A to Z of me: W is for…

wilberforce

WILBERFORCE!  I have no knowledge of the contents of this book but it is one of my earliest memories of sitting in the back room at my nan’s house, looking at the cover.  Wilberforce the Whale.  It’s a book I will always associate with that time of my life; my early childhood; and yet I’ve never even read it.  Maybe it should go on the reading list.

Wouldn’t Wilberforce make a great name for a pet?  Maybe even for a son?

A to Z of me: V is for…

V is for VOLUNTEERING.  It may seem pretty boring, but it has been a part of me for a fair few years.

I have volunteered in some way, shape or form for about ten years.  The benefits of volunteering range far beyond the people you are directly helping; I even landed a couple of jobs out of volunteering so it can sometimes actually PAY to give a little first.

I have volunteered in youth centres, making cups of tea in the evenings or being a kind ear to a worried teen.  When I climbed Ben Nevis I was volunteering on a week youth camp in Scotland.  I’ve helped out at church events (and I’m not a religious girl or anything) and been on litter picks along the Cornish coastline (although they were always repaid with free food!) but the main voluntary service I have been part of throughout all of that is the Girl Guides (10th Falmouth Methodist to be precise).

I loved helping to run guides, especially as I was at the same unit that I went to as a young girl.  I wasn’t the best guide, I got in trouble a few times and I left early when I got too cool.  But I had been a rainbow, brownie and then guide so the uniformed services were a big part of my childhood and were something that I wanted to give back to.  It was only a few hours a week but out of those few hours I got to help enable a group of lovely girls have something positive to do.  Like I said, I’m not a religious girl and so some people are surprised to discover that I spent every Tuesday evening and some Sundays at the local Methodist Church, but our particular unit isn’t religious itself, other than the fact that we use a hall in a church and take part in spceial church parades every few months to fly the flag alongside the other uniformed services.  We spent most of our time playing games, doing crafts, looking at issues affecting young girls today and generally being a lovely happy group of people.  I got to go on a really fun regional camp (yes, camping, moi), and take part in plenty of outdoor activities and local community events.  I also got to meet countless fellow leaders, all helping out for their own reasons but also sharing a common theme – we were doing it for the girls, because without voluntary leaders, there would be no uniformed services left, it’s that simple.

The worry of losing young people on a trip is made slightly worse by being on the highest peak in the UK and walking into the clouds!
The worry of losing young people on a trip is made slightly worse by being on the highest peak in the UK and walking into the clouds!

When I came to Thailand, I had hoped to be part of guiding out here but it is nowhere near the same – it operates as part of school hours and isn’t voluntary – the girls don’t choose to participate, they have to.  When I visited home a few weeks ago I went to see my old unit and it was really nice to see the girls and lots of new faces too.  They had all brought books for me to bring back to Thailand so I now have a small library which I will be setting up at school for the students to dip into if they want to – how nice is that?

Volunteering can only mean giving a few hours a week or even month, but the positive affect it can have on you, the people around you and your experiences makes it worth every minute.  If you can, get out there and help in any way you can!

A to Z of me: U is for…

U G L Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you UGLY, hey, hey, you UGLY!  Bit of a reference there that only girls that grew up in the 90s are probably going to get.  If you care to listen to a super annoying song that won’t get out of your head, watch the video below.  Don’t do it.

U is for UGLY.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some self-depricating post fishing for compliments, boo hoo, me no beautiful!  NO.

Most days as I walk around the high school in Thailand that I have the joy of teaching in Monday to Friday, it isn’t unusual to hear TEACHER SO BEAUTIFUL! being shouted down the corridoor.  To begin with it was quite nice, until I realised that it is either a) one of the few things that the students can say in English or b) they consider me to be beautiful because I have white skin.

The concept of beauty in Thailand is different to that of the UK.  Which is in itself different to many other countries around the globe.

In Thailand, the lighter your skin, the more beautiful you are.  Young girls will often come up to me and lay their arm next to mine, comparing skin tone and cooing over how pale I am.  It is unfortunately not unusual for the darkest student in a class to be pointed out, LOOK TEACHER, BLACK! 

To have dark skin means that you don’t have the luxury to be able to while away your days indoors while the lesser people toil away in the hot sun outside.  It is a similar outlook that I remember discussing in my history class at school – an outlook that to me is dated and almost archaeic.

Some Thai people will spend a lot of money pursuing this pale beauty.  Many beauty products contain whitening agents (in some cases, harmful chemicals such as mercury) that will gradually lighten the skin.  Talcom powder is plastered on to faces, necks and arms to cover up.  Even when shopping for shower gel I have to read the small print (if I am lucky enough for it to be in English) or judge the packaging to avoid the whitening stuff.

In many Western cultures, to having a tan is considered beautiful.  Gradual tanning products, fake tan and bronzng powders are applied to darken the skin.  People lay in sun beds and solariums, exposing themselves to harmful UV rays and and an increased chance of contracting cancer (suddenly the thought of skin bleaching products doesn’t seem so barbaric, does it?).  As soon as the sun comes out, the t-shirts come off, the bikinis are on and the tanning begins.

The situation couldn’t any more different in Thailand.  Umbrellas are used not only for the torrential downpours but as a shield from the sun.  Jumpers are zipped up, sleeves pulled down over hands, lest the sun’s rays touch bare skin.  If we go away for the weekend and I spend some time topping up my tan, on my return to school I am told TEACHER, NO BEAUTIFUL!

The whitest faces are used for advertising, are the face of all the main brands, the superstars, actors and actresses, plastered across bill boards, television adverts and the front of magazines.

There have been some controvercial adverts recently.  A Dunkin Donuts ad for their new ‘charcoal donut’ featured a woman in full black make up with the slogan ‘Break every rule of deliciousness’ – to me this suggests that perhaps the model breaks every rule of beauty also. Dunkin Donuts were slated for releasing the advert and had to remove it and issue an apology – read this article from The Guardian if you want to see what they had to say.

Dunkin' Donuts Thai advertImage source: Guardian online

Over on the television, an advert for L-Gluta skin0whitening drink (yes, they exist) caused a lot of controversy earlier in the year.  In the ad, a brown bear is in a doctors office consulting with a light skinned female doctor.  She is telling the bear that unfortunately he will have to wait a long time to become a white bear by avoiding the sun, and that it is a shame that it wasn’t born a human as it could simply drink the whitening drink being advertised.  The part that caused the most controversy is the end of the ad, where the girls’ father, a black man, enters the room and asks her if everything is OK, the camera panning to a family portrait where the girl is black (but awfully ‘blacked up’.  According to different reports (here and here), the father speaks Thai but in a farang accent, suggesting that the family had originally moved from another country, moving to Thailand and being helped along by the miraculour skin-whitening properties of this most wonderful product.

Here is the video, it’s in Thai but you can see the general message in the advert.

Around the world, beauty is dependant on individual and societal influences.  It may be in the eye of the beholder, but where is the beholder getting their idea of beauty from?

A to Z of me: T is for…

Next we have the letter T. Now I could bang on about my TEFL, or teaching, or living in Thailand. But I do enough of that usually.

So, quite simply here is a little tilt shift video some local students made of the city of Hat Yai, Thailand; the city I call home for the moment.

A to Z of me: S is for…

S is for STYLE.

I don’t pride myself on my style but I’m not ashamed of it either.  I’m quite glad that usually I don’t fit into one particular box but then I suppose that comes with getting older (she says, sat comfortably in her twenties) – I guess as a teenager I tried to fit into one box after another – townie (chav didn’t exist then, thankfully), goth (I was a very bad goth I will admit), skater girl (AKA wearing boys jeans and belly tops), hippy – I managed to flit from one to the other, changing with my fickle teenage moods and what was ‘cool’ at the time.

Nowadays I wear what I fancy.  I reserve the right to wear clashing colours.  I reserve the right to wear any number of combined patterns.  Why not throw together some bright florals and some stripes?  Why not?  I’ve worn faux fur, a sequin or thousand, those monochrome high waisted trousers, men’s shirts, dresses from the children’s range (hell, save on VAT and celebrate being a short arse!), Christmas jumpers slightly too early, ANIMAL FACES ON ANYTHING.

I sometimes get comments along the lines of that’s an interesting outfit… or well, you can pull that off, but I couldnt… but YOU CAN!  Repeat after me, YES YOU CAN!  So throw aside your worries, ignore that blue and green can never be seen, throw those wardrobe doors wide open and throw yourself at all the patterns, all the colours!  Who needs Gok Wan and his capsule method of onl wearing two colours at one time?  NO.

nogok

I don’t go anywhere in particular to find my ensembles.  Anywhere with a sale sticker in the window will do.  Even in Primark I head to the sales first.  I tend to see a hidden beauty in the unwanted pieces of last season, relegated to the dusty sale rail in the corner of the shop floor.  Obviously, being a complete cheapskate I am also a lover of a car boot/second hand sale/vintage fair.  It’s just a shame that the latter always seems to have inflated prices because of the attricution of the vintage tag, and a clientele so achingly hipster that I instantly feel crappy and indequate as I enter.  Still, even those have a 50p basket of cast away scarves to rummage through.

Unfortunately, despite being a complete cheapskate I have still been known for spending a considerable percentage of my income on clothes. shoes and other sparkly things that go along with them.  It’s like I just had this uncontrollable urge to splurge.  Luckily, since moving to Thailand, times they have a-changed, and I have managed t curb my spending habits.  I don’t know if it’s the lack of familiar shops, having less female friends or a change in my outlook on life (materialistic? moi?) but things are definitely different.  Which is good for the old bank balance and the structural integrity of my wardrobe.

Even as a kid I was rocking those DMs.  I would wear this outfit now.
Even as a kid I was rocking those DMs. I would wear this outfit now.
I am a fan of headscarves.  But not of smiling...
I am a fan of headscarves. But not of smiling…
All daytime drinking should be accompanied by glitter and sequinned mini skirts.
All daytime drinking should be accompanied by glitter and sequinned mini skirts.
I wore these black and white babies to death one summer.
I wore these black and white babies to death one summer.
Feather headband and neon Kanye shades are OK because PARTY.
Feather headband and neon Kanye shades are OK because PARTY.
Nice dresses must be accessorised with false moustaches and Mexican hats.
Nice dresses must be accessorised with false moustaches and Mexican hats.
Although I may never repeat this neon/footless combo but it's OK because I look totally cool as I'm sitting on a car in a club.
Although I may never repeat this neon/footless combo but it’s OK because I look totally cool as I’m sitting on a car in a club.

OK, I could go on all day self indulgently posting pictures of myself but I fear that I am probably only entertaining myself.  And my number one fan obviously, (hi, Mum).  I will spare you any more.  Isn’t that nice of me?

Anyway, my point is, I may love clothes and getting dressed up and finding new outfits BUT I don’t follow any one particular style, and I don’t particularly care much for what people think.  Maybe one day I will be the trend setter that I surely am destined to be, but, until then, get me our of that box, this is MY STYLE.

Oh, and I’ve just done a scientifically sound (ahem) quiz on seventeen magazine online and my celeb style is Rita Ora, which I am totally OK with.

ritaoraAnother deep and insightful post about me as part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  Almost there!

Urgh, this is the THIRD time I have had to put this post together because wordpress and/or myself is having a technical breakdown of biblical proportions.  Bibilical.  I slammed the lid down on my beloved new laptop.  Noooooo, computer based anger not good!  So, I am hoping that it is a case of third time lucky rather than bad things come in threes.