Self-promotion, Migraines, and Fighting all the Cravings. Days 3 & 4.

*Just so you can picture me right now, I’m sitting up in bed with a Staffy across the doona. I am watching Naked Dating. And thus finding it really, really hard to write.

I think you realise that you are too comfortable with alcohol when you ritually look forward to your ‘reward’ glass of wine upon arriving home. I know that sounds pretty terrible… but i have surely realised that ‘reward’ drinking is too usual a thing in my life. What gives me comfort though, is that with each AFD I have (Alcohol Free Day), the stronger I feel mentally. When the little voice inside my head says “YO JACQUI!” (yes, that’s what the voice in my head sounds like) “YOU CAN HAVE A SMALL DRINK TONIGHT. BECAUSE YOU’RE DOING SO WELL!”

For a few seconds I think, hey, I could have a drink, just a little one. Because I AM doing so well.

And THEN – I realise that it has been but three days. How can I not go without alcohol for THREE DAYS?

And so, by defying the little voice in my head who is trying to make my want for alcohol sound reasonable, I actually reinforced to myself that I am stronger than the weaker-willed version of me who existed but 3 days ago! I realise that when there is strong enough incentive I can overthrow my laziness, my vices, and the ease with which I justify lifestyle choices in my mind.

Each day this week I have prepared smoothies and lunches for myself. I have also – and I know this sounds ridiculous – set out my clothes for the next day so that I am not running around in the morning trying to find something to wear. Being more organised, and more healthy, equates to a better, happier me.

Another interesting element of Day 3 was that I took the opportunity to promote myself, and show off the work I do in the classroom. This is not a common occurrence in teaching. Rarely do teachers watch each other work, and having someone observing you teach can be a hugely terrifying experience. This week I said yes to allowing a senior teacher video activities in my classroom, and interview my students as well as myself. Needless to say, it WAS hugely terrifying. I was nervous and stuttering away, but my students held the fort and were amazing. They talked about our work in Japanese, and the video will be edited up and shown to all my colleagues on curriculum day. To hear a colleague say “You must be a really good teacher Jacq!” made me so chuffed (as Mum would say), and made facing the fear of my face on a screen, the fear of peer review and the fear of being ‘found out’ as a shit teacher all worth it.

I am basically trying to live by Cinderella’s mantra. (Have courage, be kind.) Damn I loved that movie.

Wednesday was also PT day, where a bunch of Year 11 Sport students order a bunch of teachers around in circuit training. Felt good, but unfortunately was hit by a post-exercise migraine pretty quickly. All I want to know is, who invented Burpees?

I don’t want to bore you much further, but overall life is bloody great. I even had a cup of tea without sugar and didn’t feel utterly disappointed.Ministrone risoni! Thanks Hello Fresh!

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An afternoon with Opa and Oma

Oma placed the new block of cheese very particularly in front of my plate with a smile.

“And here is your cheese.”

Oh dear, it seemed that my Mum, who usually tells my grandparents everything, had not told my Oma that I had turned Vegan. Well, I could see why, and I certainly wasn’t going to.

“Oh… I actually don’t eat cheese.”

Oma looked confused.

“So do you have to eat cheese, or is it that you don’t eat cheese?”

The way she said this made out that I had possibly become some sort of Cheesatarian, which made me chuckle a little. The look on my grandma’s face would have been quite amusing had I not felt like I was such a disappointment. “Well,” she grumbled, “not eating meat is one thing, but not eating cheese?!… You want some Marmalade?”

And that was that, crisis averted.

Earlier, I had driven my Opa down to get some petrol and a few things from the supermarket. While I paid for the petrol, he – worried about the availability of parking spots near Safeway – suddenly skipped off with a “I’ll go get the shopping.”

I handed over the money to the petrol station attendant, looking over his shoulder through the window and seeing my Opa disappearing into Woolies. “Oh god, what is he doing?” I grabbed the change, ran out to the car, found a park, and hurried into the supermarket. In my head I was telling myself that this lost feeling I felt was only due to not having a mobile phone connection with my 88 year old grandpa, but really, I reassured myself, I was not going to lose him in a supermarket. (Seriously – think about how often you split up with someone in a supermarket, then just call them up later, and meet them in Aisle 5.)

My Opa is completely with it – he’s not like a tender, frail geriatric who needs his hand held. Hell no. I found him near the cheese, already with the three things Oma had ordered, and ready to come out and meet me. The cashier asked if Opa wanted the receipt – “Oh yes, better take it for the boss.”

Last family gathering had seen Opa tell us a few stories about his and Oma’s life after arriving in Australia. The highlight, it seemed, was when the owners of a house that Opa was living in (Oma had to live with other women in another house) were away, Oma sneakily came to visit. With the owners of the Toorak mansion absent, Oma and Opa were able to stay in their master bedroom and, as Opa put it “make love in that big, beautiful bed!”

(Oma extended the story on both sides of that event, but her version was much more modest and unexciting compared to my Opa’s saucy rendition.)

Working as a cleaner in the house where she was living, Oma found herself one day with the afternoon off, and decided to ride her bike to the local shopping strip. My grandparents brought one bike with them from Holland – which was Oma’s Dutch bicycle.

That afternoon, she rode her bike down Toorak Road. “Dutch bikes were different to Aussie bikes, you know,” she told me, (almost slipping into Dutch once, as she reminisced about the fifties and the time that they had just arrived) “they were very different, had very high handle bars, and as I rode, I could see that lots of people were staring at me. And I thought, it must be because of my strange Dutch bike.”

In my head I enjoyed a brilliant vision of my young Oma (who was very beautiful) riding down Toorak Road on her funny bike (but in my head, Toorak Road is as it is now, and my Oma is a bit of a new aged hipster on her high handle-barred bicycle).

I laughed a little, thinking that that was the crux of the story.

But Oma continued: “Well, after a while, I realized I was riding on the wrong side of the road!”

Ah, brilliant. That is why you visit your grandparents.

Don’t judge me -I’m just trying to save the world (10 rants of a newish vegan)

When I told my mum that I was going Vegetarian, she was NOT happy. I was 15. She made me promise that I would still eat fish while I was living at home. (When I turned 18, I could do whatever I wanted.)

I didn’t eat fish for very long, and stopped taking Cod Liver Oil pills. (“Mum, fish have feelings too!”) 13 years on, and I have become a Vegan, a decision I am extremely happy to have made, and a change of lifestyle that has been MUCH easier than I anticipated. (It’s been about 4 months, and I haven’t had a break down in front of the Yoghurt section in Safeway just yet.)

Please don’t stop reading! I’m not going to Bible-bash my views on animal cruelty or how the environment can be saved and the world fed by us eating less meat and dairy (well, not too much), but some things just have to be said.

I want to help educate people who, when I say I am vegan, look at me as though I have chosen to flog myself each morning for fun. I am so, so sick of people having a crack, mocking my choice of diet, and basically thinking I am crazy. I have endured questions and ridicule from many a close-minded person to whom I have just wanted to say, “Hey, you might find it very hard to understand, but I’m trying to save the world for your children.” Heavy pressure, I know.

Someone this week was making me a salad roll, and asked if I ate tomato (huh!?), and then preceded to ask me which meat I wanted. Come on people!

Please endure, and take on board, the following 10 rants of a Vegan:

1. When you ask me “But what do you eat?” dispel all visions of lettuce and tofu from your mind. I eat AMAZING food. Come to my house and I’ll feed you an Indian Curry or Dahl, Asian Greens and noodles, Aubergine-Courgette layered Cheese-free Lasagna (do you like how I used the fancy names there?), Vegie Pita Pizzas, a Homestyle Chunky Pie, or a Quinoa and Sweet Potato salad. (This is not a complete list!)

2. Don’t tell me we were ‘meant to eat meat’. Meat contributes to so many diseases, even Sam Neil says only eat LEAN red meat UP TO 4 times a week. And don’t bring up canine teeth either, I’m not really interested (and they are very useful for ripping apart eggplant).

3. We don’t need dairy. Milk from a cow is for BABY COWS, not baby humans, and not adult humans. Wondering why you are feeling a bit funny? Stop eating dairy and see if that changes anything. (Most adult humans don’t have the enzyme to break down cow’s milk.)

4. Don’t accuse me of double – standards because I’m wearing leather shoes. I op-shop.

5. It’s insulting when you imply that my diet is tasteless or boring. Maybe you eat meat and three vege with no spices, but my dinners are tasty and flavoursome.

6. Don’t tell me I won’t get enough protein. We don’t need so much protein (breast milk has 6% protein, cow’s milk 22% – Mother Nature with a big hint!) and high protein diets and Osteoporosis rates run side by side. Then you will say that we need milk for Calcium to stop Osteoporosis? Wrong. This is the meat and dairy industry further exploiting the consumer – they give you the disease, then provide you with a supposed cure! (Check out my 92 year old Grandma who has been vego/vegan for decades, no Osteoporosis and fighting fit, and cultures with low protein diet, but no Osteoporosis, and the Eskimos with the highest protein intake and the highest rates of the disease.)

7. When you say “I could never be vegan!” in your sympathetic voice, realise, that actually, you could be. And I feel sorry for you. You think it’s weird that I don’t eat meat, or milk that came from a different animal to me, well I think it’s really weird that you do. A vegan diet is the most natural, amazingly wonderful way to eat, and I wish I had cut out dairy sooner in my life.

8. Don’t get scared to invite me to dinner. Ask me to bring something, or ask me for some ideas! Once you escape the box that says every meal must have meat, cheese or eggs in it, a world of possibilities awaits.

9. Open your mind to the positives that come from people eating less meat and less dairy, and more fresh vegies and unprocessed junk. The land can be used for grains to feed more people, the stranglehold on poor countries by meat producers can be released, we can save water, carbon emissions and lives – and not only the animal kind, humans too. I really try not to preach, but I want the people I love to live longer, and feel better, THAT’S why I tell people about what I read on links between a meat and dairy diet and illness.

10. I haven’t gone vegan to make it hard for the world. On the contrary! I’m trying to lower my impact on the environment, and consume a diet free from foods that kill, or enact cruelty on both animals, and humans. I’m doing this for my health, and for the health of my children yet to be born. Being a vegetarian in Nepal, was the easiest thing in the world. It was natural to the Nepalese people, and no-one asked questions. The second easiest place I found to be a vegetarian? England. I was surprised at the amount of vegetarian options available generally – they are a country of mixed cultures, and better yet, they have an open-minded view of people’s choice of diet, and the right, yes it is a right, to choose and live a lifestyle free from discrimination, and have options when we walk down the street for a meal.

Thank you for listening to my rant. When I became vegan, I thought “Oh gee, this is going to be hard.” I was becoming one of those people… My life would never be the same, would I have to start taking supplements? I went searching for cookbooks, for ideas, recipes, support groups, motivation and insight into what I would become after making this giant leap! But – you know what…?

NOTHING REALLY CHANGED!

I am healthy, happy, and my relationship with my partner is still intact. He had said “Look, I’ll support you in this.” But he was worried. I know he was. And I was too. But it is all fine. We cook together, he has also enjoyed the health benefits of eating less dairy, but sometimes he adds a little meat or cheese to his meal. I am very  lucky – he understands why this is important to me.

So, when vegans or vegetarians are explaining to you why they have chosen the diet they have – listen. Listen, with a mind OPEN to the idea that just maybe, what you have thought was always right, what you thought was always healthy, might not be completely true. So much of how we consume these foods is based on conventions and traditions that have long been a part of our cultures or our modern society. If you look behind most of what you think is normal – you may just find a big, dirty dollar sign, and an industry that has captivated our minds with lies and threats that are actually unfounded.

Don’t be afraid to do some digging, do some research, read something you wouldn’t normally read. And in the mean time, cut down on your meat and dairy… just in case the crazy people are right.

Sights, Smells and Starbucks

A large Westerner is next behind me in the Starbucks line (yes I hate Starbucks, but just love that a caramel macchiato is pretty much the same anywhere in the world). The Westerner is speaking Malay, and I am impressed to an extent, but get the feeling he is aware of this, and indeed trying to impress me, and other foreigners around him. He asks (apparently) for an ‘Americano on the rocks’, and from the cashier’s first crazed look, I’m pretty sure the conversation went a bit like this:

“An Americano on the rocks please.”

“One Americano coming up!”

“Yes, but on the rocks.”

“On the rocks? What do you mean on the rocks?”

“On the rocks, as in, on ice. It’s a saying – you know, James Bond… Martini on the rocks…?

[Screams to manager in next room, laughing] “Since when do we say on the rocks? Is that a saying now? Why don’t we just say on ice? Why do they keep changing our language into English?”

[Manager screams back] ”Yeah, I dunno, just do it, he comes here a bit.”

Everyone in Kuala Lumpur seems very friendly, except for my hotel staff, who wouldn’t know good customer service if it jumped out of the elevator naked, screaming its name, with I AM GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE tattooed on its chest. I have discovered today, a Macrobiotic Organic Vegan restaurant, where, I should add, the wait staff are also exceptionally lovely and accommodating.

I have just consumed a meal here, and am onto my second cup of tea. My dish, described as ENERGISING, was served in minutes, was hot, and cost me 11 ringgits – 3 or 4 Australian dollars. It consisted of natto – beans – which did not seem as stringy and overpoweringly smelly as its Japanese counterpart – with fresh, slightly crunchy vegies and tofu strips, all on a bed of fluffy brown rice. Sounds boring – tasted AMAZING.

It’s a bit out of left field on  the main tourist strip of Kuala Lumpur, surrounded by massage parlours, chincy shopping malls and cheap perfume spruikers, but seems relatively popular.

So, besides the taste sensations Kuala Lumpur has offered me in the last day and a half (I haven’t even mentioned the Curry Noodles I had for dinner – let’s just say I sweated out the 2 litres of water that I drank before I ate them) there has been amazing sights to behold. The best of which, was a Chinese New Year Lion dance demonstration, which involves two men inside the lion costume dancing and pouncing along high pillars, coordinating their 4 legs somehow to land on the narrow tops of the poles, all to the mad beating of the drums, and clanging of the cymbals.

Twice our lion fell, the two men slipping out of their lion skin, to be caught by the spotters underneath. I have added the link below, which is not my video, just to give you an idea of what I mean.

Loving Malaysia.