Veganuary…

And so it began…

I have been a vegetarian since I was 12. At school we could do a project on something we were interested in, my project was on animal cruelty. I remember it very well, I remember it because I couldn’t believe it. Any of it. How we ‘civilized’ human beings could treat other creature so incredibly horrifically with no logical justification. I researched all the different areas and was mortified, I presented my report, collected my excellent grade & decided to become a vegetarian. I was never really much of a fan of meat anyway, all that fat & chewing & bones, was pretty gross – the things I liked the most were woefully unhealthy (McChicken Sandwich, nuggets, sausages, liver, any kind of pie, corned beef) or didn’t resemble meat in it’s purist form so I figured I wouldn’t miss it that much. I didn’t.

At the age of around 22 I tried duck because it occurred to me I never had. It was repulsive. There was an accidental pizza with meat in America that made me so ill I looked as though I was pregnant for days afterwards, and the sausage on a stick incident in Greece, asides from that I couldn’t care less, I didn’t feel like I was missing out at all.

I continued to drink milk (although I am so lactose intolerant, I eventually had to stop this), eat eggs (not that many until the CrossFit phase – oh CrossFit shame on you!) I loved plain yoghurt, I was told by a doctor to try to drink kefir, which I did & loved, and of course there is the big one…. CHEESE, oh how I loved cheese. I did eat fish moderately, mainly tinned tuna to be honest as it’s a handy go to, but meat, nah. Couldn’t care less.

I had read a book a long time ago called Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, which I found extremely inspirational, he had an addictive personality and had triumphed over alcohol,  later becoming 100% plant based. I am not really sure what exactly had stopped me, I gave up drinking for a year so I knew it was in there somewhere, becoming vegan or plant based if you will, didn’t seem nearly as hard as that, but there was something in the way, I needed a push.

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JJ is also vegetarian, he didn’t even eat fish before he was with me. So this year in January we decided to give Veganuary a try. Now as you know we now live in Vietnam, where they are still very behind in terms of animal rights, welfare etc. In some ways I suppose it’s marginally better, factory farms are limited for example, your fish comes from the sea to the table, but in other ways it is so much worse it just seemed a logical step to try it out regardless of the limited foods that are readily available.

So as we had made this decision the next thing to do was re-educate ourselves, it’s a long time since we became vegetarians, since my animal rights project, so things must be better right? We have further evolved in so many ways ‘factory farms banned’ ‘not tested on animals’ ‘free range’ ‘grain fed’ ‘organic’. Right? Er well no, not at all, worse than ever before.

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First of all we watched What The Health and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing, hearing. ‘Animal agriculture is the number 1 cause of greenhouse gases in the world, above all transport. It’s responsible for the deforestation of the rainforests, species extinction, ocean deadzones & fresh water consumption, the pharmaceutical industry sells 80% of all antibiotics made in the United States to animal agriculture, cow milk protein causes antibodies in the blood stream that attack the pancreas……’ I could go on, but just watch the documentary for yourself.

Next we tried to watch Earthlings & Cowspiracy we couldn’t, we were in floods of tears within the first few minutes. A lot of people have said things like ‘but you’ve been veggies for years’ yes we have true – but I was ignorant. One of things I did not research when I 12 was about the dairy industry which is horrific. Chickens and eggs – horrific. I didn’t consider how it all worked, you don’t do you? You think about dippy soldiers in your soft boiled egg, or a lovely poached egg on toast. You don’t think, and this is only partially your fault because in the western world it is set up in such a way that there is no connection and that’s very deliberate. Here it’s bit different. A restaurant that sells pork will have pictures of cute little piggies, beef will have calf, and yeah maybe that’s a bit unpleasant, but it IS unpleasant isn’t it? Yes it is, it’s truly barbaric.

So what happened next? Well, January was a breeze, not one cheat, or slip up, we even said that we would be flexitarians initially, vegan most of the time unless we fancied a bit of fish or something. But no. Something happens to you.

I used to get so annoyed with the ranty vegans on my instagram feed, posting awful videos of animal agriculture, and I still do not think it’s the most effective way to communicate the message, it’s very aggressive, but I do understand; the more you educate yourself the angrier you get, and the stupider you feel for not making this very logical, obvious change a long time ago. I probably would have done this before now, but sadly the stigma that is attached to this group ‘cult’ as some call it, stopped me; I like to go about things in a pragmatic way, not a ranty aggressive way.

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Earthling Ed one of the most captivating animal rights activists I have ever heard speak.

So anyway there you have it.. we decided our love for animals, the planet and ourselves was far greater than cheese, a tuna sandwich, or a nice yoghurt. We are not perfect, there has been the very occasional slip up, cheese on a pizza, sour cream in a burrito, left over chocolate from Christmas. I have a wardrobe full of leather shoes, bags, belts that I am not prepared to part with just yet. But we are 100% plant based 99% of the time & we are works in progress. So there you have it……

I made these vegan slutty brownies for our party at work to prove that not all vegan food was weird, they all went… along with almost all of the rest of the vegan food ❤

Resolutions..

So I was talking to someone about my blog today to which they said ‘is it active?’ This made me feel terribly embarrassed about the neglected blog I had set up with such gusto & excitement, the blog that was to document the trials, tribulations, but mostly (from past experience) to catalogue the numerous, semi catastrophic comedy moments of adjusting to this new life… It also made me think back to my resolutions, 1 of which was blog once a week.

I had a lot of resolutions for this year. I don’t normally bother as I’m very much of the school of thought that if you’re resolute to do something then why not just bloody well do it, but as I wanted to make a fresh start, new country, new job &  after years of travelling around, & feeling transient, finally a new life it seemed as good of a time as any. There is no roller derby here, & sadly I dont have the time to create, coach, run & skate roller derby, so after 6 years of doing nothing but this I have something I forgot even existed… Time. Time to start to do the things I’ve always envied other people for doing. Time to selfishly spend doing things for noone elses pleasure or gain but my own. So I did something totally out of the ordinary & I wrote 2 sets of resolutions (well more like 20 as I kept changing my mind) one set for new year & one set for lunar new year. I made a large number of them when drunk, this is no exception….

Money money Monday

I leave work early on Monday to attempt to get this emergency cash which has gone from being an exciting adventure to a somewhat tedious. I ask my colleague if they can explain to the taxi driver where I want to go & assume after quite a long & drawn out conversation that this has been done. I think we have made it maybe 100 metres before the taxi driver turns to me saying something in Vietnamese. I have learnt quickly that this is pretty standard; I get in, say where you want to go, the driver appears to understand but what actually happens is that then I spend the trip directing using a mixture of broken Vietnamese & google maps. This journey was no different, except surprisingly I managed to navigate all the way there without any google map help. (And as a side note – apart from the time google maps tried to take me through a swamp & lake it has been pretty indispensable at helping me to get around)

I arrive at the bank go in, have no idea what I am supposed to do, thankfully a nice security man pulls a ticket out of a machine – like the kind you get on the deli counter in the supermarket, then rushes over offering it to me, whilst gesturing to sit down. I sit down with the other people waiting, there are screens that tell you which numbers are being served just like Argos I am thinking, when a woman walks in completely ignoring all of this orderly, organised, structured, somewhat British system and confidently bypasses the security guard & ticket, marching straight to the desk of her choice, with absolutely no challenge from anyone. I am sure I grumble out loud..

It takes a really long time before it gets to my number, I anxiously approach the counter & explain to the lady that I need to collect a Western Money transfer. She looks up at me & says ‘sorry’ not as a question just that one singular word – ‘sorry’ and I think oh God they don’t do it, why is she sorry, what is she sorry for, but before this has a chance to escalate to total meltdown status she has asked me for all my details.

2 forms, several photocopies and a series of questioning that would be satisfactory for the likes of MI5, and I have been ushered over to the cashier to collect my money. She comes over with me, it feels like she is keeping an eye and making sure it’s all proper and correct. Needless to say the man in front of me has drawn out what seems like BILLIONS of Dong and is counting every single note, still, I feel less anxious knowing I have made it through all of the tests and all I have to do is wait to collect my money. Soon enough it’s my turn, the machine counts out the money, she then hands it to me and asks me to count it again, I do. I put it in a bag inside a bag, and as I get up to leave she says ‘be careful….. thank you, have a nice day’ I suppose $500 of Dong is quite a lot of money to walking around with in a country where that is more than enough to survive on very comfortable for a month, I think…. and promptly walk straight into the glass door so hard that it rebounds me a good metre backwards across the bank to gasps of horror. I think I shake my head in the recoil, take a deep breathe and attempt the door again. After all of the excitement of the last few days, I am not going to let a door ruin my adventures, so I pull the handle this time, and I am FREE, free from the bank, with some money in my pocket, all of which I managed to sort out by myself with a little help from Jessica in Miami, Florida……

Covert Operation Collect Cash..

So Saturday arrives and I drag myself out of bed and begin the pottering that I have now become accustomed to since my life is not filled with roller derby and CrossFit. I am making the most of this aforementioned pottering and I suspect I have become rather excellent at the art of procrastination in spite of having no television and very limited other time wasting devices.

It has rained torrentially and steadily since I woke up this morning & in the back of my mind & one of the reasons behind my reluctancy to do anything proper is because of the mission that awaits me – collecting my emergency Western Union money transfer. I am sort of hoping that the rain stops, or at least dies down, but in the very short time that I have lived here I have soon learnt that often it doesn’t.

I map out my route noting that it is only a 10 minute walk, the bank is open (according to this website) until 3:30pm I have managed to accomplish pretty much nothing up until this point so decide it’s time to spring.. yes SPRING into action. So I gather my passport my scrap of paper with everything I need written on it, obligatory backpack for stuff I might need to buy, bumbag with phone for music – headphones also for music. I then decide I need to re-write the scrap of paper so it’s legible in case anyone else needs to see it. Yes that’s better now it’s very neat. Flip flops are on, music is on, rain mac on, umbrella up and off we go….

See it’s not so bad, just a little gloomy & wet. Always warm too, so it’s not so bad getting wet when it’s still nice & toasty. I find the bank that’s website promised me it would still be open. It looks very closed, I can see a security guard inside but that looks about it. I try calling them, it rings & rings. I summise that this bank is shut, but as I have now established that I appear to be in some sort of financial area there are many banks. Many banks that are all closed.. Hmmm. I am about to give up when I see one that is open – the door is open – the workers are sat around eating their lunch with a security guy. HOORAY I found one, I walk in beaming ready to get all my money, & am met with gasps of horror followed by the security shoeing me out whilst telling me they are closed. AGHHHH.

That’s it I am defeated. The banks are shut my money will have to wait. I try an assortment of credit cards in numerous cash machines (it’s a bit of a luck of the draw as to which cash machines will dispense money to you at any given time) until I manage to successfully get myself millions of dong, then go & buy some completely unessential nonsense in the supermarket so it doesn’t feel like a totally wasted trip. Then I flip flop my way back across the river thinking how it sounded a lot more exciting when I spoke to Jessica in Miami. I suppose the excitement will have to wait until Monday now.

Stupidity in foreign countries…

Week 2 and my confidence is strong. I have joined a CrossFit box, can direct a taxi to the castle & have located a nail shop less than 7 minutes walk from aforementioned castle. Not 5, not 10… 7, things are going well.

And then… BOOM. It’s not there.

I have searched everything drunk, sober, everywhere… I think back to the storm.. I left the COOP and bravely decided to get my shopping delivered. On arrival at the area where you arrange this I note the trolleys and bags strewn everywhere and wonder if this is normal. ‘Sorry madam so busy, the rain’ the earliest they can deliver is tomorrow, I look at the disorderly mass of other peoples shopping and think that is seems quite probably this will end in disaster, so after some Tetris style repacking utilising every bag I have available to me I drag the shopping to the taxi rank, where one of the security men rushes over to help me with my hundreds of bags, umbrella and god knows what else, jump into  a taxi and thank my lucky stars I was able to get the shopping to it. On arrival at the castle, the taxi driver helps me to unload and we both hear a noise, it’s dark, we obviously both think something has been dropped and scurry around searching the floor of the taxi, the floor floor and finding nothing, conclude it was indeed nothing.

Until NOW. NOW I REALISE WHAT THAT NOISE WAS, THAT WAS MY BANK CARD.. OH GOD…

I speak to HR on the extremely unlikely off chance that maybe they can hunt it down, I speak to the bank, they tell me cancel cancel. I give it a day, the ringing around has been done, the card is gone.

NOW WHAT?!*

I call the bank, I am put through to a man who speaks perfect english with a thick American accent. ‘Welcome to Visa Emergency Services’….. He asks me a lot of questions, tells me I can have emergency cash, I say yes please. He says how much. I say 500 us dollars. There is a long pause.

‘Can you repeat that please?’

‘yeah sure, 500 us dollars’

‘You realise this is a 1 time thing, you can’t repeat it, we advise people to ask for as much as they can afford’

I am sure my brow furrowed right at this point, but seriously, 500 us dollars in this country is and inordinate amount of money, I really don’t need any more than that.

‘Then ok, if you are sure – 500 – is it ok for someone to call you anytime?’

‘Yeah of course’

I go to bed, I am furious with my stupidity, my card is stopped so for now and until I have sorted this mess I am going to have to use my credit cards, I hate having to use credit cards. I must have passed out as I am awoken by the phone ringing:

‘hi my name is Jessica, I am calling from visa emergency services in Miami, Florida – it’s important you remember that as you might need to quote it, you should probably write that down’

Another painful series of questions and I am told that they have made the transfer and I can collect the money from any Western Union Affiliate and just need the reference number she has given me & my passport. I investigate and find out that there are loads of Western Union places really close to my house, several of which are open on a Saturday. I go back to sleep relieved…..