Taken in Ella, Sri Lanka in October 2012

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Support the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

Here is a link on how you can help the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). And here’s another specifically for residents in the UK, US and Australia. You can also donate to the United Nations World Food Programme or Philippine Red Cross. It doesn’t take long and it can help save many lives. While we are having difficulties making decisions on what to have for dinner or what to wear, the victims do not have the privilege of choice. $50 may not save the world, but our fellow mankind need all the help they can get.

If you are in Singapore, LBC SINGAPORE is accepting donations until the 30th of November. Clothes, blankets, towels, mats, medicines, toiletries, foods such as biscuits, instant noodles, coffee, sugar, rice, powdered milk, canned goods, etc. will be highly appreciated.

Customer Service Hotline: 800-1012708

Thinking about ethical banking

The older I get, the more I realise how little I know about what’s going on in our world. A friend shared this post (in French) about changing our lifestyles and it got me thinking. If you can’t read French, or if you don’t want to read the article, here’s a summary: the author writes about the changes she has made in her life to contribute to making a more harmonious world. Some of these changes include always having a reusable bag, replacing all household cleaning products with products we can easily find in our kitchens such as vinegar, recycling, reducing purchases with excess packaging, composting, considering the ethical aspect of our purchases (are the people who make our products treated fairly and respectfully?), reflecting on where our food comes from, switching to organic, becoming vegetarian, making the switch to using menstrual cups, switching to a bank which supports environmental, social, cultural and ethical projects, etc. There are many interesting suggestions on how we can be more ethical – and thankfully, I have been doing my part in many areas – but this is the first time I’ve heard of ethical banking.

Wikipedia (I know you’re rolling your eyes, but they’re a convenient and quick resource for definitions!) says, “An ethical bank, also known as a social, alternative, civic, or sustainable bank, is a bank concerned with the social and environmental impacts of its investments and loans. Ethical banks are part of a larger societal movement toward more social and environmental responsibility in the financial sector.”

I had no idea such a thing existed! Is there hope for the banking industry after all? I did a quick search on ethical banking in Singapore and even the search gods couldn’t come up with anything optimistic, or maybe I’m not searching hard enough. But then I started to wonder what my banks are doing with my money. What are they investing in? Is it a cause that I would support? How do I find out where my money goes?!?? It’s all a bit depressing and I still have no answers after scouring the Internet for hours. It made me more inclined to switch to an ethical bank. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find any Singaporean ethical banks apart from a bank with religious affiliations.

The Guardian (they have an entire section dedicated to ethical money) recently published a few articles about ethical banking options in the UK and the French article that my friend shared also gave a few suggestions in France. Perhaps I should consider an offshore bank account? Here’s hoping that ethical banking makes its way to Singapore and the rest of Asia soon!

All this banking talk is giving me a headache. 😦

Take time to breathe

(Plan b, Bangsar Village 1, Kuala Lumpur)

I scheduled a wee break from work last week and took the coach up to Kuala Lumpur to pay a friend a visit. We were flat mates in Manchester and it was like old times – lying in bed, chatting and laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

There wasn’t an itinerary planned out for my trip. All I wanted was to relax and take time to breathe. I finished a book in two days (Monsoon Rain and Icicle Drops, by Libby Southwell. Good read, especially if you’ve taken to travelling after losing a loved one. I could relate to it), sipped tea while enjoying the silence, had a slow lunch and did some window shopping. We went for Bikram Yoga, talked for hours about horrifying Malaysian crime stories, politics, travelling and image crafting, went for 2-hour massages and eavesdropped on conversations at lunch.

I didn’t do anything in particular that I couldn’t otherwise do back home, but it was lovely to be in a city so much like my own, except without the constant packed-like-sardine crowd and the noise. When I go on a break or travel, I try my best to disconnect digitally. I find myself not tempted to check my phone for work emails and social network notifications…and that is so liberating! I also had the opportunity to think about some decisions I need to make about work and life in general.

This quote came up while I was there:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from” – Seth Godin

Worth a thought, hmm? More on this next time.

More on food waste

More discussion on food waste on theguardian today: Why do we still waste so much food at home?

From the comments,

“The whole system of supermarkets is flawed – they don’t work. The idea of transporting large quantities of food to a large warehouse, which thousands of people then drive to to collect is disturbing. When the system is massively inefficient, the consumers of that system see no issue in being wasteful. The faux “packed shelves” of the supermarket system, burgeoning with shite food – 90% of which comes from about 10 suppliers (unilever etc etc.) draws in the customer. The known tricks of packaging to get the purchaser to buy the “now even chocolatier chocolate” or the huge bargain of “33% extra free”, move the person away from the product’s quality – in fact product quality seems to be derived entirely from a product’s brand these days; insane, given that most people would have no idea from where the core ingredients came. Added together, we now have a public that are so far removed from the process of food creation, that they have no idea what they’re eating, where it came from, the energy used in its production, or even what’s in it – in short, we’re a nation of food illiterates. If you don’t understand the process, then the waste won’t be a concern.”

“We are a family of 5 and I made the decision to stop using supermarkets about two years ago. We now source all of our food from farmers markets and veg box schemes (we live in London so I know we are lucky to have so many markets). Supermarket shopping is a hard habit to break, but with the extra effort required to procure all of our food and the fact that markets aren’t open all the time mean that we hardly waste any food at all. Also, we don’t actually spend any more than we used to – but now the quality is so much better, I actually know where all of our food comes from and I prefer giving money directly to the suppliers rather than to supermarkets.”

‘The ocean is broken’

“They were good, big fish, of all kinds. Some were fresh, but others had obviously been in the sun for a while.

“We told them there was no way we could possibly use all those fish. There were just two of us, with no real place to store or keep them. They just shrugged and told us to tip them overboard. That’s what they would have done with them anyway, they said.

“They told us that his was just a small fraction of one day’s by-catch. That they were only interested in tuna and to them, everything else was rubbish. It was all killed, all dumped. They just trawled that reef day and night and stripped it of every living thing.”

Macfadyen felt sick to his heart. That was one fishing boat among countless more working unseen beyond the horizon, many of them doing exactly the same thing.

No wonder the sea was dead. No wonder his baited lines caught nothing. There was nothing to catch.


😦 Make a stand against discards.