So much experience, so little time – what I learned in Thailand.

I would have to write a novel, no, a trilogy, to convey to you everything that my time in Thailand has given me, which seems quite incredible considering I’ve barely been here for 2 weeks, so I will not even attempt it. This short post will offer a small insight into my favourite experiences of my time here so you might be able to get the gist of what this has been like for me.
I have come to the end of my time in Thailand, and what a phenomenal time it has been In just a short time, I have done so much and immersed myself in so much culture. It’s amazing what you can do when you put yourself out there and embrace your life and take every opportunity presented to you.

I’m currently writing this on a 9 hour overnight layover (oh what joy) in Colombo, waiting for my flight to India, but that’s the price you pay for a more affordable flight I guess, all part of the experience.

So to begin at the beginning, I left home almost 2 weeks ago, absolutely shitting myself as you can imagine. I’ve never done anything like this before and I was going to literally the other side of the world by myself. Whaaaaaaaat. My poor mother could tell how scared I was when she left me and kept calling me at the airport to check how I was! I was right to be nervous and a bit scared cos I knew that even in this short time I’d be forced to face challenges, even little ones, like when things don’t go to plan, and had to use my initiative as a fully functioning adult (lol next joke please) to sort everything out.

As to what I’ve actually experienced, let’s start with the organisation that I volunteered with, GVI (Global Visions International). They have been an amazing leaping off point to surround myself in the culture of Thailand and to give me a bit of handholding at the beginning of my trip (extremely useful for a first time solo traveller going to a completely new country!

 

The specific project that I actually went to work on was with rescue elephants; working with the local village to rehabilitate elephants that had been rescued from camps and such like. Or in GVI’s own words, ‘Support community efforts to help reintegrate elephants into their natural habitat, from their previous lives in tourist camps’.

It was an absolutely breathtaking experience. Not many people have the privilege to experience getting that close to the elephants in their natural habitats. The only other real option to get as close to the elephants as we did is if you saw them in camps or zoos, not the best situation for them as I shall explain.

We not only got to visit, hike with, feed and health check the elephants, we were also educated on the history of the elephants, how they have been treated and seen in the past, how they are treated in camps currently and what learned behaviours that they ‘perform’ are harmful to them e.g. standing on hind legs. We learned how these tricks are learned through the negative reinforcement in the camps, bad diet they are given and the lack of healthcare for them etc etc. More importantly we learned how we could make a difference and promote ethical tourism, which I suppose is what I am doing now. So if you take one thing away from this post it is do not ride the elephants. Their lungs are actually attached to their rib cages so the minute any pressure is put on their backs it greatly inhibits their ability to breathe. A lot of people don’t know that (I know I didn’t) so I urge you if you ever hear your friends say they’re going to ride them please discourage them!! If you must visit elephants, please do your research and find out which ones actually treat the elephants well.

After ethical tourism, most importantly we learned about the elephants bond with their mahout, a villager who stays with their specific elephant and is bonded with them, stays out with them in the field and is essentially their carer, protector and friend. We try to persuade as many mahouts as possible to bring their elephants back to the forest and away from the camps.

The bond that the mahouts have with the elephants is amazing. On one hike, one of the elephants, Charlie, had hurt his leg and within about half an hour, several of the villagers had biked down to where we were to see what was wrong and if they could help. The love that these people have for the elephants is second to none.

Not only was I helping a wonderful cause and learning a lot about the cause in the process, the way the project was structured I have been completely thrown into a another culture with new customs, new language, new way of life and the whole experience has been phenomenal. For example, the first night we arrived in the village, we were thrown into the middle of a celebration of the Karen people.It was the villages end of harvest festival and they had all been drinking since 8am something called rice whiskey, a drink that they make buy and sell themselves (it was super strong and super gross btw) but you couldn’t refuse it, as that is rude in their culture. Consequently, I also learned by first pakinyaw word that day ‘chicka’ which means little haha, chicka chicka whiskey. And in the process discovered that they have their entirely own language that is in no way similar to Thai (super useful I know).

In the middle of these celebrations we took a break for dinner where the people of the village all brought food for a potluck dinner. At the end of which, they villagers blessed all the newcomers and current residents, by tying white string around our wrists (which is now brown coz of all the dust in the village) to keep away that bad spirits and invite the good ones in what is called a gigu.

In addition to all of this, I had a few lessons in Pankinyaw which was super interesting and also had a tour of the village itself which was amazing. I’ve never experienced a village which was so isolated, in the middle of the mountains, literally not appearing on google maps, only 200-300 people, very basic conditions, bamboo/wood housing structures, no hot water, bucket showers, squat toilets, not for the faint hearted!! Really see how the other half live, self contained, had its own school and nursery, a couple of little shops and they worked the fields and the elephants. The women in the village even hand made their own garments which were available to sell (I bought a fair few items!)

Also, the people of the village were not cautious towards us as I had feared. They were glad of the help and the GVI team had create such a good bond with them over the years that they had been there. Each volunteer stayed with their own home stay family who took them in, gave them a bed, and fed them. We even had a cooking class in their traditional style of cooking, which basically meant alllllllll the rice, lots of eggs and then some veggies.

As well as hiking with the elephants, I went on a night hike which was amazing as we were taken by a mahout through the spirit forest, so called as when the babies are born in the village, their umbilical cords are tied to the trunks of the trees in they forest so that their spirits are intertwined with the spirits in the forest (very avatar- esque it seems to me).

I was extremely lucky to be able to experience a corner of Thai culture that is not available to most who visit and wasn’t just thrown into the hustle and bustle of the usual tourism.

I got so many experiences like that it was incredible to have fitted them in in such a small space of time.

I was also lucky that in the week I was with GVI we were offered a trip into the town and then to visit Doi Inathon the highest point in Thailand. Not only is it a beautiful national park but it is also a gorgeous temple. The amount of incredible views and beautiful temples I saw was great, most people only get to see pictures but I managed to experience the whole thing first hand. For pictures and descriptions check out my Instagram.

Most importantly let’s not forget the people that I have met. I have met so many incredible people, from all over the world, people who I had no idea I would meet and ended up travelling on with some! I felt so close to people even after only a couple of days so I can’t imagine how the people who have been on the project for months or even years feel!

In my, albeit currently limited experience, I have found that you tend to get on well with pretty much everyone, as I feel there’s a very niche group of people that would be willing to spend weeks or even months in a dirt village in the middle of nowhere with no wifi and questionable sanitation, getting up at god knows what time each morning to go hiking to look after other creatures…

So, here’s a smidge of what life was like as a first time traveller, in Chiang Mai, however, I will do a full post on my tips, tricks and advice when I have completed my travels and am full of worldly knowledge (hahahahahaha). I was concerned as single girl travelling alone in strange country where I didn’t know my way around but if you’re sensible you’re fine. Everyone I’ve met has been super helpful; check tripadvisor and trust word of mouth of your friends that have been before. As a Westerner they will probably try and charge you more, especially at markets buy usually the prices are still so low it’s not much of an issue. If you find a fixed price stall that takes away the pressure of haggling which I really hate. In the city, you’ll find western food, super cheap food at markets, alternatively go to a restaurant, get a massive really good meal and a drink for under a fiver, had meals that you would easily pay 3 times as much for at home.

However, I’m not going to pretend it was all sunshine and rainbows, although there was pretty much nothing but sun weather wise. I have found some bits hard. Feeling like I don’t have a safe place or a place to call home that I can run back so when it all gets a bit overwhelming. I still have so much to learn, learning not to get panicked at the first hiccup, not to be afraid and feel bad when I’m on my own, not afraid to talk to other people, you kind of have to be ‘that person’ when you’re oh your own. Have to love yourself and your own company, need to learn to let go of the little things that make you angry inside, leave it alllll behind and take a deep breath. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve barely been doing this for two weeks and it’s bound to get some getting used to.

Thailand, you have been incredible and I am sorry to leave but am equally as excited to go to India. I hope my time there will be similar but oh so different at the same time. Peace out.

Confessions of a bookaholic.

Fair warning, this is just a major novel/book/literature/story appreciation post and also partly marvelling at how much they influence pretty much everything.

I love reading, I always have done. It is a huge part of my life and one of the main reasons that I chose to do an English literature degree.

I only really started thinking about this properly recently, how literature, stories, books are such a huge part of our lives. They make up everything. The form the way we think, the way we speak, the way we feel. Even when we are children, everything that we learn are from stories we are told by our parents. Fairytales supposedly shape our moral compass and lessons when we grow up. Our culture, nature and history are all taught through stories, stories round the campfire, stories before bed, even stories we tell each other about what happened the other night.

Some people make the argument that they’d rather just watch a film but seriously, one of the best things about novels compared to films is that there is so much more to novels than meets the eye. There are so many interpretations to be drawn from them so many different ways, it’s one of my favourite things to do. There are so many meanings that can be drawn and finding them all or finding the one that means the most to you in the best part of novel reading.

It’s not only how they influence the world in such a drastic way, people greatly underestimate the power of literature. A good book or story can change how you look at the world, about how you feel about things. Good story telling can change your mood. Make you happy or sad. You can tell someone how you feel through a story.

It’s even more than that though; the therapeutic power of books is astounding. You can get lost in a good book, it can distract you from your life, you can be in another world, lead another life, become another person. If you’re feeling depressed or just a little down, they can distract you from your problems, change your mood and make you feel so much better.

The power of the written word and even verbal story telling is second to none.

‘Spread the love not the hate.’ What I learned from Zigi Shipper, a Holocaust survivor.

When I was at uni, I did a module called Holocaust literature. One of the weeks the lecturer had a Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper come in and talk to us about his experience in Auschwitz and during the Nazi occuptation. You can read the outline of his experience on the Holocaust Educational Trust website. Link below:

http://www.het.org.uk/survivors-zigi-shipper

He spoke to us for over an hour. His experience was heartbreaking and shocking to hear but it conveyed so many important messages. The biggest of which is ‘do not hate’. Hate will do nothing but spread negativity and lead to destruction. Hate is what caused the Holocaust. He spoke about how people asked him if he hated Germans because of what happened to him. He said of course not. The Germans that he meets have absolutely nothing to do with what happened to him in the past. It would be completely counterproductive and ridiculous to hate them now. He asked us what would be gained from hating these people. Absolutely nothing. He has seen firsthand how all that this hate would create was more negativity, more hate, and if that escalated, even more death.

This brave, old man, who has seen so much more hate, death and destruction than many of us could ever imagine, stood in front of a room of the younger generation, as he had done probably for the eighth time that week and begged us; he pleaded, spread forgiveness, spread the love, not the hate. Do not hate, he kept repeating. Do not hate.

 

Below is a link to a transcript of one of the talks that he gave. Not the specific one that I attended but the main story is the same. I do have a recording of the talk I attended, which shall hopefully be uploaded soon, when I work out how to do it.

https://www.atl.org.uk/Images/Zigi%20Shipper’s%20story.pdf

 

if you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

This post is going to be one that, I’m sorry, is slightly philosophical… but also one of the most important things that I think I will ever write and I’m just gonna dive straight in; ask yourself, if you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? And by that, I don’t mean, not turn up to work.

What I do mean is, first of all, don’t go to bed mad with people you could make up with, they could be gone tomorrow… If there is anyone that you wouldn’t want to die without making up with, sort it out now. We don’t know what life is going to throw at us, we could all die tomorrow. You could literally walk out your front door, cross the road and get hit by a bus. I know that sounds dark and pessimistic but it’s true.

That friend who you argued with the other week and still haven’t made up with, that guy you used to be friends with, tried dating and now it’s weird, just sort it out. Talk to them, even just one conversation could make you feel so much better.

Which brings me to my second point, do not have bad blood. It is toxic and will seriously get you down and be a huge negative impact on your life. If you reconcile with those who you have bad blood with, discuss your problems and do not leave things without sorting them out, it will make you feel so much better. You may not even realise that it’s weighing you down but our lives are so busy and what we do is so time consuming, we rarely have time to think long and hard about what may be negatively impacting our lives and moods.

Even while saying this, I understand that there are some things that can’t be reconciled. If feel totally ok even though there are problems between you and someone and you would be totally ok without reconciling with them before you die, then fine. But I stand by what I said, bad blood is toxic and dealing with this will lift a weight you didn’t even know existed.

On a similar but slightly different point, if there is someone that you are in love with or even have feelings for, for the love of God literally just tell them! This links to another post I’m going to write about relationships so watch this space.

Then, if you love someone, tell them. I see so often that people say, ‘oh I have been in love with [insert name here followed by hopeless sigh] for [insert insanely long time]’. If you love someone, and you haven’t told them the most likely reason is that you’re scared of rejection. If they turn you down or say that they don’t reciprocate your feelings, then yeah, it’s going to be really rough for a while. But then at least you know! Not knowing and living in a constant stasis of limbo is going to be even more destroying than the pain of rejection. Then you can move on with your life, time heals all wounds, and you will be annoyed at yourself for waiting so long to address the problem! You will feel so much better, a weight will have been lifted that you didn’t even know that was there. For your own sake, just do it!

Be happy, love life, spread the love and release the hate.

 

Why he’s not texting you back…

Why he’s not texting you back is a question that has plagued us since the dawn of time… well, not the dawn of time, but ya know, the past decade or so. We all want answers but in reality the reasons that he won’t text you back could be infinite, and you could go crazy trying to think of them all. But essentially all these reasons fall into two main categories:

  1. he’s not replying because he doesn’t want to talk to you
  2. he does want to talk to you but there is a genuine reason that he can’t or hasn’t

 

The first one is probably the hardest one to accept but it’s not complicated or convoluted, if he doesn’t want to talk to you, he doesn’t want to talk to you.  Maybe a bit brutal but there you are, he just doesn’t want to know.

There are maybe lots of reasons he doesn’t want to talk to you but one of the main ones is he doesn’t want to appear to come on too strong. This is a male pride thing, ‘treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen’, it’s childish and bullshit but there you have it. And to be honest, if he’s pulling that high school crap then you don’t want a guy like that texting you in the first place.

The second load of reasons is that he can’t, there is the possibility that there is a legit reason that he couldn’t get back to you. He’s got no internet, phone broke, text didn’t get through, there are any number of reasons. But this itself raises problems, like, how the hell are you supposed to tell the difference between if he doesn’t want to talk or wants to but there is a genuine reason he hasn’t.

To combat this problem I usually employ the, 1 double text rule; if he hasn’t replied, it could be for any one of the above reasons, but just to rule out that he actually has a genuine reason and maybe even just forgot, wait a day, even two then either text him something completely different or something like, ‘hey, did you get my text?’ in a casual, aloof way. If he responds like, shit sorry, etc etc then go from there but if not then, sorry to be harsh but it’s now very likely that he just doesn’t want to speak to you.

Also, while you’re waiting for said text, you don’t know if he’s seen the message or opened it or whatever. If you WANT to know, use Facebook or Whatsapp or something that shows you if they’ve seen your message. It just decreases the anxiety a bit of if he hasn’t seen it and that’s why he hasn’t replied or if he has seen it and is ignoring you…

Either way, now you know, it’s always better than wondering and obsessing over it in a state of limbo; you can start getting over it either way. Close the book and move on and whatever you do, DO NOT agonize over it and try to forget it. Better yet, if you are waiting on a reply, I know it’ll be hard but try to forget that you’re even waiting for a text. If you obsess over it and think about it all the time, it’ll drive you mad.

To finish off, my personal thoughts on ghosting; it confuses me. In some circumstances I think its ok, in others I think it’s awful. Sometimes if it’s just a random message off a guy and you just don’t feel like responding, you don’t know them, don’t owe them anything then I feel like not responding is ok. However, if you’ve been meeting up or something, or he’s told you that he will respond and you guys have let’s call it a ‘thing’ then ghosting is not ok, from either side. Even if they’ve lost interest, then anyone should have the common courtesy to say actually ‘nah I’m ok’, even if it is over text and even if it is blunt and rude (which, personally I don’t agree with but it’s better than nothing). At least then you have an answer and you know and you can carry on, opposed to waiting and wondering and feeling listless that it fizzled out.

So lesson here people, don’t just ghost when you’ve got something going with someone, be decent and at least give them a response or an explanation.

 

On a separate note, here’s a link which is related that I think you might enjoy… let me know what you think in the comments!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBte2Ggpt9A

 

 

Confessions of a vegetarian.

Why am I a vegetarian…

For my first blog post I thought I’d start off with a light easy one, vegetarianism. I know a lot of you will probably be rolling your eyes and thinking here we go again but I think it’s pretty important. First of all, I’ll answer some of the questions that people always ask me:

  • No, I don’t judge those or think less of those for eating meat, I think it’d be pretty hypocritical if I did considering I was a meat eater for 20 years…
  • No, I do not get offended if you eat meat in front of me, see above, however I do not enjoy you waving meat in front of my face and making moo-ing sounds…
  • No, I don’t eat fish (that would be a pescatarain).
  • No, I don’t eat chicken… yes it counts as meat…

But the main question people always ask me why I became a vege in the first place. Well I’ve always thought it was a good idea because when I really think about it, I can’t really get my head around eating animals. But what really clinched if for me were a few things. First of all, my housemate and uni made me watch a documentary about slaughterhouses and it made me sick… they showed what they really do to these poor animals, how many of them are killed, how many ‘useless’ animals are killed, for example the male calves that are born are shot when they are just a few days old as they wanted female ones for milk. I posted a video below, be warned, it’s pretty gruesome.

https://www.facebook.com/garytvcom/videos/1070055209716393/

And that’s just one of the many shocking and horrific things that the industry does.

Another thing that clinched it for me was the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. If you haven’t heard, here’s a link to it;

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/yulin-dog-meat-festival-2016-10000-dogs-set-to-be-killed-and-eaten-at-chinese-food-event-a7093321.html

So everyone was kicking off about it and I was there like, yeah I get that dogs are viewed differently in the Western world and are obviously more domesticated but animals are animals, we have the exact same thing over here, but we call them hog festivals, hog roasts… same principal different animal. Another similar situation came up when I was watching Gogglebox a while ago and there was a documentary about animal farms in different countries and there was a piece about rabbit battery farms. Everyone on the show was in outrage and claiming how they were going save all the bunnies themselves. And I thought, hang on a minute, we have, again, the exact same thing over here but we call them chicken battery farms. Why are we so dedicated to the cute animals and not to the other ones. I thought if I am against one, I should be against both and therefore would no longer take part in the industry that contributes to it.

There are also a ridiculous amount of other benefits of vegetarianism. The meat industry in one of the largest contributors to global warming and vegetarianism has huge benefits for the environment. Not to mention the fact that it’s also great for your health and for your bank account. If you literally Google it, there are sooo many articles but I’ve picked out a couple here:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment

http://www.peta.org/living/food/vegetarian-101/

Also, hands up, I dunno how accurate this calculator is but it’s pretty cool:

http://vegetariancalculator.com/

I know I’ll probably get a lot of scepticism for this next comment but I don’t even miss meat anymore. However if there is anything that you really crave or really miss, Quorn will probably do a replacement, they do a ridiculous amount of stuff. And it’s really not as bad as everyone makes out it is, it’s really not, and no of course it doesn’t taste exactly the same, because its grown from fungus, not meat… but yeah, it’s not half bad.

I’ve been a vegetarian for about a year and a half now and considering all the horrifying facts that I’ve discovered about the meat industry, even in the creating of animal products, I’m seriously considering going vegan. I would’ve done it already if it wasn’t such a harder step from jumping from meat eater to vege from vege to vegan. But watch this space.