Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
'My home town is a whole different scenery, the old timers on the stoop leaning leisurely, the new jacks up in the bar smoking greenery'
'A delusionary mental status caused by a pronounced deficiency of alcohol in the bloodstream'
Or, if you want to really go for a full-throttle, philosophical, life-reassessing definition, try entry 11;
'Reality has become a commodity. When money dictates the content of Wikipedia entries, reality may be defined by the highest bidder.' It's a bit much, but I like the real depth of feeling with that one.
I've heard the word a significant amount over the last week and a half. To give you some context, I've been away from the UK for nearly three years, pulled off a nifty little surprise and bounced right back into this so-called little reality last week. Australia for a year, New Zealand for nearing on two, Thailand for just five weeks. I've not been trekking through jungles for months on end, I've not been living up a nondescript mountain trying to find myself down the path of true enlightenment and I have certainly not been hopping from place to place the entire time. Hell, I haven't even lived in a non-English speaking country. What I've been doing isn't that different from life in the UK at all. It may involve a lot more jagerbombs than the normal human being would deem healthy, but aside from that, people do exactly what I did in my time away in thousands of places all across the globe. So what then, I hear you ask, is so fucking big and clever about travelling? Why have I come home feeling weird and antsy, and not quite ready for all of this 'reality' shit everybody keeps banging on about? In short, what makes coming home so hard?
Let's start with the obvious:
Why does one go travelling in the first place?
There's not really a cookie-cutter answer for this question. Reasons vary from person to person depending on circumstance and whatnot. I was only intending on going to Australia for a month when I first left, egged on by my brother, who had done a three and a half year stint in times gone by, to extend it to a year. A year became two, became three. My motivations were pretty much that I had just finished uni, didn't fancy the bright lights of London, the green fields and endless roundabouts of Hampshire or the 22,000 students of Cardiff when I was not one, and was real adverse to the idea of going full whack straight into a job that could define the next ten years of my life. I'd like to stress that this was because I had no idea what I wanted to do for the summer of 2009, let alone the ten summers after that. The people who know what they want to do with their lives should never forget that they really are extraordinarily lucky. Most importantly, I thought it would be a great way to extend the glory days of university; meeting new people, drinking myself blind and having next to no responsibility. My 20-year-old self liked to party, what can I say. My 23-year-old self still thinks she's 20.
OK, I get that. But where exactly is the value in it?
This is something that bothers me a great deal and I have an image of myself in 20 years being asked this question and gritting my teeth, rolling my eyes and counting to ten. It's like asking for the value in forging a career, getting a mortgage, settling down with your partner; things that society place great emphasis on in order to make you happy. If travelling makes you happy, isn't there an unbelievable value in it? And is it not slightly ignorant to even ask the question if that is the case? And if you really want to go further than that completely fucking obvious point, then let's go all out. I cannot stress enough how valuable I believe travelling can be for people. It builds your self-confidence in a unparalleled way, pushes you into new situations, makes you a great deal more open-minded and at times, forces you to really look in the mirror and come to terms with the things that perhaps ain't so pretty. I know that this is probably one of the most cliched terms that people use when discussing the merits of travel, but it's fucking true and that's why people say it: you learn a great deal about yourself. I will not apologise for saying that, as cheesy as it is, because I believe it whole-heartedly. So there.
But don't you miss home??
Sure. It'd probably be weirder if you didn't. The biggest thing I faced when I was away was loneliness. You make friends and have some relationships that will continue for years, but there are sometimes periods where things aren't so rosy and that's where the real test is. You may wonder what you're doing, where you're going next, you may get bored, unstimulated, confused. Home is maybe the first thing on your mind in those situations. But such is life; you go through ups and downs while travelling just like anybody else. It's not a perfect existence where you avoid the realities of being a human being; there are amazing times and there are shitty times. Some days you think of home, some days you don't. A lot of people make a decision, sooner or later, to go back to wherever home may be. Some people regret it, some don't. Whatever the case, home will always be a huge part of your life.
So, you're home. Back to reality. What are you gonna do now?
Jeepers. This is the question that terrified me on coming home. I threw myself headfirst into the wolfpack on my return; without really thinking through the inevitable 'HOLY SHIT!' thought processes that I was sure to experience, I decided to surprise my whole family at my Mum's 60th birthday party. 80+ people, some of whom I'd not seen for over ten years and all of them dying to ask the same question: 'So Francesca, what will you do now?'. After a barrage of these in a multitude of forms, I nearly decked the last person who asked me, which would've been a shame as I've known him as long as I can remember and he really does have a lovely vegetable garden. I made to sure to ask him about that before I made my excuses and ran away screaming into the night wondering what on earth I had done. I am slightly exaggerating, of course. But it's a difficult question to process within the first 24 hours of landing on home soil, particularly if you've not paid the concept much attention beforehand. Nearly two weeks later, it hasn't gotten much better. Most people I encountered, mostly those in my parents generation, thought after three years I would have 'gotten it out of my system' and would finally be ready to 'settle down' and get a 'real job'. I don't know. What the fuck is a 'real' job anyway? My experience of 'proper' jobs comes in the form of my friends, who after graduating have moved to the city, edged their way up the career ladder by working their asses off and in the process are doing pretty darn well for themselves. I am nothing but proud of them for that. The one thing I wish I could articulately explain is why I don't feel the need to do this yet. I totally get why they have made those decisions and I applaud them for it. Truth is, I am just not ready. I don't think it's wrong, I don't think it's invaluable and I don't think it's a waste. Far from it. I just know it's not the path for me yet. I have met a lot of people who have done the 9-5 thing, the career, the money and the professional and personal status. Some of them thrive on it. Some are miserable. Everybody is different and I just wish I could get across that all it is is a difference of perspective. Life can be as fulfilling travelling as it is when you have a made another move upwards in your career, or a step forwards in your personal life. The happiness that derives from travel has a simplicity that life in a career-driven place like the UK does not. As a good friend of mine said to me just yesterday;
'Traveling let's you appreciate the moment, not the impending stress of the future... I think it's more open minded, and for me, more relaxed and fair... You appreciate the smaller stuff. Happiness isn't measured in success or social standing. If you are happy you are happy.'
If this means you work 50 hours a week serving wet pussies and slippery nipples to shitfaced travelers in a backpacker bar, so be it. If it means you slave away in the sweltering sun picking various seasonal fruits on a farm in the middle of fucking nowhere, then you do what you gotta do. If it means handing out tedious flyers for ridiculous promotions on a dark winters night, at least you can console yourself that it is for a purpose. It is, for the most part, a means to an end; you do it so you can experience the world in the process and you should never look down on somebody for doing something that, in turn, will make them happy.
At the end of the day, that is what this very long-winded, nonsensical verbal diarrhea that I've just spouted is about - being happy. I think one of the main things I've taken out of my time away is to just try and make sure that that's what I am. However it is achieved, life really is too short for otherwise. The majority of Western culture, in my humble opinion, is over-populated with materialistic values, the craving for status and the inane need to make other people believe that you are succeeding in life. I find all of this a bit suffocating, and one of my favourite things about travelling is that it is an opportunity to give you an alternative. That said, I'm only 23 and I still have a hell of a lot to learn. I just hope I can do it with a little bit of pazazz, and a great big goofy grin on my face.
'For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.'
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Thursday, June 2, 2011
2. Never let 'em know your next move. Don't you know bad boys move in silence or violence.
3. Never trust nobody.
4. Never get high on your own supply.
5. Never sell no crack where you rest at.
6. That goddamn credit, dead it. You think a crackhead payin' you back, shit forget it.
7. This rule is so underrated, keep your family and business completely separated.
8. Never keep no weight on you. Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jobs too.
9. If you ain't getting bags stay the fuck from police.
10. A strong word called consignment, strictly for live men, not for freshmen. If you ain't got the clientele say hell no, 'cause they gon' want they money rain, sleet, hail, snow.
A headline, one that quickly got pushed down the list of most "important" stories for today I'd like to point out, on the BBC website today: 'Global war on drugs 'has failed' say former leaders'. Three words, and excuse my French: No fucking shit.
I think the 'War on Drugs' probably grinds my gears more than the 'War on Terror', and that bad boy gets more than a grimace when brought up in conversation. In fact, all 'wars' that are waged against a concept or social or cultural problem get me agitated. As once quoted by my beloved Wire:
'You can't even call this shit a war.'
And therein lies a fundamental problem, no? How on earth do you wage war against a global problem that nobody really knows how to fight. Or if people do have possible solutions, current governing bodies wholly disagree and choose instead to fund a 'war' that, as many have pointed out, is based more upon the idea of prohibition and imprisonment that true rehabilitation or getting to the heart and soul of an issue. My big, big problem with the 'War on Terror' and the majority of Western attitudes to fundamentalism in general, lie in the extreme lack of understanding. If you're not prepared to educate and understand why this happens; why people turn to extremism, how fundamentalists manipulate the Qur'an and for what purpose, how will you ever be able to defeat the values that are the true heart of what 'terror' really is. Instead, governments throw money at shock and awe tactics, on violence and well, terror. Although obviously a slightly different scenario, the 'War on Drugs' lies on the same principles - most notably, lack of understanding.
This is all just my two cents on the matter of course. I do not truly think I know more about what's best for the whole wide world when it comes to drugs. I'm no nun and definitely no saint. But hey, life'd be boring if we all didn't have an opinion and I guess I'm just more of an opinionated fuck than most. As it turns out, there are quite a few former world leaders who also had a bit of an opinion on the matter, and their report has concluded that the war on drugs 'has not, and cannot, be won'. Probably the most interesting solutions they propose are:
- End the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmitisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
- Encourage experimenation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs, especially cannabis, to undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
- Offer a wide and easily accessible range of options for treatment and care for drug dependence, including substitution and heroin-assisted treatment, with special attention to those most at risk, inc. those in prisons and other custodial settings.
- Countries that continue to invest mostly in a law enforcement approach, despite the evidence, should focus their repressive actions on violent organised crime and drug traffickers in order to reduce the harms associated with the illicit drug market.
Yikes, radical. I'm sure that will shake a few feathers in the global community. And, of course, the White House has already basically said that the report is a crock of shit, cleverly disguised by the word 'misguided'. And then come the figures, and the back and forth, and the blah blah blah. I think we can probably all safely say that drug production, use and supply is pretty out of control. Even if most of us don't know facts or figures, the evidence is all around us. Most have tried them, and if they haven't, they'll know shitloads who have. Most will know somebody who sells drugs, and if they don't, they'll sure as hell know a friend of a friend who does. The rule gets slightly iffy when it comes to production itself, but drugs are undoubtedly immersed in our culture. And then there's the media, the film industry, the music industry. Today, we watched The Departed - a movie centred on a violent organised crime boss who does what? Produces and supplies drugs. There are constant drug-related news items; drug mules, drug-fuelled crimes, drug arrests, drug crackdowns.. you get the picture. And then, of course, hip hop. I don't want to be a dick that generalises because, of course, it's not always the way, but this is a genre where a lot of kids have come from an environment that lives and breathes drugs; they come from the corners and they turn to music. They write about what they know, and what they know is a shitload about drugs. People think it's all egotistical bullshit about fucking bitches, popping gats or whatever and doing mountains of cocaine off some chick's tits, but listen to some of the lyrics and really listen. Put on some Nas, Notorious, Wu-Tang, 2pac, Jay-Z, even Lupe and Mos Def and they come from a real place where this shit really happens, where 12-year-olds are slinging drugs on street corners and there really aren't a whole lot of options. Not a place you'd particularly want to be.
And then comes The Wire (c'mon, you knew it was coming.. it's pretty much the fictional love of my life). These are a group of people who get it. They see the effect drug has on communities, on families, on cities and on a whole class of people. David Simon, the creator of The Wire, is pretty much a pioneer of trying to tell the world of how the drugs industry facilities the erosion of American cities. His take on the 'War on Drugs'?
"[The US government's war on drugs is] nothing more or less than a war on our underclass, succeeding only in transforming our democracy into the jailingest nation on the planet."
Man doesn't beat about the bush. According to DrugSense (they get their stats from crime reports and the FBI, but a pinch of salt, as with anything please) arrests for drug law violations in the US in 2011 will be more than the 1,663,582 people arrested in 2009, and somebody is arrested for drug-related matters every 19 second. And apparently, the U.S. government spent $500 a second on the 'War on Drugs' in 2010, equating to about $15billion for the year alone. If that's the case, think about how much money has been spent fighting a concept-war since Richard goddamn Nixon first coined the phrase in 1971. Scary shit.
So, what do you do? In Season 3 of The Wire, a very brave Major decides to see what would happen if he were to legalise drugs. All under the table of course, he sets up a zone where drug dealers and addicts can freely do their business with no police interference. It works like a charm, the crime stats drop, the violence rates decrease and everybody seems pretty happy. Everybody, that is, apart from his bosses who consequently fire his ass when they find out. It might not exactly sound like Utopia, but see where the writers are coming from and they may have a point. Perhaps not to the extent where legalising smack, crack and cocaine would be the best idea ever, but relaxing the rules and taking a less oppressive approach to drugs may not be all bad. When I read Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (it's non-fiction, it's set in the 80s, it's brutal and it's absolutely amazing), I was genuinely shocked. There is a class of people that live in the underbelly of American society as a direct result of drugs. And the worst part seems to be that there's very little help out of the hole. As I said before, I always feel like the best way to be able to fight something is to understand it fully. Understand the drug industry; where it comes from, why it sells, where it sells and who to, who foots the bills, who makes the money, why cities are crumbling to it and what makes an addict an addict, add it all together, do the maths and figure it the fuck out. Because whatever the global community is doing right now to fight drugs clearly isn't working. And if Kofi Annan knows it, surely the rest of us can't be that far behind.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
One of the big ways I notice the difference in how NZ and the UK react to these things is Facebook. That sounds shit, as if it's the gateway into people's innermost thoughts and feelings or something, but check out those statuses and there'll be a big difference. I have not seen one single status update about Christchurch or Japan come from the UK, whereas there's been an inundation from people I know in NZ. Maybe my friends back home all just have hearts made of steel. Or maybe it's that level of proximity thing.. because an event just seems so unreal, you can't identify. Fuck, I can't identify either, but whether people think about it briefly just once, or it keeps popping up in your mind, it's out there - it could happen here. It did, 5 hours
Friday, October 1, 2010
It's 6 million ways to die, from the seven deadly thrills, eight year olds getting found with 9mills..
Today, I'm shooting with The Big Picture.
The last two weeks have been interesting. I have successfully managed to be the moodiest, negi, uber-bitch in probably the whole of the southern hemisphere. There has been this niggling feeling of dissatisfaction that has been looming over me and for some reason I just couldn't shake it off. I won't lie, it's pretty difficult to try and write it down because I'm so used to stuttering over my own words, going off on a million different tangents as I try and explain to everyone and anyone what exactly is going on in my head. My head, it turns out, is lacking stimulation, and doesn't like it all that much. I'll let you in on a well-known secret about Queenstown: it's small. Very small. Which means that a lot of people here suffer from Small-Town Syndrome.
Let us explore Small-Town Syndrome a little bit. STS (not to be confused with STIs, thank you) is a terrible condition which affects people inhabiting an area that extends roughly around four blocks. Under the influence of STS, people tend to have an unflinching desire to know each other's business, enter into frequent bouts of pointless gossiping and perhaps also over-politicise situations so that even the most mundane event becomes an 'ohmigod!' scenario. I'd like to point out that STS does not affect everybody, but a fair few people fall victim to the entrapments of Small-Town Syndrome, and undoubtedly, the effects can be tragic.
This, in turn, puts me off Queenstown a fair bit. I've been here for four months. Four months of cold (nb., Mother Nature, not helping), retarded gossip, more than one or two nights that have become lost to me because of severe intoxication and well, not really having a stable job. I just have two relatively unstable jobs instead. So, this sounds like I'm having a fucking awful time right, and I bet whoever is reading this is just sat pondering why I don't just pack up my trusty Berghaus and fuck right off. Well, the thought has tempted me many a time before. A lot, actually, over the last few weeks. But now, all has become clear. The clouds have parted and I have had my brilliant, shining, halo-ridden epiphany. Queenstown has its pros (beautiful scenery, some of the most terrific people you'll ever meet, and the fact you know everybody means you'll never go hungry for a shot of vodka), and moving onto a new place for a while is problematic for many reasons. The biggest one being, I think my Grand Plan For 2011 is do-able. I didn't think it before, but of course, that is because I never sat down and took the time to work it all out. I have now done this. And this is what is going to happen.
In February 2011 I will depart New Zealand for Sydney. To see my staunchettes and finally go to that fucking Chinese Friendship Garden and do that bloody Botanical Gardens walk and all the shit I never did when I actually lived there (fuck, I'm such a procrastinator). Then, leave Sydney for Singapore. Once I find myself thrust into Asia, I will somehow find a nice route that incorporates Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand and lands me in Bangkok at the end of a six to eight week stint. I will then fly from Bangkok to Mumbai and do exactly the same in India, finding myself in Dehli to catch a flight back to London in May/June.
That, ladies and gents, is The Grand Plan. Shit me, if it happens, I will be probably the most proud person in the world. I've done digging through Expedia for the flights, I can definitely afford them. It's just the rest. I don't want to go into boring budgeting details on here, but I am feeling fucking positive about the whole affair. I know I can do it, I saved in Sydney and my life there consisted of rounds upon rounds of Jager shots, Thai dinners and shopping. If I can save in Sydney, I can save in Queenstown.
And then, well, this is the hazy part. Home has been like a broken record on my mind lately. Everything keeps spinning right back to it. I know it's because Queenstown is so transient that it becomes impossible NOT to think about home. Jesus, everybody here is leaving right now. Shoulder season has well and truly set in, and everybody is departing for greener pastures. For a lot of people, the green is home. So, when the shoulder season blues sink in, home becomes a natural little thing ticking away in the back of your mind like a really irritating timebomb. I don't know if a timebomb can really be irritating but in this case it is. For me, it's practicality. I can't stay over here forever, and truth be told, I see no life for myself in New Zealand or Australia. They are amazing, beautiful places, but fuck me, I could never spend the rest of my life here. It's too slow, and backwards, and there is no opportunity in all reality. Plus, the chocolate is shit. And I never want to spend 40 bucks on a tub of foundation ever again. In fact, I think I might write an angry worded letter about that last point. Dear Mr Cosmetics, Please decrease your prices in the Australasia region, I can no longer afford to pay my weekly wage to ensure I don't scare children in the street. Kind Regards, Scary-Faced Frankie.
So. It's like, where next? I can't work in Asia, or India. And truthfully, I do see myself going back to the UK at some point. I inevitably know I will get the blues, or perhaps even full-blown clinical depression, but I don't intend it to be forever. It is merely a stop-gap to raise money for the next chapter of travelling. The issue now is what to do when I get there. I still want to do my PGCE, and ideally a TEFL on top of it, and so it's just deciding whether to apply for it not. I figure, might as well, not a lot to lose really. I don't HAVE to go. The Education Grim Reaper isn't going to come bounding after me with his little axe thing if I choose to sack it off. But I HAVE to do it soon if I want to go back into education for next September, I'm sort of running out of time with that one. I know now that Brighton is where I want to be for a bit, just a year or so. Hang out, see a new city, live somewhere else that's most definitely not Hampshire, and somewhere that very much isn't Welsh. Yowza, home. It's still a weird notion for me to get my head around.
Fuck, this post is boring, isn't it?
Maybe I should delete it all and tell you instead about the incredibly hilarious situations I've been in recently, which perhaps in retrospect I should just keep to myself. Imagine me drunker than I have ever been in my life and you're about a tenth of the way there.
The Big Picture is a fucking nuisance. But now I'm closer to figuring it all out, I feel so much better. The negativity is fading, the bitch in me is going back to under her rock and the moodiness has been replaced with something that I think resembles a big grin. I want now to just book the flights, have a set date, and get fucking excited. Seriously, this trip has been something I've wanted to do for over six months now, and getting closer to actually doing it is epic. Massively, massively epic. If I can pull it off, get the money together, see myself through it alive and without losing an eye, a limb or a passport, I'll be pretty motherfucking stoked.
And then, just maybe, I'll be seeing my bestests in June. And what a day that one'll be :)