The Daydreamer Award

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I have been nominated for the Daydreamer award by the lovely Edwina of EdwinasEpisodes. This is an award for blogs that are inspiring, creative or funny.
Here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Complete the challenge they set you.
3. Select a blog or blogs that you want to give the award to.
4. Tell them about it and set them a challenge.
(Please include the rules in your post).

 

1. Thanks Edwina for nominating me, I’ve really enjoyed reading and engaging with your blog and witty episodes on the world around us.

I’m really really pleased you nominated me for this. As a blogger it’s nice to know that anyone out there is reading what I’m writing and even better that someone (particularly someone whose writing I enjoy so much) actually likes the words I’m committing to screen. Being nominated as a blog you find inspiring means a lot to me.

This award is a bit like a chain letter of the blogging world but as the aim is to recognise good blogs and spread the love of other good blogs, rather than enticing people into financially-dodgy pyramid schemes I don’t see anything not to like about this.

 

2. The challenge I was given was to describe my dream destination.

I spent several months in Cambodia in 2013 and loved everything about the people and their beautiful country, even if there are deep-rooted human rights and political issues that led me there in the first place and despite my few months of activism are still ongoing (surprising I know, that I couldn’t change a country’s fate in just a handful of weeks!). Nonetheless I would endorse Cambodia as a place to visit with all my heart and find it hard to imagine a better holiday destination than that. But as I’ve already been there it’s not currently in my dream destination list of contention

Not Japan but CambodiaI love Cambodia, and have a fondness for Thailand, so am firmly convinced that I love Southeast Asia. Although I’ve only discovered a small part of it to date I hope to get round to exploring the rest of it someday.

So, still hung up on that part of the world, but unsure how to pick my next top choice from the enticing options available in that region, I’ll go a little less South and a little more East and pick Japan as my dream destination for now. My fascination with Japan has been growing through an onslaught of arts and literature pushing me in that direction.

Whilst in Cambodia I finally got around to reading my first Haruki Murakami book, “Kafka on the shore”, which seemed so magical and wonderful I knew that I’d discovered a new favourite author from this book alone. Since then I have been desperately trying to resist the temptation to read up everything he’s ever written immediately. It’s nicer to know there are still a lot of his works out there yet to be savoured than to panic that I’ve almost exhausted his library.

On the plane back from Cambodia I watched a great Japanese film by Kiyoshi Kurasawa called “Real”, which, more-or-less, tells the tale of a young man trying to connect with his comatose girlfriend through meeting her in a dream reality. If you get a chance to see it I’d definitely recommend it, unless you don’t like science fiction, films that make your head want to explode or foreign films as a matter of some weird principle.

Shortly after I returned from Cambodia (“before Cambodia”, “in Cambodia” and “post Cambodia” is apparently my new concept of time) I read “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng and although set in Malaysia a large part of the story focuses on a Japanese gardener and the gardens he creates.

Anyway, these creative types have stirred up a dormant longing to go to Japan, which has yet to be satiated. You may note that I am quite impressionable and think it odd that it’s words on a page or shots from a film rather than anything more substantial that draws me to Japan, but hey-ho. The idea of Japan as seen through these worlds is enough to instil a huge passion for me to go there.

The country is also appealing for being a land of contrasts: it has huge modern cities, an astonishingly rich history, beautiful beaches, temples with mountain gardens and the magic of cherry blossom. Japan may be nothing like I imagine it to be but I want to go and find out.

In an ideal world it’d be my honeymoon destination of choice for when me and the bearded one finally get hitched. However, as we haven’t currently got money for the wedding, let alone the honeymoon, that might be a trip to be taken a little further down the line, when I stop making financially irresponsible choices like fleeing to Switzerland or constantly starting one expensive course after another.

Oh and Japan also has a Cat Island, where strays outnumber the population, for that reason alone it has to be worth a visit.

Cat Island

 

 3. The blogs I’d like to nominate are:

Cecilia in the Rain Swedish lass stranded in Scotland

Confuzzledom Brit in Germany, although now moving to Switzerlabd

Just a Blog Rambling On Entertaining rambles to be found here

Inventing Real Life Talking to herself in a crowded room, amusing the rest of us along the way

Blunderdad Full time husband, dad and tree-trimmer

Most of these are blogs I’ve discovered fairly recently and they are a varied bunch but all really enjoyable and worth investigating. The last three I discovered through one of Opinionated Man’s Meet and Greets for bloggers that he holds on a pretty regular basis, if you haven’t already discovered his blog it’s worth checking out but be warned he has opinions and he’s not afraid to voice them.

 

 4. The challenge I’d like to set to you all is to describe your perfect rainy day.

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An appetite to appreciate anomalies

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I read with interest the news story of the three young students (two Dutch and one British) who on finding themselves stranded in Turkey for eight days, survived by eating insects. I thought the piece was interesting not for the regaling of the student’s survival plight but that the headline focus on insect-eating implied this was the real shocker of the incident.

One thing I’ve never been afraid of is trying new foods. I remember my parents being impressed enough to tell all their friends (one of whom’s children had spent several years only eating baked beans, smash and chocolate mousse) that I had eaten squid kebab whilst on a family holiday, when I must have been about eleven or twelve. To me it wasn’t that big a deal but after that I probably reveled in and strove to live up to my reputation as a gastronomic dare-devil.

Like most people I do judge edibles on how they look and allow appearances to affect what I think of certain questionable foodstuffs, but preconceptions wont stop me from trying these. So I’ve never really understood why people are squeamish about eating certain things.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-22 à 16.45.30When I was in Cambodia in the summer of 2013 (gosh, that sounds so much longer ago now that it’s 2015), the guidebook I read in advance informed me that fried tarantulas were a common snack and that insects were often on the menu. The though of eating creepy-crawlies was definitely a bit weird, and still is, but I’m not really sure why.

Yes, they are a bit gross to look at with sticky-out eyes, feelers and too many legs but prawns are just as disgusting and have you ever really looked as a mussel as you are eating it? Yet these sea-insects, if you will, are eaten by many who would be horrified by the thought of eating crispy noodles with red tree ants or a nice bowl of fried crickets.

Eating bugs is definitively a cultural thing and I suppose that because, unlike prawns and mussels, they are so readily available in the dirt around us this makes them less desirable in the way that caviar is probably valued more for its seeming rarity. Eating insects is also often associated with poverty and starvation and that might be where part of our preconceived distaste comes from.

Generally my food-philosophy is to try anything once and I wouldn’t automatically turn my nose up at any local cuisine whether that’s frog’s legs in France, black pudding (congealed pig’s blood) in England, paella with prawns and mussels in Spain, fried tarantulas and snake in Cambodia, Chicken’s feet in China or a Matcha Green Tea Latte in Geneva.

I’m not committing to liking these things but I’m definitely willing to have a go. Actually all of those items above I have tried (although not necessarily in stated country) and the only thing I thought truly vile was the Green Tea Latte I ordered this week but even that I still managed to slurp down, albeit shuddering with every mouthful. I wont order that one again.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-23 à 16.28.57I’m often motivated to try new things by the fear of missing out on great opportunities if I shut myself off to these. And from experience I know that whilst every activity is not necessarily for me there have been things I’ve tried without enthusiasm that have positively astonished me. If I’m honest I find snorkeling too scary to actually appreciate. But volunteering to run sessions of a legal programme for teenagers, that I thought I would struggle with, I really enjoyed.

In the same way I wouldn’t want to miss out on cultural culinary opportunities that might amaze me. I like green tea but thought the green tea latte revolting. I am pathetic around living specimens but found fried arachnid legs rather tasty.

I love travelling, and hope to do a lot more of this, but what I really enjoy is attempting to get under the skin of a different culture to find out what makes people from that part of the world  tick and to think about how they live the lives they do. I know you can’t generalize whole people from brief visits to a place but you can at least try to get an understanding of certain similarities these people may share.

When I went to Thailand about a decade ago I saw fried locusts for sale in busy tourist areas but declined to try them, partly because I was less brave than I am now but mostly because I wasn’t convinced that this was something real Thai people ate. I thought the eating of locusts might have just been a touristy gimmick with locals snickering from alleyways at the foolish farang.

However in Cambodia, at a local party celebrating the official opening of one of our favourite hostels/bars, we were enjoying the cheaper-than-water-beer when out came steaming dishes of crispy once-jumping hexapods. As the Cambodians there started tucking in I recognized the legitimacy of the dish and knew I would have to participate. The locals watched us expats with interest to see how we would respond to the unfamiliar platter and their curiosity was amply rewarded by the looks on our faces as we braved the many-legged snacks. But actually, once we got over the strangeness of eating a food so foreign to us, we enjoyed these little critters, which a friend accurately described as meaty crisps.

I wonder if those stranded students came to like their bug-based diet, once they allowed hunger to overcome initial misgivings? More likely their having to eat insects as necessity impaired their ability to truly appreciate these. I hope their ordeal will not indefinitely put these young adventurers off from future expeditions and perhaps they will even have the occasion to sample some intriguing local cuisines prepared in more favourable circumstances.

The zombie wedding I wasn’t allowed to have

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The engagement and wedding fever

In September 2013 my partner finally gave into familial and societal pressure and after six years together he decided to put an end to my wandering ways, came out to join me at the end of a financially-insensible, three-month, unpaid internship in Cambodia and proposed.

He tells the story slightly differently, something about a romantic setting at one of the wonders of the world (Angkor Wat in Cambodia) blah-de-blah…*

We returned to the UK together: him, one box of jeweled anxiety lighter and me, one bit of bling heavier.

I thought we might be allowed a teeny amount of time to revel in our new found enfiancededyness (should totally be a word) and bask in the happiness of knowing our friends and family can relax and enjoy our betrothal.

However, it turns out that isn’t what happens once you get engaged. What happens is that all that pent-up longing to see us get engaged mutates into a monstrous level of excitement about all things weddingy. Within a week of return I must have been asked approximately 10,000 times when, where and how the wedding was going to take place and who would be invited.

Finding it a bit overwhelming I enlisted the help of some avowed wedding-unenthusiast friends who helpfully suggested a strategy to combat marriage fever. I was to come up with as many ridiculous wedding plans as possible until people got so frightened I was serious they stopped asking me about it.

Of the unsuitable wedding ideas considered, the zombie theme was undoubtedly my favourite and I put a lot of thought into the details to make it convincing.

The zombie wedding plans

Zombie weddingThere would be utilitarian themed wedding invites scraped together from the kind of bits of cardboard you’d find breezing around an apocalyptic London where no-one has time to go to Paperchase anymore.

These would include the necessary logistical information but also references to the need to band together to increase our chances of survival.

I envisaged the wedding itself as a fairly non-eventful affair except that at the part when the Priest invites anyone to declare any reason why we couldn’t get married some ‘zombies’ would bang loudly on the church door and groan.

The service would conclude and guests would be carefully chaperoned to the wedding reception venue by Shaun of the Dead inspired groomsmen armed with cricket bats and old records.

Serving staff would already be undead (I was thinking actors, students or some other bunch of reprobates) with chains to limit their movement. You can take a drink but would have to try not to let them bite you.

For our wedding breakfast we could have provided packets of Wotsits, tins of cold baked beans, mouldy cheese, beer cans and other larder items scavenged from deserted houses. Decorations could have been paperchains fashioned out of blood spattered old newspapers and stubs of candles in old wine bottles would have provided suitable Armageddon-esque romantic lighting. All in keeping with the concept, and cost-effective too.

Rather than the usual party games for tables of strangers, guests would be provided with scrappy pencils and recycled paper and asked to plan their escape from the reception to a nearby safehouse and there’d be a competition to come up with the most inventive way of killing zombies with only the contents of the room available to them.

Photos would have been in two stages. Initially guests in their nice outfits and looking their best. Then we’d have had a face painter whose job would be to gradually transform guests into zombies. Later, another round of photos and if guests happened to be drunk and covered in Wotsit dust by this time then so much the better.

By the end of the night I imagined everyone having been bitten and transformed into a zombie so that party time could be everyone dancing to Thriller on repeat, drinking brain cocktails, eating cake shaped like a decomposing body and occasionally shouting out ‘brains’ to make the zombie bride and groom try to eat each other.

The reaction

My dad, reasonably confident I was joking, entered into the spirit of my zombie wedding idea and at an engagement party took great pleasure in sharing plans with aunts and uncles. He was pretty convincing and the measured looks on their faces as they tried to weigh horror at such an idea against likelihood it was a joke was highly entertaining. Except for Grandma who accepted the concept without question, laughed that she wouldn’t have to dress up and promptly settled herself into an armchair with a glass of sherry.

I got so carried away with the idea of my joke wedding that I managed to convince myself that any alternative would be a disappointment. When it became apparent it was less of a joke than it had initially seemed I received strong feedback from people, fiancé included, that an undead wedding really wasn’t a great idea.

I realized I could maturely respond to wedding excitement had two options:

1) I could find a new fiancé, friends and family that might be onboard with the wedding/judgement day of my imagination.

2) If I wasn’t allowed that wedding I’d have to engineer a situation whereby any wedding seemed wholly unfeasible.

I chose option number two, moved to Geneva and made the poor fella quit his job and follow me to one of the most expensive cities in Europe where we couldn’t afford a wedding (zombie or otherwise) even if we wanted to.**

How d’you like them (rotten) apples, eh?

 


*This is a good test to see if the fiancé actually reads my blog or just pretends to and if he does read it how much trouble I will get in for writing this!
**Please note I may or may not have moved to Geneva for reasons other than avoiding/stalling my own wedding