day five – LBTL

It’s the last day! Whoohoo!

In other good news, I reached my fundraising goal (although if you’re still interested in fundraising, you are most welcome, and the link is here. Otherwise, you can donate to one or two of my friends who are also living below the line this week: Roberta or Miranda. Miranda’s going for two weeks on less than $2 a day AND no furniture. You go girl!)

Plus, Live Below the Line Australia raised over one million dollars in total for anti-poverty initiatives in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and in our very own country (since when were we the ones who needed help? More on that one later.)

Okay, so I think a recap of my week is in order. Here we go:

What I had to start out with:

750g pumpkin @ $1.98/kg = $1.48

Approx. 1.4kg potatoes = $1 at the fruit and veg market on the discounted table

Approx. 1.2kg tomatoes, approx 1/4 of which was mouldy by the time I got to it = $1, see potatoes

Approx. 1.4 kg of assorted nashis and I think they were royal gala apples = $1, see tomatoes

200 homebrand teabags = $1.99

500g large spiral pasta = $0.59

1 small head garlic = $0.49

1kg homebrand plain flour = $0.95

250g homebrand salted butter = $1.41

Total = $9.91

Day 1

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea $0.02

Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.70

Total = $1.92

Woke up late-ish, made soup and flatbread to take to work. Worked five hours, then took my soup to a TEAR group meeting, where two other people were also living below the line. We had much discussion on war and poverty, and didn’t really get anywhere with the hard stuff, just that it’s hard and we have to keep thinking about it and working out better ways to live and work for a better world.

Day 2

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Pumpkin and potato soup with flatbread = $0.85

Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38

Total = $1.45

Woke up at 5.30 in the am to go to uni. Not recommended when you aren’t eating as much as you usually do, because I felt like crap pretty much the entire day. Not so much hungry as my stomach was getting used to having different things, and less than usual. Drank lots of water, because it helped wash the bile down that kept coming up. Not a great day overall.

Day 3

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Pasta with potato and pumpkin = $0.38

Potato and pumpkin soup with flatbread = $.85

Flatbread, munched on during the day = $0.14

Total = $1.59

Went to uni again today. I actually felt much better today, got some fresh air on my walks to and from the train station. My friends kept offering to let me cheat, but I held my ground. Ah, hot chocolate. We meet again soon! Also had some really interesting conversations with my classmates. One of my friends was arguing that we should be grateful for our position in life and be thankful for what God’s given us. I said that it doesn’ t count as God’s gift if we took it from other people. God made us all to be equal and we’re not living that way.

Day 4

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups tea = $0.02

Tomato soup with flatbread, x2 = $1.28

Total = $1.50

Worked again today. Noticed much more than Monday my proximity to food. So glad that in two days, I get to drink coffee again. Also noticed I was more crotchety than usual. Either the lack of food/sugar or the constant reminders of my privilege were getting to me. gah! One day to go. Huge uplifting feeling when I saw that I’d reached my fundraising goal. Again, you guys are awesome!

Day 5

Stewed apples and pears = $0.20

2 cups black tea = $0.02

Pasta with pumpkin and potato, x2 = $0.76

Total = $0.98

Woke up at 5.30am again. And again, not a good idea. I almost puked on the train, and I don’t even have that much to puke! I’m really, really glad that as of tomorrow I get to put sugar and milk back in my tea. Sorry, Mum, black tea just doesn’t do it for me. I’m studying now and kinda wanting a snack but you can do this erin, pull through, one more day. It’ll be interesting to see how I go tonight; I have a birthday party! It’ll be fun regardless of the food situation, though.

I have to say, I’m already thinking about next year, how I can go better, fundraise more, change my lifestyle so that it’s not just geared around one time a year where I remember the 1.4 billion people living below the extreme poverty line but that it’s  a part of the direction of my life and my vision.

I want to thank each and every one of you, my readers, for sticking with me through this. I know a lot of you personally; I don’t know all of you but I really appreciate it. A special shout-out to everyone who donated. You guys are incredible!

day three – part two – LBTL

One of the things that was really difficult for me this week was that in living below the line, I was doing probably as much harm as good. Sure, I’m raising money for ant-poverty initiatives, for education to help people get out of the cycle of poverty, something better than just throwing money at the problem and thinking that’s my bit done. This is a way to help change my outlook on life so that I think about my actions and how in every way I can do better, in every way I can act righteously (more on that later). It’s made me think and it’s made others think. I’ve had some really interesting discussions regarding whether people can buy me food (no) does this mean it’s ok for me to steal (no) does free food, such as from food vans, count (yes) can I use the veggies from my garden (unsure, but we’ll say no just in case) and it all basically revolves around the fact that I’m not just doing this because I have to, it’s a choice to raise awareness for myself and others.

These are all good things that happen because of this initiative. But to live on less than two dollars a day in Australia, I’m supporting organisations I don’t like or want to support. I’m buying unethical produce.

See, to afford enough food to feed myself for this week, I had to buy no-name brands. Flour, butter, pasta. Sure, I got my fresh food from the fruit and veggie market, but only because it was on special – in the discounted section. I was lucky in that way. But what home brands do, the brands like coles smart buy or Woolworths home brand or Black & Gold, they lower their prices, get monopoly over the market, then when it’s all theirs, they’ll jack up their prices so they get more and more money, while conning the producer out of what’s theirs.

And that’s just a part of it. So while I love what Live Below the Line are doing in terms of awareness and projects, it kinda sucks in this sense.

I don’t know what the answer is. We do what we can, and we let God take care of the rest. Although I have to say, what we can do is much more than we give ourselves credit for. We make so many excuses but we could be doing so much more for those less fortunate than ourselves.

I mentioned in my earlier post today about the fact that I have lots of food and everyone, while it’s lovely that they’re taking notice and caring about whether or not I’ll faint, doesn’t really get it. I feel like I’m cheating a little, because I really do have enough food. That said, it’s less than what I’m used to and I have to ask myself, how much of the time do I eat just because I feel like it and how much because I’m actually hungry? I’m not saying that eating is bad – I love food, and I love eating. I often eat too much just because it all tastes so good. But we complain (and by we I mean me) about the lack of this or the fact that we have to have our second-favourite flavour milkshake or whatever, and we’re just covering up the fact that we’re spoilt, western brats.

But we do what we can. And we’re all working on our personal issues and hang-ups. No one is perfect; we just strive to follow Jesus as closely as we can.

Flatbread

Adapted from Julie Goodwin’s LBL recipe

300g plain flour

30g butter

Water

Sift the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Melt 20g of the butter and place in the well, and add water (not too much). Stir, adding more water if needed, until it’s shaggy and mostly stuck in clumps. Knead until it forms a smooth ball.

Melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Take a small piece of dough and stretch it out (you can roll in if you want it to end up a little prettier) until it’s fairly thin, and fry in the butter. Repeat with the rest of the dough (you can fry several flatbreads at a time).

Dip in your soup and imagine a better world. It can happen!

day two – LBTL

I had the unpleasant experience this morning on the train of simultaneously feeling like I was about to throw up and also faint. I was trying to choke down my black tea (sorry Mum; I just don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it. Although that could be the fact that it was homebrand) and not gross out my fellow passengers with projected bodily fluids while getting kinda dizzy. Not a fun experience. I realised also, I’d forgotten to put my iPod on, so I was in silence for the entire ride. Not like me, I have to say.

I crawled out of bed this morning to my stewed fruit, reflecting that in Papua New Guinea, many people don’t have stoves, so wouldn’t actually be able to eat what I was eating. Boiling the kettle, which probably took much less time than it would in other areas, where they’d have to use a small fire. Maybe they had electricity, if they were lucky.

On my way from the train station to uni, and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed, then get up sometime in the late morning, make myself a cup of hot chocolate and curl up in bed with a good book and a cookie. Well, no, I couldn’t and that was a good thing. Apart from of course, not being able to afford it this week, I also have the amazing conundrum of a Western late adolescent – being able to go to uni but not wanting to be there.

I am so lucky. Here, I get to go to uni. It’s practically free – I don’t have to pay until I can afford to pay. I can study anything I want to study. I can talk about the Bible and debate ideas and proclaim my faith. I’m not in any danger of persecution. I don’t have to worry about people killing me or my family or friends because of what we believe.

I get to prolong my education, which increases my chances of a job that will provide for me and my family. Not only that, I can study for the sake of studying. I don’t have to worry at this stage about skills promotion or finding a job, because a) I already have one, and it provides for my need;s b) the government gives me money when I am in need; c) there are jobs abounding for people who didn’t go to university and d) I don’t have a family to worry about, people I have to provide for. I just have to look after myself.

To this end, I ask that you give some of your undoubtedly hard-earned money (or if not, some that you get from the government) to this cause. To letting people who are less fortunate than I (there but for what I don’t know, not God’s grace because they have that too – there go I. And there goes Jesus.) have an education that will allow them to get out of a cycle of poverty. To a system that gives life, not one that leads to violence, death and destruction.

Here is where the money goes. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey.

day one – LBTL

Day one of living below the line of extreme poverty.

Feeling in stomach – surprisingly full

Feeling in mind – weird

Feeling in soul – quirky.

So, day one. I got up at about nine because I had to make soup for lunch and dinner before I went to work. For starters, I don’t generally bring lunch to work, because I get to eat there for free. Also, I find it odd making soup at nine in the morning.

Anyway. So I made my soup, I made my flatbread, I ate my previously stewed apples and pears – I stewed them last night because I knew I’d need them for my breakfast – and I drank my black tea.

It’s a surreal experience, working around food but not getting to eat any of it. I mean, I don’t usually eat much of it, but I am allowed coffee when I want it, and I get to make my lunch out of pretty much anything I’d like in the fridges and freezers. The thing I think I’m most missing at the moment are sweets – I couldn’t afford sugar and I am so looking forward to breakfast because it means apples and pears, and the natural sugars in them. Hooray!

What I’m not looking forward to is breakfast at six in the morning and being hungry again four hours later. I’ve had to factor in a flatbread snack so I don’t faint. Or something.

Tonight I was at a TEAR young adults action group meeting and we were talking about just war. I’m not going to get into the whole discussion at the moment, because it would take up the whole post (and then some) but we got to talking about how the small things matter too: in peacetime, when the authorities take everything they can from those they rule over, just because they can. How my food choices, my lifestyle choices, are the direct or indirect result of violence, and how violence needs to be reversed not just in war-torn countries but in our country, in our cities, our communities, our lives and our mindsets. We need to think differently than we do now, or nothing will change. Thanks to campaigns like Live Below the Line, to organisations like the Oaktree foundation and Avaaz, we can. We can try to change our minds, and then we might see changes in the wider sphere, and maybe even our world one day.

So my mind is whirling through all these things, but my feeling is a little blank. My soul. I don’t know if by doing this I’m doing anything – I know that I’m raising awareness and money and all that but I don’t feel changed by this experience. I suppose this is the result of my instant gratification culture, the way I’ve been accustomed to getting what I want, when I want. I have to be patient and remember that it’s not about me. It’s about the people in Papua New Guinea who don’t have the luxuries I do. Like microwaves, ovens, lights, kettles. Maybe they do, I don’t know enough about their situations, but I was thinking as I made my tea this morning, maybe this is too easy.

Thoughts to ponder, for sure, but for now, I am grateful for a full belly and the promise of another tomorrow. And thankful for a lovely soup which I didn’t expect to be as satisfying as it was.

Please donate, once again! It goes to education initiatives in Papua New Guinea, to help the people help themselves out of poverty. It’s a long road, but it’s worth it.

Roast Pumpkin and Potato Soup

500g pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, cubed

250g potato, washed, cubed (skin on)

2 cloves garlic

20g butter, melted

Toss the cubed pumpkin and potato in the butter and place on a baking tray, in one layer, with the peeled garlic cloves. Roast at about 220ºC for about twenty minutes. Take out and place in a pot (I melted the butter in a pot, tossed the pumpkin and potato in it and then returned the roasted vegies to the same pot). Cover with water and blend with a stick blender. Serve with flatbread.