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Where are we going?

An update on life in Spain and the impressions I get, and a retrospection on our modern lives.

 

Where are we going with all of this? I mean, where is this technological era taking us? Are we evolving or devolving? I have realised the more time I spend in the city the more I would like to go back to what the earth was like a good few decades ago.

As humans, we might not always listen to our need to for being surrounded by nature. But when we pause our busy lives for a second and take a break, visit a forest, or a lake or somewhere isolated we can experience the connection. In my case, I feel complete when I’m close to the sea. I feel the need of being near, in, or on it. I just cannot explain the feeling of happiness and fondness for that great body of water. There is a magical overwhelming sensation that surrounds the sea, and when I go in I feel embraced. Then, nothing is important anymore. We are finally one.

As we come and go, and fill our most primary needs such as eating or paying rent by working we focus on the city lifestyle, and end up losing the connection. In fact, we don’t even need it, there are many more important things in life like making money. Being promoted. Buying things. Having a good social image. Social media.

It’s all things we have created. A frivolous life we feed while someone makes sure we don’t question it – mainly the media. Which makes me think of big companies buying, selling, buying, selling. Fast fashion. They exploit workers in 3rd world countries so we can comfortably buy clothes or shoes for a ‘fair price’. We should ask the workers how fair it actually is. But we all know about it. Nike exploits children. H&M, Gap, Primark, Zara (Inditex)… exploit garment workers in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Brazil, Morocco, Tunisia, Vietnam. And don’t get me started on Apple. We turn a blind eye, because getting clothes or things from non-mainstream brands is too complicated. Because we’d rather have a crappy life in which we spend most of our day in a low paid job (Spain) in order to re-pay the mortgage we’ve got, and of course we cannot afford ethical brands nor can we be bothered to find them online – even when it takes less than two minutes.

This country is funny like that. Spain is full of corrupt politicians as everyone knows. But then again, the media is also corrupt, so there won’t be a revolution because everyone has learnt to focus on more important matters. What surprises me is that so many people will defend the system. Many of them are even proud of their country, and will defend the injustice and unjustified unfairness that surrounds us. For example: Politicians are found to be involved in a massive corruption scandal and what do we do? Nothing, we worry about the situation in Catalonia, and we complain about people wanting to be independent (They’re breaking our country!) instead of giving them the opportunity to have a referendum and make them choose democratically what they want. And when they try, like it happened last year, what did the police do? They beat up the people who had gathered ‘illegally’ to vote and have a saying. And what does the media/the country say? They haven’t asked what the rest of Spain wants, what if we want them to be part of us still? How dare they want to vote! – Imagine this situation from a couple’s perspective: ‘John, I want to divorce you’, ‘But Martha, you haven’t asked me what I want, what if I don’t want to divorce you? I want us to be together for life!’ ‘Uhm… Okay John, but I just don’t want that. I don’t love you anymore, I think I’m going to get my things and go somewhere else.’ ‘You can’t do that! That’s not the legal procedure! I’ll call the police to tell them you’ve been a bad wife and make you change your mind!’. And basically that’s what they did. Police brutality of course won the argument.

A year later they still haven’t had their referendum and it would still be illegal to have one. The politicians who carried out the movement had to run away from Spain not to be imprisoned. Which slightly reminds me of the times of the dictatorship in this country – a very controversial topic now as the new government wants to move the corpse of the dictator somewhere less glamorous and good old fascist supporters are coming out of the woodwork to complain about it. There is a Fundación Francisco Franco by the way, which is the equivalent to Hitler having a foundation to honour him and have meetings every now and then to remember his glorious soul. Meanwhile the rest of the world tries to comprehend the craziness of the situation, whereas in Spain it is something completely normal. (The president of the foundation even speaks on national TV!)

We are the sons and daughters, the grandchildren of that dictatorship, and many many people won’t ever be able to see the atrocities committed by a murderer. Instead, they’ll only see that there wasn’t criminality on the streets – curfew; whoever was an opositor could go to prison and be tortured if discovered. People like gays, or lesbians were put in psychiatric institutions for many years in an attempt to make them ‘normal’ again. But of course none of this would affect you if you were a good loyal supporter of the right wing dictatorship.

A couple of months ago I couldn’t see much difference between Spain and the UK on many aspects, but now I do:

Coming back from the UK, Spain seems to be a very backward country. In their politics, their infrastructure, education system, bureaucracy, and their high tolerance towards deceitfulness. A very disappointed image to be unchanged (I left precisely because of that). In a way, I’d like to stay to work on fixing it. As a journalist, I believe I have a voice and should be used to create awareness and fight against injustice. However circumstances force me to stay only for a while before returning to the UK.

We have a plan though, we want to live in the countryside, isolated from the world for a few hours a day. In contact with nature on good quality walks with my (now two) dogs. We adopted one here as I know Spain has a much higher dog abandonment rate, the highest in Europe apparently.

And while I can, I will try to ignore that companies listen in and record random bits of conversation through my phone, that my life will be dedicated to work in order to pay for a piece of land, that modern slavery does exist, and all those normalised horrible aspects of the human world.

Please buy ethic. There’s a bunch of brands that do only ethical clothes and whose workers are paid a fair salary and work in good conditions.

Please stay in touch with nature. For your own health. Do not forget that we are here on this planet to take care of it, we are lucky enough to see it and experience it. Life is so much more than making money or having thousands of followers.

I’ll stop rambling now, thanks for reading and a happy week to you!

 

 

 

The runaway

A white page on a digital platform where to share my feelings. Digital era they call it. Gone are the days where I would spend the whole evening writing notes in my little notebook. Everything seems to be so connected yet disconnected. I am not sure I like it.  I guess I’m being dramatic, I’m only from the 90s, I should be used to it – ‘it’s not like you were born six decades ago!’ I tell myself.

 

Yet still, I feel like we are going uncontrollably fast, speeding up to the limit and rushing into what will inevitably be a mixture of destruction and dust, if that makes sense.

 

If someone asked me how I would define this era I would say digital. I can’t help but feel we would be better off without that much technology, apps, and overall social media. Lonely people overshare on social media. That was the headline of some news report I read the other day.

 

Europe is for good and bad pretty much the same everywhere, so when I say I’ve moved from the UK to Spain again, contrary to most people’s opinion I believe is not such a big deal. Health system is the same, applying for jobs requires the same digital process, shopping online is practically the same with different products (supermarkets here have much more variety at much cheaper prices!) and overall it feels like there’s not much difference. Same banks, fast food, clothing shops… Same fashion, style, and lifestyle. We have lost our identity to an alarming rate and in order to feel abroad one has to go very very far, where the influence of the west isn’t so strong. All of this makes me feel sad and overwhelmed. But of course, when emigrating it makes things ten times easier, so I shouldn’t be ungrateful.

 

This month I said goodbye to the UK. Hopefully for a long time. I came back to my hometown, Madrid, and I am living in a sunny place.

Places are colourful and so are the people. It has taken me five years to miss it. I used to hate it. Madrid is where I grew up in a not very healthy environment with very toxic people, but I had to fight my demons and that has taken many years. I come back now to somewhere different in Madrid, so the neighbourhood is different, and I’m still trying to get to know the area.

 

It feels good to be back however it doesn’t feel like home to me. I don’t belong to anywhere nor do I feel the need to stay or come back. I just wanted to run away from England, like I did from Madrid one day, and my friends were still here so I came to them. They are home. I have now a fiancé and of course my dog – they are home too – so I took everyone with me on this new adventure and I’ll take this time in my life to reconnect with my loved ones. To start a new chapter in my life. ‘The comeback’ or maybe not. That doesn’t matter, I probably won’t stay here for too long, and when I’m ready and I have recharged my batteries I’ll feel free to leave again. This time I won’t run away.

Design. So obvious it’s invisible.

Recently I came across a Kitchen Bedroom and Bathroom magazine. I have never been into writing about design, and have never thought about having a career on anything to do with design in fact. But I should have realised when trips to IKEA become something to look forward to. When you are planning a trip to the TATE museum (London) just so you can watch the infinite unphotographable white staircase. (picture below)

tate-britain
By Szerelmey

 

Or when exploring old mansions from the 1700 in England becomes more than an adventure. And you find yourself wanting to photograph beautifully decorated iron gates in what was someone’s hallway at some point a few decades ago. The excitement of being in an abandoned house is not as big as being surrounded by beauty stuck in time. It is believed the house was left around the Blitz (1940s) and a couple of friends and I went to explore it right after some company took over to do restoration works.
richmond mansion

I have always enjoyed well-decorated places, it’s part of our human nature, we like pretty things, they are more watchable. I personally find difficult not to buy stationary like notebooks that contain pretty fonts on the cover, or rose gold pens, or giant map of the world pictures. It’s hard not to buy anything from Paperchase, yes. I’m in love with cheesy cool fonts, like this one.

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And with South and central American houses,  because they are so colourful, like this Mexican one:

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I still have this gorgeous picture I took in Paraty, in Brazil.

DSC_0529 2

One day I want to work at a place that looks like a garden. Like this stunning warehouse in East London.

Clapton+Tram+-+a+plant-filled+warehouse+space+in+London
Clapton Tram. By Haarkon

And let’s not forget the architecturally stunning houses with fountains in the middle and plants, always plants everywhere.

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May I present you my dream house? This is a hostel I stayed in San José, Costa Rica when backpacking with my brother. Little did I know I would fall in love with this house so much I begged my partner to have something like this at some point in our lives. This is my ultimate goal house. A beautiful house inside and outside.

hostal finca escalante
hostelfincaescalante.com

Reflecting now on that trip, I remember I was extremely disappointed about the architecture in Costa Rica because there wasn’t colonial buildings from the first Spanish colonos, like the Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago de Chile. However seeing all kinds of animals in the wild so well respected and protected made up for the lack of colonial architecture.

catedral-metropolitana
Trip Advisor UK

Turns out that I do love design and I wasn’t even aware of it.

Inside the favelas. My experience as a volunteer.

Twelve miles away from one of the most quiet and peaceful beaches in Rio, two police officers are guarding the entrance of a favela. They each have IMBEL FAL and Colt M4A1 assault rifles. So these aren’t your average pistol police.  Both weapons can shoot 700 bullets in 60 seconds, which  is  an  even  more  miserable  statistic considering the officers  were smiling at us. I shudder at the sight of their beaming faces and wonder what lies behind them.

Inside the favela a lawless theme park is waiting. The armed teenagers within carry the same weapons as the guards outside, so if it wasn’t for the uniforms and toothy grins it’d be impossible to tell who’s who — Although something suggests those inside have got a lot less to smile about.

The day had started at a miserable 6am, when a bus pulled up looking like something out of a 1960s trip. It didn’t have any suspension, as the government don’t want to invest in the buses that go to the favela. But of course, it doesn’t matter as long as the tourists don’t use it, because that is what really matters.

The view from the bus was like a scene of Lawrence of Arabia: bright, exhausting sun, sweaty people and a landscape both desolate and impressive in the arid loneliness of the steppe. It’s hard to imagine that this area was once a forest until the Portuguese explorers came to Brazil 500 years ago and destroyed the landscape.

The favelas near the tourist areas and the beaches are painted with bright colours but as we moved towards the outskirts of Rio, they became grey. By the time we got off the bus it was a completely different world.

Gone were the luxury apartments of Ipanema or the well­ decorated neighbourhood of Leblon.

Then my mind went off and I thought about Cleide, a middle aged woman who runs a little school in the favela of Vila Kennedy, where I was going to work. She started a project on her own when she realised the children in the favela needed help and someone to help them stay out of drugs. “I moved to this favela after I lost everything I had. My 14-year-old son had been run over by a car and I lost all my money trying to save him. Then I realised I couldn’t let myself down because there are people here that need me too.”

In  2001, Cleide decided to start a school for the children whose families couldn’t afford an education. Teachers work as volunteers tutoring everything from maths class to dance class. There are English lessons organised by volunteers from abroad who come to Rio through an international volunteering organisation.

The paving on the road ended. The air was full of sun and dust. It was hard to breath. The buildings contained so-called ‘shops’, complete with hand drawn signs that signalled towards conspicuous pharmacies. Cleide was waiting for at the bus stop to let the gangs know that we were with her.  They respected her, and under her influence we’d be respected and protected too. Police cars were constantly patrolling the area. They would slow down and smile at us while checking us out, like dogs waiting for a nice treat.

We finally got to the little school we were going to be work on. The paint on the walls was old and unfinished, with patches everywhere as it was painted by volunteers. Cleide kept telling us “When I started here I was scared but I had to find the courage to help entire families who needed someone to keep  their  children  away  from  drugs  or  from  robbing.  But sometimes that doesn’t happen as they see thieves can get money way quicker than humble workers.” She opens her heart to tell us the broken paradise that lays in Rio.

Not long ago there were a few siblings from a very poor family at her school. She would feed them after the lesson and that’d be the only meal they would have a day. One day, one of them said to Cleide that he had decided to become a criminal in order to feed his family. He said “Cleide I wanted to be an engineer, I really did, but it’s actually quicker to rob someone.’”  Today, that boy is dead  and  one  of  his  sisters  has  a  severe  drug addiction. Unfortunately, the project doesn’t always work the way we want to.

The volunteers that come from abroad pay a small amount to help the project and that’s how they finance it. Cleide and her nephew are there, working very hard on fixing an old piece of furniture. That day we don’t have enough students, as there was a shooting the day before and stray bullets killed two children that were playing on the street. This is very common in the favelas; bullets kill a worrying amount of people a year.

As we don’t have students I’m doing a massive painting on one of the kitchen walls. Another volunteer is helping out moving and cleaning furniture and another one is getting the English lesson ready in case any student shows up.

It’s worrying to see how low on means we are. The government doesn’t fund projects like this one, as there is a risk of fraud, and supposedly not enough money.

Funny how there isn’t enough money but they keep selling the Amazon to Ikea. They won’t protect indigenous people’s homes, it’s more profitable to sell their land.

They will shout that they are diverse, and that racism doesn’t exist in Brazil, but 80% of black applicants are rejected from university. They say they are a potential growing economy, but they have sweatshops owned by European fashion companies like Spanish brand Zara.

They say they are producing new jobs, but prostitution is on the rise every year because women can’t find proper employment. The government cannot afford supporting educational projects or antidrug programmes. Extortion and gangs are the kings of the favelas. Malnutrition and child poverty is on the streets. Brazilian police are essentially non-existent when it comes to enforcing laws to protect the population. The judicial system is a joke and there is usually no recourse for the citizen who is robbed, cheated or otherwise harmed. People live in fear and build walls around their houses or pay high fees to live in gated communities. Meanwhile the government spent shit loads of money on road works and new installations for the Olympics in 2016.

Yes, wonderful paradise. It just needs a whole new government, administration, new laws, more investment in education, science, gun controls, fight against racism and corruption.

Juicing

This is my latest article for an Australian website on Juicing for weight loss.
By Monica Sanchez

Everyone knows that a healthy diet must include a large amount of fruits and vegetables, but it’s not easy to eat five pieces of fruit or that many vegetables a day – like experts recommend –  however, juicing can be the ultimate solution. Combined with regular exercise, juicing is the fastest solution to weight loss and you’ll be doing this with a boost of energy because of all the vitamins that you’ll get from only natural sources.

We’ve all done it. No one gets to eat proper organic raw food in every meal. Well, unless you start juicing. And when you do, you’ll be much more aware of your food intake, and you will avoid those unhealthy meals and easily substituting that cheeky snack full of carbs with a healthy juice. And the best thing is the feeling afterwards: Energetic, active, revitalised. You will feel good overall and ready to accomplish your goals. Let’s see the ways we can do it.

Juice feast or juice fast?

There are two ways to benefit from juicing. Juice feasting consists of including a glass of juice with your meals. Alternatively, Juice fasting consists of having only juice for a few days to cleanse your body – After all those years of bad eating habits your body is a bit clogged, so you might want to detoxify it first through juices. You will be getting all the nutrients from fruits and vegetables and no other additives or added fat. Your body will get rid of all the toxins that build up inside you and will have a clean-up of your whole system. But if you think it’s not for you, or even if you are pregnant or diabetic, I would recommend you to simply go for the juice feasting, increasing your intake of vitamins and antioxidants and therefore boosting your energy levels.

Juicing vs smoothies

A juicer separates the juice from the pulp, also called insoluble fibre. A blender on the other hand crushes the whole piece of fruit or vegetable without extracting anything, which results in a slower sustained absorption from our bodies. The juice will give your digestive system a much-needed break and will purify your body. Also, a glass of juice will have a higher nutrient content than a smoothie, however it will take longer to prepare. Although smoothies might create a sense of fullness, I personally find them much harder to drink because of the thickness and the air bubbles that will make you feel bloated, but there is no right or wrong when it comes to one or another. Some people say juices end up to be more expensive because you need many more ingredients to have a full glass, however you can water down (and this is a good recommendation!) the juice and have the same amount as you would if you used a blender.

How long will it take me to lose weight?

It really depends on the person, but a good way to start is with green juice (vegetables mainly). They are more effective for rapid weight loss as opposed to fruit only juices. Some fruits are full of sugar and calories, however you can add an apple or orange in order to make the veggie juice tastier. Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits in our diet will often be recommended by nutritionists when changing to a healthier diet.

 

Side note: I had to write a very positive article on juicing, however after all the research done for this article I have to say I do not promote juice fasting as our body needs fibre and juices lack of it. Adding juices to your diet however can be an excellent way to add some vitamins and nutrients every now and then. For more info read this article written by dietitian and Huffington Post contributor Jessica Penner here
This article serves just to add another page to my portfolio and must not be taken as actual advice on health issues or weight loss.

Commercial food is killing our pets

Well-meaning cat and dog owners are causing long-lasting damage to their pets by feeding them commercial pet foods, according to a new book.

Veterinarian Tom Lonsdale claims in his book that all cats and dogs need bones as part of their diet to keep them healthy.

But he says many vets promote and sell the processed foods despite the problems they cause, because of their close links with the multi-billion dollar pet food industry.

“If you own a dog or a cat which you feed with processed food from the supermarket or corner store, you will probably
find this book deeply disturbing,” Dr Lonsdale said in the preface.
The launch of the book coincides with a campaign by the American pet food company, Ralston Purina, using Sydney University veterinary students to promote its products in supermarkets.

The company claimed last week it had hired the students to promote its “optimal nutritional excellence” petfoods because Australian consumers were the most uneducated in the western world about pet nutrition.
But Dr Lonsdale argues in detail, using his own experience as
a vet at South Windsor, the experience of other local vets and overseas research, that dogs and cats need to chew on bones to prevent mouth disease.

According to pet food company Hill’s, seven out of 10 adult pets have some degree of dental problems. Without bones, their gums quickly become diseased, leading to tooth problems, bad breath and an array of systemic problems including a drop in white blood cells.

As a result, they could develop serious immune deficiencies which Dr
Lonsdale likened to the AIDS in people, although it is not caused by a virus. “It’s not a matter of whether artifical pet foods and food-induced periodontal disease give rise to ill health, it’s more a matter of which disease, when and how,” he said. Dr Lonsdale advocates giving cats and dogs raw chicken wings, chicken necks and ox tail to young kittens and puppies when
they most need to chew.

“Older larger dogs need raw bones and cats need raw meat on the bone,” he
says.
Dr Lonsdale said the book was intended to give pet owners the information to challenge their vets and overcome the most common problems for cats and
dogs. He said pet owners often did not notice the problems until they were
far advanced, especially in dogs which intuitively hide ailments.
Although opening a can or a bag of dried food was convenient, he said most
pet owners cared deeply for their animals and wanted the best for them.
“People have been led to believe that owning a cat or dog is a simple matter
and feeding can be dealt with using commercial offerings,” he said.
“But if they start to see themselves as responsible zoo keepers, looking after
animals without bars, they will enjoy pet ownership much more and have
fewer problems.”
Dr Lonsdale had to fight the veterinary profession to make his claims, which
included that the Australian Veterinary Association had become too closely involved with commercial pet food
companies.
When he first raised his concerns in 1996, he was accused of professional misconduct and threatened with being struck off the veterinary register.
He was even threatened with jail if he revealed the nature of four complaints
which were made about him to the NSW Veterinary Surgeons Investigating Committee (VSIC), all of which were later dropped.
The investigatory committee claimed then that Dr Lonsdale was “stating
extremist views in a very public forum that he has not supported publicly by
scientific data”. NSW MLA Paul Lynch has raised Dr Lonsdale’s treatment by the VSIC in Parliament several times as well as other concerns
about the committee.
Another of Dr Lonsdale’s targets is the Petcare Information and Advisory Service, which promotes dog and cat ownership.
Although it does not declare this, Petcare is funded by Uncle Ben’s, a subsidiary of Mars Group (which also makes Mars Bars), Australia’s biggest pet food company.
A Petcare spokeswoman declined to comment on Dr Lonsdale’s views and said the service did not really advise people on nutrition.
However, its website strongly advocates the use of commercial foods.
“The most reliable and convenient way to provide a balanced and palatable diet is to feed high quality prepared dog food, both
canned and dry,” it says on its website.
“Puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult dogs and for this reason it is essential to feed your puppy with
specially formulated puppy foods in canned and dry forms.”
ALIMENTS WHICH PROCESSED PET FOODS CAN CAUSE IN DOGS:
Source: Dr Tom Lonsdale, author, “Raw Meaty Bones”.

  1. Bad breath. This is not natural in dogs and is a sign of “mouth rot”.
  2.  Lack of a shiny glossy coat, itchy skin. Dog looks poor, unkempt, unhappy.
  3.  Prolonged sleeping, dull eyes, too thin or too fat.
  4.  Gastroenteritis, persistent diarrhoea, liver problems.
  5.  Arthritis, stiffness, poor circulation, collagen disease.

Raw Meaty Bones is available from the wesbite, http://www.rawmeatybones.com

 

To us, creative people

‘Right now the world is locked up in its own cage. There is no sincerity, no true emotions. If we keep doing this… What is going to be of us?’ – A few days ago I met up with some young professionals. These are their views towards creative people, life and opportunities.

Danny is a filmmaker and also photographer. He works as a freelancer.

‘Every one of us has their own lie, and more or less we turn it into our day-to-day truth. To some of us, the thirst for freedom keeps us alive.’ Pablo has just finished his degree. His experience as an intern was ‘awful.’ He tells us the struggle he went through as a person who is not meant to be at an office.

He describes people there as worried, overwhelmed and in general, dissatisfied. ‘They were so unhappy doing that. The office was an open cubicle and we were all meaningless – just numbers chasing profits.’ With his statement he is not judging them, he says, but he understands some people will have their reasons to stay there. Some others might not have found a way to get out, or to do what they really want.

‘Imagine yourself playing at a gig for a large audience. It isn’t impossible. Stay focused and follow every single path that will lead you to it.’ Pablo plays the guitar since he was a child. He is ambitious and perseverant ­– a key to chase his career dreams.

‘Personal development is something that nowadays schools don’t work on. From my perspective, it is really unfair on young people. We are given a choice, but it’s not the choice we want.’

‘You might be lucky enough to like doing something that fits within. Otherwise life becomes a fight. Life is about dreaming and persuading what you dream of, what your passion is, what you feel you need in your life.’ Says Danny.

And he is right. We all have something inside, something really strong, and if we listen to it and try to hold on to it, at some point, the doors will open for us.

Look inside and try to chase whatever that is telling you to go. And never, ever stop – they tell me.

Who hasn’t dreamed of being a ballerina, or a singer, or a famous author? Pablo has just started playing at bars in Madrid. Danny has done dozens of photo-shoots and is completing an important portfolio.

‘Maybe pursuing our dreams is how we get to stay young, and maybe that’s how we will never die inside.’ They just showed me a lesson to be learned. Just keep doing it. At some point, it will pay off, it will become the reality and eventually you will have that what you’ve worked for so hard. Just keep trying.

To all the creative people that have chosen career dreams over a more accessible future.