It certainly seems I’ve been neglecting this blogging platform, but that’s because I’ve kind of moved out without telling anyone.
I’m now using the online micro-blogging site Tumblr. I will occasionally post here in the future, when I’ve got LOTS to say, however I am most regularly writing and blogging on Tumblr these days.
So, if you’d like to get regular micro blog updates from me you can:
1. Follow me on my Tumblr here
2. Like my Facebook Fan Page here.
Either way you’ll get my little blogs, thoughts, videos, freebies, gig updates and other bits and pieces.
Have a wonderful festive season and I hope to see you on Tumblr or Facebook next year!
Every once in a while you meet people who become great teachers in your life. I’ve had this experience possibly more than most people – clearly the Universe thinks I’ve a lot to learn! But these are relationships I’m so very grateful for. I’d like to share one of my most recent educational relationships with you today.
One evening at a fundraising event I was performing at, my squishy friend LadyTravTrav (also known as the GENIUS graphic designer for my last two singles) implored me to stay on after I had performed to watch a hip new group = Camp Camp Revolution. LTT is always at the forefront of all things pop culture so I packed up my gear and found a comfortable front-of-stage position with Fiona.
And then my life changed. CCR entered the stage and I spent a good part of their set with a furrowed brow and my mouth slightly ajar. WTF. Seriously, WTF. Who are these people? Where did they come from? They’re singing and rapping and dancing about SameSame, The Peel and Grindr.
Then there’s the other two. Are they back up dancers? No – now she’s spinning rhymes, she’s hilarious! What’s with the bling on the monotone phone? OMGZ, the other one has whipped cream cup cakes on her boobs.
Then I got it. They fo reel. F0 R33L. The most hilarious, quirky analysis of society and pop culture in Australia right now.
So then Fion and I stalked them good and proper. You may remember three of the four as my back up dancers at my launch of *FUNNY BUNNY* back in January. That was just the start of my Grande Plan to abduct them all and keep them in our wardrobe.
This was my first opportunity to really get to know “Cesch Monet” and “Charolotte Web” – CCRs back up dancers – soon to be mine! Together they are also known as the Br00klyn Queenz – a bitchin DJ duo of force and outrageous glamour.
Let me be honest here. These kids are young. Even I feel old around them. They describe their weekends as being totes cray cray and they have DR34/\/\5 about their futures.
But these two ladies are something else entirely. Their extreme personas are entirely contagious. They approach anyone within a 15 meter radius with camera in hand informing them ‘I’m sorry, no photos today!’. They take personal expression and make it an extreme sport.
Who am I kidding – you HAVE to check them out. I can’t describe them in a blog. Get to a gig. Follow their Tumblr. I warn you though, you may end up finding yourself purchasing fluorescent leggings, basket ball singlets and considering a wig wardrobe. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Br00klyn Queenz, thank you, you cray cray mofos, for changing my life and making me feel like I can express my inner desires, no matter how perplexing they may seem.
Never EVER stop being your wonderful selves. I love you both long time.
Please note I have taken pictures from the blog mentioned and do not own the copyright to any of the images you see below.
To Thy Own Self Be True includes nude images of men and women with normal bodies. It also contains some sexually explicit material. This may be inappropriate for minors to view.
It’s not every day you stumble, or rather Tumblr, onto a blog that gets inside your brain and starts to change your life.
But it happened to me.
Most people (and I include men and women because I do believe that there is a physical standard men are expected to attain as much as women) are unhappy with their bodies. Most people will find at least one thing about their bodies they would change if they could. Even my friends who I perceive as having the ultimate, perfect body still see their own imperfections as flaws to be fixed with more exercise or better eating. Madness.
Let me introduce To Thy Own Self Be True. The author, who we’ll call Freaky, started following me after I posted a video of one of my recent songs ‘The Age of Us’ on Tumblr. So, naturally I followed back.
Every day I checked my Tumblr, I would see images of these women who I could related to, who reflected me and my body. They didn’t look like any other women I’ve ever seen photographed or in the media before. They looked like me. Their bodies were unique and curvy.
I showed Fiona the first picture that appeared on my screen exclaiming ‘look, her body’s just like mine!’. I honestly couldn’t believe that these women were bearing all and they weren’t ‘perfect’ in the way most of us have been conditioned to understand perfection in the female form.
This woman’s body was instantly recognisable to me – it’s mine! Her arms, her tummy, her hips. They are my hips! I’ve never seen a picture in the public domain like this – a woman with my strange little body. And I look at her and I think she’s just gorgeous.
So over the past weeks I have been noticing an interesting phenomenon.
I have looked at myself in the mirror for so many years and thought negative things about my body. Rarely would I say I’ve ever looked at my body and thought ‘that’s beautiful, my body’s beautiful’.
Yet, conversely I look at these curvy women on my Tumblr screen and instantly recognise their beauty and exquisiteness.
Then I look back at myself in the mirror and wonder why I’ve been so negative all of these years. If I wasn’t in my own body and it belonged to someone else on my Tumblr dashboard, I would see it as normal and beautiful. It doesn’t make any sense to me to continue to be so critical of the home of my soul.
As I’ve looked at myself in the mirror over the past weeks, I am becoming less disapproving of my natural body shape. Suddenly I REALLY know that all my odd little physical features are not freakish parts of my body I should hide or try to cover up with my clothes, pretending they don’t exist. I now know there are hundreds of women with bodies like mine. And they love their bodies enough to publish them internationally!
My self critique is turning into self acceptance.
I’m now addicted to checking my Tumblr daily. I can’t wait to see the next image Freaky puts up. The positive affirmation this blog has given me is something no friend, therapist or diet regime has been able to do my entire life – not through lack of trying!
I’m fascinated by the effect that daily viewing of these images has had on me, my psyche and my acceptance of myself and my body, and just how quickly this has happened.
I wonder if I had have been shown pictures and drawings of children who had my body type when I was a child, teenager and young adult, how quickly and positively that might have impacted on me.
All I ever saw in books and on TV were skinny girls with flat tummys, almost boyish bodies, long skinny legs you could see daylight between all the way…. Because I didn’t look like the pictures and images I saw, it has implanted in me (and I know in so many other women) that my body was the odd one out.
Well no more with that! My aim now is to find enough love for myself that you might just see me and my body in one of Freaky’s next posts.
**THANK YOU FREAKY**, whoever you are. You are changing my life one post at a time.
I feel completely lost and without a definition, so I will use this public forum to try to find one better than the title of this blog.
My nan will tell you I grew up eating meat and five vege followed by bread and butter pudding pretty much every night throughout my formative years. Needless to say I was a pudgy kid who has continued to struggle with marginal over-weightness ever since. I wasn’t brought up vegetarian, let alone vegan. Nan’s not convinced veganism is entirely natural.
I didn’t want to be a part of the blind inhumanity for an instant longer. Fiona and I committed to becoming vegan whole-heartedly and spent many months researching the changes we would need to make while gradually implementing them.
We changed our shopping list, I sold my car and bought a bike (she’s beautiful), we made our own perfumes and resolved never to use products that necessitated harm on any sentient being in their making.
My greatest concern was turning into a pasty, anaemic-looking apostrophe of a person due to an unbalanced diet. I didn’t ever want to have to return to eating meat because I implemented vegan eating incorrectly.
We have been out and proud in our veganism as much as we are with our dykeness. Friends have become vegetarian due to conversations with us followed by their own awakenings and some are now raising vegetarian kids. Ace!
I have many wiry vegan friends and a little voice inside my head was quietly hoping that becoming vegan and eating more naturally would help me gain the physical equilibrium I have been craving all of my life.
Despite trying many exercise regimes of varying intensities (including 3 personal training sessions per week for months, training 30 hours a week with Fiona in ballroom Latin American dancing and at other times running 3-5kms 3-4 times per week – I’m no lazy bum on the couch) and long term trials of various food plans (based on Skinny Bitch, water and juice detoxes, vegan versions of BodyTrim, raw food and generally eating healthily) I had to face the fact that after 4 years of veganism, I had steadily gained 10kgs.
Something had to give. I had tried tweaking a vegan based diet in every direction in order to shift weight however every regime ended with no weight loss and eventual weight gain.
I then read Timothy Ferris’ “The 4 Hour Body” and I was truly torn. Both Tim and Geoff from BodyTrim note that shifting weight on a vegetarian diet is difficult due to the high carbohydrate levels in all vegan protein sources (legumes, tempeh, soy beans etc). Mum and I took on BodyTrim, I on my vegan regime and mum eating animals. I lost nothing, mum lost 3kgs.
I spent several months contemplating a return to eating animals, but after reading The 4 Hour Body, I decided to make the shift back to carnivorism. I can no longer justify compromising my health for the sake of my ethics.
I only ever gave up meat because intellectually I disagreed with the way animals, beings, are mass-produced for consumption in developed countries. I was moved to action because of the unnecessary cruelty, waste and environmental damage which exists due to our over consumption of dead animal flesh. Conversely, I love eating meat. I love the taste and the texture and despite my thorough awareness of what I am consuming, I had no trouble whatsoever in cleaning my plate at Christmas this year.
Morally and ethically I feel wrong, almost dirty and ashamed. I don’t know what to do with all my vegan contacts. I worry I will be judged harshly.
I’m losing weight, my cholesterol is leveling out, my menstrual cycle is returning to normal (sorry if that’s too much info, but over the past 4 years I have also had serious disruptions with my ovaries) and I feel great. Go figure.
I’m now buying organic free range meat from the Victoria Market and am totally appreciative of the massive choice I now have when eating as a conscious carnivore.
Bingo! I got my label. I am a conscious car-less carnivore.
I say a little thank you prayer for the life that was lost before every meal, I hope that the being I’m consuming lived a happy life and died quickly and painlessly.
I know I will be a revolving-door vegetarian, I don’t think I will eat meat every day for the rest of my life. I know veganism is the highest moral code, it is the way we should all live from an ethical perspective – but it seems my digestive system and metabolism don’t necessarily agree.
For the time being, if the machine that is my body will run more efficiently when I consume flesh, then the being that is my soul and intellect will just have to take a rest from it’s soap box for a change.
I am now completely and utterly connected to and understanding of what I am consuming. I know a beings life was extinguished for the food I eat, and I appreciate the enormity of that. I don’t eat steak and pork, I eat cow and pig muscle. That should make us all feel uncomfortable enough to find some consciousness.
I’m fascinated to know if there are others who are in my position, grappling with the same moral and nutritional dilemmas.
I’m making my return to blogging!
I have been waiting for something to truly inspire me to write a blog and nothing has forced me to sit down and write for a long time.
But then, our first issue of Vegan Voice arrived and as I lay reading it in bed Monday night, I noticed an advertisement for a new vegan and raw food restaurant in Melbourne.
Melbourne? Really? Are you sure you weren’t lying in bed in L.A or New York?
I could only wish. No, for real – Melbourne!
I’m not sure if this is the first restaurant offering the fullest selection of vegan AND raw food options in Melbourne, I’ve been away awhile. But I don’t care! I have found my new home.
I have been thinking how cool it would be to have a little hide out where I could go and order my chai latte with home made nut milk and agave nectar and not be stared at like I spontaneously grew a third eyeball in the middle of my face.
Yong Green Food. 421 Brunswick St Fitzroy. Right around the corner from Go-Go class. Perfect.
So Fion and I trotted off to Yong’s (YGFs? Greenies? I’ll come up with something..) and ate a splendid raw version of nachos. Well, let’s be honest here. I was all for it, Fiona was less than ecstatic, but she’s slowly coming around to dehydrated versions of typically fat-laden foods! Home made guacamole, tomato relish and hommus. Despite Fiona’s raised eyebrows, it didn’t last long.
We moved on to the gyoza – OMG. Too good. Better than Soul Mama’s gyoza for sure. No need for chopsticks, we inhaled them right out of the steamer.
We topped it all off with a slice of raw pecan pie with cashew cream (“I think, really, I’m French inside. I just want cream and butter. The real shit.” Fiona) which I was happy not to share! Delicious. Chai and café latte with fresh almond milk and agave nectar and I was born again.
The staff are delightful and attentive. That shouldn’t surprise us, but it does.
It’s a little on the pricey side (not much change out of $50) and the serves are a little lean, but really, who’s not prepared to pay for wholesome, love-filled food and have someone gently teach you what a more than adequate portion size actually looks like?
Go. There. Now.
Art is the unspoken, the unspeakable.
Having lived for three months in a town most tourists zip through in three days, I feel I can offer something to the zipping visitor in the way of recommendations for seeing, eating and doing. When you’re on a short holiday it’s always disappointing when you go to the mostly highly recommended restaurant and unknowingly choose their worst dish, or arrive at Lonely Planet’s suggested guesthouse, only to find they have since tripled their room prices and dramatically lowered the standard of cleanliness.
So, here are Fiona and my picks for this little heritage town. It’s a personal list, the things we did, saw, ate and liked. Even after three months, I’m sure we missed stuff too, so feel free to add your comments below.
I have included prices in Vietnamese Dong (VND) and US Dollars (USD) where I could remember them. Typically, the exchange rate is around 18,000 dong = 1 USD.
Photos by Fiona Jones.
What to DEFINITELY DO.
Here are a few things not to miss on your trip to Hoi An.
- Take a lazy boat ride on the river. Catch any tourist boat from Bach Dang St, there is a size and price to suit every budget and persuasion, shop around.
- Red Bridge Cooking School. One of the most professional activities I have taken part in in Vietnam. And we made fabulous tasting local food ourselves – lots of fun and well worth the seemingly expensive $25 price tag. Forgo breakfast, there’s LOTS of food – and they cater to vegetarians!
- Pick up a copy of the little Live Hoi An booklet, a lovely monthly tiny magazine about Hoi An. Lots more ideas of current things to do, bike rides out of town and the like.
- Look out for the Full Moon Festival, once every month. Take a boat (70,000VND) down the river at night and float a lantern on the water and watch thousands of candles making their way out to sea.
- Also, keep an eye open for the once-a-year Dragon Festival. When it’s on, you will know about it – drums beat every day for a week while the children practice for the big night. Trucks of performers come in from surrounding towns to display their dragons and dancing on 10-foot high poles.
What to definitely NOT do.
Do not visit any orphanages in Vietnam (or any other county for that matter) with a tour group or as a tourist to have your photo taken with a disabled orphan. Really, just think about the dignity of the person you are encroaching on before you join your tour group in going.
If you have a skill (English teaching, social worker, fund raiser, physical therapist etc) then scout out a local charity organization. In Hoi An, if you would like to donate or volunteer your services to help orphaned or disabled children, contact the Kianh Foundation.
Do not purchase items from child street sellers. The children sell whistles, bracelets, necklaces and other small ticket items. They will usually tell you if you buy something from them they can afford to go to school.
Just so you know, there is a free school run by Lifestart Foundation that all of these children could attend, starting today, but their parents choose for them to work on the streets selling bric-a-brac to gullible tourists. The children earn a huge living, even just selling two or three items a night, often meaning their whole family can live off the child who sells the most.
Want to really help these kids? Donate to Lifestart Foundation education programs. Slowly but surely most of these kids are gaining scholarships to school or places in the free school which caters to children who can no longer enter the government school system.
So then, can you buy from adult street sellers selling the same items or newspapers? Sure, but just don’t get sucked in to the story. The main income for these sellers is not the immediate sale of a newspaper or necklace to you, but the sale of a story typically about a health condition, their poverty or another family members problem which will undoubtedly take a lot of (your) money to fix. I have seen so many tourists lured into these stories, some even opening bank accounts and providing monthly deposits of money.
It is hard not to want to help everyone, our ego often takes over when we see people less fortunate than ourselves. We think it’s so easy for us to dip into our pocket and hand over a little of our cash which we think will make a huge impact on someone else’s life, so why not? It’s only $5, $10, $50 – so what? But there are larger social implications when you take part in this ad-hoc, ego-inflating form of generosity that need to be considered.
Hoi An has to be the most over supported town in Vietnam. There are so many NGOs and charities here to help the disadvantaged, I can’t even count them all! Every person in this town with a story, with a health issue is very well aware of the charities that exist here and that they can easily access free medical care, education for their children, training opportunities and support for disabled relatives.
If you feel so desired, the best way to help people in need in this town is to connect them with the relevant charity or NGO. They will then be taken through the relevant process of assessment and will be given appropriate assistance for their needs.
Please think before you open your wallet (or bank account!) about the wider ramifications of your actions.
Hoi Pho Hotel
627 (04 Old) Hai Ba Trung St
For two and a half months we lived at Hoi Pho. The staff are attentive and friendly. Our room was clean, spacious, light filled and had a balcony – perfect for a long stay. Small rooms start at $10. Our room was $15 and could sleep 3 people, however we negotiated a $10 per night rate as we were long term guests. Hai Ba Trung is a busy street and it was on occasion very noisy in our room late at night. Comparatively, we spent 2 weeks at Thien Nga around the corner for $25 per night in a much smaller room, but it was quite, had a pool and over looked rice paddies instead of the street. I would happily take a room at Hoi Pho again over Thien Nga in the future, simply because of the cost saving.
Hire bikes from the vendor across the road from Hoi Pho hotel, on the corner of Thanh Binh 2 hotel. If you are hiring for several days, you should be able to negotiate 10,000VND per day rate. Pay in advance if you don’t want him chasing you down the street every day! He will also pump up your tires every few days.
Recently stayed in a great value hotel in Hoi An? Please feel free to add your comments below.
I’ll only mention a few places to shop in Hoi An. You will notice (should you stray from the tour guided path) that most shops stock exactly the same thing. This is due to the governments control of what shop owners can sell and where. For example, if you have a shop in the market, you have a choice of only 12 types of shop you can open, and your stock is prescribed to you.
Buyer be ware – Vietnam is a bartering country. I saw an American tourist pay $25 for a t-shirt I bought for $2. Seriously. If you don’t care, fine, but know that you can typically offer half of the original asking price and still know you’re not getting a good deal!
If you are visiting on a tour or with a guide, be aware that your tour guide will be getting a commission from every shop they take you to where you make a purchase. Be independent and go to shops other than the ones you are directed to purchase from – you’ll likely find exactly the same item three doors down the road, for a much cheaper price as that shop will not be hiking up their prices for tour groups.
But really, how many ‘I went to Vietnam’ t-shirts do you need? Here’s a few suggestions where you will find wonderful and unique souvenirs from your trip to Hoi An, while also supporting some great causes.
Shop 5, Viettown, 127 Phan Chu Trinh St
The Lifestart Foundation Workshop is a co-operative of disabled and disadvantaged people from Hoi An and surrounding areas. Everything in the shop is made by the people in the co-op and 100% of your money will go directly to the makers. The running costs of the shop are covered by independent fundraising by Lifestart Foundation. This is a truly unique operation in Vietnam and well worth supporting.
103 Nguyen Thai Hoc (next to Tan Ky House)
Reaching Out is another charity-based organization selling really lovely hand made products. The shop does support disabled and disadvantaged crafts people, however they are on a set wage which is not effected directly by your purchase. It is not clear exactly where the profit from this organization goes, but I feel that there is heart in this organization and a good will for the people it supports.
100 Nguyen Thai Hoc St
If you’re into sterling silver, this is the place to shop – frankly all the other jewellers in town are simply inferior in quality and service. Phil and Nguyen run the show and are soon to open a second shop in town. They stock wonderful hand crafted sterling silver pendants with designs such as the iconic conical hat and lotus flowers. Just stunning. Give them an Aussie G’Day from us.
Shop 45 – for all your clothes and shoes!
Hoang Deu – down near the bridge.
Huyen and her mother have to be the most reasonable shop keepers in Hoi An! Their prices for shoes, clothes and bags are the most competitive in town. Bring your favorite pants, dress or anything for them to copy, or bring in a picture of what you want made. Forgot to? Never mind, Huyen has piles and piles of fashion books you can flick through. Point to your favorite garments and come back and try it on in under 24 hours! Having clothes tailor made for you is a fun experience – let your imagination run wild! I had 50s-style summer dresses made for $18 each, Converse-style shoes made for $10 a pair and dress shoes made for $12 and $18 – and everything was made to measure!
Had a wonderful shopping experience recently in Hoi An? Tell everyone about it in the box below!