The flu made me write this

I’m home sick with the flu and I’ve spent the last five hours looking at flats for rent on SpareRoom in London because I’m being nostalgic as fuck. I’m trying really hard to remember what I didn’t like about London, to resume the feeling I had towards the end of my stay, the itchiness for leaving and travelling and discovering new places, but it just doesn’t come back. I know that when we decided to move overseas I simply I couldn’t stand living in London anymore, but now that I’m here I wonder what the hell was I thinking. Here in Wellington, it feels like I’m stuck in a snow globe and I can see everything happening in the outside world but I can’t take part in it. I mean, I know a lot of shit is happening in the world and this is probably the safest place I could be and people are trying to get away from Europe and the States because of all the horrible things happening there, BUT. I liked being in the middle of everything. As much as hated commuting and Oxford Street and  overcrowded places, at least I was close to the rest of the world. I could fly home in half a day. I just watched a bunch of old videos that I made when I was in London and they reminded me of how cheap food used to be, and yes I know rent was crazy expensive and doing stuff was crazy expensive but you could easily survive on £20 of groceries a week and I could afford to buy books even on a super low wage and this image of myself keeps on coming back to my head and it’s a happy me. The most recurring one is from when I used to live in Homerton and I would cycle into town via London Fields, in the autumn fog. And then, the more I think about it, the more I realise the things I miss are the things I never had. White tiles. Wooden floors. A fancy apartment. Succulents. I have this idea of London that was never real life for me. I’ve always lived in crappy flats, shopped at Primark, had to cycle not because it was cool but because I could hardly afford a Tube monthly pass. And I know that if I were to go back to London, I would find myself in the same exact situation. It would be a thousand times harder to get a job, and I would again end up living in Zone 5 and spending the majority of my time on a jam-packed train. Yet, I long for good old Europe. I miss it. I miss my friends and family. I miss old stuff. Red brick buildings and the smell of history. I miss Broadway Market, and Victoria Park, and the houseboats on Camden canal. I miss Foyles and Paperchase. I miss Cass Art and the record stores. I miss the awareness that if anything cool had to happen in the world, it would happen right there where I was. Here, all I get is quiet and nature. Which I do like, but nothing ever freaking happens here, and I can go for walks and hikes as much as I want but that’s never going to make up for the fact that I do miss city life a freaking lot. And the fact that I’m so far away from my family is really starting to weigh on me. I’m going home in 23 days and it’s going to take me 37 hours to get there. And after a month I’ll be here again, with no idea when I’m gonna go back again. I miss my friends and family so much. In spite of all the good friends I’ve made here. This is so freaking far away.

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The MBAWYAO Series – Episode Two

Disclaimer: I’m not using the word “Manifest” in its strict meaning (“the ability to convert the energy of our thoughts into a newly materialized form”). I’m using it as a way to find out what I want out of life. For more clarity, see Episode One here.

November is here – in spite of me struggling to believe it – which means December is only a month away, which means New Zealand is about to shut down. Christmas time coincides with summer holidays here down under, and during the months of December and January everything is closed and Kiwis disappear.
As a consequence I decided to take a break from sending CVs since I’m pretty sure nobody would get back to me anyway. I’m actually ok with this as I was in need of some time to figure out what I want to do with my life, which partly means trying to determine what my ideal job looks like.

Therefore, welcome to the MBAWYAO Series – Episode Two.

I wrote down a list of all the requirements that my idea job entails and the only thing I learned from it is that my ideal job is a big fat pot of contradictions. I mean, look at it:

  • No set location
  • Human interaction
  • Stable income
  • No dress code
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity

I’m not sure how this is ever going to happen. But this is the space where I let it out, just for me to define my priorities, in the hope that they will one day materialise into exactly the kind of existence I want for myself.

Anyway. My dream job doesn’t have a set location. I wake up in the morning, check the weather, and decide if I want to work outside in the garden or from a cosy café. I get bored really easily, and although I do like a bit of routine, I also need to spice things up and keep things interesting.
My dream job involves creating content. I love writing. And making zines (although I haven’t done that in a while). I’d be sitting at my computer, typing away – about veganism, Zero Waste, travelling, self love – pretty much anything I talk about on here. I’d be creating a community of people who want to talk about the same things I’m passionate about.
At the same time I’d also be able to get off my butt and go for a walk and be active any time I want. I can take a break whenever I feel like, have a day off whenever I feel like, go on holidays and take my work with me if I need the income or say fuck off for a while without the need to report to anyone.
I can wear yoga pants and flip flops or dress up if I feel like it.
In all this, I’d also have a stable income. One thing I don’t like about my current job is being paid by the hour, and never working the same amount of hours every week, and therefore never knowing how much I’m going to get paid. Having a set payday and a fixed (or at least minimum) salary gives me a sense of security.

I know what you’re thinking: get back to planet earth, young lady. Nobody has a job like that!
Well you know what? Some people do. And if I have to dream, I might as well dream big.
Now, problem is: all this seem to imply that I should be self-employed. Unless I find somebody willing to employ me and then leave me there doing my own thing. Unfortunately, I know I don’t have it in me to be my own boss. I struggle at self-motivation and absolutely suck at marketing myself.

So the solution I’ve found for the time being is writing a book.
In my head, this means that I can take my time to do the writing, then either self-publish it or even better have it published by a mega super cool publishing company, and after that I can spend the rest of my life being an acclaimed author, going on tour, writing more books, hosting book signings at Waterstones, and living off royalties. HA.
This combines me doing my own thing and somebody reminding me to do my own thing.

Now that I think about it, being a writer has always been my dream. I guess I’d temporarily gave up on it just because I am aware of how freaking hard it is to get published. But I’ve never stopped writing. And the point of this MBAWYAO Series is to figure out what’s important to me and go do it.
Hope you’ll do it too.

Book review – Motherest

Disclaimer! Minor spoilers.

On my bedside table: Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian

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Why I picked it up: The summary on the back cover mentioned the words “college”, “90s” and “Nirvana”.

What it is about: Agnes is eighteen and in college. Her mother is gone. Already grieving the recent suicide of her older brother Simon, now Agnes has to navigate through her first year of college dealing with another missing piece in her fractured family.
Agnes settles down, and her days are spent going to class, working at the cafeteria, and writing – but never mailing – letters to her absent mother.
She makes friends, like her roommate Surprise, who turns from an inexperienced virgin to resembling a middle-aged woman within one semester, and Joan, a quirky dreadhead who grew up on a farm and makes her own bread and lemonade.
Agnes also starts dating a guy nicknamed Tea Rose, in a relationship that only exists when they are alone, together, but not in the real world.

Things unfold way too fast as Agnes finds out she’s pregnant.
With what seems like not too much reasoning she decides to keep the baby, possibly because she can’t face getting rid of it having been abandoned by her own mother herself.
After college is over, Agnes moves back home to live with her dad. Bearing the loss of a son and wife, Agnes’ dad seems to live in a constant state of hold, for which she feels sorry, sad and pitiful. The two of them share a relationship dotted with inside jokes and affectionate traditions, but they also make sure that inconvenient questions are not asked and uncomfortable topics avoided.

Agnes endures her pregnancy with no idea what to expect. Struggling to accept the evidence, she skips doctor’s appointments, refuses to buy baby supplies, and is confused and terrified by the changes in her own body. Her only source of comfort is Alicia, another teen girl who is also pregnant. The two of them form a temporary bond on opposite sides of the spectrum: Alicia thrilled to give birth to a baby girl, Agnes foreseeing the worst.

Would I recommend it: Yep. This was actually a really good book, although it’s hard to explain why. It’s not eye-opening or mind-boggling, yet I devoured it in three days. It’s an easy read, but it will leave you with a bittersweet feeling and probably a knot in your stomach.

What living away from everything did to me

I have the terrible habit of re-reading old diary entries. I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, through happy times as well as the darkest times in my life, and I’m terrified that Giac will actually keep faith to his promise of publishing all my journals when I’m dead. (The fact that he’s so sure I’ll go first should probably scare me.)
A while ago I was tidying up the chest I keep all my journals in, and inevitably I ended up leafing through a few of them, including the one I was compiling just before moving to New Zealand. Since I had never been, I could only imagine what this place would look like, which was reflected in pages and pages of couldn’t-be-further-away-from-reality expectations. In my ignorant eyes, New Zealand was the place of never-ending summers, where I would live off coconuts and pineapples in my mansion on the beach.
Well.

One thing I got right, though, was that in New Zealand I would be away from temptations. That I knew: New Zealand was not going to be the same as London.
During my five years in the UK, I was constantly bombarded with ads and commercials wanting me to buy stuff; shops and malls were everywhere, promoting thoughtless consumerism. When I lived in Stratford I literally had to walk through Westfield, aka the largest shopping centre in freaking Europe, every single day on my way back home.
I’m contemplating this as I apply a nail polish that I probably grabbed without much thinking during an unplanned trip to Boots over lunch break. This would be a common occurrence in my previous London life: on any given day I would be highly likely to walk into Boots/Superdrug/Paperchase/Lush/H&M/you name it and buy things I didn’t need just because I could.

If I think about any of the possessions I acquired since I’m in New Zealand, none of them has been purchased on a whim.
First of all, I don’t have a stable income now, which is enough to prevent me from impulse-buying anything without mulling it over for weeks first.
Secondly, shopping in new Zealand is lame anyway. I simply don’t like any of the shops here (all three of them). All the chains like Glassons or Factorie, not to mention the infamous Warehouse, sell cheap, poorly made, unethical clothing I don’t want to have anything to do with. There is no such thing as Boots. Makeup is ridiculously expensive. Top Shop landed in Wellington and closed down in the space of less than a year. The first H&M in New Zealand is opening in EIGHTEEN DAYS OMG and although I will admit I am annoyingly excited about that I am also prepared for it to evaporate as swiftly as it appeared as soon as people realise how overpriced it’s going to be #livingonanisland

In my journal entries, I was well aware of my problem with consumerism, and expressed my trepidation of being about to move away from temptations. However, now that I’m here, I’ve experienced something strange. I remember, during my first months in New Zealand, being extremely annoyed by the lack of things. Even in Auckland, the biggest city in the country, I was disappointed with the absence of theatres and museums and shops. I mean, they were there, but they weren’t cool. They were nothing like London. And in spite of me thinking I was ready for this, once in New Zealand I found out that I really wasn’t.
I missed buying things. I missed cool shops like Whole Foods, Ikea, Waterstones and R.E.I. (I’ve been to the States a bunch of times). And those that did make it to New Zealand, like Lush or Lululemon, were so overpriced they brought tears to my eyes.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve been living in New Zealand for over a year. I’ve travelled for a few months, lived in a van, carried all my possessions in a backpack. I got very much into ethical living, Zero Waste, conscious consumerism. I gradually stopped being drawn towards what I would once consider temptations. When I walk down the main street in Welly and I pass shops and boutiques, all I see is useless stuff I don’t even want.
Back in London I would observe people’s outfits and wonder where I could get those clothes and wished I could look like that. Now I can’t help but notice that everybody’s wearing the same Katmandu raincoat and the same Adidas Stan Smiths and all I can think about is how I don’t want to conform to this sad homogeneity or to contribute to a fashion industry that promotes child labour and global warming.
As a result, I have become very frugal. I have bought things, but not without carefully considering if I actually wanted them and where they came from. I pretty much only shop second hand. I haven’t bought a single piece of makeup since I’m here.

And I freaking love it.

I’m pretty sure the initial phase of desperately wanting to buy and consume stuff was a reaction to finding myself in a completely different scenario that I wasn’t ready for, actually realising how freaking far away New Zealand is from everything else, and missing London a lot.
But I got over it, and now I really enjoy living simply. I don’t mind not having fancy kitchenware or house decorations. I’m happy that I can fit all my clothes in the wardrobe without the need for extra storage. Going out to eat has become a treat. I only pay to go to the cinema for films that I really want to see. I check out books from the library instead of buying them (although I have to admit I haven’t completely adjusted to this last one just yet). I still want a stable income but I want it because so I can put money in the saving to go travelling, not because I want to splurge on things I don’t really need.

I’m not saying I completely detached myself from the world of consumerism (a separate post on this is coming soon), but living away from temptations has definitely taught me that you don’t need a lot of stuff in your life, and that a lot of the things you want are probably not things you need. And if I personally surround myself with things I don’t need, I’ll probably end up getting rid of them anyway, so why purchasing them in the first place?

(Having said all this, I also have a list of things I want to buy when I’m in Europe over Christmas. But they are all things I really want and need. But this is a whole other story.)

The MBAWYAO Series – Launch

Hello beautiful people who take the time to read this blog, today I want to talk to you about: MANIFESTING. This is something I keep on hearing about, and at first I was very sceptical because it always seemed to be brought up in relation to crystals and energy and vibrations. So I did some research and it turned out I was right all along: manifesting is horseshit.
If you google “manifesting”, the first result that comes up is this guy’s blog that describes manifesting as “the ability to convert the energy of our thoughts into a newly materialized form.” No offense, Wayne, but that sounds like a whole lot of crap to me.
In fact, I lost interest in my research pretty quickly, and stopped as soon as I thought I grasped the general idea and gathered enough knowledge to write a blog post about it. Basically, from my vague understanding, manifesting means acting as if what you want in life is already happening, until it actually happens. It means funnelling your “energy” and “intentions” into your “desires”, and if your “vibes” are positive enough the universe will give you what you want. (And if it doesn’t, you can always see it as the universe’s “mysterious ways” of letting you know that maybe you didn’t really want that particular thing in the first place.)

Now. I’m a strong believer in working hard as fuck in order to get what you want. I can sit on my ass all day manifesting that I am an acclaimed world-famous travel blogger and that I have long flowy hair and I live in a van in Colorado surrounded by Mexican blankets, but that ain’t gonna happen unless I actually write, wait, move and, well, buy Mexican blankets. Is that manifesting? Because to me, that is called acting.
I understand that, say, if I want to be a writer, then I write and write and write and send and send and send my stuff to magazines and publishers and then one day maybe I get discovered and then maybe I do become a famous writer. But that’s not the universe deciding to help me out, this is me acting towards my aspirations in life.
Is manifesting just a new hippie term for working your ass off?
In my opinion, if you’re using manifesting as an excuse to dawdle around until the universe throws money and success in your face, you’re a lazy bum; if you act as if your life were exactly how you want it to be, you’re working towards it.

Of course the whole energy thing is complete bogus. THERE IS NO FUCKING ENERGY and the universe couldn’t care less about your stupid ass. (In fact, the universe doesn’t care – period. It’s not a sentient being.)
However, I will give you this, Manifestors¹: doing all this research made me want to write down all the things I want in life. AND it made me want to start a new blog segment called the Manifest Series, except of course I don’t really want to use the term Manifest so I’m going to call it the MBAWYAO (Manifest But Also Work Your Ass Off) Series instead. In this segment, which I’m aiming to update once every couple of weeks, I’ll try to explore different aspects of my life, go deep and develop them and find out exactly how I want them to turn out.
Just yesterday I actually grabbed the biggest piece of paper I could find and I wrote down what I want my ideal job to be. Seeing it all there on paper made it so much clearer and real, and helped me realise what I need to work towards (see? Work towards. Not manifest).

I’m going to start off with an easy one: What am I passionate about?

  1. Travelling
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Reviewing books
  5. Teaching languages
  6. Zero Waste/sustainability
  7. Veganism
  8. Basketball
  9. Self love/positive mental attitude
  10. Yoga pants

This was easy because I didn’t really have to think too much about what to write down. I already knew what my interests are. The exercise would be, how am I going to implement them? What am I going to do with them? I’ll probably create a vision board or just print this list out and stick it in a place where I see it often, as a reminder that I should focus my attention on these things, because they are what truly makes me happy.

I’m going to confine manifesting to this: a pretext to and find out what I truly want in life. No crystals, no energy, no vibes. Just another expedient to torture my subconscious and overanalyse my poor synapses.

Hope you’re with me and till next time, fellow rational beings.

¹ I wasn’t sure about the spelling of this so I looked it up and of course somebody else had already come across the same issue. This website made me cringe so bad I almost deleted my blog post all together.

Book review – I’ll Give You the Sun

On my bedside table: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Why I picked it up: I had been going through a YA fiction hiatus and needed an easy, non-committed read.

What it is about: Noah and Jude are twins. Noah the artist is constantly painting, either on canvas or inside his head, is shy and introverted, and is falling in love with the mysterious boy who lives next door. Jude and her cascade of blond hair spend their time surfing, jumping off cliffs and flirting with boys. In spite of being so different, Noah and Jude are inseparable. Until something happens. Except it’s not some thing, it’s a hell lots of things.

Noah and Jude drift apart, facing the fact that their lives are never going to be the same.

The story unfolds into a whirlpool of lies, secrets and hidden truths. As Noah withdraws more and more, Jude constantly feels like she has to save him, save his life, save him from himself. Until their paths cross again, and they both understand the need to join their two halves of the story and find their way back to one another.

Would I recommend it: Yep. This is not your typical YA story. The thing I appreciated the most is that Noah is gay and the book is not about that. He never questions his sexuality, he knows who he’s attracted to and he’s completely fine with it. Also I liked how the mother is portrayed: despite how the twins see her – especially Noah – she’s not perfect: she makes mistakes, she’s part of the problem, she’s one of the reasons the peace gets disrupted. Overall it’s quite a gripping book, not excessively cheesy and definitely deserves all the positive reviews it received.

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t know

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About a lot of things
That instead I know
And I can’t unknow.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the male chicks on the conveyor belt
Gassed, grinded, crushed,
And the piglets’ tails
Cut off with no anaesthesia
And cows being raped
And their babies taken away
So we can drink their milk.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About birds covered in oil
And turtles strangled
By six-pack rings,
And about beached whales, dead,
With a stomach full of plastic.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the Great Reef perishing
And ozone depleting
And ice caps melting.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
How much waste the average household produces
And that you can bring your own container
And how to make your own toothpaste.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know
About the sweat shops
And child labour
And where my clothes come from.

Sometimes I wish I could just live
Without worrying
About all this.
I wish I were able to drink my coffee
In a disposable cup,
Carry my shopping in a plastic bag,
Wipe the grease
From an egg and bacon sandwich
off my lips with a single-use napkin,
Oblivious to the cruelty
And the waste.

Sometimes I wish
I didn’t care.
But I do.

And so should you.