Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Live Below the Line Recap - GOAL: $100 AMOUNT RAISED: $2591!! RANKING: 15 out of 11358 Australians

It's been a super busy 2 months and I haven't been able to blog as much as I would have liked to, I have a growing pile of drafts lined up waiting to be edited and published that I will get to as soon as possible but here is a recap of one of the highlights of my past two months - my LIVE BELOW THE LINE challenge.

A challenge whereby you live (in terms of food and drink) at the poverty line (1.34€ I worked out in euros) for 5 days to help raise awareness and raise money towards providing sustainable change to those in poverty through, education. The ultimate key to breaking the poverty cycle. It is through education, that young generations will be able to lift their nations out of poverty and this is exactly what this campaign is about - empowering those in poverty so they can help themselves.

I started off with a goal of $100, and before I knew it, friends and family and anonymous donors all over the world had collectively donated well over $2500 - CRAZY!! With 5 days left before the campaign closes on June 30th, I am sitting at number 15 (tied with another fellow Aussie Live Below the Liner) with a grand total of $2591 raised out of 11 358 Australians taking part in the challenge.

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone for their beautiful support and donations of all shapes and sizes. The likes on FB and Instagram, comments, messages checking up on how I had survived the day and inspiring words of encouragement was what got me over the line.

My very first Live Below the Line blog post had detailed all my mammoth bargain hunting efforts, where I carted home 5kg of onions for 2.99€ so that I could weigh out 3 for the challenge. What followed was a weekend of eating like it was 1999, or the equivalent of Christmas and Lunar New Year combined. When the clock finally struck midnight, I was relieved to stop eating as I was feeling very much like a force-fed French duck.

And so, here is my recap from Day One, with some recipes thrown in as well as some of you have asked what on earth I was able to cook to feed myself for 1.34€ a day! 


Breakfast - half a banana thinly sliced shared between a tub of average tasting yoghurt and a slice of miniature sized bread
Lunch - congee with pickled veggies 
Boil 1 cup of rice with loads of water, maybe two thirds of a saucepan of water? I always end up adding more as I like my congee soupy and a little watery. Gently fry pickled mustard and bamboo shoots with some oil and serve with congee. 
Dinner - rice with lentil/veggie mix
Cook lentils with some salt and water in a pan until soft (but not too soft), drain and set aside. Sauté half a chopped onion with a clove of chopped garlic until golden, adding chopped zucchini and then chopped tomatoes at the end. Season with salt and half a dissolved stock cube. Mix through with lentils and serve with steamed white rice. 

Monday morning swung around and immediately it hit me. I wasn't hungry as such but I was tempted. Tempted at the leftover banana bread I had baked from the day before. Tempted at everything and anything in sight. It was difficult to stop my brain from telling my hand to reach out for anything I felt like, be it a glass of juice, a biscuit or even a piece of chewing gum. 

I had my first meal of yoghurt, half a banana and a small slice of bread. I sliced the banana as thinly as possible to give the illusion of quantity, funnily enough it worked!

Lunch consisted of one of my favourite traditional Chinese meals. Something I would have when I am sick. Congee (rice porridge) and pickled mustard. I'm sure Mum wouldn't have approved of the budget packet of pickled mustard I bought from the Asian grocery store for 36c but being far away from home I couldn't exactly drop by and grab some of Dad's home made stuff!

In the evening I had a late meeting with a volunteering group I've been in touch with JCI, a group whose focus is on starting up and managing projects that bring about sustainable change in the local community. I had liked the sounds of their group when I was researching volunteering opportunities as they aim to bring about positive change in the world at a grassroots level (I know it sounds a little idealistic but that's me in a nutshell! I would love to change the world..!). One of their recent projects involved setting up a play area in French retirement homes in order to encourage children to stay longer when visiting their grandparents. After the project had gathered enough moss with appropriate sponsorship, it was passed on to other groups and left to be managed, spread and dispersed freely. 

So anyway back to the meeting. The awkward part came around at the café we were meeting at when I tried to order tap water. The waiter insisted that I had to order something and wouldn't have a word of it otherwise. So I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, an espresso and just inhaled the aroma offering it to others in the meeting. What moved me at the end was that a lady from Italy I had never met before in the meeting had already gone up and paid for my espresso, refusing to accept any of my money. I got home at 10:30pm and was proud to have gotten through the first day!


Breakfast - banana that had started to ripen
Lunch - leftovers from yesterday with extra leftover lentils 
Dinner - msg free instant noodles served with a poached egg and some blanched zucchini slices 

I had a 6am wake up call this morning so I could get to a three hour teaching gig on the other side of town that started at 9am. It's a long commute normally, and an even longer commute on an empty stomach. But it wasn't too bad. My second day on the challenge and I still had the mental energy to remain focused. Plus I was just happy to be going to work. It sounds crazy, but I truly don't mind having to spend 4.5 hours commuting for 3 hours of paid work. In Australia, I doubt I would have accepted that, but in France, after 10 months of waiting for my French visa and not having the right to work, any work is better than no work and I'm so happy to be able to contribute to society once again.


Breakfast - yoghurt served with segments of mandarin and half a banana thinly sliced
Lunch - stir fry noodles with veggies and sliced omelet
Add noodles to boiling water, boil until soft, drain and rinse with cold water (to prevent sticking) and set aside. In a pan, lightly brown a clove of crushed garlic in some oil. Add half a sliced onion and a sliced carrot. Add sliced zucchini and the remaining half of the sliced onion. Season with salt and half a dissolved stock cube. In a separate pan, heat up some oil before adding a beaten egg and a pinch of salt. Prepare omelet (careful not to overcook), take off the heat then slice up. 
Combine veggie mixture with noodles and egg strips. 
Dinner - leftover congee and pickled mustard and bamboo shoots

HUMP DAY. Whoa, now this has been my hardest day. I couldn't stop staring at strangers on the street with their snacks, eating their chocolate bars, ice creams, biscuits, pastries, desserts. This challenge is hard in Paris I realised - too many distractions and temptations. Too many boulangeries and patisseries! I caught up with a friend today in a shopping centre, on some chairs (you know the ones that are designated for all the men waiting for the women!). We did that so we could avoid going anywhere that served food or drink. And, it was actually a really nice catch up over a bottle of filtered tap water from home ;)

Today I also realised that you can only have so many lentils, before you.. go a little mental. I don't mind them every now and then but having them as a staple meant I reached a point where I would rather just not eat than have more lentils! Energy levels were the lowest I had ever experienced in my life (except when I have been sick) and I really should have planned snacks into my 1.34€ daily allowance. Damnit! Those stretches of time between meals were a killer. By the time John picked me up from the train station tonight, I was much quieter than usual. He noticed that he was able to get a word in edge ways. In fact, whole phrases and even sentences in without me taking over the conversation and chatting away! 


Breakfast - same as day 1
Lunch - egg drop tomato soup 
Prepare soup by dissolving half a stock cube in some boiling water in a saucepan. Add chopped tomatoes and allow saucepan to simmer. 
Crack an egg into the soup and swirl around to break up the egg. Add salt to season. I also ended up adding an MSG-free instant noodle sachet as the soup was too bland.
Dinner - leftover noodles (with more noodles than veggies!) 
Dessert - tomorrow's breakfast

Day 4 was draining - I think the hard part is now over and even though I've already eaten tomorrow morning's breakfast allowance, I think I'll manage to get through the last day. The hunger pains, constant staring at strangers snacking and eating have all come and gone in cycles. The challenge has been much harder than I thought it would be, especially in Paris where I am constantly running around catching buses, trains and metros all day.

This morning was particularly difficult, it started off with those headaches people on the challenge had been talking about. I was doing my fair share of sooking and zombie-like impersonations around our apartment until I decided to spend the morning reading up and signing petitions to #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS before heading to work.

Now, being too poor to afford education is one thing. But, being able to be in education in a place where 72% of the population has never attended PRIMARY school, then being kidnapped and sold off for "marriage" at a reported price of $12 each as a radical group in Nigeria considers Western education to be a sin is unbelievable. When should it ever be dangerous to obtain an education? Why have these 200 brightest girls in the area been denied their opportunity to study?

Needless to say, my second, third and fourth winds came rushing in. My energy levels skyrocketed to an all time high on my 1.34€ budget and I was determined more than ever to #livebelowtheline so others could #riseabovetheline, making a small difference where I could. My headache was just going to have to take a rain check.

To read more, click this link to read Thursday night's blog post.


Breakfast - sautéd zucchini slices on toast
Lunch - spirali pasta with eggplant and tomato passata 
Crush one clove of garlic and throw in oil, add chopped eggplant and add salt to season. Add tomato passata and set to simmer. Add dissolved half a remaining stock cube.
Dinner - spirali pasta with sautéd eggplant, zucchini, onions and garlic stirred through

Friday was a foggy day in my head. I woke up to remember that I had already eaten today's breakfast (my half a banana and yoghurt ration) last night for dessert as I was so famished. ARGH. So I had to improvise with what I had left in my basket. After rushing out of the apartment, I proceeded to catch the wrong bus, followed by catching the wrong train. I realised that my brain actually requires some sugar to function. 

The highlight of my day was when I reached into my handbag on the train to snack on boiled pasta spirals (smugly thinking YEAH look who's the clever cookie to have packed SNACKS today..!), not realising that my fellow Parisian commuters could see me. 

Eating boiled pasta. 

From my handbag. 

On the train. 

Obviously not my finest Parisian moment..

I managed to get through the last day, stumbling home without too many further wrong buses/trains. When the clock struck midnight, I unleashed my inner Cookie Monster. John had bought a chocolate eclair, a strawberry tart and a lemon tart for us to destroy at 12:01am and we did exactly that. He had originally wanted to join in on the challenge but had lunch work meetings scheduled into his week at work. So he basically just spent the week eating leftovers, crackers, bread and cheese to keep me company. He didn't want to properly cook in case that made things harder for me (or maybe, for him, as I would have probably just awkwardly stared at him throughout his  e n t i r e  meal). 

At 1am, I was stuffed. My post-Live Below the Line binge was finished and I was probably ready to be diagnosed a diabetic considering what I gorged on ;)



  1. Very proud of you NHAN! Congratulations!