Resolution: Join The Thursday Weekly Photo Challenge!

This week’s challenge, then, is resolution. Take a photo or find one that represents a resolution you are making… or one you’re not making! What does this resolution mean to you? How will it change your life?

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese proverb

My resolution is to get out and run more. I started during lockdown and I want to take it forward into the coming year and keep trying to improve.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Vibrant: Come and join the Thursday photo challenge!

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s topic is… vibrant.

Life is a sea of vibrant colour. Jump in.

A.D. Posey

Vibrant colours are all around us, lifting our souls and energising our senses. Studies have even shown different colours behave differently at a molecular level (colour chemistry is a whole branch of the natural sciences).

So join us in celebrating the many brilliant and diverse colours in the world! You can show a photo with lots of colours, one particular colour, or an absence of colour. Whatever the word “vibrant” means to you!

I can’t wait to see what you share!

My photo is of some tins of sardines I found in a supermarket in China. I thought it fitted this challenge in a sort of pop art way.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then I will be back in the New Year to post the next challenge!

Come join the weekly Thursday photo challenge: Flavour

Welcome to the Thursday Photo Challenge! This is the most delicious time of year in many homes. Food underpins most celebrations around the world. Whenever people come together over a good meal, their spirits are lifted and hearts are replenished.

Usually, we travel somewhere for our December holiday. In 2017 we were in Thailand. 2018 was three weeks of morning sickness in Malaysia. Last year, we went over the Irish Sea to England. This year, we expected Greece, but instead, we are staying home in Belfast.

Instead of travelling, we will cook and share the flavours of places we loved.

This week’s challenge, then, is flavour. How do you photograph a flavour? I’m not sure I captured it amazingly but I know many food bloggers who are experts at it!

Here’s how to take part in the challenge:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Why you need to stop selling via a Facebook page right now

When I started my soapmaking business, one of the things I wanted to know was how could I sell my soap to customers without having to have long complicated interactions. I was part of a local crafting and makers’ group on Facebook, and I was very surprised that the majority of small business owners were using Facebook pages to sell products!

Basically, you set it up like this: [read the full article]

Postcards to my baby: Cambodia

Dear Jellyfish,

I don’t think I will ever go back to Cambodia unless it changes enormously. It’s taken me three years to gain some perspective on my time there and to be able to actually write about it.

There’s an elephant in the room which no naive, bright-eyed twentysomething travel blogger seems able to write about.

Cambodia is grotesque. I’m sorry, but it is.

The whole thing is a manufactured tourist trap designed (presumably by organized criminals) to appeal to the American “white saviour” complex that gets American tourists parting with as much money as possible at every point in their journey. I’m not American, by the way, so I know this will offend those who are.

I don’t think I had a single genuine interaction the whole time I was there. Every word people spoke was patter. The child selling postcards for one dollar apiece, that would have cost 20p in England. The museum, expensively decked out in stark contrast to the unpaved roads to Angkor Wat. The museum gift shop, full of $40 crocheted bags that you could pick up for $10 in Thailand. It was all purposely designed to appeal to fortysomething and fiftysomething Americans. The people with the money.

One thing that deeply bothered me was the fact no locals can afford in a million years to go and see Angkor Wat, despite the fact it’s their heritage that’s being exploited, sacrificed in a sickening cargo cult designed to lure in rich American tourists. It’s only full of tourists.

The entire country is just scam after scam. Looking around at all the people begging, and all the American tourists blithely handing over money thinking they were helping the poor, I wanted to vomit, because they’re making things worse.

Stop thinking with your heart and think with your head.

Let’s look at the floating village.

A bag of rice doesn’t cost $50 and neither does a 24 pack of pencils for the school.

But let’s imagine it does. How many dozens of American tourists on boats get whizzed past the same floating village, told the same tale of woe, and hand over $50 or $100 for a $5 bag of rice in ONE day? Why, then, have the villagers still not got any rice? Americans have been going there for about 15 years, now, and you’re telling me these people are still hungry? Why?

Because the money isn’t going to them. It’s going to organized criminal gangs.

How much money does the child flogging $1 postcards actually get? Nothing. He hands it over to his master.

How much does the taxi driver get when you give him a tip? Or the beggar when you give them money (and be sure, they’re not begging from other Cambodians, they’re begging from tourists)? Where is the museum entry fee going? Why are there still no paved roads outside the cities?

I am in no doubt the poverty you see in Cambodia is genuine, but everything about the way it is presented to you, the way it is exploited, and the way you are told you can “help” is fake. People who get drawn into the lie are not helping, they are part of the problem. Every time someone hands over $50 for a bag of rice or $1 for a 20p postcard, this justifies in the minds of the sellers that their scam has worked, so they keep doing it.

It’s painfully awkward being in Cambodia, seeing the scams, having to engage with people who see you as a big target. Whatever the country’s identity was going to be, tourism has ravaged it. I’ve seen scams before, but never anything on this scale. It’s just so well-orchestrated.

Tourism is a huge and very busy industry, but none of that money is going back into the local community, it’s being siphoned off.

Something in Cambodia needs to change massively at an organizational level.

I hope, little one, that by the time you grow up, Cambodia has sorted out its problems and works properly for the people who live there. But while “white saviours” are busy doing bad deeds to ease their own consciences, that’s not going to happen.

Chinglish: 9 hilarious times China got English wrong

Back in 2003, it was a fad for white people in England to get tattoos of Chinese characters, for words like “peace” and “tranquility.” Unfortunately, the people getting those tattoos were often completely ignorant of the language they were getting indelibly stained into their skin, with hilarious results.

The internet is littered with examples of these. Apparently, people haven’t learned their lesson that if you’re not truly fluent in any given language, you shouldn’t get it stamped on your body where people can see that you really love sesame chicken. But then, some people get tattoos of boyfriends or girlfriends who they break up with before the ink has dried.

One particular mistake people make is that there are no literal translations between Chinese and English. Why? First, our sentence structures are vastly different and second, Chinese tends to use a lot of metaphorical language in everyday situations, and so does English, but both languages use different metaphors, and apply them to different situations. For example, in English, we might use “it’s left field” but that would translate directly into Chinese as “it is in a field to the left”.

It seems utterly bizarre to me that you would get these sort of things as tattoos unless you are actually Chinese and it’s your own language and you know what you are getting. But I wouldn’t say it’s cultural appropriation because that implies that getting dodgy mistranslations of Chinese characters as tattoos was a Chinese cultural practice in the first place. And it isn’t.

What they do instead is exactly the same but with English. Or Chinglish, as it’s sometimes referred to when it goes a bit wrong.

Meanwhile, in China, there is a huge trend for things with English lettering on, which doesn’t always go the way they thought it would, either. I didn’t see any tattoos, but there were funny non-words and mistranslations everywhere.

And that’s aside from the fakes. I did once go past the “Rolmex” factory in one city which shall remain nameless. I suspect whoever translated the sign thought the crown above the “Rolex” lettering was part of the word. They put the crown on top of the logo anyway, which I think might have been a “there I fixed it” moment. Sadly, I don’t seem to have a photo of this one anywhere.

So, we should bear in mind that the cultural exchange between England and China is longstanding and there are many misunderstandings on both sides. I think we all need to laugh about these and not get outraged when we see them (cough American companies taking Chinese names cough).

Here are 9 times people got English wrong in China… with hilarious results.

1. Flight delay? No worries!

In the translation of this flight delay poster, the human body is on the radio. Please inform us of any change in main population. Is that a translation of something like, “this is the sort of long queue babies get conceived and born in”?

2. You have water come all over your face

Apparently water come is a purifying cleanser. Would you put water come on your face?

3. Forget the lonely Starbucks lovers

In this snapshot from a Karaoke bar, the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” are even funnier than “lonely Starbucks lovers”:

4. Stock up on Good Dad

That’s a pretty good price for 2.38 kilograms of Good Dad Kis. Mwah.

5. These vegetables have imposter syndrome

Listen up vegetables, you are not allowed to take meat. Unless you are a fake vegetable. In which case, you probably can:

6. I don’t think you should put it there…

The lavender belongs WHERE???!! :O

7. Forget love, all you need is…

I don’t think this one is a mistranslation, but I thought it was a funny slogan anyway. All you need is bottle. With lid.

8. Sorry, WHUT??

This one looks like someone just hit “paste” and made a hat out of whatever random word salad they had just copied:

9. A very important life lesson

And this last one is something we could all learn from. Pregnant women are not to be consumed:

Seen any funny Chinglish recently? Let me know in the comments.

Come and join the Thursday Photo Challenge! Nature

Welcome to the new weekly Thursday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

This week’s theme is nature.

In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.

Alice Walker

Nature is interwoven with our story as humans. At the same time, we revere it and irrevocably change it. Nature supports life, and is both our saviour and executor. Natural disasters such as volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes happen every year. But from the rubble, new life springs forth.

Our contradictory relationship with nature is hard to represent in photography. For this challenge, show what nature means to you, how you see nature, humanity’s place within nature, or something special from the natural world which you have captured with a camera.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution and check out your blog.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, comments will close and I will post the next challenge!

Check out these prize-winning Earth Photo competition entries!

Wow! The photos for this year’s Earth Photo competition are incredible! This is one of the most prestigious photography competitions in the world and I get so excited to see all the entries!

It was actually this competition that got me interested in photography in the first place, when I was about twelve, and we went somewhere on a school trip (I don’t remember where) which had an exhibition on the year’s Earth Photo winners. It was amazing and inspiring to see just what photography could be, because before that, all I’d ever seen were the photos in the news, magazines, or on the front of expensive food we couldn’t afford at the supermarket. Our food almost always came from a blue-and-white tin.

You can find the photos for this year’s winners here.

First place was won by French photographer Jonk, whose work on abandoned spaces is breathtaking. In the lead photo in the BBC article, I’m blown away by the level of skill demonstrated. I would have made a different choice about how to frame the image, so I’ve definitely learned something, here! The lighting puts me in mind of Studio Ghibli imagery, but made real.

Clicking over to the Royal Geographical Society, which hosted the competition alongside Forestry England, the rest of Jonk’s collection is visible. The “Swimming Pool, Italy” is especially breathtaking. The diving board is a poignant reminder of what a precipice humanity is on right now with regards to the climate.

The People category was won by Yanrong Guo, with an image entitled “Miss” which was a photo of one of the Yi from the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, which is in Sichuan province, about 300 miles southwest of Chengdu.

But I think one of my favourite entries was the winner of the Nature category, which was “Dryland Farming, Study 7”, Yi Sun’s aerial photograph of Spanish farmland during a drought. At first glance, it looked like a space landscape or an abstract painting. When you look closely at the photo, you can see the wheel marks from where the tractors have gone around corners.

When I first looked at it, I wasn’t as amazed with the winner of the “Changing Forests” category, entitled “Dead tree #1”, as I think there are better and more evocative ways the prompt could have been interpreted, but when I looked a second time, I decided that actually, I am impressed by the lighting.

The A Climate of Change category winner, Joe Habben’s image of high water in Venice, was also, from a technical standpoint, something for me to learn from. Getting the sky to not be over-exposed while getting that level of detail in the water’s reflection is amazing. When I got married, I found out a lot of professional wedding photographers can’t manage to capture the detail in a white dress on the background of a bright day. The challenge in having two bright objects, both of which are actually best detailed in different camera settings, is tricky.

Which one is your favourite?

Thailand: The best holiday destination in the world?

Thailand for Christmas… when my husband suggested it a couple of years ago, I looked up from my work in confusion. What’s there? I always hear of people going, but what do they do when they get there?

For such a big holiday destination, Thailand is very quiet about what it actually has to offer. I looked up “where to go in Thailand” and got very little in the way of useful answers. I looked up “things to see in Thailand” and the articles about that were equally nebulous. Everyone we knew had been, and thought it was great, but no one could tell us what they’d done while they were there.

Basically, it seemed that people went to see elephants and… wear baggy trousers?

Being quite partial to wearing skirts, and not liking the idea of riding a captive elephant, I wasn’t convinced this would be our greatest holiday ever, but I went along with it because my husband seemed pretty excited about the whole thing.

I left it to him to book the plane tickets and accommodation and I worked on figuring out what we would do when we got there. He picked Bangkok as our initial destination, which at least I’d heard of, and I looked around for things to do.

We didn’t realize just how ENORMOUS a city Bangkok is. It’s huge. We were living in China in a city of 10 million when we went on holiday to Thailand and we were still amazed by how big Bangkok is. We were staying quite far out, so we only went into the city centre once, and the rest of the time, we stayed in our district.

After a few days of working during the day and enjoying excellent food at night, we moved on to Pattaya. I don’t see Pattaya really mentioned as a destination by any travel bloggers, so I’ll do a thorough rundown of the city in a separate article.

This was the view from our first Bangkok hotel (we had a great view of another hotel’s pool):

And this was the actual pool at our hotel. It was great for my husband who is a strong swimmer, as it was set up for swimming lengths. I didn’t go in because I’m not a great swimmer and it takes me a while to get water-confident:

This pool’s shape did inspire me though that when we finally bought our next home, we could maybe have a pool in a much smaller space than I imagined. I think this was about two metres wide.

The time in Bangkok was largely R and R, and we didn’t really make it a priority to see or do anything, instead, we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and tasting the delicious food.

When it was time to move on, we got from Bangkok to Pattaya on a bus. We took a taxi to the bus station, got a bus to Pattaya, then got in this weird transport vehicle that was like being in the back of one of those army jeeps with the sideways benches and an open back (no seatbelts haha). I was super-dubious about the safety of this vehicle but it got us to our hotel just fine, so I think I was worrying over nothing.

Overall, Thailand does a pretty good job of Christmastime. They decorate trees, put up lights, and it’s generally an uplifting place to be. Definitely a top spot for winter sun.

Moving House Abroad: 20 Packing and Moving Tips From An Expert

So we’re moving countries again next week. New tax system. New car registration system. New everything.

At least we’re not moving far geographically, this time. So while we’re in the middle of all this packing mayhem, I thought I’d share my packing and moving tips for moving house abroad, since this is the third time I’ve moved countries between two different continents, and about the zillionth time I’ve moved house in total.

  1. Have the biggest clear-out. Some people say to do it before you start to pack but I find it’s better to do it as I’m packing because that way I know what space I have and what I need to take.
  2. Make the most of your luggage allowance or the space in your car. We like to do as few trips as possible. When we moved from England to China and from China to Northern Ireland, we just took what we were allowed to have with our plane tickets.
  3. Don’t waste money, time, space or the environment on bubble wrap (or even newspaper). Wrap your delicates in your clothes. Seriously, you have these squishy things and these delicate things, put the two together!
  4. Pack out any space inside mugs, pans etc with clothes or other fabrics.
  5. Try to keep books to a minimum. Those are heavy and they take up a LOT of space. Anything that’s not a profound, life-changing, awe-inspiring tome of knowledge with a cover that belongs at the Tate should be switched for a Kindle version (get the Kindle app for your phone or consider a Kindle tablet), and take the hardcopy to a charity shop.
  6. Weigh your suitcases! Use your bathroom scales or get a hand luggage scale. If they’re over 35kg (about 70lb) most airlines won’t take them, so at that point, your best plan is to split your luggage and pay for an extra bag.
  7. In your carry-on, have a few things in case your checked bag gets lost. You’ll want at least a change of clothes and a toothbrush.
  8. Take a handbag/purse. This one’s mostly aimed at guys. You are leaving valuable luggage space on the table if you don’t get a man bag or laptop bag and pack it to the max with bits and bobs. You are allowed to take a carry on case and a handbag/laptop bag in the cabin of every airline.
  9. If you have medications to take with you, be sure to get a doctor’s note (in America) or print out a photo of your prescription (in the UK) so you can prove you were prescribed them properly. Look up what you can’t take into the country, because some places (like UAE) have very, very strict rules. Never, ever take prescription meds into a country with the sole intent to give them to someone else.
  10. Pack your cosmetics according to the temperature of the airports you’ll be passing through. Any cosmetic that’s super-unstable in heat or coldness should go in your carry-on, if possible. Check out my complete guide to traveling with cosmetics.
  11. If you’re moving with a hire vehicle such as a self-drive van, be sure you’re legally allowed to cross country borders with it. Some vehicles won’t let you, or charge you extra for “insurance”.
  12. If you’re taking a fridge, there are special rules for moving a fridge. Don’t ever lay it flat on its back. Empty it and defrost it before traveling. Tape the doors so they don’t fall open and get damaged. Either move it upright or, if your van can’t do that (as many can’t), prop it at an angle using a sturdy box. If that’s not possible either, lay it on the side opposite the door hinges. Let it stand 8-24 hours before turning on, depending how long it was in transit.
  13. Shipping companies will move your stuff around the world if you need them, but they are very expensive, so be sure you really want to take everything you’re moving.
  14. Label your boxes. Even small boxes packed in a suitcase. It’s too easy to forget what’s in them when you arrive, and that means you have to open them all before figuring out which room they go in.
  15. Take boxes directly to the room they’re for. That keeps your thoroughfare clutter-free while you’re emptying things.
  16. Protect your new carpets by putting down cardboard or linoleum in the main walkways e.g. around your front door. Otherwise, everything will get grubby, fast.
  17. Get your electricity, heating, water and broadband services connected up before you arrive. Some countries can take over a month between you signing up and them actually connecting you!
  18. Take a flashlight or torch, a blanket and a solar battery charger (if you’re moving locally, get a solar generator and some charging panels) as backup in case your electricity isn’t on when you arrive. I have moved house dozens of times and I have almost never arrived to find the electricity is working immediately.
  19. Check the car licensing restrictions before moving your car. You may have to swap your licence for a local one, and you will almost certainly need to re-register your car, and you may have to do this within a fixed time. In China, if you want to drive, you’ll need to apply for a driving test and pass it.
  20. If you don’t have curtains, yet, you can get some privacy by draping towels or sheets over the curtain rails, or if you have the right kind of windows, you can jam the top of a bedsheet in there and cover the windowpane with it. If none of these apply, get some liquid Windolene (not the spray stuff) and put a thick layer over your windows with a cloth. People used to do this all the time back in the 80s and 90s.

Moving abroad is pretty stressful, but try to focus on the end point – living in your exciting new country! And share your best tips in the comments!