Living Below the Line 2012 - Messages from our Team Members

Monday, May 7, 2012Living Below the Line 2012- Messages From Our Team Members

Chad - Thanks Sar for providing this space to blog. And for trusting a first time blogger on your page! Day 1 hasn't gone too badly. I think this is partly due to knowing what to expect having done the challenge last year and partly having worked out (possibly) a better meal plan for the week. I did nearly start off on the wrong foot this morning by almost forgetting my lunch at home! The shopping experience was again eye opening. There is such a disparity among prices depending on where you shop and if you buy retail or in bulk. As much as 35% in some cases. Anyhow you cut it that's a lot. Lastly, but probably most importantly, the challenge has started me again reflecting on what it means to live below the line. I am thinking about how much money I spend on other things and how much I usually spend every day on food. I am thinking about my next meal and if it will fill me and give me enough energy to carry on with my day. I am thinking about how people who live below the poverty line find the resolve to not give up every morning. I am thinking of how fortunate I am to have the resources to make choices freely. I am thinking I can do more to help.

Sarita- You're welcome Chado:)

I went into this week's challenge feeling quite confident that it would be easier than last year, because I knew what to expect and I was ready. I had the same (and new) team mates from last year and knew we had each other for support, PLUS, I made smarter than last year food choices in the groceries in Gran Couva, and thought that, both nutritionally and satiatingly (I know it's not a real word) I would be in better shape than last year mentally and physically. Day 1 at around 2:30 p.m. found me congratulating myself on managing to cook a pot of split peas soup (1 serving coming in at approx. $2.50, the whole pot costing $19.95 to make) without burning it, and patting myself on the back for it tasting good (chewy peas notwithstanding because I forgot to puree YET AGAIN - shades of my dhal attempt from last year haunting me), but by 7p.m. I was hungry and vex. And I was also forced to recalculate my budget, because a few items we bought to share were duplicated by other team members and it threw the budget out of whack. (I was also desperately trying to justify buying 4 power mints or 2 salt prunes to last the week so I was shifting items or cutting them out altogether).*

While I was rebudgeting, it hit me again how sad and wrong it is that this is the reality that more people than we could imagine have to live with - on a shoestring food budget, trying to fit a little extra here and there. How difficult it would be if I had a child or two and had to make sure they were provided for.

While I was making the soup, I found myself making sure every pea was used, and the bad parts of the potato were carefully pared away, rather than me doing what I would usually do - make sure it was GONE by chunking it off. What if, as is so common, the whole potato was rotten? I think, if it were day 4 rather than day 1, I would be very tempted to use it anyway, because throwing it out would not be an option - better some nutrition than none. Better more food than less.

It's day 2 and thank God for Scully's cooking skills, because he's managed to make a salt fish/potato, lentil and rice combo that is intended to stretch for a few meals well. We reused the water used to soak the salt fish in, to cut down on using extra salt and seasoning, and the total cost of this meal is coming in at $26.75, with an approx. yield of 4 meals at $6.68 each.

*I can't afford the mints or salt prunes. Lord.

Thank you all for the support and advice - we'll continue to keep you posted!

Edit - I forgot to post this link for market prices - very good knowledge to have when you eat on a budget or are trying to save money -


Thanks for bringing us all together here too Sar :)

Day 2 is drawing to a close. I've had a headache for the last 5 hours, even though I had satisfying servings of vegetable soup and rice, stewed lentil peas, and saltfish and potato today.

I had similar headaches last year, but much more intense. I think it may be the sudden reduction of simple sugars in my diet. Usually this would be a cue for a sweet snack or a Coke. The first ounce would be enough, but the remaining 19 ounces would usually be consumed out of sympathy.

I've learned a lot from the shopping experience this year, and from the planning and preparation of meals. I love to cook, but usually cook what I'm feeling for, and how I'm feeling for it. Different from last year, we focused a lot this year on keeping the meals nutritious and satisfying. Inability to concentrate, mood swings and tempers come about easily if your body isn't satisfied. The psychology of hunger can be overwhelming.

I would have written more, but my wits are at their end for the day, and energy levels aren't what they usually are. Chad-Day 2

So it's late on Day 2 (actually early in the morning of Day 3). It was not too bad again today. But I definitely felt the effect a bit more today than yesterday. When I got home my 2 year old nephew arrived shortly afterwards. He is a part Energizer Bunny part Tasmanian Devil. 10 minutes of playing with him left me totally exhausted and dozing off on myself as we sat to watch Dora the Explorer.

Dinner was the same as last night-Leg of Poulet Rôti served with a steamed artisanal rice and accompanied by a delicate soup of yellow peas (a chicken leg, brown rice and split peas). I spent the rest of the evening reading The Hunger Games (I'll finally be able to say "I found the book was better than the movie") and trying to relax. But like Antony I've had a dull numbing headache for a few hours now. I think it's time to go to sleep. I'm thinking tomorrow will be a long day.

Thanks again to the kind sponsors and the wonderful emails of support.

Apple- Live Below The Line Challenge

Day 1:

I woke up this morning totally excited, thinking to myself 'I can do this, I can take this challenge easy'. No sooner had the thought danced across my mind when I realized all was not well. Deep inhalation of my morning air brought discomfort, I had a sore throat! O_O NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Determined in myself to not give up on day one, I made my breakfast of oats and relished every bit. At the time of writing this message, hunger lurks in the shadows. Its only 9:40am!!! 4 1/2 more days to go...

Apple - Having started the challenge later than my team mates, I felt as tho I had an advantage, that turned out not to be a big lie :( Lunch time met me still preparing my lunch/dinner/bfast for day 2...

I made bread today. 6 hops. HOW am I going to live on 6 hops and margarine? ACK! I should have thought this through. Should have left my friends to suffer alone and turned a blind eye to the world's problems. Ent? Sigh! Like if I could!!

My very late lunch (5pm) consisted of 2 steaming hot hops bread with margarine. Not yet sure if the universe mocked me by me waking up this morning with a sore throat and being stuffy. Being in a state of 'unwell' I slept...and slept... Knocking on my bedroom door brought the irritable me flying to the door...WhAt? My mother on the phone, she heard there was bread and wanted to know if she could get some. After agreeing that nobody would touch 'my share'...I went back to lala land...

I opened my eyes only to see 11:30pm and feel the monster in my tummy trying to tear its way out for not having been fed. Moseying to the kitchen I heard a sound...what the heck?! My son is standing there with my survival in his hands. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Thankfully, I'd made some for the rest of the household and was able to 'take it back', phew!

My aunt, my wonderful, caring, thoughtful aunt has allowed the devil to use her my fridge sits a slice of homemade fruit cake covered in a thick layer of icing.

1 hops bread and margarine later...I am not a happy camper.

12:36am, day one is now passed...thank GOD!

Apple Day 2: I woke up way before the alarm this morning feeling absolutely miserable (6am) The cold is here and seems to be residing in my throat/chest.

Dragging myself off the bed, I made lunch, cleaned up the kitchen and got ready for work (oh how I wished I could stay home and cuddle up with myself) After getting ready for work, I had my bfast, 1 bowl of oats + 1 hops with margarine (it was as satisfying as it sounds)

Its now 10am and I am peckish, I drink water and try to numb it not wanting to 'waste' my lunch before the appointed time. Noon is here!! Yay? Nope. Why am I not happy to eat? boss...God bless her...bought me lunch (see photo) SIGH! All the while having my plain rice, peas and mashed potato...I'm smelling the chicken and salad and craving it :(

Soon after lunch, I start feeling really sick. My co worker offers me something and I refuse, 'its not in my budget' Then I find $0.25! yay!! Thanks you GOD! So what did I do with my new found fortune? I paid for the pack of Emergen-C :D

By 4pm, I cared not for emergen-c or the worlds poverty line, or anything else that might/should matter to me. All I wanted was kfc! Please? 2 pc spicy with fries and a biscuit? :'(

By 8am I realized I was not feeling any better...actually...I was sufficiently worse enough to worry myself. Finally I gave in and decided to get the medication...BUT...all the pharmacies were closed! NOO!!!! Coughing and eyes burning now, I get into a taxi to head home sad and somewhat distressed. Suddenly. Hope! The pharmacy close to my house closes at 10pm. Yes! 9:47pm and I'm happy again. As fate would have it the driver needed gas, we left the station at 9:56pm. ACK! I just know they gonna be closed and I will suffer in sick poverty :( 9:57pm, I get out the car and rush through the pharmacy doors in such a haste that everyone looked up at me to see what the heck was going on :{ Yay, I got meds! Whoo hoo!!!

Got home to find the last of my bread, my precious bread, covered in ants *sniff* I decided that ants had no bones and they were going in, get ready stomach. Then I spot some of the mashed potato I made for lunch (thank God it was not liked or forgotten by the other house dwellers). A quick sniff and to my room to eat.

So many times I find myself looking at the negatives in my life and wishing they would go away. Today I revisited an important lesson and instead of focusing on what I don't have and what I can't do, I focused on what I did have and what was possible. I am reminded that in my daily life, no matter how bad I think it is, there are millions who would think I have 'it made' and would trade anything to have a bed to sleep in and a fan and something to eat (no matter what it is). I am thankful that I was able to go to the pharmacy and get meds (even tho I did not want to initially), for there are so many who are sick and suffering and starving.

Today I have revisited gratitude and I hope I never lose sight of it again.


So I too echo the sentiments of everyone else by saying a big THANK YOU to Sarita for the LBTL initiative. The experience thus far has been unforgettable.

From the buying of groceries on a budget to the preparation and consumption of the food, the lessons were all many.

Shopping for the groceries was an experience by itself. Picking up items that you thought would be necessary for some sort of nutrition, like milk, only to realise that it was too expensive and having to put it back on the shelf, was humbling. On reaching to the casher, even though a rough estimate was calculated, items had to be deducted from the total in order to remain within the allocated budget. Never in my life have I ever asked for an item to be removed from my purchase at the grocery, but that day I had to.

Planning of the meals and preparation was another task on its own. Having to go to work and survive on oats as breakfast was admittedly very difficult. I’m usually a big tea drinker, so oats in the morning was a big shocker to the system. The heat on some days made the hunger pangs quadruple. Oh! Those hunger pangs!L

For the most part the food tasted all the same to me almost like my taste buds were on vacation. The joy of having a meal was nowhere to be found.

The feeling of hunger that I experienced every day was unbearable at times. I tried drinking water to substitute but still my stomach felt like a bottomless pit!

All I felt like doing was sleeping. I guess it pushed me into a mini depression. The psychological impact was noticeably profound!

I could all of a sudden relate to people who would fight or even kill for a meal. The smell and sight of food was numbing.

All I thought about for the entire time was FOOD. Chocolate that has been in my cupboard for weeks which have gone untouched were now in my dreams and my every-second thoughts.

I gained an appreciation for the less fortunate people I saw on the side of the road. So instead of passing them as quickly as I could, I slowed down and looked and said to them, in my mind of course, ‘I KINDA know how you feeling buddy’. There was also an urge to go up to them and have a chat :S

The moods – irritability, angry, longing

The feelings – blinding headaches, dizziness, lethargy, nostalgia (food suddenly became an important part of my culture dread!) and of course hunger.

The lessons  – don’t take what you have for granted, because someone out there is DYING to have your life!

-          A health, well-balanced diet is necessary to function effectively and there are so many people who live under the breadline who cannot afford to have such a meal…very sad indeed.



Ending of Day 2: Last night I finally gave in and got some medication for without it I feared I'd make myself worse than I needed to be. I felt as though I'd cheated, as tho I'd somehow cheapened the challenge experience. Already cloaked in some shame and regret sleep took me into its arms.

Day 3: Again I awoke before my alarm and just laid there pondering on the images that still played in my mind. Why was I dreaming about meat? I have never been a heavy meat eater. Yet I was dreaming about steaks and ribs, pork, beef, chicken :-/

There was no more pretending and hoping, I was sick. My throat sore, I was stuffy, my head ached and I felt a fever coming on. Yet, I could not give up. I could not throw in the towel when it was only one more day to go.

For breakfast at 6am I had 2 pills and a small glass of mauby. For lunch at noon I had another 2 pills and a glass of mauby.

Ironically, I had no appetite. Even more now I felt like I was cheating.

By 3pm, I began to feel hungry and with the help of my sister, we made my final LBTL meal. Curried potato, boiled eggs and left over rice from yesterday.

It was while eating that I reflected on my own life and where I'd come from. Memory after memory danced across the floor of my mind. Memories I have shared with few, only known by those who were there.

Tonight on my final night of the LBTL Challenge, I remember why I refused to join up last year (2011). At the first mention of the challenge I thought 'nah, not me. I will never be hungry again, especially willingly.'

You see what many don't know is that my sister and I grew up knowing hunger. While we went to school and had friends we never took them home. We never spoke about our home. Or our lives. We made sure to avoid such things. Why? Because, unknown to anyone else, we lived below the poverty line. We lived in an old broken down wooden house, that threatened to fall apart every time the wind touched it. We had no running water, no electricity, no toilet facilities. While our mother tried, she was hardly able to make a dent in the life we lived. Many days we had but one meal.

I remember one night  I put the loaf of bread away before bed. When I woke up ravished the next morning and opened the cupboard, the rats had gotten to the bread during the night. Knowing that there was not a cent to buy anything more, I took the bread from the bag, cut the area that was visibly bitten into and my sister and I ate the rest. God alone knows how come we never got critically ill growing up. On another occasion someone stole our gas tank and apart from having no food, we could not even heat water. Someone gave us a breadfruit and I found myself some old branches and made a fire with a couple concrete blocks and made 'curried breadfruit soup'. What I can say now, is that hunger is indeed the BEST seasoning (lol). For Christmas one year, while our relatives and neighbors feasted, we ate bhagi and sada roti. Did we complain? Not once! We were delighted to have hot food!

When i was 26 years old a school mate invited me to her wedding and I was very excited about going. I wanted to celebrate with her and her new husband. It was a week before the wedding, I was shopping for a dress to wear. I walked into a store and immediately fell in love with a dress. $350. As I paid the lady for the dress I started (embarrassingly) crying, the lady looked at me like I was insane. How was I to tell her that this is the 1st time in my life that I have been able to by myself something? That I got this dress because I wanted a new one and not because someone got tired of their clothes and I got hand me downs? Who knows, maybe she will read this blog and understand.

All of the above was said not to bring attention to myself, for those who know me (even a little) know that I am not an attention seeker. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and shared some of my secrets only to bring to the attention of the readers of this blog, that you can never always know who is living below the line and who is not.

While we seek to raise awareness during this time about global poverty and the conditions that millions face every single day. I encourage you dear readers to look at your friends, look at your neighbors, look at your loved ones. You may not be able to change the world, you may not be able to feed every hungry mouth or clothe all who are naked. But, you might be able to make the world of a difference to someone who is within your own reach.

I want to thank Sarita for encouraging me to join up. Thank you to the other team mates Chad, Nyla, Scully. You guys have given me the courage to embrace my fears and draw strength from them.