welcome to my (mis)adventures

The Day That’s 2 Days Away from Food

Day 6 of the Refugee Ration Challenge. Aside from meal times when we get very excited about fried rice & flour cakes, the day is grey. Mentally I’m blurry and emotionally I’m drained. The odd thing is that I know this state is a product of the food I’m eating, but I still look for some other, external incident that makes me so glum. Yet there’s nothing. Life is good – we have water, a safe place to sleep, family and friends – we’re just hungry and haven’t had a fruit or vegetable this week (aside from 170g of spinach that we shared, which sadly ran out yesterday).

I stepped on the scale this morning, and found that I’m down to 57.3kg – a 2.7kg (6lb) loss since the morning of day 1. Reading is difficult. I’m in the midst of a Cormac McCarthy book and his lack of some punctuation – easily adapted to in normal circumstances – is downright baffling in my mental state. I find myself re-reading pages over and over again to get the gist of things. It’s the first time I’ve ever been tempted to just watch the movie instead.

Tomorrow we’re going to see the NSW Waratahs rugby game and have rationed supplies accordingly. We’ll have rice-lentil-flour cakes and a thermos of weak tea (if we raise enough money by then to earn a teabag). It will be a real feast and I’m already excited. However, we need your help to get that (1) teabag! Donate now! (We love you!)

Rice Scares on the 5th Day

The effects of living on limited rice, lentils and chickpeas are being felt. I’m so fuzzy today that I nearly drove 30 minutes to a south-Sydney beach, convinced I’d left my bathing suit behind (it was in my backpack). I also had to take a serious time-out after I transferred our remaining 6 cups of rice to a new container, only to spill it all over the counter (I saved all of it in a tedious pick-up process, telling Sean that I “needed a moment alone”). Little things like this, which wouldn’t register in a normal person’s life, feel very… significant. I felt guilty, embarrassed, sad – not because anything was actually lost, but because I knew that if I’d spoiled the rice it would be a major downer for the next 2 days for both Sean and I.

While typing this, I realise I sound like a complete nutter – I suppose that’s the point. Feeling despair over a bit of spilt rice is almost funny, and even if it was unsalvageable, Sean and I wouldn’t really be any worse for it. Sunday would still come and we’d be fine. But it made me aware what it must be like to watch your family, your children be hungry and not grow up in a healthy way. I read a statistic about wasting and stunting amongst Syrian refugees. In Jordan camps the wasting rate is at 4.5% and stunting at 7.7% (by comparison, in Syria rates are 11.5% and 27.5% respectively). Even though the refugees in Jordan were clearly doing better, these rates are still shocking to me. The data I looked at is a few years old, but I’d be surprised if much has changed.

So far we’ve raised $1276 over the last five days that will go to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. This will feed one refugee for over 5 years. Or, put another way, It will feed nearly 20 people for three months. Clearly, a little can go a long way and any support is so welcome. (Act for Peace Ration Challenge)

Despite being regularly hangry, we’re hanging in there and have been surprisingly patient with each other over the last few days (I think this is good marriage prep!). Focus and sustained efforts feel highly energy consuming and the need for sleep is really the hungry rationista’s friend. Truly, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to deal with people, raise children and go to work on this level of nutrition. We’re so lucky to be able to do this by choice.


HumpDay 4

I woke up this morning having a food dream. Sean and I were in this old-fashioned restaurant and I was surreptitiously stuffing a pain au chocolate into my face, hoping the shopkeeper wouldn’t see me. Even though I was stealing, it was painful to wake up to reality.

The good news is that it’s just after noon on Wednesday, meaning we’re officially halfway to banana pancakes on Sunday morning! (Sean promised!) It’s difficult for me to look at the header picture right now. It’s the last thing I added to this blog post and now that I’m editing it I find myself severely distracted by it.

Humpday is truly something to celebrate, especially as I’m down to 57.9kg this morning so the closer I get to Sunday is a good thing. That’s a 2.1kg loss in only 3 days on a refugee diet. I was already feeling pretty lean before the challenge began, so the reduction feels significant. Energy-wise I’m feeling good at the moment but am noticing my mental state is fuzzy… I’m not as “with it” as I like to think I normally am. I know that once 8pm hits I’ll be in bed.

We’ve started to fry more food in oil, making little rice-lentil pancakes and yesterday’s fried sardines. I think that’s helping me to feel more sated. The key seems to be in keeping busy, including keeping movement up. I think I’d feel the drain a lot more if I was sedentary.  Exercise keeps things moving and has the positive effect of endorphins – which I’m not getting from chocolate these days.

Sean is keeping up his training regimen, doing yoga in the morning followed by sprints, and a surf. He’s definitely coping better than me, but he looks exhausted and we’re both sleeping an extra hour or more each night.

Who knew rice-lentil-spinach cakes could be so good?!

It’s been interesting to do the challenge on another level as well. There are little perks like meal prep time is down, clean up after dinner is minimal, we never use the fridge (I don’t think it’s been opened all week), and waste is down in a very big way. There’s a box we fill up probably 3 times a week for recycling and take out the compost ~3 days in a week as well. Clearly we’ve done none of that for the duration of the challenge. We try to have a small footprint, but the challenge has been a good way to see what we can do to be better (buy in bulk, reduce plastic packaging even more, eat simply).

One added perk – a man just walked up to me and told me my aura is shining green and violet! The diet is definitely working!

That’s all for today. More tomorrow!

Donate to the Act for Peace Refugee Challenge here!

Day 3: The Day I Ate Sardines.

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.

Reg Lynch cartoon, from this Walkleys article

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.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 16.25.51
An interesting read about the top 10 refugee hosting countries.


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:

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.

I’m Hungry. Day 2

It’s only the end of Day 2, but I’m hungry. We started the day with a bowl of rice and kidney beans after I weighed in at 58.8kg. Sean threw a dash of sugar on the bowl, which, even though it was a tiny quantity, was very noticeable, especially with the natural sweetness of kidney beans. As a kid I hated kidney beans and would pull every one of them out of the chilli my mom would make. I love them now (especially compared to the sardines for lunch). I have an incredible aversion to sardines. Everything about them – the look, the taste, the smell (especially the smell!) – makes me gag. I managed a bite, but left the rest of my half of the tin in the fridge for a day when I’m stronger. Or hungrier.

Breakfast of Champions! Refugees

Despite the sardine fiasco, fundraising is going well – Sean reached another milestone on his page, so we have the distinct luxury of buying 170g of vegetable (after much consideration, we’ve decided on the lightest-weight veggie we can think of: spinach).

Outside of our mealtimes, life is going as usual – we went swimming down at Clovelly yesterday, yoga today. Sean even did his sprint training in the afternoon. He’s feeling great – he’s been eating his sardines. Me on the other hand, I’m a bit tired and definitely hungry. I’m increasingly grateful that this is my reality for only a week, and that during that week I have constant shelter, a warm bed, and my partner beside me. We even have a Spotify account. The consistency and safety of my everyday life is unquantifiable.

At the moment I’m quite happy (it’s dinnertime!). I’m sat at my desk with a partial thermos of rice and lentils, covered with hot water to give it a soupy consistency which fools my stomach into thinking there’s more food than there is. I’m off to my Vipassana meditation group shortly where I’ll use the time to work on overcoming aversion to sardines and discarding craving for calories.

Until tomorrow…

Living on Rations, Day 1

The challenge has started! After indulging on watermelon and ice cream last night, we woke this morning to the stark reality of ration life. Our food for the week fits in a corner of the kitchen counter, not taking up much space at all.

Our combined rations for the week: 3.8kg rice, 170g chickpeas, 2 cans kidney beans, 2 tins sardines, 900g flour, 340g lentils, 600ml oil

Breakfast today consisted of a 1/2 cup of rice each, with a splash of diluted milk (a bonus due to fundraising perks), and a dash of sugar/cumin respectively (also an added benefit of fundraising). We just ate an hour ago, but I have to admit that I’m ready for lunch now…

Just for interest sake, I’m going to keep an eye on my weight over the coming 7 days. I’m not sure I’ll really lose all that much, but it might be interesting to watch.

So, for the record, on the morning of Day 1 I’m weighing in at 60.0kg on the dot.

Extra goodies! 50g of sugar (we both raised over $100, so that’s 100g total), 210ml milk (earned when Sean’s page reached $250 in donations), and one spice, cumin, (achieved at $350 of fundraising through Sean’s page). We chose cumin as a token of solidarity with our Syrian refugee brothers and sisters.


Already I feel affected by the challenge, thinking of the actual people impacted by violence and disaster and knowing that food is only a small part of the refugee experience. It’s a very topical issue, yet I’ve never spent much time thinking about what it must be like to flee your home, face horrible conditions, expose yourself to every vulnerability, only in the hope of something better. This challenge is a small thing and not at all comparable to reality, but it has a significant impact on the way I look at those who’ve lost everything only start over with absolutely nothing.


To donate to this worthy cause, head over here: (my page) or here: (Team ShoDa).

Ration Challenge 2018

Sean and I are preparing for the Act for Peace 2018 Ration Challenge. Starting Sunday, we’ll be living on the same food that the typical refugee receives for a week.

Normally I like to indulge myself in thinking I’m pretty good at living simply and that I have a degree of stoicism that feeds resilience, but upon seeing our rations for the week I readily admit that I’m humbled by the challenge.

From July 1-7, 2018, there will be nothing more in my cupboard than the following:


Mmmm….*                                                                                           Rice – 420g
Lentils – 170g
Dried chick peas – 85g
Tinned sardines – 125g
Tinned kidney beans – 400g
Vegetable oil – 300ml

Yeah… and I don’t even like sardines. (There’s an option to swap them for a vegetarian option, but I doubt most refugees have the luxury to be vegetarian/vegan, so I’m going to have to get over my aversion quickly.)

I’ll be back on the blog, writing about the experience next week. From a first-world participant perspective, I’m interested to see how my activity (surfing, yoga, running, writing) is affected by the challenge, and especially how my mood is. I’ve had restricted diets in the past, but have to say that this one seems particularly bleak… The lack of fruit and veg is will probably be a major factor, and there’s nothing to really look forward to. When I’ve fasted in the past it’s always been with the expectation that it was somehow good for me. On this diet, one gets the sense that it really is all about subsistence. It clearly isn’t a long-term health promoting exercise for most.

Even before starting I’ve got a slightly greater understanding of what life must be like for a refugee (and I’m only talking about food! I haven’t even begun to take into account the effects of violence, loss, grief, trauma, injury & illness, etc). They say food unites us, and in this case its limitation provides a doorway to a bit of understanding for those living in dire circumstances.

If you’ve got it in you, please give a little sugar here at Act for Peace. (Thanks to everyone who has already contributed to Team ShoDa!)

* Not pictured: an additional 1.5kg rice and 400g flour in “UN Food Coupon” form











Crazy Mountain Man

I’ve created a monster.

After 2 weeks off the mountain, Sean is beyond eager to get skiing again. Christmas on the prairies with my family was wonderful – one of the best, really – but we have few hills to offer the keen alpinist. Despite the excitement, our return to the mountains has been delayed. First, by an extended stay in Drumheller to explore the dinosaur museum (highly recommended!), and now by a nasty cold that is plaguing me. Poor Sean has been taking care of my gross snotty-nosed self all day, forgoing his first chance to get back on the chairlift and ski at Lake Louise. It must  be love.

Around 4pm he could bear it no more, however, and packed his ski boots for the 300m drive up main street to the top of our current hometown of Field, BC. There, he hiked up the unmaintained cemetery road another couple hundred meters and strapped on his downhill skis. It was a desperate move, surely, but he returned thrilled and excited. Ready for tomorrow!

Rocky Mountain High

Well, Dear Readers, Sean here, I have never been in mountains anything like the Canadian Rockies. To say they are breathtaking is an understatement, but, gosh, darn it, they are, stunning. So taken were Daryl and I by the town of Jasper that we’ve decided to return and stay for a month from late November until just before Christmas. We arrived in Jasper by train the week before Halloween and immediately fell in love with the place. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by snow capped mountains, glacier fed lakes and the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is a picture perfect, idyllic alpine town. Elk and deer wander the streets unafraid of humans. Hunting, a popular Canadian pastime, is not allowed in national parks, hence the wildlife are much more relaxed around people than in other parts of the country.

The place we’ve rented there is an attic apartment atop an early 20th century log cabin. Complete with claw-foot bath, gas fire and mountain views. The locals in Jasper are very friendly. There is a vibrant artistic community in town and a welcoming spirit. Daryl and I went to a screening for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and fundraiser for a local family at the Legion, (that’s the RSL, Aussies) on our first night in town and won a pair of lift tickets at Marmot Basin, the local ski hill. Thank you Jasper, our ski season is off to a great start!


While in the area we drove south to Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Field and Banff along the majestic, Icefields Parkway. It is truly one of the world’s great driving experiences. Australia’s Great Ocean Road and the USA’s Highway One, California are incredible, but for my money, the Icefields Parkway is top of the podium out of these three. If you ever get the chance, take it, but do it in good weather. Check local traffic sites before leaving, the road is regularly closed in wintery weather. The parkway winds through wide river valleys, tiny mountain passes and passed more glaciers than I had ever seen in my life. Ok, until this drive, I had never seen a glacier and there are a lot on this drive. How many? I don’t know. Anyway the wow moments are frequent.

Emerald Lake is as the name suggests, beautiful. So is Lake Louise. Dazzler and I were lucky enough to find accommodation at the stately, 19th Century, Emerald Lake Lodge. With an open fire place in the room, out door hot tub and view of the lake, it is right on the lake, we loved it. I had a close encounter with a steller jay while breakfasting on the balcony there, the curious, hungry bird was keen on my oats. I also saw my first pine marten and learned the emerald waters of the lakes in the region are as such due to the powdered rock particles suspended in the water. The rock, pulverised by the advancing glacial ice lends the water a dazzling glow that left early white surveyors so in awe they named many of the region’s lakes after beautiful or regal ladies and gems. 

Banff is incredible too. We were lucky enough to be in town during the opening weekend of the world renowned, Banff International Mountain Film and Book Festival. While there must have been a mix up with our opening night invitations, we happened along nonetheless and walked right into the opening of an art show featuring site specific, story inspired mountain art, some of which was really interesting, engaging work. The canapés were running low though so, we didn’t stay long. At a local artist’s market we found some beautiful work and bought some gift cards featuring paintings of mountain birds from a French woman who settled in the Rockies a while back. We danced in the moonlight to a hillbilly band playing “Wagon Wheel” to waiting film fest crowds and hit the road.


Banff is very pretty but very busy, a little too busy for us. So, after spending a couple days around Field, a tiny old railway and mining village, we headed back to Jasper, our favourite Rocky Mountain town.

We arrived back in town the night before Halloween. I’d never experienced the spooky, dress-up holiday in North America and was looking forward to it. The morning of October 31 we woke to find Jasper in a blanket of snow and it kept falling all day. Big fluffy flakes like feathers. Delightful. Really, the locals complained about the kids trick or treating in the snow, but for this bloke from Australia, you couldn’t do Halloween better. All those fake plastic bones and ghouls look all the more ghostly with a dusting of snow on them and cold weather is perfect for hot chocolate and an excess of candy! Daryl and I dressed as Zombie Mimes, surprised our new landlords, put on some impromptu street theatre for the easily impressed local kids and had a ball. I must confess to being a bit of a Scrooge about the rising popularity of Halloween in Australia but Bah humbug to that, Halloween rocks! Especially in a sweet little, snow covered mountain town. Thank you and see you soon Jasper!


Next morning we boarded a Via Rail Train to complete our trans Canadian Rail adventure…

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