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

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Travelling Thailand

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

 

Explore the islands down South

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

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

Surround yourself in the culture, amazing food and people

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

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

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

Meet the tribes.

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

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

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

Little connections. That’s how we all benefit. 

Ride around the North and hit the temples

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

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

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

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

Lanna Oriental Hotel, Chiang Mai

Freedom Hostels @ Phi Phi, Ko Phi Phi

Good Souls Kitchen, Chiang Mai

Fern Forest Cafe, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

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

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

Thanks for reading guys!

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

Vanisha

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Five steps on how to be single…

Oh you’re still single?

Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone soon!

But you’re so nice!

You’re so old.

There must be something wrong with you.

How do you do it all alone!?

 

The big question.. “But are you happy?!”

Like you can’t possibly be single AND happy. And I won’t lie, there’s obviously times where I’d love to see this world with someone who loves me romantically by my side, but after almost 7 glorious years of being single, I can honestly say that I am happy and that’s all life is really about, right?

 

It’s funny the pressures that the world and your own self put on relationship statuses (read my thoughts on being single gal from three years ago here). You genuinely do have days where you think there MUST be something wrong with you, like finding real love might NEVER happen.

 

But after much thought, many frog kissing and many, many (pretty funny and story worthy) mistakes I am proud to say that I am now a master of being single.

 

So, for all you guys and gals who are sitting at home, questioning whether you’re the problem and fretting way too much about when that big ‘life changing’ love will walk through your door (and for myself in times like this), here’s how ‘people like us’ can be our own life changing loves;

 

1. Find out what you want and what you NEED.

Dating and spending time alone are the two best ways to learn about your expectations and needs when it comes to love, sex and relationships. The majority of dates will be fun filled moments with tonnes of life lessons and the more you date, the more you’ll learn! And as you spend other days truly by yourself, reflecting on your past experiences and learning about who you are, you’ll realise the difference between what you want and what you need, and how to recognise the things that are honestly good for you. This is the luxury of being single. Go out and date people, go out and date yourself, explore everything and try it all.

 

2. Be honest.

I’ve learnt to start saying exactly what I want. No longer do I go on dates and say phrases like “yeah, I don’t want anything serious either”, “No, it’s fine I don’t mind!”, “Sure, let’s keep this on the down-low!” what a load of poo. When you like someone a lot, or when you’re feeling these relationship pressures, it’s SO easy to push yourself aside and just go along anything. But going into anything that starts with lies or dishonesty always ends badly. Obviously. Once you know what you want, be honest with that and with yourself. Respect yourself enough to tell someone when they’ve upset you, when things are not okay and when you’re just not on the same page.

 

3. Focus on yourself. Invest in yourself. Love yourself.

Realise that living life by your own terms is not selfish. People are spending longer being single and taking the time to do what they want in life now. And you deserve everything good and possible in this world! Pamper yourself, treat yo’self and learn to love yourself. I’m currently sitting by the water with Hong Kong in the background, I’ve just ordered my second coffee and I just ate amazing pasta. All alone. And it feels. so. good. It’s hard to remember to actively love yourself, to give yourself attention and kind words like you would to others, but it sure does feel good when you have it figured out. You’ll always deserve that.

 

4. Be patient and don’t chase. What’s meant to be will find its way.

I spent so many years chasing after people who loved the idea of me and the person they thought I was, but it was never enough for them to actually invest in anything serious. After travelling a lot and only having brief encounters, my ideas of love and commitment were altered to lust, settling for less and chasing unhealthy connections. Man, did I learn the hard way. If he’s not texting you, take it as a sign. If he’s not seeing you, move on. Take all of these signs and excuses and be brutal with it. If the other person isn’t like f*ck yes, then let it go. Make boundaries, respect yourself (and them) and know that there will be someone who is better for you.

 

5. Make glorious mistakes and live wildly.

One day, someone will come along and change your life as you know it. So enjoy it all now!! Be fearless, do things alone and travel. Ask a guy out first, see the world with your best friends and take your own damn self out for dates. Life is for living and being single means you’ll probably have less responsibilities and can do whatever the f you want, when you want and with who you want! And once you start, you won’t know any different. I love my time alone and NEED it to keep myself inspired, sane and productive. Chase your curiosity, do things that scare you and live your best life.

  

My life is filled with endless love and as I grow older, my life of freedom just gets better and better. I learn more and more that happiness is something that I create for myself, and that actually, it’s going to take someone pretty amazing to sweep me off my feet. I appreciate me and my life SO much. No-one knows you better than you do, learn about yourself, love yourself and make your own incredible life until someone comes along and fits with all that you’ve created.

 

Peace and love people! Go live yo best single lives 🖤

Vanisha

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Follow my adventures on Instagram at @vanishamay

 

Read some more of my lurrrve and relationships blogs here;

https://vanishamay.com/2018/08/10/a-lonely-girls-guide-to-being-alone/

https://vanishamay.com/2017/02/19/physically-turned-on-emotionally-switched-off-2/

https://vanishamay.com/2018/07/03/dating-in-china/

A lonely girls guide to being alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending lots of love,

V

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

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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How to prevent rape

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

Why didn’t she call for help?

Why does she stay?

How could she go home with him?

Why would she wear them clothes?

She shouldn’t have drunk so much.

She should have said no again.

She should have struggled more.

She shouldn’t have left her friends.

What do you expect?

All the above is called victim blaming which happens so often and in so many contexts that when someone is raped they themselves question whether they were raped or just simply ‘asking for it’.

The world teaches us that we’ve done something wrong. We’re shamed and blamed in to thinking it’s our own fault. We should not be carrying the burden of their actions by ourselves. 90% of us should be given more of a chance.

A situation that is so common, yet almost completely silenced.

A situation where I think I drank too much.

I made a mistake.

I should have tried harder.

A situation caused by greed, power and privilege.

A situation involving not me, just my body.

A situation caused by someone else.

A situation where the only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night is the person that raped me.

how to prevent rape

However, not all rapists are monsters. And not all victims are damaged.

In fact, what is damaging are these labels. These labels do not explain what makes an everyday man lose his humanity for minutes of self-centred pleasure and control. Rapists, abusers and violators are not devils crawling in and out of black holes reaching out to our bodies with one aim in life.

They walk the streets with us, sit in our classrooms, they’re our bosses, our boyfriends, they’re everywhere.

Which is why, to stop violence against women, girls, and everyone else in fact, we need to shift the focus from women and girls and bring men into the conversation. Men need to be part of this movement, and men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

A situation that goes beyond borders, race, religion and status.

It is our job to speak up for the women and girls who are unable. Women and girls who can’t find the strength or are not ready to share their story. Women and girls who live in place where their lives will be in even more danger for saying the words ‘he raped me’.

But men and boys also need to be encouraged to speak up and say ‘I raped her’ in order to change societies blame game, and in order to understand better, in a humane and safer perspective, why men are the solutions and fully responsible for this inhumane global pandemic.

Our voices matter. Our words can create change. But we need all voices, not just the survivors, and not just women.

Each story involves two people. We need to create questions for him, and conversation for her. And we need to give both a space in which we can address this global issue, so that his son does not make the same mistake to her daughter, so we can create a safe world for everyone and our futures.

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So, let’s change the questions;

Why does he hit her?

Why is domestic violence a global issue?

Why are men the main perpetrators to all children, women and other men?

“Why do so many men abuse physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally the women and kids that they claim to love?

What’s going on with men?

Why is this a common problem in society?

Why do we hear over and over again about new scandals erupting in major institutions like the Catholic Church or the Penn State football program or the Boy Scouts of America, on and on and on?

What’s going on with men?” – Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

Rape quotes

This is not a battle or about girls vs boys. We’re all producing this culture and behaviour and we all suffer as a result. How are we all going to stop it?

Let’s talk. Let’s challenge. Let’s end it for all of us.

Hoping for the best,

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p.s this is just 745 words, this is not my whole scope or thoughts or words on the issues surrounding gender, men, women, society, sexual abuse and violence. I want this to be something positive and to create something positive from something that is so disturbingly negative, personal and common. I don’t claim to have all the answers and everyone deals with things differently, but this is just 745 words and for some that’s brave, and a start, and it might just help someone’s life, so let’s hope for change, take care of each other and just be nice.

Below is a list of things I’ve read, watched and resources for anyone who is interested in learning and understanding more about one of our world’s biggest and ongoing problems;

And you can find these on Netflix:

  • The Hunting Ground
  • Audrie & Daisy

And these are some of my other related blogs:

If anyone has any good resources, website links, blog posts or books then please share!

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

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p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

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.

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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

8 Steps to healing by Vanisha May

My 8 steps for healing.

It’s funny, when I think about the person that I was one year ago, it’s as if I’m thinking about someone that I used to know very well. And six months ago, I had never felt so lost and far away from everything that I thought I was. But today, when I look in the mirror I see someone going through growth and change, and I’m really grateful and excited to know that I’m becoming someone different. But the change and growth can be super scary, extremely personal and uncomfortable too. Piecing together the parts of your life that have caused pain and hurt whilst trying to understand how to make peace with it all can be overwhelming and messy. It’s easy to bury it all under a rock, but I’ll tell you now that it will come back to haunt you one day. Embracing the vulnerability and finding ways to overcome all the heaviness in your heart is brave, and the most honest thing you can do for yourself and your life. And trust me, it will all be worth it.

 

So, in classic Vin style, I’ve been doing lots of research, reading and self-therapy, and here are my 8 steps for healing;

  1. Conversation

This sounds simple but talking about what you’re going through is really difficult and brave. You’re probably thinking that people don’t care or won’t understand, but it’s usually quite the opposite and extremely crucial for you. You have to talk about what you’re going through because it helps bring understanding, different views and even answers for you and those around you It’s definitely the first and biggest step. Talk to a friend, family member, counsellor or even braver, the person who might be involved in your hurt. “Those who keep silence hurt more” – C.S. Lewis. Be honest with yourself. You got this.

  1. Be open to change and necessary pain

Sometimes things hurt and it feels like you’re stuck in a black hole that you’ll never get out of. To heal and grow, you have to get to the root of the problem and you might dig deep into things that you thought you’d got rid of and buried. But this is great. Those who experience pain more, experience growth more and love more. Be open to feelings of sadness and hurt for that means you can see it and understand it, and know that you’ll get through it. Life never gives us anything we can’t handle.

  1. Welcome your ghosts then wave them goodbye

Understand that without darkness, there’d be no light. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. People and experiences can cause both pain and happiness. And understand that just like you, things grow and change and nothing ever stays the same. So, make a note on paper or in your head of the things causing you pain and the lessons you think you learnt. That ghost that is ruining your present should be left in your past. You experienced it, you learnt from it and now make peace with it. Let it all go.

  1. Surround yourself with love and joy

Basically stop engaging in negativity and remove yourself from anything that threatens to disrupt your peace. Humans need other humans so, find your people and love them hard. Do things that you love, with the good people that you love and choose positivity and happiness every goddamn day. Because you deserve it and you can have it.

  1. Mindfulness

Live completely in the now and practise mindfulness. If you’re not sure what that even means then do some research in google! But basically pay attention to every single thought and feeling you may have, and just accept it all with no bad or good judgements. There are exercises you can practise that help get rid of anxieties and help balance your mind. Meditation, breathing exercises and appreciation all help. Check out this little list here and try it https://www.developgoodhabits.com/mindfulness-exercises/

  1. Invent and invest

You are the main character in your life ALWAYS. Take a second away from all that energy you give to other people and focus on you. What do you want from life? Who are you? And what do you love? Be creative, explore every option and find your meaning in life. Then bloody go for it! You can be whoever you want to be right now. Invent yourself and invest in yourself.

  1. Do good to feel good

This is a straight forward step and really helps you move away from your comfort zone as well as literally helping yourself and others. Doing good really does make you feel good. So do something good today, for someone else, without reason or agenda. Not only will you feel of use and happier, but karma will love you and bring you more good.

  1. Healthy body = healthy mind

This is so important! Everyone’s on their vegan or veggie tings, and the “hey let’s juice all our foods and lift weights with joe wicks” stages, but there is some sense in it all and it’s great to see so many people eating clean and binning society’s disgusting habits of fast food and dangerous health risks. Eating well and exercising really does lead to a healthier life and mind. I personally love Pilates and have really enjoyed HIIT too, try new classes and see what works for you. Aim for ya 5-a-day too, it’s not a myth, but will genuinely make a difference. There’s so much online – ideas, recipes, weekly routines. Just go for it all.

 

And, that’s it lovers! Below is a little reading list that I’ve put together, check them out. And of course, everyone is different and you’ll find your own ways through whatever it is you might be feeling. But growth is great! It means that you’re changing, developing and not stuck in the same person that you have been. You’re learning and accepting things don’t stay the same, including yourself. Love the flow of life and embrace every growth you experience. This will be the first of many! Enjoy it.

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  • The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama
  • Everything I know about love, Dolly Alderton
  • You can heal your life, Louise Hay
  • Becoming: Sex, second chances and figuring out who the hell I am, Laura Jane Williams

Mental health and me: bringing back my power.

Part Two

“It’s interesting to note that the most kind and courageous souls you meet in life tend to be those who’ve faced the most cruelty and conflict. This vicious world might sharpen us like a blade, but whether we use that power to protect people or cause them pain is always our choice.”  

Beau Taplin

I’ve always been quite aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions. I think about everything, I analyse all situations and I pick apart everything I come across. Sometimes this is a curse, but mostly I’m thankful AF for this mind. I read, I research, I feel and I’m present. But a month ago, I tripped and my mind took a turn and fell into a black hole. I was not present. I read only bad things, tortured myself with negative thoughts and filled my days with unhealthy behaviour. Not good times.

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I read this blog that expressed how anxiety, depression and self-esteem was all an effect of the sick people in our infected society. It said how depression is not a fault of the individual. That probably, and more possibly, it was “all the crap and ideas I’d internalised from other people” which has most definitely been built up over a long period of time. That this didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t just over the last guy who left me in disappointment. But instead this was a build-up of years and heaps of moments of multiple disappointments and sadness and hurt and negativity from my experiences and those around me. I found myself thinking over situations that happened three months ago, and thirteen years ago. Which kinda made sense.

It’s quite possible that although we’re talking about mental health more than ever, it’s also a huge sign that something is going wrong with our lifestyles, the way we live and the kind of people we are becoming.  

“We do not come alone to the idea of being worthless, useless, and that we deserve to suffer…It’s a thing about mental health that needs saying and saying again. Most of us do not fall apart on our own. We fall apart for reasons that are outside our heads. Trying to find a personal solution to this is often futile. If environments are sick, the people in them will become and remain sick. Where people exploit each other, treat each other as worthless, expendable, or mock visible suffering, things only get worse.” – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/anxiety-depression-and-self-esteem/ 

 

However, there is another side to this. And although we do not fall apart on our own, we do decide how long we stay in pieces, we decide what kind of people we want to be and we decide whether we want make our lives and this world a worse or better place. Yes, maybe if people were kinder to each other than we wouldn’t ever feel so worthless. If people acted with more love and understanding rather than their selfishness and ego then perhaps the world would work differently.

But, unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. People are selfish and unforgivable at times. People are not afraid to cause pain if it’s for their own benefit. The world is filled with good people, and absolute horrors. What should be done? We can blame, we can attack or we can understand that although their behaviour is like a poison, they’re minds are probably full of anger, hurt and lack of love, life and empathy. And that’s actually more of a representation on society. And that’s actually quite sad.

Will people disappoint? Yes, it’s bound to happen over and over again. Is this fair? No, of course not, but does the behaviour say more about them than you? Yes, of course.  So, how will my situation change? By myself.

Nikita Gill

I cannot change the way people behave. I cannot change what’s happened in the past. And I cannot change how sick the people in these unfortunate environments may be. But I can change my impact. I can change how I react to these behaviours. I can learn from my past. I can remove myself from these people and I can change my environment.

Two months ago, my mind played on repeat all the times that I felt hurt, along with all the people who caused me even the slightest bit of pain, but now my thoughts have changed to how grateful I am that I am able to see and be different to them. Something went so wrong in their lives (and not always by fault of their own), that they’ve forgotten parts of their humanity and now think it’s somewhat acceptable to treat another human being in an immoral way. I’m grateful that the pain in my life has filled my heart with flowers and not stone, unlike them. Since, my last blog ‘Mental health and me‘, I feel all sorts of power. I see a tunnel which is filled with light, hope and love.

being-both-soft-and-strong-is-a-combination-very-few-have-mastered-quote-1

“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” – I love this.

Although our environments may be filled with sick people, and life won’t always seem fair, we can ultimately choose two sides. To be like them, or to be better. I choose love. I choose kindness and I choose to be nothing like them. Our hearts and minds are different, and I choose to bring more good to this world than bad. How can this world possibly have more bad in it?! It’s easy to hate, and it’s easy to feel full of hate. It’s not so easy to work on peace every single day, but it’s possible. Fight for that everyday. We can decide who we want to be. We can be the good in our environments and impact this world and our lives in ways that some will never be able to. And this has helped my mental health. And this brings me back my purpose and peace. And this brings me back my power.  

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Let’s choose to be the kinder ones, the more understanding and the more loving. A mantra that still applies.

Vanisha

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