Day 3 has been a day of change for me. I’ve done things I never thought possible. I ate sardines (yes, sardines – plural).
Growing up on the prairies I think it’s fairly normal to have an aversion to fishy things. We’re a peaceful, grain-growing, Grade AAA Alberta beef, root-vegetables-in-the-cellar kind of people. We’re not really fish people. Our food must withstand -30 degrees celsius and a few feet of ice in order to be deemed worthy (so freshwater fish is sometimes acceptable). With this kind of history I’ve never gotten into fish in a big way. I’m making small, baby steps living here in the South Pacific, but it’s a long road.
Today, however, was a landmark day. My wonderful partner-in-crime and chef extraodinaire, Mr. Sean Barker, made a little batter from some of our flour and water, then fried a sardine for me. It won’t go so far as to say it wasn’t unpleasant or that I didn’t need a few glasses of water to get it down, but evidently it was palatable.
So far Day 3 is going well. The mornings are generally fine, but last night I was hungry. I think the high carbohydrate content of the food we’re eating makes the diet challenging for me – there’s so little protein and fat comes in the form of vegetable oil (which we don’t really use much. The quota for oil is a whopping 600ml, which is more than we’ll use this week). I feel the effects of low blood sugar not long after lunch, but there’s nothing more to look forward to until dinner 5-6 hours later. Sean seems to cope a bit better and is dealing with Hangry Daryl admirably.
Switching gears, I found it interesting that the Pacific island nation of Nauru is in the media today. Their government declined the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp) visas to report on the Pacific Islands Forum later this year due to ‘bias and false reporting’. I’m new to Australian politics, but the situation with Nauru and the Australian government is a loaded topic. Now that I’m thinking about the refugee experience a little more, I’ve had fuel to look at the topic more closely.
Nauru is home to Australian’s detention centre for asylum seekers. This means that anyone who comes to Australia by boat (including children, even if they are alone), are sent to Nauru to wait an average of 441 days before finding out if they will be given a bridging visa to Australia or sent back to their home country. (While over a year in these conditions is already staggering, there are several stories of kids staying >3 years).
A humane detention center is still better than where they’ve come from, right? Not really. In 1994 the Australian government removed the maximum detention limit of 273 days to indefinite, meaning they could hold asylum seekers for their entire life if they wanted to. Conditions on Nauru are like a jail, perhaps worse, described by the UN Committee Against Torture as ‘cruel, inhumane, and unlawful’. There have been reports of rape, assault, and other crimes at the centre.
Information about asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island is limited largely due to lack of media presence. Additionally, the Australia Border Force Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone who has worked in a detention to speak about their experience, punishable by 2 years prison time. This law makes it a criminal offence to report a criminal offence… Workers could not legally report crime if they wanted to.
So while I’m here, typing on my MacBook whining about eating a can of sardines over a week, some kid is spending their birthday in detention. It keeps things in perspective. The food challenge, such a small thing, is really a door into so many issues that it is easier to look away from.
I feel I should mention that despite my focus on Nauru here, the money raised from the Ration Challenge goes to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. The little jolt I received from the news this morning set me off on refugees in Nauru, but the injustices dealt to those fleeing conflict are no less felt by Syrians, Palestinians, Somalians or any other human in any part of the world.
More about the Children of Nauru here: https://www.chilout.org/nauru
After all that, if you’d like to donate to the Ration Challenge, click here. (Just $43.30 away from 210mls of milk!)
Thanks, as always, for reading.