— David Simon, the creator of The Wire writes “There are now two America’s. My country is a horror show" in The Guardian.
A few months ago, I married a pretty cool fella, and we celebrated with a love party (a.k.a. wedding) and a love fest (a.k.a. honeymoon). Given travel to developing countries is a wonderful, albeit infrequent, part of my job, we were keen to taste a bit of Europe. And by taste, I do mean taste (OMG the food!)
We spent a week here:
And then split our time between Athens, Rhodes and Santorini and Greece. Yes, it was sensational. But what I really want to talk about is our hotel in Athens: New Hotel Athens. Ah-mazing. But I’ll let the pictures doing the talking:
— Tim Winton writing in The Monthly talking class. A lot of this resonates with people I have met from poor communities overseas, as well as the experience of my own family. We are all the same.
Like many Australians, I hate the supermarket duopoly and the nasty business practices they use to get on top and stay there. With 80% of our food dollars going to either Coles or Woolworths - it’s big business. The giants are everywhere! And they advertise hard, primarily using the race to the bottom technique of competing on price.
While this may be good for people who need to save as much as possible on their daily living costs - the damage being done to our food and supply chains is scary.
I won’t go on about it - if you’re reading this, you probably already know a bit about how the duopoly are destroying our food supply and choices.
Happily - my household has found an alternative which we have been using for almost two years now, meaning I’m confident enough that it works to talk about it. A commitment to shopping away from the big two spurred us on to find viable alternatives, and here they are:
Food in the Fleming-Parsley Household:
Fruit and Veg:
- Aussie Farmers Direct deliver our fruit and veg every Wednesday afternoon. They leave it outside our door, which theoretically anyone can come up and take away before we get home, but not once has this happened. I use their pick and pack options most weeks, but also get the fruit and veg box if I’m in the mood for a surprise.
- Terra Madre are on High St in Northcote, at the Westgarth end, and my oh my is this little independent grocery store not the best thing since sliced bread. They stock a huge range of organic things, as well as non-organic things, specialise in bulk goods and non-nasty packaging, and sell my favourite smoked tofu and tamari cheaper than Coles. Their product range is excellent, and there are a range of price points meaning it isn’t just for big spenders, unlike so many other organic/health food stores.
- Bertie’s Butchers on Swan St in Richmond (near my work) is great. I don’t eat meat myself, but the Mr likes it a few times a week. They are super friendly, specialise in ethical meats, and let you pre order and pay on pick up, and they have a delivery service (though I haven’t used it myself).
At first I wasn’t sure it’d work - but two years on, I’m so happy we don’t spend a cent in the duopoly AND it hasn’t cost us more or become more inconvenient. We’re blessed to have some great local options - but perhaps the biggest win of all is getting the fruit and veg home delivered. It means we stick to a budget, only buy what’s seasonal, and always have something in the fridge so it’s saved us many a meal out too.
Best of all, we’re voting for the kind of world we want with our money. Love.
— Patrick Stokes, a philosophy lecturer at Deakin Uni explains why I can’t ever feel as if Skype or a video conference is ‘enough’ in ‘Do You Really Exist Online’, New Philosopher.
It was with great interest I read Posh white blokes: holding back the struggle for a fairer world by Ben Phillips in The Guardian this week.
The article’s main premise follows:
"The evidence is pretty damn conclusive. Posh white blokes aren’t just over-represented in the world of power and money – we’re over-represented in the leadership of the movements challenging that world. There’s nothing wrong with being a posh white bloke. (I’m one, and so are many of my best friends.) The problem – and this is even more painful to accept – is that posh white blokes’ over-representation is holding back the struggle for a fairer world.” - Ben Phillips
In the article, Phillips argues that the movement to end poverty needs more diverse representation within all its ranks - from leadership right down - to truly progress poverty eradication. The whole piece is thoughtful and worth reading, so don’t take my word for it.
As a white, Australian middle class female I often struggle with the same issues Philips raises in many ways. While I’m not a posh white bloke, and I don’t come from a wealthy background, I am acutely aware that my whiteness, my middle-classness, and my Australian passport provide me a level of security I will never understand what it is like to live without.
No matter where I have been traveling around the world, or the development programs I have worked on, or poor communities I’ve visited for an hour or a day or a week or a month, I too have always known the luxury of the accident of my birth.
I’m conscious that my privilege follows me everywhere, and is part of my foundation. It is not only who I am, but also how I experience the world.
And I agree with Ben Phillips, that for the industry I work in - this is a problem.
Which is part of the reason why I decided to return to Australia and work for an INGO in the country I am from.
While I love love loved living and working in a developing country on poverty-fighting projects, I was always so conscious of everything I brought to the table. Despite being less qualified than my colleagues, my opinion would often be asked above theirs in meetings. I was invited time and time again to meetings at a level too high for my qualifications and experience. And yes, this was a great lesson for me in understanding power dynamics, and just how dominated by men leadership is, I can’t help but recognise that I didn’t deserve to be there.
There’s nothing quite like being sick and being able to get some solid reading time in. This weekend as I’ve been firmly planted on the couch, I gave myself over to Isabel Allende who kept me absorbed in the life of Maya Vidal in Maya’s Notebook.
I’m new to Allende so have nothing to compare it too, however I really enjoyed the messages about family, love, the lessons of life and the importance of favours.
"The whole world is magical, Maya"
A touching read, even though some of it is set in the seedy den of Las Vegas. The stories of Chile and the pain of dictatorship are balanced well against a self-caused hell.
And her writing style and phrasing is so warm it almost wraps you up like your favourite rug - better than comfort food.
This week I had the great fortune of seeing Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister and Australia’s first female Prime Minister speak in conversation with Anne Summers at Melbourne Town Hall.
When the tickets went on sale, I knew they wouldn’t last long and I jumped in quick. I’m so glad I did.
Here are three things I took away from hearing Gillard speak:
1. The importance of letting go.
When asked if she had any ill feelings about how she lost the leadership, Gillard responded by talking about her time as a young lawyer listening to people’s work disputes. People would bring in mounds of paperwork justifying the ills which had unfairly befallen them and say “it all started fifteen years ago…’. She learned then that holding on to the pain of unjust things - real or imagined - that have been done to you is a one way road to an unhappy life (I’m paraphrasing here).
2. Humility is a very likeable trait.
The humility Julia Gillard displayed in her concession speech came across very strongly over the television, and in person it comes across even more strongly. Despite rising to the highest seat in Australia (give or take the Governor-General), Gillard still manages to display humility which is very likeable in person. A trait worth emulating.
3. Sexism and misogyny is (obviously) only part of the story
It’s important not to lose perspective of Gillard’s time in office, or the Labor Party’s particularly divided time as the governing party of Australia in the noise of sexism and misogyny. While very, very real and a serious issue for Australia, particularly now we have a government with just one female cabinet minister, Gillard’s time at the top was about much more than gender.
I know that last point is extremely obvious - but I was keenly reminded not to get stuck on this issue, which I could do given how frustrated I am at the lack of women in leadership in Australia and across the world.
All in all, it was such a wonderful opportunity to hear Australia’s first female Prime Minister speak in person, and I’m proud to have supported her in office (if not all the policies of her government, ahem same sex marriage and asylum seekers).
- Al Jazeera via Dawns Digest.
This is why aid and development is SO crucial, the poorest and most vulnerable often get left out of economic success, and the divide between rich and poor grows into gross inequalities.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin
I’ve read this quote a couple of times this week while doing some life-planning, and can’t get it out of my head.
I just don’t agree.
This is unusual as I think Seth Godin is a guru who makes a lot of salient observations about western society. I’m biased, which I want to acknowledge up front, because I love vacations. I love travel. I love ‘escaping’ my world and stepping inside another, unfamiliar world to see how other people live. I’ve just come back from three weeks away ‘escaping’, visiting other places, and generally enjoying a vacation and think it’s some of the best money I’ll spend this year, and also an excellent use of my limited time.
Escaping, travel, vacations, time out, whatever you call it, I believe it’s all essential for a healthy life. Personally, some of my most creative thinking comes while I’m on vacation escaping. On my most recent trip I dreamed up blog posts, took the time to imagine life in six years, and plan a way to make it happen. I learned how much I love Greek food and have been inspired to cook differently at home, which is enriching dinner time. I developed three new ideas to implement when I got back to work to make my work better. I hiked for three hours around the caldera rim of Santorini. I ate freshly grilled fish and drank rose and watched the sun set over the water. I read seven books. I wrote nearly every day. I slept (oh how I slept!). And I connected with my husband deeply, as together we created beautiful memories and anecdotes we can share for the rest of our lives.
It was a beautiful time and I came home energised, inspired, relaxed and ready to launch back into my day job which I also love.
But other escapes have had different outcomes. Jerusalem humbled me with its history and religions winding in and around each other. Visiting Jordan is helping me better understand the Syria crisis unfolding now. Visiting South East Asia taught me about how limited my own understanding of food is. Bangladesh taught me about population density, poverty, the intensity of collective cultures, and the beauty of colour. France and London how connected people became intellectuals and created whole movements of thought and art which continue to influence our world. I could go on.
I also believe there is danger in never escaping your own world, and never being able to appreciate how different the world is in other places. How similar we all are, how poverty affects life, how weather does. What does the world look like, smell like, taste like, feel like ‘over there’? I believe our world is made a better place by people having an increased understanding of how limited our own worldview and life experiences are, and part of escaping my own life is challenging that.
Which helps me in my own life in so many ways.
So sorry Seth, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I believe dreaming of my next vacation (which I’m already doing) is part of building a fulfilling life of which escapism is an integral part.