1. I hit a slump and never came back. (Never say never?)
2. I became a full-time primary school teacher and feel weird about how readily available my inner thoughts are (which have been known to include ‘drugs’ and PG encounters)
3. Who knows what’s acceptable for a teacher to say or write.
4. Its an endless game getting Facebook and other social media sights to cooperate and show your content to people. #algorithms #paidposts
5. If I write something good and stats are low I die a little inside. I put so much effort into each post and then Facebook plays hide and seek with it.
6. I became increasingly unsure of my brand and what I was bringing to the table. It became less about travel and more about me and my opinions. Perhaps I needed a new space.
7. But I love my space! Just look at it!
8. If my personal online behaviour and click-through rate is anything to go by……. no-one reads things anymore! So what’s the point.
9. Someone I Once Met was the most continually successful dimension of the blog. Somewhere along the line I lost my nerve writing about people I know and who know me and who I can potentially insult. I need a formula.
10. The haters. People are violent bullies when they have a cyber facade to hide behind. Just like I left South Africa before I became a statistic, did I stop the blog before people said shit I couldn’t handle?
11. I find it very difficult to ignore negative comments/feelings/cybervibes. Things stick with me and ruin my day!
12. I’m lazy.
My problem is first world you say?
Rendering my issue irrelevant, hey.
My privileged life has come to this,
A muffled sound I should make, unless
My problem becomes what you deem worthy
Starving, bleeding, dying, dirty.
A lucky few have never had
to live with tragedy quite as bad
as most of our brothers far and wide
and so my worries I should hide?
My anger, my pain, my suffering re
An ‘irrelevant matter’ (like gluten free)
How dare you feel this way my dear?
Haven’t I made myself quite that clear?
You are not marginilsed in any way
Your house looks out over the bay
Your life is enviable to many degrees
Stop your whining, honey, please.
We don’t care that you have fought
Tooth and nail and are now distraught
About that damn visa or delayed jet
People are starving, don’t you forget.
Just keep keep clam and carry on
You don’t have problems. You hear me? None.
To what degree am I allowed to feel
if I myself have been born free?
According to you it’s guilt alone,
but your criteria are not my own.
When I told my boyfriend that I just had a fight about white privilege with Grethe K*** his response was “Whyyyy?” “Why would you enter into that?”
I just shrugged my shoulders. I guess it felt like the right thing to do? I was in the mood for debate?
In the end morbid fascination got the better of me. I know all too well that these things never leave me feeling wonderful.
Grethe was having a rant about English speakers (read ‘white people’) and how she was fed up with them and their poor attempts to correctly pronounce anyone’s name that’s not English and might be difficult to say (including hers. She is white). Her point being that English imperialism is shit and white people are shit for failing to respect someone enough to pronounce a Zulu, Xhosa or even Afrikaans name the way it is supposed to be.
My response mostly ignored her racially charged rant and suggested that all over the world people find it difficult to pronounce words and names that are unfamiliar to them. That in Spain all B’s are V’s and all V’s are B’ and therefore I am often Bicky in that country. (She loved this point, retorting with my own personalized meme highlighting my white-people problem).
My Korean student the other day said that she hated Jews. After some discussion we came to the conclusion that what she really hated was zoo’s. That damn racist Korean mother tongue. We’re still working on that.
The point I was trying to make was that mispronunciation of names and words is not something only lazy English speakers are to blame for. But after a few back and forths, our deeply connected Facebook friendship came to an end. (calling her a Liberal Nazi was probably the last straw).
A Liberal Nazi is someone who identifies as a liberal (i.e. accepting of other opinions and behaviours different to their own) but in reality is inflexible to opposing ideas and behaviours. There are a lot of these around. Should you encounter one, try your best not to make eye contact and certainly don’t bring up how you truly feel about illegal immigrants.
There is no winning in an argument with a Liberal Nazi. They will eventually accuse you of failing to acknowledge your white privilege, to which you can say nothing. There is no test or way to prove yourself, especially when using Facebook as your platform for battle.
Instead of being open to discussion she began with ‘Victoria you are the worst when it comes to this….” I hammered out a reply, hovered over enter and then backspaced. Wrote something else and backspaced. And eventually went with “How am I the worst?”
I knew then and there though, that I was dealing with someone who judged me for choosing to live outside of South Africa (a common phenomenon). Deciding for herself that I’d left hoping to live with my white privilege in peace. Or maybe she meant I that exploit my white privilege by travelling the globe with initial the help of my parents’ financial support 6 years ago?
Ok, Grethe. (How do I say that?)
According to Grethe, travel is nothing but a slap in the face to underprivileged and marginalized people. That’s the message I received anyway. According to her, my travelling has done nothing for my white-privilege-enlightenment, how could it? I’m too busy flashing my money and pale skin to ever consider the real issue of whiteness in this world.
Then I realised why I had entered into this discussion back when Grethe and I were still floating around each other’s cyber personal space. My gut told me to, and by now I know to always listen. My gut knew there was a lesson to be learnt here. And believe it or not, the lesson was not ‘don’t mess with Liberal Nazis’….. do whatever you want with them, they might explode and that could be fun to watch.
I learnt, not for the first time, that my choosing to live and work around the world has made me a spectacularly enlightened person. If I may say so myself.
Here is a list of times I’ve been made shamefully aware of my white privilege:
A few months ago South Africans began a dialogue about the importance of recognizing your white privilege. Some folks got defensive, but the take home message was this: we’re not asking you to feel guilt necessarily, but simply acknowledge the fact that you have benefited in this world and in South Africa because of the colour of your skin. Just say you understand.
I understand, Grethe.
I’ve realized something about myself lately and it’s that I’m the type of person who chooses the path of least resistance. Quite a random self-realization admittedly, but not completely out of the blue.
You see, I arrived home the other day to a parcel waiting for me. A long awaited parcel. A parcel that contained a coffee-table book I’d been published in, called The Journey. It’s a photographic Journey showcasing a range of amazing train trips across the world. My very own train journey, documented and previously published on my blog, had been hand-picked to feature.
Imagine my surprise when, after ripping open my parcel and excitedly paging through the book, I could not find my piece. It featured nowhere in Asia, where an Indian rail journey would be found. Naturally it occurred under none of the other continents either. Anger, then disappointment, then sadness, the anger again. Had they really strung me along for almost a year? The emailing back and forth, captioning photos, doing a write-up, signing permission forms, sending my address to receive a free copy. Only to axe my contribution at the last minute? Or whatever the hell happened.
I get it – not everything makes it through the editing process. But this experience confirmed something for me, something I’ve know for along time: writers, or any creative for that matter, can be summed up in just a few words – disposable, undervalued and beat down. Of course there’s the constant rejection from magazine, book and online publishers we have to deal with, and lets not forget the fact that as ‘contributers’ we are expected to give our work away for free 95% percent of the time. I’d gotten used to all that. But the lack of decency to remain the least bit honest or transparent on the issue of ‘we know the deal was signed to publish you but unfortunately it won’t be happening this time’ completely bowled me over.
So the path of least resistance comes in where you ask? Well, besides the anger and disappointment, one of my first reactions to this came as a flashback of me trying to organize a second Colorado ski season. It was looking impossible visa-wise and my dream of another season drifted further and further away. Eventually it would seem my only option would be to do it illegally – arrive and remain as a tourist and (hopefully) work cash in hand. I was so desperate to go I considered this option for a bit. But I eventually realized it could all go horribly wrong so I went back to the drawing board to map out a new plan, in a new country.
As it turned out, the path of least resistance in this case was to move to Chile and teach English. There was nothing complicated about the process and I was making a conscious effort to ‘go where I was needed and wanted’ and the USA could stick it.
That year in Chile did two things for me: further fuel my desire to travel and spark my interest in teaching. The desire to travel was the stronger of the two and was accompanied by an equally strong desire to write about those travels. ‘I’ll become a travel writer’ I said. Turns out, travel writers are expected to contribute in exchange for the grand total of zero dollars – and as for making money from a blog…. Lets just say that’s not exactly resistance free, to say the least.
And so, over the years, I’ve leaned more and more towards the teaching. Because, who would ever think of asking a teacher to contribute to society without monetary reward? Of course, a child’s education is of greater importance than an entertaining or insightful written piece. I get that, I really do. But so do the publishers. They know very well that writers are desperate for recognition. They know they’ll contribute for free thinking that one day it’ll pay off with some recognition and maybe a measly payment. I’ve known this all along, but my recent ‘here’s your free copy of a book you’re actually not published in’ experience really just put things into perspective for me. The world, especially publishers, don’t give a shit about writers. They care about money, and their business models simply don’t not include paying the talent.
At the end of the day, the path of least resistance works for me because I don’t have it in me to be a struggling writer. The way I feel today after receiving an amazing book that was supposed to feature my work but didn’t is not a way I’m keen to feel very often. I know I have it in me to be a writer, but I don’t have it in me to be a struggling, depressed one.
The struggle is real to dig deep into my memory bank for the purpose of Someone I Once met. Sometimes it takes a really random stroke of genius to realize that so-and-so would be a good candidate and ‘why had I not thought of them before?’
Its not like I can only write about people from the past, I am still actually meeting interesting people, however I’ve started to realize that not everybody likes being written about. Initially I hadn’t really thought much about whether or not folks would mind, my reasoning being that I was focusing on (mainly) positive things. But then someone asked me if I wasn’t worried about lawsuits??! And the odd subject asked me to remove this piece of information and that from a post.
And so came the slump in my will to write awesome little anecdotes about the random and not-so-random people I meet. Honestly- those who get written about are generally quite prominent parts of my life rather than an interesting passer-by. This because you only really get to know if someone is truely interesting after knowing them a while.
But here’s a guy who I really don’t care to expose. I’m not even the first to write about him. In fact, this article I came across a few months ago has been the inspiration for this post. In this article, Andrew is listed as one of ’10 “if we’re not married by” pacts that actually panned out.’ There he explains;
“My wife and I met in high school at the age of 16. We told each other that if we weren’t married by 30, then we’d get back together and tie the knot. I moved off to a different state for college and after graduation I moved to Chile for four years. I moved back to the states when I was 28, we started dating again and just got married this past May before my 30th birthday. But not because we said we would, but because it just happened that way.”
The funny part is that when I met him in Chile, he was the doting American boyfriend of my British friend. We all traveled to a surf town one weekend. He seemed like a nice guy. When my friend and I went on a longer trip to Chile’s Lake region and he stayed behind, he came across as very possessive. He came across as in love.
Not long after my arrival in Chile and the meeting of these people, Andrew took a trip back home. Texas, USA to be exact. His trip worked out well for me, I thought, because I needed a new camera so I’d buy one online and get it sent to his house in Texas. He’d then bring it back to Chile with him. So I did that.
Andrew began to delay his return from the States. My poor friend was on the receiving end of elaborate excuses for his not returning home immediately. Weeks turned into months and the constant reassurance of his love and certain return began to seem somewhat…..untrue. My poor friend, completely confused by it all, was particularly irate about the rent for the apartment. That they shared. Together. But no, according to Andrew, all was well and he would soon be home.
Eventually, out of the blue he asked her to move out. He was coming home and she needed to be gone by the time he got there. There’s a lot more to this story but I won’t go into it. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of lying from his side and a lot of hurt on hers. In the end Andrew returned to Chile. With my camera. He came, collected his things, told my friend he still loved her and buggered off back to Texas.
Now if you’ll recall, according to Andrew; “I moved back to the states when I was 28, we started dating again and just got married this past May before my 30th birthday. But not because we said we would, but because it just happened that way.”
Aaaahhhhh! The more I read that the more I want to kick him in the nuts. While, in its essence what he’s said is true, there’s just so much more to his story. The beautiful story of how he and his high school love came to be husband and wife after years of separation is so lovely from the outside and such a crock of shit from the inside.
Because of his complete lack of common decency, I witnessed the girl he left behind in Chile turn into a shadow of a human being. He devastated her so completely that it took the better half of a year for her to show sings of improvement. Now I’m not saying he should have stayed with someone he didn’t love. But be a man- seriously.
I hope your new wife makes you very happy, Andrew. Asshole.
I was hoping to swap an old book for a new one, but that’s not how this sleepy bookstore somewhere in the Indian Himalayas worked. I’d have to part with some rupees if I wanted to leave with any new reading material. There wasn’t much to choose from, but one did catch my eye. Judge a book by it’s cover and go from there is what I often do. This one had a pleasant look about it – white and pink and with the image of a well used hiking boot on the front. Red laces.
The story was about a young woman, called Cheryl Strayed, who decides to walk over 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail , on her own, in an attempt to overcome the death of her mother. The PCT allows hikers to walk from the Mexican border to the Canadian one- or the other way round. Incorporating California, Oregon and Washing states in all their glory.
This book ticked a lot of boxes for me: uniquely travel related with just the right amount of adventure, set in a part of the USA I could easily visualise because I’d been there before. I liked the book. I liked that it was written by a woman, I liked that she climbed an actual mountain to deal with her demons, I like how she took condoms with her for in-case. I like how, since reading it, I’ve watched the book gain popularity and be tuned into a screenplay starring Reese Witherspoon. I like how I didn’t know if it would be a good read, then I wasn’t sure the movie would be any good, and I love that its turned out to be Oscar material.
I feel like I’ve journeyed with Cheryl from a random bookshelf in a Tibetan refugee town in India to her glamorous appearance at the Golden Globes, attached at the hip to Reese Witherspoon. Even more so, Wild has kept me awake at night thinking about that book I’d like to write. I’ve always loved writing, I’m inspired by travel and I’ve lived on 5 continents over the past 4 years. But i didn’t get married at 18. My mother didn’t die when I was 22. I didn’t become an adulterous sex and drug addict and I didn’t trek over 1000 miles to fix myself. 5 continents in 4 years but what the hell would I write about?! It’s a conundrum that’s got me thinking about writing fiction for the first time.
Then there’s the very real issue of having never finished anything longer than article before. I don’t think I could even claim to have written a short story. Any longer piece of writing I’ve ever considered writing has died not long after it’s birth. This does not bode well for undertaking and executing the huge task that is writing a book.
Wild is not about to be the next Harry Potter- read by billions- or turn into of the the great classics. And I’m sure it was never meant to be any of that. But what it has achieved, certainly in me, is a heightened appreciation for the average woman doing something for herself, thinking not much of it, and turning it into a source of inspiration for others.
I am increasingly of the opinion that anyone can be inspirational – just not everyone knows how to go about it. So good on you Cheryl. you were just another lot girl with a bleeding heart who navigated through various mountain ranges all alone and now everyone, including Reese Witherspoon, loves you.
I don’t blog enough about Hong Kong. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but its probably got a lot to do with the fact that I’m not a city girl. As far as cities go, Hong Kong is supposed to be up there with the best and yet I find myself lacking the inspiration to produce content on it. Also my teaching job leaves almost zero hours in the day to work on my hobby. Valid excuses but excuses none-the-less right?
That being said I’m going to do my best to change my ways. I won’t be here forever so it really is in my best interests to take a deeper look and let myself be inspired and challenged to document this Gateway to the East.
I started my new leaf turning by taking my camera to work one day so that afterwards I could stroll past the arts festival/mardi gras happening in the famous Victoria Park. Finally I was being proactive and exploring (the bf was away and this was a better option than Saturday night in an empty apartment). Luckily my hopes weren’t high since the majority of stalls and activities had already shut down, and although there were a good amount of people around they were 70 percent infants and I felt like I was back at work.
I stayed a couple minutes photographing the mediocre dance routine on the main stage before continuing my walk in the direction of home. There’s a great little modern art museum/gallery on the way and I noticed it was still open so I popped in. I’m hesitant to label it ‘modern art’ since I really don’t like modern art – least not their museums. So lets call this a hands-on cultural center, with a current showcase called ‘Imperfect’.
I’d been in a couple months before to finally get a closer look at a very cool installation they had up. It was a massive mirror erected at a 45 degree angle to the ground. Below it was the facade of a building. The cool part? That you could lie on the facade and by looking into the mirror above you it would appear that you were dangling, standing, posing on the side of a building. (No idea what I’m talking about? see here) Naturally this would have made a fantastic photo opportunity but naturally by the time I got my ass there it no longer existed. This was when I discovered the ‘Imperfect’ exhibition.
It was too hot to explore so I drank some free hot tea on the hot day and took part in the exhibition by writing something on a coaster which was there to be written on and soon went on my way again.
That exhibition was still going strong the evening I strolled onto the property again. This time I was game to have a better look around. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. In an Asian country focused on education, good grades, math, shopping and banking, I was intrigued to find a little artistic sub-culture manifesting itself inside these walls. I was more compelled to photograph then than I had been in a long while.
The idea behind it, I believe, is to partake in various activities, whatever tickles your fancy, or none if you just wish to wander around. There’s a room full of old sewing machines available to the public to make use of and donated clothing with which to sew. Or you can make a post card with hand made stamps which is what I took ten minutes doing. I was told though that the volunteers would help me if came by and wanted to sew. Maybe I should do that.
Upon further investigation, this arts and cultural center is called Oi! and you can read more about it here.
I wrote a cover letter for a freelance Assistant Editor position for an online publication called Pink Pangea. It is, in a nutshell, ‘a community for women travelers’. This is what I said, more or less. The pictures are an added addition, for your pleasure, not theirs.
I am a writer.
Because I am a writer in this modern world, I am also an editor, a photographer, videographer and web designer. The world of online media is the world of multi-media and so it is the world of Jacks-of-all-trades. I studied Journalism at a prestigious South African university known for its Journalism department, facilities, degree and of course all the famous faces of media that studied there.
It worked this way: 2 years of general Journalism and 2 years of specialised Journalism. It was your choice to spend two years studying and practicing either photography, writing, television, radio, new media or design. I chose radio. The fact that I majored in audio journalism and have subsequently been involved in media of all kinds got me thinking…. Today’s Journalism student should not be specialising in just one thing, and certainly not for two whole years.
It’s no secret that the online presence media holds has journalists juggling all types of it on a day to day basis. It’s no longer sufficient for a news broadcaster to merely read the news. He or she should be tweeting, sharing and blogging. Writers should be doing the same, and since we live in a digital, visual world, a writer would do well to be a photographer too.
I am a traveller.
One thing university failed to do was ready me for the working world. ‘Work’ as we know it was something that I avoided after graduating. I did this by work-travelling around the world for four years. Ski-instructing, teaching, working on yachts, you name it- I did it. And as a result I have become an advocate for travel and its benefits on the human race.
A previous job in the communications department of a big company and my personal/travel blog have taught me as much and more than university did. The interest I have in my blog stats has heightened my awareness and interest in social media and its uses, trends, effects, benefits and limitations. My blogging experience has also increased my editing and proof reading skills along with the obvious influence it’s had on my writing.
I also understand why paragraphs have halved in word count.
Sometimes sentences become paragraphs themselves.
Just one of the many ways the internet has changed the way we read and write.
Here’s looking at YOU Sian Cohen, the winner of Wanderlust’s souvenir giveaway Indian Edition!
The winner didn’t need to answer correctly, participation was enough to put you in the runnings. But clever Sian answered correctly with ‘Dharamshala’ to the question ‘Where does the Dalai Lama live?’ (Mcleod Ganj and India would also have been correct)
I’ll be sending her an authentic string of Tibetan prayer flags to remind her of, well, me, and things like to live in peace and with compassion. Enjoy Sian!