wondering if it’s the right time to say no, scared of feeling frigid, and concerned about whether he’ll call you back otherwise. This is not normal or okay behaviour on both parts. We must break these damaging and heartbreaking social norms.

When will it end? Do we need paper consent forms before we have sex? Do we need to challenge our every thoughts and actions? This story, the #metoo movement and all our other smaller stories are so important and a great start, but it is 2018 and it is still not enough. We need conversation, we need justice, we need support and we need change more than ever.

What are your thoughts? As someone who has experienced loving, consensual sex, one-night stands and an experience worse than Grace’s alleged story, it’s the reactions and words of others that have come as a result of hearing her side that have hit hardest with me. It’s a tough subject with many grey areas but there’s something seriously wrong with the fact that so many women can raise their hands and say #metoo

You can check out my related blogs about sex and the hook-up culture here:-

Physically turned on, emotionally switched off. A little look at hook-ups…

Man Up? Man Down

Vanisha

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Instagram and twitter: @vanishamay

Mexico: Día De Los Muertos. Spooky or spectacular? 

Dia De Los Meurtos (or Day of the Dead) is known worldwide as the one of the biggest celebrations of the dead. Festivals, food, flowers and a tonne of skulls and make-up turn the taboo subject of death as we know it in the West into a fun, colourful and completely opposite method of dealing with loss. But is the traditional celebration spectacular or just plain spooky? This year with the children at Mision Mexico, we’ll find out!

 

Four fun facts that you didn’t know about Día de los Muertos:

  1. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd November, not on 31st October! Although the theme is death and it’s closely celebrated near Halloween, the traditions and customs are extremely different. Mexicans create altars (la ofrenda) in their homes and cemeteries to invite their lost ones back down to earth for a huge celebration of their lives! There’s no mourning, fear or sadness, just love, joy and laughter! This is incredibly important for our children also and a lovely way to help with trauma and loss.
  2. Who knows what the food is like in Heaven? Just in case the departed might be missing out on their favourite meals, families make sure to provide heaps of food, drinks and all their loved ones’ favourite things as an offering. It’s also believed that the food will help with the tiredness of travelling from the heavens and back. Pan de meurto and pan dulce (bread of the dead and sweet bread) is usually offered along with atole (sweet porridge) and sugar skulls.
  3. Cemeteries are filled with families, flowers and candles which sounds similar to ours in the west, but you’ll find the atmosphere and behaviour to be in extreme contrast. Children run around playing and families laugh as they share fond memories together. People are at one with death. Life and death come together in the most colourful and uplifting way.
  4. As well as being a fun activity for the day (for the kids and us!), the popular sugar skull face painting has real meaning behind it. Calaveras and Careinas were originally worn and painted on to warn off death. And the holiday itself is an indigenous tradition and recognised by UNESCO.

 

At Mision Mexico, we encourage and celebrate these important traditions and celebrations. “Our altar is still up, and every morning the kids light the candles and have a moment to think about those who have passed. They also spend the day trying to set fire to sticks and paper, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a countrywide tradition!” – Melissa, Fundraising and Events Manager

 

So, spooky or spectacular? I think… Spectacular! How incredible and beautiful to be so at peace with one of the most natural things on the planet. It’s perfect for family time and bringing each other closer to celebrate and remember those we once walked the earth with. And also, a magical time to visit the spectacular country of Mexico!

 

Interested in the dead like I am?

Read my blog about living with the dead in Indonesia. Another fascinating but amazing way of coping with loss and celebrating loved ones along with being one of my most unforgettable travel experiences! https://vanishamay.com/2017/04/28/living-with-the-dead-could-you-do-it/

 

Interested in volunteering at Mision Mexico?

You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’d love to hear from you! Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers

Twitter: @misionmexico

Follow us on Facebook too! https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

 

 

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**