Personal Challenges for a Southern Winter

I was standing on the platform of one of Sydney’s underground train stations one day a couple of weeks ago and in the few seconds between catching my breath from running down the stairs and my train arriving, I caught glimpses of two advertisements: one for and the other for The train arrived, I jumped on , and the ads got lost in the chaos that is my brain. Or so I thought. The next morning, I found myself looking at the two web sites – instead of the usual troll through uninteresting or depressing news stories – I guess my brain had made some strong connections between “ration”, “fam”(ished) and my great love of food:-). There I was sitting at the kitchen counter, enjoying the winter sun streaming through the windows, savouring my first coffee for the day and reading through some of the pages, I realised that I didn’t actually know what real hunger or poverty meant. I mean I’ve visited and have had friends amongst some of the poorest of the poor in India and Africa when I was young, and I’ve been hungry, or had to scrounge for money in my school or college days. But I was almost always in what I can only say was “a position of privilege” compared to that of the folks I was exposed to through my grandpa (as an eye surgeon in India) and my parents (as doctors in India and Africa) . I say privileged because there was always that unconscious, comforting knowledge that any hunger or shortage of money was fleeting; there has never been a time when I didn’t know that shelter, warmth and a decent meal were not far away.
I was speaking to some friends about this and Aron, who moved from Zimbabwe not so long ago, speaking from experience I guess, said that it would actually be harder to wilfully deprive ourselves of things that we take for granted than to deal with not having that choice in the first place. You don’t waste time or effort thinking about what you don’t or can’t have, he said, and you just get on with getting on with it.
We were also celebrating my little girl’s birthday when we had that conversation and we were watching her , her big sister and their little friends having a great time, picking on the variety of food and treats we had for them, opening up presents and just generally making a mess of the place. Later after the little ones had exhausted themselves (and us) and were finally in bed, I went back to the Ration Challenge and I found myself thinking of what it would be like as a father to celebrate my little girls’ birthdays with just the rations given out in the refugee camps. I simply can’t imagine it, so after I received the Rational “toolkit” I thought it might be a good idea to have the whole family do the challenge, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
I can see what Aron meant; I’m under no illusions that I will even being to understand what it’s like in those camps but I know it’s going to be a huge challenge: I like my organic fair trade coffee, high-grown Orange Pekoe tea, the goat curry my wife cooks, the herbs, citrus fresh from our garden, still warm just-laid eggs from our chooks. And did I mention my Achilles heel – chocolate? And if that wasn’t hard enough: I started to explain what we were about to do to our four and a half-year old and well, lets just say that I failed miserably:-)
Honestly I suspect I’m going to have a very hard time keeping to the rations for my girls, but I’m certainly going to try. And though we’re so far removed from those camps – distance and otherwise – I hope that my commitment might make some small difference to them, through your support.

I’m also still working on getting a┬áteam of four together for the Oxfam event and just beginning baby-steps training for that as well. I’m really keen to do it the walk this year and hoping we’ll be able to get the team (we need two more to join) together and get cracking.So it’s certainly going to be a very interesting winter.

Obviously this isn’t my usual techie post and I hope you will excuse the slight diversion:-) You can find my Ration Challenge page at

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