Day 5: The Final Countdown

*From Friday, 09 May – https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/7432

I woke up to day 5 I was exhausted, but keen as a mung bean to get this last day going. All I could think about was that moment that was finally approaching, that moment when the clock would trick midnight and I could gorge myself on everything insight. I had packed a good amount of food for the day and I went into work really excited. People were keen to chat and see how I was going. At this point I was really exhausted physically. Unlike the previous two days were I could just lay in bed and get that extra hour or two of sleep I couldn’t today.

But none the less I was still smiling because I knew it was almost over. The smell of toast from the staff kitchen was amazing, and I could feel myself salivating. It made me think that it would be wonderful to have a fresh loaf of sourdough bread at midnight, and I knew just where I could get one from… only it would involve going to one of the best bakeries in town. That’s when another light blub went off in my tired head… What if I make these last few hours all about really challenging myself. And that was that.

When a colleague brought in my favourite Polish wafers to work ‘prince polo’ to work that day I happily took one and put it aside… I wasn’t even tempted. When my boss mentioned craving hot chips, I decided to use the opportunity to go with him, buy my bread from the bakery and walk with him back from the shops with those hot chips. He ate them next to me and the smell wafted through my area of the office… And I was still going strong.

I’d had my pear and oats for the morning, but the next time I looked up from my keyboard it was into the afternoon and a little headache started sneaking in. I’d realised about 1:30pm that instead of splitting my lunch into two meals as I’d planned, I had already missed my first meal. The headache kept getting worse so I decided to have one of my lunches. Unfortunately that didn’t help, and the headache only got worse. I didn’t know if it was from staring at a screen all day without a break or just from being exhausted and wanting to sleep desperately but I wasn’t feeling too well. On the bright side I’d managed to rustle up a couple more donations from work colleagues which did help my think it was all worth it.

As I headed home from work I decided to try the one thing I’d tried avoiding all week, heading to the supermarket. As I walked into my local supermarket I couldn’t help but smile because I knew that anything I bought I was going to be able to eat in several hours. This is when the strangest thing happened to me.  Normally when I enter that supermarket I B-line it to the bakery section and pick up my favourite cookies or pastries, but today as I walked through the bakery section nothing really took my fancy. The same thing happened when I walked through the chocolate isle, the freezer section… nothing. The one thing that did however cross my eye was a man reducing freshly made curries and pastas for the end of the day. I snapped up some various curries, some spinach and ricotta cannelloni, some veggie lasagne and some creamy pasta with the intention of waiting until 11:30pm at night and selecting the ones I was craving the most to have with my crusty sourdough bread. I don’t know if it was a week without sugar and caffeine, but the fact that chocolate, cookies, sweets and fried foods weren’t tempting me was something that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. It did make me wonder though, when did my everyday diet get so bad? And how was it possible that LBL was the thing that put it back in check.

Now for anyone that’s done LBL you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say, the best part of the whole experience was this… 11:45pm. 15 minutes before I could gorge myself on whatever I wanted. I had a massive selection of treats, sweets, cakes, curries, pastas and so much more to choose from. I made my choice – spinach and ricotta cannelloni, veggie lasagne, creamy carbonara, my crusty sourdough bread, some of mums homemade plum cake, a bowl of cereal and a teaspoon of Nutella. At 11:59pm I was standing there, food ready to go, a piece of bread with butter in one hand and a spoon in the other and I was staring at the clock. I was so excited. My heart was pounding, my eyes were going in and out of focus on the numbers and I was fidgeting like no tomorrow. My dad was sitting on the couch smiling at the whole ordeal and I couldn’t believe that I was more excited counting down the seconds for it to turn midnight than I could remember being at any New Years. The moment had come… 12:00am! The buttered bread went into my mouth and I had barely finished shallowing it when I started shovelling cereal with cold milk into my mouth. It was all so satisfying and then it came time to tuck into the rest. But rather than standing around the kitchen table, grabbing at food left right and centre like a mad man I decided to do it properly and eat like a King… I did deserve it after all. So I sat down in front of the tv, turned on survivor, pulled a blanket over my lap and over the course of the hour long episode, each meal slowly disappeared. And I couldn’t have been happier. I’d raised $452, gone through an emotional roller-coaster and come out a little better on the other end.

Saying all that, I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me throughout LBL 2014. Your kind words, care, patience and donations over the last 5 days have really meant the world to me. I couldn’t have done it without you. A special thank-you has to go out to mum and dad for putting up with my terribly snappy attitude during LBL, my boss for not eating at his desk (until I said he could go ahead with the chips), that IT guy for entertaining me with a good daily dose of torture at work and Phil for kick starting my journey by giving me the most awesome donation ever! Because of you, there will be a whole lot of young people in East Timor a lot better off, and for that I can’t thank-you enough.

xx Eva.

LBL Day 5

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Day 3 & 4: LBL And Dinners With Dad

*From Thursday, 08 May – https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/6897

The last two day’s we’re very similar in may ways. I was lucky enough to have these days be non-working days, meaning that instead of throwing myself out of bed to go to work in the wee hours of the morning I made the executive decision to sleep in, miss my uni classes and throw myself into my uni assignments instead. As it turns out, sitting at home and staring at a computer screen in isolation actually lends itself to the challenge. There are no distractions or people that might effect any emotions you may be having. This was wonderful because I’d noticed though I felt quite good the lingering hunger that was now quite permanent was making me easy to be irritated. At this point I should thank mum and dad for taking the brunt of it over the last week.

My other favourite benefits of becoming a home-hermit during the challenge is that you don’t need to use a lot of energy, and best of all, all your food is right there in the kitchen for when you want it. That had to be my favourite thing about the past two days. I could take my time and cook up delicious meals when I was hungry, and I didn’t have to bother thinking about making sure I had everything I would need for the day -something that I was clearly not very good at. I’d come up with some wonderful recipes over the past few days.

I’d decided to have sit down dinners with my family from day 3 onwards, and on night 3 I sat down to my parents enjoying a meal of steamed carrot and cauliflower, beef stroganoff, schnitzels and steamed buns. This is when the most amazing moment of my entire LBL challenge occurred. As I was finishing up making potato chips and carrot/cauliflower puree my dad turned to me and told me to eat a schnitzel. I didn’t know if he was just trying to push my buttons so I responded with ‘I can’t’. But he was adamant and kept pushing for me to eat the schnitzel, going on about how he really didn’t want it and wanted more stroganoff instead. At this point I’d put my plate of very different food on the table right next to him but he persisted, and I continued to respond with ‘are you serious?’ and ‘I would if I could but I can’t.’ Mum and I both looked at each other with the most dumbfounded faces. It took a while but eventually it hit him, I was right in the middle of LBL.

This was the first time I had tried making this puree along with sliced potato chips with Italian herbs. I was so impressed with the flavour I gave mum and dad a little taste. Turns out it was so good that my dad decided to help himself to some when I’d turned away. My mum gave out a little shriek and couldn’t believe my dad would take food from his own hungry child.

Recipe #1: Carrot and Cauliflower Puree This was a favourite of mine so much so that I will be continuing to make it long after the challenge is over. All you need to do to make this recipe is cut 2 carrots and ¼ – 1/3 of your cauliflower into pieces and steam them. Once steamed, add the carrot and cauliflower into a food processor with a little chili and some Italian herbs to taste and blend. Check on the consistency and slowly add some water until you get a smooth texture. Voila! Delicious and nutritious.
Recipe #2: Potato chips This one’s easy, just remember to keep your eyes on the oven. Simple slice your potatoes into thin slices, place them on a baking tray, sprinkle with Italian herbs and bake in the oven on high until golden brown on one side. Flip them over, continue baking until this side is golden brown and you’ve got crispy chips. These chips so really well with the carrot and cauliflower puree because of the difference in texture.

Day 4 was very similar to day 3 in that I decided to stay home for most of the day and focus on my numerous uni assignments. The biggest difference with day 4 was that I woke up with enough energy in the morning to go to a bodypump class. This was a great treat as I hadn’t been to the gym all week due to participating in LBL. Needless to say it got me pumped up for the rest of the day. I had toasted oats for breakfast, pasta with beans, tomato paste, chili and Italian herbs for lunch and my favourite carrot and cauliflower puree with chips for dinner.

Though unthinkable, when dinner came around my father once again forgot I was doing LBL and kept telling me to eat the ruske pierogi that were on the table. Apparently there was too much food for him to handle -sigh. For anyone who doesn’t know what ruske pierogi are, they are cheese and potato filled Polish dumplings, pan fried in butter and they smell and taste AMAZING! Not only are ruske pierogi one of my favourite dishes in the world but the smell of them was turning my stomach in knots. My dad wanted me to do his dishes but needless to say, it wasn’t going to happen.

I decided to use my day 4 dinner to use up all my left over ingredients and cook for the following day so I’d have everything I needed for both work dinner and wouldn’t have to think about anything but counting every second until my midnight binge. I made two servings of carrot and cauliflower puree (one for night 4 dinner and one for day 5 lunch), potato chips (for day 4 dinner) and of course, everything else that was left went into a giant pot and got turned into a stew to be mixed in the pasta (for day 5 lunch and dinner). The stew comprised of onions, carrots, potatoes, Italian herb mix, chili, beans and water. Right at the end I mixed in the pasta and ended up with a large hearty pot of delicious-ness that I was looking forward to enjoying the following day. As a storm had just come through I was really looking forward to the stew in particular. The idea of tucking into a warm and hearty dish sounded perfect.
Recipe #3: Hearty pasta and stew. Brown some onions in a pan. Throw in all your left overs… In my case diced potato, carrots, Italian herb mix, chili, beans and tomato paste. Add water, bring to the boil, turn down on low and let it stew until everything in that pot is tender and the sauce is thick. Cook some pasta, drain and add to the stew once it’s finished cooking.

Whilst doing the rest of my cooking, I decided to toast off all my remaining oats so they’d be ready to go. Unfortunately I whilst I was distracted with my other cooking, I burnt a large portion of oats. The kitchen was smoky but I wasn’t going to waste my food, so I meticulously picked out as many of the burnt oats as a could in an attempt to salvage day 5s breakfast. I find it quite humorous just how desperate and protective us LBLs can get when it comes to our food. We’ll count ever grain of rice, pick up every crumb we drop and refuse to throw anything away. It was at this point I realised I hadn’t had my daily piece of fruit. And because I had salvaged enough oats, I managed to make something so good that I should have been eating for breakfast the whole time, toasted oats with grated apple.

Recipe #4: Toasted oats with apple. Toast oats under in the over, grate apple into a bowl, mix in the toasted oats. Simple, tasty and another dish I’ll continue to make long after LBL is over.

So another day came and went, another $2 was well spent. I used myself and cooked ahead and then I headed off to bed. –Terrible I know, but who can blame me, it’s day 4 and I can see the light on the horizon… and it looks a whole lot like lasange and sourdough.

LBL 3 4

Day 2: Another Day, Another 2 Dollars

*From Tuesday, 06 May – https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/5386

Even though I exhausted on Monday night I was up quite late, so I went to bed with the idea that I’d be taking the Tuesday off work. As it turned out, after a bit of a sleep in, a whole lot of water and taking the morning slow, I felt quite good. Remembering how terrible the previous day had been I tried my best to take a little bit of extra time in the kitchen. I cut up some carrots (to snack on), toasted some oats (for porridge with flavour or to pick at during the day), toasted some chickpeas with Italian herb mix and chili (for some protein) which I now have to add were darn good and my favourite thing I’ve eaten so far, and grabbed a pear (for a quick yet tasty start to the day). The thought behind this selection of food was that even though it wasn’t necessarily a large quality of food, snacking throughout the day would help keep my blood sugar level steady. I made a big effort during the day to drink plenty of water since I had forgotten to account for all the tea and coffee I would normally drink the previous day.

LBL Day 2
I settled into work and my boss was a little surprised to see me. As it turns out both of us had felt quite terrible the previous day and neither of us thought we’d be up to work. At this point I have to continue giving credit to my boss for keeping up with his decision to eat away from his desk. It’s truly been the sweetest gesture on his part and has made the challenge just that little bit easier. During the day more and more people took a moment during the day to ask how I was, how the challenge was going, and asked lots of questions about LBL. I received lots of props and encouragement and of course I heard pleanty of that infamous saying we all know too well, ‘I couldn’t do it’. I find it remarkable just how important the support from my office has been in getting me through this rollercoaster of a challenge so far, and it was one of the main reasons I got out of bed and came into work… as scared as I was to tackle yet another $2 day.

A couple hours into the day I received another anonymous donation for $20 which came with the message of “You’re doing a great thing – best wishes.” It was so nice to have that reinforcement again that the people I was doing this around really were behind me. One of the ladies in the office also mentioned that she’d read my previous post and how she found my food choices really interesting. I’ve found it really enjoyable discussing the challenge with people, and it seems the more they know about it the more they seem to be keen to support me in any way they can. It’s also now become clear that I am the only one doing LBL in the office, which is great because I’ve starting thinking I might have to do a little cupcake fundraiser on Friday to get a few extra dollars. I think making cupcakes when I can’t enjoy them myself should be entertaining as I’m sure they’ll be a few people in the office that will love the idea of me making, baking and drooling over cupcakes that I can’t have.

The coffee van came and left though I had barely noticed. It was a great change from the previous days pain and the IT boys weren’t overly bad either. Even though one of them continued on his mini rampage of delicious lunch talk, it was all in good fun and to be honest, I’ve really been enjoying the banter. Plus, the more I talk about food, and have all these delicious dishes brought to my attention, I’m really starting to enjoy thinking about all the wonderful things I’m going to be able to stuff in my face at midnight… because I don’t think I’ll make it to Saturday breakfast.

At this point the hardest part of the day was having a slightly lowered ability to focus, though it was much better than it had been the previous day. Instead of slicing my hand and tripping on myself I was only walking into doors and staring into space a little. Another challenging part of my day was not being able to go to the gym. Going to the gym is something I usually really enjoy doing, but I know that pushing my body physically during this challenge is not a good idea as it’s already being pushed in another way.

By the time 2:00pm came around, I felt a little delirious. So I increased my snacking and the strangest amount of focus kicked in. The next time I looked up from my screen it was just after 4:00pm and I decided to go for a walk to try and get my mind off not going home to a delicious home-cooked dinner after a long day of work on a cool and cloudy day. The walk made me feel calm, as I was noticing the colour of all the flowers on the street. It was quite beautiful and it hit me, I’d started appreciating the smaller things in life, but as soon as I came back into the office I noticed myself drifting off again and I had to put my earphones in because I could hear everyone talking about and eating chocolate. I find it really interesting to see just how much of a rollercoaster this challenge can be. One minute you’re okay and one minute you feel off balance. But I guess it’s all part of the experience.

By the time 6:00pm came around I was starting to feel a bit emotional. It made me realise that for the next three days I was going to need to plan out a substantial meal in the middle of the day to keep my emotions under check. The last thing I expected and wanted to see when I came home was a large pile of freshly cooked chicken schnitzels just sitting on the table, so I decided to get creative with a big bowl of pasta because I was starving. I used some pasta that I’d portioned out and added cauliflower, chickpeas, zucchini, tomato paste, Italian herb mix and chili. That pasta dinner was so very satisfying, and surprisingly delicious. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that I knew people that’d be having much worse dinners, and they weren’t even doing the challenge. It seems like forcing myself to get creative in the kitchen has led me to discover some new, quick and easy go-to recipes. Recipes that I feel more than happy using once LBL is over.

With a belly full of food I couldn’t have been happier, and I portioned out all the food I had left for the next 3 days. It seemed I was being quite conservative with my food over the first two daysso I was looking forward to some substantial meals over the next 3 days. I finished off the evening with a handful of toasted oats and toasted oat porridge, which by this point I’d become addicted to. It was just how I felt about pop-corn, a tasty treat that once I started I couldn’t help but polish off the bowl. I can honestly say, that if nothing more comes out of this years LBL I won’t be surprised if toasted oats are something I continue eating long after the challenge is over

Day 1: LBL When You Work In An Office

*From Monday, 05 May – https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/4647

Day one stated off positively, happily, joyfully, so I was clearly not expecting what was about to happen. I was in a bit of a morning rush so I simple packed some oats in a take-away container, grabbed an apple and headed off to work. I was only working till the afternoon, so I figured I’d be okay. Big mistake! But more on that later.
As it turns out, there are a lot more benefits and downsides to completing the LBL challenge in an office environment than I first expected.
Positives

  • You have a lot of people you can ask for donations, and many of them are very keen to donate… especially as they get to watch you squirm as you avoid the kitchen, coffee, free morning/ afternoon teas and treats.
  • You get a lot of support from people in the office. People tend to give you lot of encouragement and ask you how you’re feeling.

Negatives

  • There’s free food everywhere.
  • The smell of coffee is everywhere.
  • Cheeky people will try and torture you for fun by eating delicious food in your face.
  •  If you’re going through withdrawal or feel like dirt you can’t let it affect your work, or the way to act towards people.

I started off my day by putting up little bits of signage around the office kitchen area and sending out an email to all the staff detailing what I was doing, why I was doing it and how they could get involved. By 8:30am I’d received my first workplace donation of $52. Then came another for $10 and another for $5. I then checked my online donations an anonymous donation had come in for $35. As I mentioned earlier, that has to be the best part of working in an office, people seem to really care because they know you so well.

By 10:00am the smell of coffee was wafting through the office, and caffeine withdrawal hit me like a ton of bricks. Tired, unable to focus and irritable beyond belief, my positive outlook had turned for the worst. The problem with going through all that at work is that it becomes hard to focus, and you really want to be horrible to everyone around you for not reason… but you can’t. I stuck my headphones in, turned up the music and spent twice as long as I should have making silly errors whilst trying to do some tedious paperwork.

I have to give a lot of credit to my boss at this point for making sure to keep food as far away from me as possible. Usually I see him sneaking food at his desk and without fail asking if I want a coffee at least once a day, but today, none of it. And thank-goodness for that. But as you can imagine, it couldn’t be that easy. So to balance out my bosses awesomeness I had some of the cheeky IT boys torturing me with talk of food and the smell of coffee, saying I need to earn my donations through true pain. I will give them this though, they were really good entertainment which helped with all the negativity that was sitting inside me once I started to feel like dirt.

By the time the afternoon came around I was starting to get a headache and was so exhausted that all I could think about was having a nap. Luckily for me I was only working until the afternoon, and I was hoping to get a power-nap in before going to uni for the evening. I had a bowl of porridge (oats and water to be exact, one of the dullest things you will ever eat) to get me through my last hour or so of work, but on the way home that’s when a whole new sensation hit me. All I could think about was junk-food, take-away, burgers, Asian, greasy fried chicken. It was strange because the cravings were so intense, and it made me realise just how powerful the notion that I couldn’t have something made me want it so much.

It had taken a while to sink in, but it was then I realised I clearly hadn’t planned out my meals for the day too well. So I ate the apple in my bag, and not a moment too soon. By the time I got home my power-nap accidentally turned into an extended one. My body was needing it, especially after having done the Step Up for MS challenge the day before. For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s a stair climb of 1103 stairs in the Perth Central Park building. Upon checking my email again I noticed another donation had come in for another $35, which was great to see since I was feeling so crappy. And since I hadn’t helped myself by not having my food planned out and having enough of it with me for when I needed to eat, I ended up missing my uni class and a committee meeting so I could rest and get some energy back.

Once I finally got out of bed I decided to -at the very least – do dinner right. So I came up with an improvised potato and zucchini rosti recipe that comprised of a small handful of ground oats, 1/3 to ½ of my zucchini I had – grated, 2 small potatoes – grated and a little bit of my Italian herb mix. [At this point I should mention, cooking when you’re not thinking straight it not 100% safe. The reason I mention this is because I managed to slice the palm of my hand on a food processor blade, something which would never happen to me normally, so please be careful.] I pressed my rosti mix  onto an oven tray and popped them into the oven to crisp up alongside a chopped up carrot. When the carrots were roasted and the rosti crispy I made a dipping sauce out of a little tomato paste, Italian herb mix and chili. The kick was incredible, but definitely helped with giving the dish some flavour.

I finished up by treating myself to some toasted oat porridge, which was much better than the mush I’d had earlier in the day. But even after all that food I’m still quite exhausted. The sugar cravings have kicked in and I’m not too sure how tomorrow is going to go. But today I definitely learnt my lesson about eating small meals throughout the day to keep up my energy level and planning ahead. It might have only been a day, but neglecting my body the way I did was not a good way to kick-start the experience.
Though speaking of planning ahead, for anyone who’s done LBL before, it’s likely you learnt very quickly (as I did) that variety is the spice of life. Without it, this challenge can be almost unbearable. After all, there’s only so much plain porridge (water and oats) that a person can eat before they go crazy. So after looking back on my shopping list from last year I realised that it’s your choice of primary carbohydrate that determines just how much meal variety you are going to have during the 5 days. My mission for variety is the reason I decided to focus on potatoes this year as they can be sliced, diced, grated, cooked in a pan, baked in the oven, mashed… the list goes on. So I purchased my ingredients with potatoes in mind and voila, here are 12 recipe ideas that have come from my little shop that can be mixed and matched to create some flavoursome fun.

List of ingredients can be found at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/3252

Breakfast

  • carrot & apple juice
  • porridge w/apple, pear, plain or toasted oats

Snack

  • shredded carrot and apple salad
  • crunch baked chili chickpeas
  • toasted oats w/pear or apple

Mains

  • baked potato and onion w/ Italian herbs and beans or chickpeas
  • roasted carrots, cauliflower, potatoes w/Italian herbs
  • potato and zucchini rosti
  •  tomato and herb pasta w/ beans or chickpeas
  • spicy tomato beans w/pasta or potatoes
  • tomato soup w/ carrot, potato, beans or chickpeas, cauliflower and Italian herbs
  • potato and cauliflower soup

By picking and choosing different recipes that utilise the same ingredients you are guaranteeing yourself a little bit of sanity during the 5 days. Trust me, take what you can and make the most of it, it can be a bit of a rollercoaster at the best of times.

LBL Day 1

Just To Answer A Few Questions Before LBL2014 Kicks Off

*From Sunday, 04 May – https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/blogs/3252

Finally it’s been done… I’ve hit the shops, counted my pennies, and spent a good moment staring at my food pile for the week thinking ‘why on earth am I doing this to myself again?’

So I’m going to use this post to fill you in (just in case you don’t already know) on what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, as well as answer a couple other common questions I get asked when it comes to Live Below the Line (LBL).

What are the biggest lessons I learnt from participating in LBL last year?

Taking the lessons I’d learnt from completing the challenge last year, I decided applied them to my shop this time and took a slightly different approach to my food choices. The two main lessons that are still burnt into my brain are 1) Flavour is surprisingly important, and 2) Quantity over quality is not necessarily the best way to go (though it might work for other people out there).

What did I get for my $10.00 this year?

Veggies (I really focused in on trying to make these a majority of my shop. Healthy and cheap if you know where to buy them from.)
1kg of carrots $0.69
1kg of potatos $0.74
1 onion $0.14
1 cauliflower  $1.00
1 zucchini  $0.49
(total $3.06)

Fruit (To satisfy my sweet tooth. I tried to get one piece a day.)
2 small apples  $0.56
3 small pears  $0.73
(total $1.29)


Carbs (To fill me up when potatoes just wouldn’t do. Cheap and filling.)
900g rolled oats  $1.49
500g penne pasta  $0.65
(total $2.14)

Legumes (Because protein is important.)
1 can of mixed beans  $0.80
1 can of chickpeas $0.80
(total $1.60)

Flavour/Spices (Because I couldn’t do another year of dull, lifeless food.)
1 small can of tomato paste  $0.79
1 packet of mixed herbs  $1.00
1 small dried chili  $0.09
(total $1.88)

Total $9.97

What am I actually planning to eat?

Already off the top of my head I’ve workshopped some healthy vegetarian dishes (that’s right, no meat for the week). I foresee a tomato soup in there at some point, some beans and baked potato, some roasted carrots and cauliflower and a whole lot of plain porridge.

Why on earth am I doing it?
Why not? I think it’s an interesting opportunity try to and experience something new and different. You get to learn a lot about your body, you notice nasty food habits you have (eg. Just how much food we unconsciously pick on every day), you can save a little money (from not buy food, treats and coffee. But what really makes it worthwhile is that it’s for a good cause. So that really helps keep you on track even when you’re simply ‘over it’.

What’s the hardest part for me?
3 things. 1) I’m notorious for not planning my meals and buying a lot of food on the go. 2) The smell of home-cooked dinners wafting through the house (ti’s just cruel). 3) The lack of coffee and tea (especially since I work in an office).

Now that’s all covered and I’ve stuffed my face with a final home-cooked dinner for a while I’d just like to say this one last thing, every time you have a coffee, a biscuit, a take-out dinner, lunch, breakfast, a soft drink, a chocky bar or anything with flavour, texture or variety this week, think of me staring into space in a hunger coma and donate a little money to LBL. It’s for a good cause, and the challenge itself is harder than it looks. xx

LBL Food

Finding Hope In The Pearl of Africa

Bruno moved to Australia in 2008 where he became friends with his very first credit card holder at university. His friend explained to him how the credit system worked as up until this point Bruno was living in Uganda where he had never met someone who owned a credit card. After living in Australia for a year Bruno received his very first bank letter suggesting that he was eligible for his very own credit card. What makes this moment so monumental is the level of amazement that a person in todays world can have over a credit card, something we take for granted.

According to World Bank Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world – 37.7 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day (1). The incidence has incredibly fallen from 56% of the population in 1992 to 31% in 2005 (2), however when we take a step back and look at the poverty that remains a majority remains in the country’s rural areas which comprise of more than 85 per cent of Ugandans. This was well reflected by Bruno’s own opinion where he felt that 75% of Ugandans live in poverty.

According to Bruno there are two main causes of poverty in Uganda. The first is disease. AIDS kills numerous amounts of adults every year leaving many children orphan. These children are thereby unable to attend school and the poverty cycle continues. In the 1980s more than 30% of Ugandan residents had HIV whereas now this number has fallen to 6.4% by 2009 (3). Bruno credits this greatly to the Government spreading the word about health awareness. But now there is a more prevalent threat in the form of alcohol abuse.

Often widows –left by men whom have died from AIDs- brew alcohol from fermented bananas to provide for their families. As bananas are as common as Eucalyptus in Australia as Bruno put, women are able to grow them in their backyards easily as rainfall sustains the banana plants naturally. They grow, ferment and sell the alcohol to the community at a good price which allows them to survive. This method of survival has become such common practise that it has created a large amount of alcoholism amongst the community. Men who are fearful of the prospect of AIDS -as according to Bruno many men are promiscuous but tradition so methods of protection are often not used- or are unable to work due to the economy being unable to provide a strong level of employment turn to alcohol as an escape, leading them back down the path of poverty.

Bruno tells me that widows who brew and sell this alcohol are often able to send 3-4 of the 7-8 children in their care to university. 3-4 of these children are often orphans from relatives who have passed away from AIDs and the other children are her own. Those who are sent to school are often boys, as girls are commonly taught how to run the family alcohol business. Whilst the boys may be given the opportunity to receive education they are often unable to find work leading them to drink and the circle of poverty continues.

So comes the magic question of how do you break this cycle? Bruno gave me this his views in a simple example; If we/the government could simple provide the start-up capital and knowledge for a widow to purchase/receive a sewing machine (est. $150) she will be able to repair clothing and establish a business that can support her family and lift her from this extreme level of poverty. Teaching community members basic accounting so they are able to run their own businesses in retail or selling fruit and vegetables or teaching members of the community basic healthcare that they can then pass on to other members of the community, the chain of knowledge leading to an escape from poverty will continue.

Bruno believes that one of the greatest saviours for the nation so far has proven to be religion. According to the census of 2002 Christians make up about 84% of Uganda’s population, Muslims represent 12% and the remainder of the population follow traditional religions (1%) (4) Statistics Bruno accurately provided to me. Community programs such as community gardens, and fundraising for the necessary equipment needed to sustain these gardens can be very successful as communities are able to grow, sell and maintain these gardens and their community independently once the garden is initially established.

The most beautiful yet significant thing I took from my conversation with Bruno is that he sees a silver lining were many of us would/do not. He believes that poverty can sometimes be a good challenge for a community as it can bring out the best in people and cause the community to come together. Great leaders are often born out of poverty and so is innovation. In a world dominated by poverty a Ugandan University project saw the creation of the first Ugandan electric car. There is hope, we simply need to be that tiny push that topples the very first domino and begins the catalyst of change.

1) http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.DDAY
2) http://www.ifad.org/operations/projects/regions/Pf/factsheets/uganda.pdf
3) http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2008/dec/01/world-aids-day-uganda
4) http://www.ubos.org/onlinefiles/uploads/ubos/pdf%20documents/2002%20Census%20Final%20Reportdoc.pdf

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