By Noelene Scerri
Picture this: You're stepping off the bus to walk to University. It's a cloudless day, a soft breeze caresses your face gently and draws a smile upon it, and a strong feeling that it's going to be a pretty good day builds up so quickly it almost seems unbeatable. That's when your senses burst to life and reality hits home. The smell of grilled, juice-dripping chicken sitting idly on top of a crisp, fresh salad forces your head to look left at Spuntino. That's all right. Just a slight effort of resisting temptation and you keep on moving forward because nothing, nothing, is going to beat this glorious day! Then... mmmm..... perfectly cooked dough heavily sprinkled with layers of stretching mozzarella and all other sorts of ingredients. You ignore this, or at least pretend to, because you can't help but stare longingly at the people sitting at the tables eating pizzas. No need to worry. All that comes next are the out-of-this-world Turkish kebabs, and the smell of burgers and salted fries. [Ignore this, Noelene, ignore this.] You turn the final corner and you think that the worst is all behind you because all that remains now in the street are some stationeries. The smile starts creeping up again, slowly and cautiously. And before you know it you've fallen right in the trap. The aroma of melted chocolate and strong coffee jumps on you, catching you off guard from the Kreperie. You actually close your eyes to savour the smell and remember that 4 pieces of sandwich with 2 pieces of salami is all that you've got to eat in the next six hours or so: breakfast and lunch, all in one! Awesome.
Throughout the 1.21 challenge that I've decided to initially do for 15 days, this has been the test for me: the exaggerated amount and variety of foods that I incessantly see around me. People keep on consuming and consuming and yet, there is still a large amount of food that goes to waste. On the other hand, 1.2 billion people around the world live below the poverty line. Does that stir anything in you? If yes, do something about it. Donate money to any charity or just notice homeless people. Acknowledging them and exchanging a smile is a pretty good start. And if you feel nothing, well, then you've gotta see someone mate.
In these ten days, I've given in twice to temptation. The first time, was two days ago. Alone at home, trying to work on an assignment and the presence of food growing behind me. I snapped, opened the cupboard and attacked a can of caponata. The second time was, in fact, today while studying with friends at University. I gave in to a piece of pizza, a kinder bueno and a bottle of Pepsi. Yup, that's €3.50. Which means that someone uses that amount of money to live on for three days. It also means that I have to pay the price and extend the 15 days to 18. I haven't always spent 1.21 each day so the extra money I've 'saved' up went on the caponata. On the rest of the days, I've normally eaten a ftira or 4 pieces of sandwich or ciabata for lunch and breakfast and then, in the evening, a plate of pasta, or a fish finger with an egg or thrown something similar on the plate.
That's why I decided to do this 1.21 challenge. To get a feeling of what it's like to live on 1.21 each day for just a small period of time. Even more so, whilst some of these 1.2 billion people don't have a roof over their heads, a family, a job or an education, I have a home and am still studying. So, no, I don't know what it's really like to live below the poverty line. I don't know how people manage to do that for days on end, all for the sake of survival and hope for a better life. I've donated €40 to Amplify and hoped to collect at least €500 so that a medical centre in a poor region in Cambodia can keep on helping its patients, children, men, women and people with disabilities alike. I still have eight more days to collect that 500, so do help out if you want to, please. After all, where's the harm in helping strangers?