Last year, I went on holidays to South Africa. I travelled from Kinshasa, DRC. It was only a small trip away from work. This video is a glimpse of my journey in Cape Town. Enjoy!
As you might know I moved to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018. I shared pictures from the city in my Instagram stories and received loads of questions! The most commons were related to safety and how does a foreigner end up in DRC?
I answered the most frequently asked questions in this video:
The audio is in French and you can select the English subs.
The Wonderland Stories
I initially created this blog to share a series of short stories called “The Wonderland Stories” . I started to write them back in 2016 and I never published many of them. Back then, I related to Alice in Wonderland after she felt in the rabbit hole and ended up in a bizarre world.
In between, I shared some posts about my travels and sustainable fashion because there are topics I’m interested in, even though it was not the main purpose of my blog.
I completely lost interest in blogging and generally in writing for a couple of months. Then I unexpectedly ended up moving to Kinshasa and started reading 1Q84 from Haruki Murakami. Then (as weird as it can sound for a reader that does not know me) , I was back in a parallel universe with the beauty of the challenges lying there and all the opportunities to grow.
I have a new series of short stories on my laptop that I call “2Q19”. Again there are very personal but , at the same time, external readers could not tell the boundaries between the fiction and the reality.
Following numerous questions about my life in Kinshasa (via Instagram), I decided to make a short video about my weekend to share a tiny piece of my experience.
Overall, I feel this video is very soppy in comparison to the intense experience I’m living and it does not translate the idea of 2Q19. However I mainly wanted to show that Kinshasa is a pretty normal city to live in (taken into consideration it is a developing country with a relatively high criminality rate – be cautious but not paranoiac) which might seem different if you fancy a Google search.
If you follow my stories on Instagram and if you have read my previous blog posts, you will know that I have criticized our consumption of fashion a tiny bit (i.e. the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world). After readings several documents on the topic, I decided that I would avoid traditional brands as much as possible since they are absolutely not transparent with their operations. I want to wear brands that reflect my beliefs and are not destroying the environment – even if it means to buy only a couple of items a year.
Where can you find sustainable brands?
That was my first question. And then I had a couple more.
- What brands are responsible and serious with their commitments?
- What brands can I afford to buy?
A great help in my quest was ‘Ethical Brandz’. If you are curious, have a look at the website, you will find plenty of brands classified by category. I also browsed Instagram with hashtags such as sustainable fashion, who made my clothes, and so on. It helped me to discover brands and some fashion Instagramers interested in fair fashion (i.e. unfortunately, way under-represented in the world of social media). I discovered some awesome labels and the first one I want to make you discover is Jan’n June.
The founders of the label are Jula and Anna (see the photo above). The idea was born in Hamburg while they were sharing a bottle of wine (or maybe more, who really knows ;) and wondering where they could find a stylish, sustainable and affordable fashion label.
Nowhere was the answer. So they created their own! (I wish when I cannot find a service or a product I want, I could just casually start a couple of businesses you know, no big deal). The style is minimalist and the clothes are just beautiful.
Intrigued? Read on to understand the behind the scenes!
The first question that came to my mind when we discuss ‘fair fashion’ or ‘sustainable fashion’
= what does it mean?
Okay it implies there is no trade-off between profit, people and the environment. But how these aspects are translated into the supply chain and the business model, specifically with Jan’n’June?
#FABRICS This first aspect really did intrigue me since most brands use cotton grew with pesticides. And for my thesis, I visited cotton fields in Burkina Faso (i.e. huge exporter of cotton from West Africa) and I saw that cotton was an ugly industry. It is financially unfair to the producers but also those pesticides were stocked right next to food supply because of a lack of storage space (=when toxicity and your dinner spend time together). Most brands will never see it because they will not bother themselves to travel there and they won’t question the information given by their intermediaries.
So how do you do? Well, friends don’t let friends wear conventional cotton, according to Jula and Anna (and I could not agree more!). Their cotton are organics or recycled. They also use recycled tencel, organic linen, recycled polyester and recycled polyamide. If like me you are a novice in the field, I encourage you to visit their website. Seriously. There are many things to get excited about with recycled polyamide and friends!
Also the girls use the fabrics’s cut-off to create accessories.
#MADEINPOLAND The garments are produced in Wroclaw, Poland in partnership with a single supplier (no third parties involved). By doing so, Anna and Jula can keep an eye on the manufacturing process on a regular basis for each category of items produced.
#CERTIFICATE & #STANDARDS If you are still not convinced, the company follows several quality standards and you can find them all on the website for more information.
The next photos are about the ‘Kari dress’ that can be worn as a vest too. When I received it, I was astonished by the quality. It’s been a while I haven’t worn such a good fabric.
Old memories from Thailand.
It had been 10 years since my last trip to Paris even though I’m from the country next door. A part of the explanation is that I lived abroad for a couple of years and sometimes not even in Europe. Secondly, I lost my interest for Paris somehow. I remembered the city was full of tourists, grey and a bit sad.
Fortunately over the years spent abroad, I met so many Parisians and foreigners studying in Paris. It helped Paris to get close to the top of my travel bucket list. Plus, moving back to Brussels last September clearly made things easier. But as I said, it was not on the top of my list: Berlin and Amsterdam were. Then, I spent a weekend visiting a friend in Rome (and eating my favourite food) and had a weekend gateway in Dublin.
Recently, I was not so enthusiastic about spending a full weekend in Brussels and when I saw bus tickets for 30 Euros to Paris, I directly bought them (well as soon as my friend confirmed I could stay with her).
I finally made it to Paris at the beginning of May 2018 and I already want to go back there. I must say that I was lucky: the weekend was sunny and the weather was 28 degrees.
I took my bus at 7.30am at the stop from Brussels Zuid and arrived in Paris Bercy at noon. It was quite a long ride and we lost one hour in the traffic jam to get into the city. Even though it was long, the price difference between a last minute bus ticket and a last minute train ticket was worth it.
As soon as I arrived, I took the metro to go to my friend’s house. I met her boyfriend and her cat. The last one warmly welcomed me with a scratch on my hand (hell yeah). After catching up, reminiscing the time we studied in Milan, and drinking a chai tea (a true love story since my trip to Nepal), we went to Montsouris, a park close to her house. It was mainly about eating food and playing with the slack line her friends brought.
Afterward, we rented two bikes and went biking along the Seine, had a drink next to the river and I got some yummy falafels in the Marais.
Paris made me so happy and it felt like a summer day (I mean those summer days when you are still a student and you have two months of holidays – Aaah I miss this time even though I’m ALWAYS abroad now).
I woke up at 11am which is so unlike me but we went to bed late and her asshole cat just walked over me during the night, destroyed some furniture, and probably scratched me during my sleep. But that’s all good, everything is forgiven. My friend went shopping and came back with an awesome breakfast (thank you bella <3). It was a brunch with pastries, organic bread, homemade zatar and fresh orange juice. I’m not so sure why but I constantly forget to take pictures of my meals even though it’s been forever since I want to share more food content with you.
We started the day late and walked all the way to the Institut du Monde Arabe also located right next to the Seine. It was definitely too sunny to go to an exhibition but the roof offered an amazing view over Paris. Then guess what? Back to another park with more new friends and more food!
When abroad or visiting a new place, most people organized themselves and planned what they are going to visit. I’m so not like this. Like not at all. IMPOSSIBLE. I’ve never bought a Routard or a Lonely Planet guide. Sometimes I read blog posts but only sometimes! I don’t know anything about ‘instagramable places’ neither. Hence I miss out but most of the time I’m just so relaxed and I enjoy what I’m doing without feeling that I have to rush.
After the park, my friend took me to the Grande mosquée de Paris. They actually have a huge dinning section ‘inside out’ where you can drink tea and enjoy baklavas. Nice place, nice food, I was happy. We ended up the day with pizzas next to Seine watching the sunset (that was my non-negotiable request lol).
My last day was a Monday and my friend went to work. I met with another friend that had more free time (hehehe) and it was pretty much the same than the weekend: eating food in the so-called rue Mouffetard and walking around the city.
Thank you Paris, I will come back!
Here is a catchy title to make you read my article, not to blame anyone. Recently, I started to follow more fashion Instagrammers and this recent trend of filming ‘haul’ and promoting beauty brands made me questioned the world of Instagram/YouTube, and our way of consuming fashion.
It’s been a long time that I am aware of the unsustainability of the fashion industry. I like to shop stuffs but I’m not a big consumer, I still wear clothes from high school. And yes, I do buy from fast fashion brands: I bought a scarf at Primark last December and I’m not proud of it. What has changed then? Since I have a bigger audience than before on Instagram, I found out brands were willing to send me gifts such as clothes, perfumes or beauty products if I could share them in my stories or in a post. Honestly, the temptation to accept and move my account toward fashion and lifestyle rather than travel and food was huge. Who does not want to receive presents for free?
However, I decided not to because I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of pushing teenagers to consume more clothes than they need from affordable brands. I did not feel it would have been fair to support an unsustainable industry only for my own benefit.
The fashion industry is always caught up with scandals: models reporting sexual assaults or abuses, brands selling size large that no one above 50 kilos could wear, countless brands accused of abuse and unfair wages in their factories, and so on.
A memorable one was the collapse of the Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Bangladesh. Over 1,000 people were killed and had already reported their concerns about safety. Many affordable brands we all buy from times to times were producing their clothes there (The Guardian, 2016).
The problem is that brands (like many businesses) only look at numbers and completely forget the humans behind. I can already hear some voices: “they are cheaper because they reallocate to developing countries because the minimum wages are lower’. Do you really believe that lower wages by themselves explain low prices for final customers?
Fashion brands always try to negotiate the best deal which results in unbearable working conditions for garment workers. Think about it. Factory owners accept those deals because they cannot afford to lose them. This pressure is directly reflected at the workplace (The True Cost, 2015).
As customers, we have the power to walk away from brands with the lowest prices to protect the environment and vulnerable human beings.
As a fashion blogger, you have the power to make the industry change. Are you really sure you want to accept the last collaboration offered by a fast fashion brand? Use your voice to make a difference.
What’s wrong with the last haul you watched?
Shopping haul: most of the time videos which display large quantity of items recently purchased. And most of the pieces come from affordable retail brands with the worth reputation in terms of sustainability and human rights.
Yes, I am tired to see promocodes all over Instagram and I’m even more bothered by ‘Summer Haul’ because there is no ethical thinking behind.
#Disclaimer : Getting paid to wear nice clothes, hard to say no! Plus, fashion influencers have to present many different outfits to make their subscribers happy. Hence, it is way easy to collaborate with big brands than spending your weekend at the thrift shops.
Indeed, people and the environment all suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed. Why do we think it is normal to go shopping every week, every month? Why are we so addicted to shopping?
Fast fashion is unsustainable
The way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. We buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. A century ago, we spent more than half our money on food and clothes, today we spend less than a fifth. As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago.
‘Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction‘ (Fashion Revolution, 2018).
- 80 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually worldwide.
- It takes 2720 litres of water to make a t-shirt. That’s how much we normally drink over a period of 3 years.
- Fast fashion brands put out new collections every week or month to make it seem like your wardrobe is all off trend. This is the reason you sit and stare at your full wardrobe thinking you have nothing to wear.
- It takes 200 gallon of water to make a pair of trousers. This is the equivalent of 285 showers.
- The average American through away about 80 euros of clothing, shoes, and other household textile every year.
- 95% of discard clothing could have been recycled.
- Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores or charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill.
- One-in-six people work in the global fashion industry.
- The US spend an estimated $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes every year: worn for one night only.
The facts and the numbers are disgusting. Is it really something you want to be part of?
What can we do?
Fortunately, some of the leading fashion businesses are launching sustainability initiatives, both for environmental concern and commercial opportunity. Indeed sustainability is a criterion that influences the purchasing choices of millennial (Business of fashion, 2017). For example, H&M is trying to reduce its carbon footprint and to use only recycled or sustainably sources materials in its products (H&M, 2017).
This is definitely a cool initiative that deserves to be encouraged. But I don’t think it’s fair to praise them too much. Fashion has always been their core business and it’s sad that they only started to care about the environment in 2017. Only time will tell if they can stick to their commitments and what sort of impact they can have.
Last week, it was the ‘Fashion Revolution Week’ and I discovered an NGO called ‘Fashion Revolution’. The movement is calling for a fairer, safer,cleaner, and more transparent fashion industry and make it easy for customers to get involved. How can you help spread the word?
- If you would like to learn more, check out this website: fashionrevolution.org or follow fash_rev on Instagram.
- If you are a Youtuber, you can join the ‘alternative haul’ initiative: a way of refreshing your wardrobe without buying new clothes ( from shopping second hand, swapping with a friend, etc.)
- On social media, you can use the hashtag #whomademyclothes to ask fashion labels.
- Don’t buy new items, reuse those you haven’t wear for a long time, look after sustainable fashion labels, and visit second-hand shops.
- Remember fashion and style are two different things.
- Fast Fashion Is A Disaster For Women And The Environment
- Fashion facts
- 20 FACTS ABOUT THE FAST FASHION INDUSTRY THAT WILL SHOCK YOU
- 12 facts that will change the way you think of fashion
- 5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
- The environmental costs of fast fashion
- Australia’s obsession with new clothes and ‘fast fashion’ textiles hurting the environment
- 5 crazy facts from new fashion documentary ‘The True Cost’
- Fast fashion: Rivers turning blue and 500,000 tonnes in landfill
- The true Cost
- Fashion in 2018 | 08. Sustainability Credibility
- Rana Plaza collapse: 38 charged with murder over garment factory disaster
- H&M – SUSTAINABILITY SUMMARY 2017
- 5 Sustainability Threats Facing Fashion
- HAULTERNATIVE | Marzia’s Style
- DIY4 Dicas pra Transformar Roupas #Haulternative
- FASHION REVOLUTION HAUL! Pink Princess Vintage #HAULternative
- DIY: Summer Crop Top #Haulternative
Well it’s true when you have memes about veggie people feeling the surge to tell the entire world about their diet.
Vegetarians/vegan in Brussels
Sooooooooooo I’m a vegetarian which means I don’t eat meat, seafood or fish (I had to say it because I still hear people thinking that vegetarians eat fish lol) and I try to have a vegan diet most of the time. Hence my options are pretty limited in a city such as Brussels. The options for vegetarians are quite all right (you will find tasty food anywhere) even though there is nothing outstanding neither.
But for vegan it is another story. Vegan options are so so limited. Some popular brunch places have vegan dishes but they taste… nothing. Once I went to a popular one and they served me spinach with maize and maybe beans (can’t remember!) with no dressing and they charged me like 12 euros #wtf.
Here are my top 3 spots I enjoy the most when I go to Belgium. Also, I’ve only lived for 6 months in Brussels so I don’t know all the places, especially that once I like a restaurant or a coffee shop I tend to go there all the time.
Knees to Chin
What a weird name for a restaurant, right? Actually it refers to the eating position of people sitting on the small chairs in the street of Vietnam. Having lived in Asia for a while, this place just makes me happy because there is that little something that reminds me of Hanoi and some areas of Saigon.
I discovered Knees to Chin last November and it was love at first sight! The restaurant is inspired from the Vietnamese kitchen and offers revisited rice paper rolls.
Once you arrive you order at the desk and pay. Then, they bring your order at your table with several sauces. I always take two veggie rolls that are enough to make me feel full. But because I’m a fatty when I go there I like to share a bowl of rice with peanut and sesame sauce. And a miso soup as well – I never inquired more in details about their miso but usually the miso paste contains bonito, a fish flavor, which makes the miso soup not suitable for vegetarians by definition. And no. I’m not bipolar but somehow I tolerate the miso soup.
WHERE TO FIND KNEES TO CHIN?
rue de Livourne 125
rue de Flandre 28
chaussée d’Alsemberg 148
1060 Saint Gilles
Hinterland is a very pretty coffee bar serving food prepared with organic ingredients. From the list, Hinterland is the closest place to my house, hence the one I go most of the time for a soy cap or a chai latte (with coconut milk yum).
Hinterland is also one of the only places I know in Brussels that offers decent vegan food and multiple types of milk. Hipsters will also like the coffee bar since they serve granola bowl, açai bowl, and other stuffs like matcha chia pudding (just trying to make a joke hehe).
Last time I had brunch there, I took the sourdough bread with sun-dried tomato tapenade, pink beetroot hummus, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. So fresh and tasty!
WHERE TO FIND HINTERLAND?
Charleroise Steenweg 179
COCO Donuts is a massive exception to my vegan diet. When I first looked at the prices, I though it was expensive for donuts and maybe not worth to belong to my exceptions list. But they are not your average donuts and the quality is ,without any doubt, worth the price.
The donuts are hand-made with raised brioche and organic ingredients. You will find so many flavors from speculoos, to caramel, marshmallow, pineapple and coconuts, plus all the special editions they are regularly cooking.
As well, the shop is super cozy with donuts pillows all over the place (in case, you would not have understand why you are coming for yet). And the coffees are good! I always have a latte with soy milk.
WHERE TO FIND COCO DONUTS?
36, Rue Sainte-Anne
1000 Brussels (Sablon)
And soon a new location opening in Saint Gilles (close to Stephanie)
The face of happiness with my donuts from Easter. Ps: most of the photos are from the respective websites of the spots. I always forget to take pic #bouffie
I discovered Fika and its lovely garden at the right time: a warm spring day. A friend pointed out the place on her way back to work and I decided that I would try the coffee shop as soon as possible. Indeed, I came back a couple of weeks after with another friend that had to tell me about her trip to South Africa.
Does Fika mean anything? Yes it does! Fika is a concept in Sweden with the basic meaning of having a coffee with a cookie or a pastry. The place is located in a very nice part of Ixelles where I had never been before. Now my favourite neighbourhood in Brussels.
No vegan options and only soy as an alternative for the milk. But I was happy anyway. The decoration is so Scandinavian and the garden is really worth your time. We stayed there four hours!
WHERE TO FIND FIKA?
17, Rue de la Paix
Each summer, I spend a decent amount of time at the Costa Brava, especially in the white town of Cadaqués, a little city located on a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula. Before living in Catalonia,I had never heard of it even though the town is famous for its clear blue water and the white houses that remind you of Greece.
This weekend, it was the first time I was going to Cadaqués in Spring. Unfortunately, not warm enough to swim but for once the town was not packed. So our time was about sunbathing on the rocks and drinking cappuccini outside. Not too bad!
I only spent one week in Israel and Palestine (or West Bank, not trying to get political here) and it was definitely the best travel I have ever done. It was such a bumpy journey and I discovered 100 times more than what I expected.
Where are you going?
It was a while ago (January 2016) and not at all planned. I was waiting to get my contract renew at work which was taking longer than expected. January season means holidays season and none of my friends was in Rome.
After a brief talk with the HR, I understood I would have one more week off and I decided to travel. I was endlessly bored (yeah it happens a lot to me) and wanted something a bit more adventurous than a city trip in Europe but not a too long flight and no visa requirement (time constraint).
Friday morning, I texted a friend of mine from high school in Chile who was, back then, working in Tel Aviv. He said I could stay and I booked my flight tickets. The next day I was in Israel.
Rome: Fiumicino Airport
The journey started very badly. Since I booked my flight the night before, I had done no research about Israel. I was flying with El Al and never again I would choose them. If only I had read a bit about getting to Israel I would have known about the security control you go through especially when you are travelling alone (i.e. they always suspect you to be an activist).
Short version: I was set apart and went through a 40 minutes interrogation. Plus, I had to show them my Facebook account and my mail box from work. I was not happy at all but I wanted to board the plane so I cooperated.
Afterward, the security walked me inside the plane (while everyone else was still sitting at the gate). Back in time, I was traumatized but it turned into a good story to tell.
When I arrived in Tel Aviv, they pasted a bar code with numbers on my passport and everything else went smoothly. Little did I know that the code will be used later on (when leaving the country) to allocate you to a specific security section of the airport. Yes, the number is your level of threat for the country and I scored pretty high.
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
Tel Aviv is a little city on the beach and it’s kind of a paradise bubble. I was not there long but from my experience, everyone was friendly and keen to party anytime. The food was amazing, people were surfing, and doing yoga on the beach at sunset. I loved it but left soon to visit Jerusalem.
The country is small so a one hour-long bus ride leads you to the next city. I stayed at the best hostel ever (i.e. Abraham Hostel) and met so many awesome people all traveling by themselves. The architecture and the history of Jerusalem is completely astonishing and I totally recommend anyone to go there once in their life.
Couchsurfing in Palestine
I met Claire in Tel Aviv and she would become my new travel buddy. I told her I had arranged a couchsurfing in Ramallah and she decided to join. I don’t know if we were unorganized or just very stupids but we rent a car with an Israeli number to get there (= Hi everyone look at us!!).
Some information: Palestine is divided into three zones (in a nutshell):
- Zone A: about 20% of the occupied territories under Palestinian control (in theory). Access to zone A is forbidden to Israeli citizens.
- Zone B: about 28% of the occupied territories,under Israeli and Palestinian controls.
- Zone C: covers most of Cisjordania and is under Israeli control.
Back to my story: Claire and I spent the day in the Avdat dessert and crossed the border around midnight. That was a bit scary because the driving style is different and you have military check points, massive walls with red sign ‘ZONE A, access forbidden’. Also, the 3G signal is blurred in zone A and I forgot that… No need to say that we were quickly lost in the night with no map and too much unwanted attention (i.e. only kids but they were determined to sell us stuffs and you don’t know what means ‘determination’ before meeting them).
We drove back to Jerusalem, left the car and asked a taximan to drive us to our couchsurfing. Fortunately, we had the most patient host that was not even mad at us. We woke up with a beautiful view over Ramallah and an amazing breakfast (Palestinian hospitality is not a joke!) and spent the day in the city with our new friends.
I could tell you way more about it: I met so many nice people from different walks of life, the vibes and the revolutionary spirit, but it’s so hard to communicate.
I had never visited a conflict area before and I was so unaware of the living conditions of the people. I’m so thankful I could experience this from so close, it really gave me some perspective on this life.
It was my first time in the Middle East and I was so excited to be in this part of the world. Back in time, I was working for an international organization and the Middle East is an hot spot when you are interested in a career in the development sector. Also, I love Mediterranean kitchen, I was learning Arabic and I’m interested in the geopolitics of the region. Hence I was super entertained and I hope to go back to Israel to learn more about the country and explore the Golan Heights!
Ps: My friend offered me to live with him in Tel Aviv at no cost since they had an extra room haha. I was so excited about Israel that I called the airline to cancel my flight. Fortunately, they were charging a massive fee which gave me time to collect my thoughts and remember I had a job in Rome and an apartment full of stuffs of mine.
Ps II: I skipped many discoveries that contributed to make this trip unforgettable (and it includes a shooting, some tears gas and running away – It felt too much for a public blog called ‘Aurrou in Wonderland’).
Ps III: Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, I’m always glad to help and to share all of my stories!