Together Apart | The life of a labour migrant in Cyprus

A couple of days ago, I watched a screening of the documentary Together Apart by Maren Wickwire. I left the place frustrated thinking how could this possibly happen?

The global demand for domestic workers has motivated labour migration from the Philippines and many other countries to more than 160 countries around the world. Women are working abroad for years or even decades, before returning home.

Together Apart is an intimate family portrait of two Phillipino women, a mother and a daughter, who left the Philippines to seek work abroad, for a “better future”.

The film contemplates notions of self-hood, belonging and care, shifting between serial migrants’ transitory present and projections onto the future.

When Guil Ann arrives on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to join her mother a domestic worker, the women reunite for the first time in over a decade. Joining the global workforce of Filipinas abroad, Carren (Guil Ann’s mother) spent most of her adult life apart from her children.

Only months later, unexpected events lead to Carren’s deportation and challenge both women to confront their precarious dreams for togetherness and a better future.

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A scene from the documentary Together Apart, the moment Guill Ann’s children look at pictures their mother sent them.

The whole documentary is about the life of Guil Ann in Cyprus, it also takes you to the Philippines after her mother was deported, showing the life of her children and family. But, don’t expect to see interviews of policemen, Cypriot citizens, or the exact deportation process.

In my opinion, this is what makes the movies’ narrative so strong, since these women are mostly unrepresented especially in Cyprus.

OFW (Overseas Philippines Workes) usually work 6 days per week and have only Sunday off. Imagine doing that for years … maybe decades. In addition to that, if they work at a house where they also happen to live in, it means that its 24/7 for 6 days a week.

There needs to be a line drawn between work and privacy. How does that leave them the space to have a private life? A relationship, education, family? These are literally basic human rights…

There was one lady in the audience, a contributor to the film, living in Cyprus for almost 20 years, she raises her own children here. Some of the girls feel more connected with Cyprus rather than the Philippines. She raised many issues the community deals with!

The fact that they are paid 309 euros per month says it all… It could be argued that they work more than anyone in Cyprus and are ridiculously paid!

If this exploitation isn’t modern slavery then what is?

As I said before money isn’t the only problem. There is legislation that needs to be changed! Cyprus is one of the few left remaining countries in the EU that refuse to change the ridiculous minimum wage for OFW workers.

They have no right to unemployment compensation, and if they fail to find a new employer within 30 days of being laid off, they become illegal.

In addition, if they wish to change an employer for whatever reason they need to stand in front of court and demand to have the right to change their employee. If they fail to do so in 30 days or if the court refuses their request, they are deported.

OFW workers by being nannies and by providing domestic aid have helped change Cyprus economy in many ways.

One good example is that numerous Cypriot mothers now have the opportunity to have full-time jobs, whereas this wasn’t the case many years ago where women were mostly housewives.

It is a pity though that this “luxury” has ended up being a form of exploitation against some people that come here for a “better future” and in some cases end up losing their “dignity”…

 

 

Banksy did what?!

One of Banksy’s most known artworks, Girl With Balloon, started self-destructing.

The piece was the final item in an auction at Sotheby’s in London on Friday night and started shredding in its frame after a winning bid of more than £1m is accepted at the auction.

The Bristol-born anonymous artist is known for his pranks but this one has left the audience with shock. The street artist later that night celebrated by posting a picture on Instagram quoting “Going, going, gone”.


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Going, going, gone…

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

 

The image seems to been taken from the audience. Perhaps was Banksy there to witness his prank? There are many speculations around Banksy as he has been successful and managed to hide his identity for all these years. But now, what’s his message?

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Banksy wrote “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge”, quoting Picasso.

So many questions until now…the good thing is, at least we know that he planned it! The detailed video he posted on Instagram said: “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting … in case it was ever put up for auction.”

The video then shows an unidentified person in a hoodie installing the sharp blades in the frame of the picture. However, Banksy has not revealed yet how the device was activated.

Many users have questioned his actions by asking him; Why would he destroy it? If he was planning to destroy all of it or did the shredder malfunction? Or was this whole thing slightly cynical to keep the artwork intact for an increase of value culturally and money wise?

Who knows!

As far as we know Banksy discloses information that only he wants us to know, and I believe that it’s one of the things he does that makes him so mysterious and so good at what he does, cause he doesn’t give everything to us and keeps us thinking.

I think he has managed to grab the media attention at least! I never saw so much discussion about artwork especially street art on TV. I guess his rebellious creative urge to destroy has taken them by surprise!

Phuket Island Hopping

The largest island in Thailand rightly known as ‘The Pearl of the South’, is a rainforested, mountainous island and has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches… in other words a tropical paradise.

Despite visiting it at the so-called rainy season, we were lucky enough to go through two weeks of beautiful sunshine, and hot humid temperatures. Even though it is a risky choice, if you have the weather on your side, the perks of the low season are many, as tourism levels decrease.

Phuket offers such a rich variety of experiences – of course the white-sand beaches, culture, diving, fabulous food, spas, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, nightlife – that visitors are spoilt for choice.

Over the course of our two week vacation we tried to do as much as possible to uncover the beauties the Island has to offer.

Here are some of the highlights…

The first hotel we stayed at was located at the 11km long Mai Khao beach. This was probably the quietest beach on Phuket. The area largely consists of the luxury hotels situated there but also a small outdoor shopping mall. There are local restaurants and pubs too where you can try authentic local food and drinks.

The beach is surrounded by nature, we saw different kinds of species such as a water lizard that looked more like a baby alligator, and butterflies in the size of a pigeon.

We were told that if we see a water buffalo in the road not to run since it might then attack us! Hopefully that didn’t happen.

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Mai Khao beach, Phuket

The best way to discover the hidden gems of the Providence is to go on island hopping boat trips, so we took the opportunity and I can say that we were pleased with the experience!

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Boat trip, Andaman Sea

By this way you can enjoy the beautiful views of hundreds of small islands. It was a really hard pick since there are so many different trips. Our first destination was the famous James Bond Island.

It was chosen as one of the locations for the 1974 James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. The landmark is among the most popular activity in the region. Located in the National Park you will need to pay a little fee for entering the park, but if you are on a tour it’s usually included in the price.

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James Bond Island, Phang Nga Bay

After that came the adventurous part of the trip, canoeing! We canoed in the absolute quiet and peaceful ambience at Kong Island, along the amazing landscape before entering the beautiful caves and lagoons.

It got really dark in the caves and we had to lie down at some points in order to pass under the caves, but at the end of the tunnel the views are breathtaking!

We also stayed for 2 nights at Phi Phi Islands, which was probably one of the best decisions we made about our vacation.

It was a constant feeling of serenity… but how couldn’t it? Living in a cute little cabin right next to the beach, being surrounded by palm tries and nature, surely embraced that feeling.

I must add that the beach of the resort was like a postcard picture!

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Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort

Moving around the island is interesting and quite unusual for a person like me that uses a car everyday. After the tsunami in 2004 the roads were re-built, however they are used only for pedestrians. There are cars but only those permitted  for emergency services, so the only way to go somewhere is either by bike or by water taxi.

I don’t usually describe myself as an early bird, but waking up early in the morning to watch the sunrise, was totally worth it!

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7:00 am, Phi Phi Island

The Monkey Beach was definitely one of my favourite island hopping destinations! Although the beach didn’t have as many monkeys as I thought there were gonna be, they were a bit aggressive and it was quite crowed, you don’t get to swim with them everyday!

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Monkey Beach

I love spas, I mean who doesn’t? But an outdoor spa that has a jacuzzi with this view? I think it totally exceeded my expectations!

Thai massage is among the most famous massages in the world. We couldn’t resist not getting spoiled by the traditional oil aromatherapy and natural scrubs.

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Outdoor Spa

After returning back to the mainland, Phuket we decided to visit the Big Buddha. They call it Big Buddha, but as I said after my first glimpse at it: “It should be called Huge Buddha!”.

It is a 45m marble statue of Buddha, on a mountaintop in the middle of the jungle, and offers panoramic views of the city.

An interesting fact of the temple is that it’s still under construction, since it is being built by the people. You can buy a brick at the entrance to help the work progress. However, that fact that it is still unfinished, doesn’t undermine it’s beauty at all.

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Big Buddha Phuket

Last but not least, Phuket Town is the capital of the Island and the old town is lined up with colorful 19th-century shophouses and buildings. It’s a perfect place if you want to find out more about the history and culture of Phuket, shop, or dine.

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Phuket Town

 

Ethical Fashion

Shop ethically. Shop responsibly. Shop slow fashion. All these are things I’ve been seeing around for some time. But what exactly do they mean?

Sustainable fashion AKA eco fashion, is a part of the growing philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.

This is an umbrella term used to describe fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

It can be seen as the antithesis of fast-fashion and that habit of buying a new, cheap top for every night out, which might never be worn again or may well fall apart after a couple of washes anyway.

Conclusion? What you wear matters!

The more times you think about it, the more clear it becomes that shopping responsibly is not black and white and it deffo isn’t something that can be changed over night. It is a whole lot of gray. And with all of that gray, it makes it really hard to achieve ethical shopping.

So what’s a girl to do?

  • Go Eco-Friendly. Buy items made of natural fabrics that don’t harm the environment. Opt for textiles that will naturally decompose instead of sitting in landfills for ages. Such as: silk/ cashmere, organic cotton, linen etc.
  • Buy Fair Trade. Support companies who respect human rights and believe in a  living wage for their workers. Over the years many scandals have came up – last year unpaid workers were slipping pleas for help into Zara clothes. However, not all overseas manufacturing is bad. Do a little research and see which ones are enforcing fair trade regulations, especially in developing countries.
  • Look for Vegan or Cruelty Free. Buy cruelty free items and support the rights of animals. You can find out how you make a difference for animals by choosing cruelty-free clothing and accessories on the PETA website.
  • Pick Chemical Free/Organic Items. The chemicals and dyes in the majority of our clothing is harmful not just to the environment, but to the workers creating the garments as well as the consumer who is wearing the clothing. You can avoid harmful side effects by shopping products only made of organic material and natural dyes.
  • Shop Local. By supporting the small businesses in your community, you are keeping your money in the local economy.
  • Thrift Shopping/ Recycling. If shopping on a budget and avoiding massive amounts of clothing ending up in landfills are your priorities, shopping resale is the one of the best ways to go.
  • Upcycle and Sew. This is probably the most fun and creative thing to do! You can use fabric to re-sew and re-create old garments into something completely new and unique.
  • Wear What You Buy. A Lot. Supports quality items over disposable fast fashion. Before purchasing, ask yourself if you will get a sufficient number of wears out of the item. Can you mix and match it with current wardrobe items? Is it functional? Will it last?

A lot of these overlap each other and many others contradict each other.

Shopping local shops may support your community and its makers, and some may come from fair trade manufactures but not always.

Supporting cruelty free products and buying vegan sometimes means buying products hard on the environment, made out of synthetic materials that end up in landfills and don’t decompose.

Lots and lots of gray!

Fortunately, there are more and more choices and ethical clothes could be fashion forward, on trend and compete with the scene. It’s up to you to decide what values are most important to you and make your choices based on them.

Body image perception on social media

Social media are an integral part of today’s society and while they might be great in many things, that’s not always the case!

As they continue to play a major role in our lives – more than 2.1 billion people have social media accounts, and there are 70 million photos and videos posted daily on Instagram. Research shows that they have a huge influence on body image especially affecting adolescent girls and young women.

There have been many positive outcomes, especially when social media are used in ways that promote positive and productive ideas in society, but they also tend to create a wrongful perception of beauty.

Living in the era of Instagram, the fact that fitness models and fashion bloggers are all over news feeds, it makes things much more difficult for peoples self-esteem and the perception of beauty.

The ubiquity of the thin ideal is not a good thing. Not that there is anything with being thin but – we should be celebrating women bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

In a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals, it is challenging to not get caught up in comparing yourself to these perfectionist standards. It is unfortunate that the emphasis on appearance is spreading, and it is important to include a much greater range of appearances of what we as a society think of as ideal.

But also as important is; to make appearance and body ideal less important and less defining to women and girls.

Body image an increasing problem, is associated with a number of mental health outcomes including depression and anxiety but also may contribute to serious eating problems such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders. While young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, in particular those aged 12 to 20, anyone can develop an eating disorder.

So if you ever find yourself concerned about your body image ask yourself: “Is my perception of beauty distorted from the media exposure that glorifies the thin ideal that is unrealistic for most people to obtain living a healthy lifestyle?”

Never compare yourself with others and try to always feel comfortable in your own skin!

The Parisian Food Affair

The capital of France, Paris is definitely a must go destination. The city attracts people from all around the world and is a global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture.

The city of light is well known for its cafe culture that serves as a centre of social and culinary life. Our mission was to eat and drink like a local, so we ended up visiting all the places a foodie would go…. and fell in a Parisian food affair.

We stayed at a hotel next door to Les Halles, so it was really easy to move around and most of the times we walked and enjoyed the vibrant city life.

We arrived at 10pm so the first thing we did, is leave our bags and go for a quick glass of wine. The first place we visited was Le Bon Pecheur. What made us pick this particular cafe was the atmosphere it seemed to have.

The next morning was rainy so we decided to visit the Louvre Museum. An exciting fact about it is that entrance for people under 25 from the European Union can enter the museum for free with a valid passport or ID.

We spent around 5 hours there, and we still didn’t manage to see all of it. It is a really impressive museum, contemporary mixed with history. Technology enhances the whole experience, audio guides and apps give you the opportunity to listen to informative commentary for the art and all the information you need to get around.

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Louvre Museum

After a long day we decided to treat ourselves with a meal from Ralph’s. The garden outside was perfectly arranged, I promised myself I would visit again – hopefully on a sunny day! The interior of the designer restaurant was elegant and the food and service was great. The menu offers a variety of foods and cocktails.


Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann is located on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. It is a massive department store and visitors can find brand-name items of nearly every variety.

Even if you are not shopping it is worth the visit, the architecture of the building speaks for itself. You can also treat yourself with the famous Pierre Hermé macarons & chocolats.

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Galeries Lafayette

On the following day we enjoyed breakfast at the lovely Hôtel Costes courtyard. The hotel has a Parisian character and the decoration is impressive. It’s also worth visiting for dinner as the restaurant is proud of its music.

Overlooking the Place Vendôme in the 1st arrondissement, The Ritz is definitely a place to visit even just for a cup of coffee. The hotel is designed with spectacular detail every interior design lover would admire.

L’Avenue on avenue Montaigne, is a 10 min walk from ChampsÉlysées. It is a very trendy place, just a few steps from the grand Plaza Athenée hotel with its top designer boutiques, L’Avenue is the go-to dining spot for many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Rihanna, Beyoncé and many more.

Kong Bar Restaurant is located in Les Halles neighbourhood. You can enjoy food and cocktails amazed by spectacular views of the city of light and the concept of the restaurant. It has it’s own character and unique vibe, and it’s open for all meals of the day.

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Kong, Les Halles

Four Seasons Hotel George V had a wonderful flower displays in almost every corner. At the lobby of the hotel you cannot miss the -human size- flowers decorated in beautiful mirror vases that create colourful beautiful reflections.

Au revoir!

Stella McCartney starts Trashion Bag campaign for World Oceans Day

British designer Stella McCartney is calling on consumers to get involved in their local communities to clean up nearby beaches and rivers as part of the labels’ on going commitment to sustainability.

The fashion designer aknowledged on Instagram that the industry is the second most harmful environmentally, and there is a level of responsibility that has to be taken.

According to research, half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are released per year from washed clothes – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics – contributing to ocean pollution.

She further commented: “In my mind, if I’m working within it – and especially as I’m in a privileged position where I have a voice that can implement change…”

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Photo courtesy: Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has always been passionate about making a change to the environment
and doesn’t fail to prove that high-end fashion and sustainability can co-exist.

In order to honour World Oceans Day the brand is calling on as many people as possible to get involved in local charity beach and river clean-ups. In support of this initiative, they are giving away recycled and recyclable Stella Trashion bags at selected stores across the world.

More than seven-tenths of Earth’s surface is blue. This should be enough to remind us how important oceans are for us, and that – small or big, effort is effort.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in our oceans by weight.

This proves that drastic changes must be made now, and I believe it is very important to see the industries that harm the environment with their existence, to make things right and join their forces with their consumers to avoid letting our oceans overflow with litter.

The brand hopes to begin a positive chain effect that will result in change for the better, by raising awareness about the increasingly urgent issue of plastic pollution in oceans and rivers. And hope to inspire as many people as possible to get involved in this kind of environmental movements.

Organising charity beach and river clean-ups in many countries across the globe, not only gives the opportunity for communities to come together but also collectively act on a shared love of the environment.

To find out where you can find which Stella McCartney stores are giving away the Trashion Bags, and if you want to get involved with cleaning up and promote circularity through recycling visit www.stellamccartney.com

#MeToo: The untold stories

“He stood in front of the door and blocked me and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room… I was so hesitant about speaking out. I didn’t want to hurt his family. I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.”

These are the words of Cara Delevingne in a post on her Instagram page giving a detailed description of the sexual harassment she experienced when she first started acting as an actor by film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Along with Cara Delevingne, many other stories of his victims and of many others have surfaced. And while all over the media are the faces of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and a numerous other sexual harassment and assault allegations against a number of powerful men, Hollywood is not the only place on earth that women are being harassed. There are around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. [unwomen.org]

Women around the world wouldn’t give up until the ones responsible get punished for it. Over the last month, many women chose to tell about their stories through social media. Actress Alyssa Milano urged women to reply to her tweet with #MeToo. two simple words, yet so powerful, is the hashtag that has gone viral, with thousands of women responding one after the other, celebrities and artists such as Lady Gaga, but not only women spoke up even men have chosen to share their stories.

Me too. I don’t know if it means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.” Were the words of Javier Muñoz, an American actor.

According to the TUC Sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016 research, 52% of women are sexually harassed at work in the UK. These statistics prove that unfortunately, at a place where someone should feel safe and comfortable, at a place where someone spends the majority of their day; is also a place where abuse happens too often.

The power of yoga

Regularly practicing yoga will improve overall health, including mental health. Benefits include increased concentration, reduced stress, relief from insomnia and fatigue, increased body awareness and enhanced emotional stability.

Yoga postures work on all systems of the body. As well as strengthening and elongating muscles, yoga postures tone glands and internal organs. The postures, along with breathing techniques and relaxation help us to focus the mind and calm the nervous system.

Kelly Walsh, a yoga instructor said: “If we feel stressed or anxious, we can get stuck in the sympathetic nervous system, reacting with fight or flight when there is no real threat.”

“Deep breathing and certain postures, help us to move into the parasympathetic nervous system or “rest and digest,” slowing the heart rate and conserving energy.”

People with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and ADHD have responded positively to regular yoga practice.

Kelly further added that: “Yoga could be thought of as a kind of moving mindfulness, helping us to live in the present and stay connected with ourselves and our surroundings.”

“Persistent practice of yoga trains the mind to be calm and focused, enabling an individual to perceive events and situations with clarity and to control their reactions.”

The following yoga poses are very beneficial for easing stress and anxiety: 

Child’s pose (Balasana) – Is a resting pose. Relieves fatigue, relaxes the body and further helps to ease stress and anxiety.

Bridge pose (Set Bandasana) – Helps to relieve fatigue, insomnia and depression. It also nourishes the nervous system.

Pigeon pose (Elaine Pada Rajakopatasana) – helps to release tension and anxiety held inside the body.

Get your mats ready, put your yoga leggings on and enjoy!

Namaste!