All posts by sallycgma

About sallycgma

Hey everyone I'm a 19 year old student from New Zealand who loves music, the outdoors, tea, children, Jesus, yoga, animals, writing, green things, and life in general! :o)

He Tangata: “For example, if I were to ask you out…”

I shift my gaze to the right to find a man’s face a couple of inches from mine.

“oh! I thought you were drawing!”

“nah, just studying.” I had woken that morning so excited to see an absence of rain that I just had to do my study in Civic Square that day. And the interaction that follows made it well worth the effort.

“Are you an artist?”

“No haha, quite far from it! Are you?”

“I do Maori carving! Look, I made this guitar pic from bone! What about music, do you do music?”

“I do actually! Piano and voice, mainly”

“Wow! I sing like a dying ngeru. That’s Maori for cat, by the way. Look, I’m learning the windpipe! Except I sat on it so I had to duct tape it. Why is duct tape called ‘duck tape’? It doesn’t quack!”

The gentleman rummaged in his bag and pulled out some cracked wooden tubes, strung together with rainbow-coloured yarn, sporting a new addition of grey duct tape around its edges. After giving me an impressive demo, despite the circumstances, the conversation continued:

“So, you study? Where?”

“Victoria- just up the hill there.”

“Oh, Victoria! That’s really hard to get into. I tried. But they won’t take Maoris who can’t read or write very well. I wanted to do carving there, you see. And WINZ have let me down this week. You see, I’ve got all my carving tools in storage, but I missed my storage fee this week because WINZ stuffed up. Anyway so I’d better not lose my storage, because then I’ll have nowhere to keep my tools!”

(I’m pretty sure Victoria don’t teach carving but that’s beside the point).

“That sounds really frustrating!! Do you know somewhere else where you could study carving?”

“I’ve asked Whitireia- they want people who can read and write too. You see its so hard for us guys. And WINZ keep telling me I need to get a job, but its not as easy as that you know? And I almost have my bus driving license, but its too expensive to do the last bit. And, e hoa (friend), you should see the men’s home! Oh! I didn’t introduce myself!”

After an exchange of names, my new hoa continued.

“Yeah anyway the men’s home is terrible- I’m not a lunatic, you know! I said to WINZ, don’t put me in there with all those crazies, I’m not like them, you know! The guys always ask me if they can play my XBox with me, I say nah man! Get your own! I don’t really trust them with my stuff that much aye.”

The gentleman blessed me with more insight of what its like to be scraping and crawling everyday to make ends meet, only to be treated by society like its your own fault. The topic moved from WINZ, to the expenses of Wellington CBD, to job prospects, to bike repair, to Maoritanga, to his previous jobs driving tourists around Fox Glacier.

And then I learnt about his new security guard friend who’s been giving him dating advice…

“Yeah, he said, bro! Don’t just ask a girl out when you first meet her! She’ll be running down the street to Stuart Island! You’ve got to get to know her first! You know, like, if I wanted to ask you out, I’d make the effort to get to know you first, like what I’m doing now…”

uh oh… I know where this is going…

“Yeah so like for example, if I were ask you out, just for example…”

Pull out now bro… Don’t do it…

“Yeah, uh, I suppose I’m asking you out.”


And I just felt disappointed.

He wasn’t dangerous. He wasn’t creepy. He was just lonely, and excited that someone had actually bothered to treat him like a valued human being.

I felt disappointed because, at this point, due my age compared to his, my gender, and potential vulnerability, I needed to withdraw from the interaction to ensure my safety.

I felt disappointed because the encounter, until now, had been incredible. It was definitely soul-restoring for me, and it may well have been for him too. And now, unfortunately for the both of us, the conversation needed to end.

Finally, I felt disappointed for him. He has great potential to develop and maintain meaningful social connections, if he just practised a little more self-control. Then my disappointment transferred to anger at our social systems that have stripped so many of our tangata of the opportunity to operate as equally valued members of society. I am convinced that my new friend’s lack of social self-control is not his fault.


Nevertheless, I made a connection which enlightened my mind, fulfilled my heart, and renewed my soul.



Last week I sent myself into a state of panic over what should have been a very simple and unimportant decision.

It turns out that I have been unknowingly obsessed with a rule-infested routine ever since I moved to Wellington.

And the unknowing freaks me out, suddenly dissolving my (apparently false) sense of control.

When you lie on your bed staring at the ceiling for an hour, paralysed by the “do I, don’t I?” questions circling round and round in your mind like a broken record, you know this is no longer an innocent weekend activity.

When you suffer a panic attack because you don’t have time to do lengths at the swimming pool that day, you know you’ve lost control.

This is anorexia. Creeping into my life, confidently sporting an invisible cloak. Sulking at my rebellion against its food rules and choosing another part of my life to reign.

But I’ve decided. No longer am I going to be obsessed with exercise as if it’s the backbone of my existence.

No longer will the number of lengths I swim be the authority figure giving me permission to eat.

I give myself permission to eat. My body gives me permission to eat.

The trick will be believing it.





$2.85 per day- reflections on Living Below the Line for a week


That was quite a rough week. Living below the global poverty line was much harder than I thought it would be, in a lot of ways, and there were some really great moments too. I will share some of the important things that stood out to me over the week.

One thing I realised this week was that I must have a pretty high-energy lifestyle, because I spent the whole week feeling quite weak and exhausted. I didn’t quite realise the impact it would have to have less energy input, with the same energy output. But then my next thought was; I think MY life is high-energy!?! How about those people who work 10-16 hours per day doing hard physical labour, and live on $2.85 or less… I just have absolutely no idea what it’s like to really be exhausted and hungry. Doing this challenge certainly gave me insight, but I am aware that I still had it much much easier than many people in the world do.

Whenever I convinced myself that I couldn’t bear to eat one more lentil or grain of rice, I suddenly felt guilty, embarrassed, and ungrateful. Even living on $2.85, I was still eating more variety and probably more nutrients than most people in extreme poverty do. You know you’ve got life good when you’re complaining about the TYPE, not even the amount, of food you’re eating.

I had quite a few angry moments. I just can’t accept that people are dying of malnutrition and deteriorating from extremely hard labour for very  little or no monetary gain, while I am freezing my flat’s leftovers and getting paid $25 for sitting down in a library and tutoring a high school student. I am angry that there is enough food, safe water, and resources for shelter to go around the whole world, but that us Westerners are hogging it for ourselves, and pretending that dying, starving, over-worked humans are not our problem.

Since finishing the challenge, and going back to eating pretty much whatever I want, I am suddenly appreciating little things I’ve never appreciated before! Like, being able have tea or coffee instead of water, or being able to add flavours to my cooking, or being able to have something different for dinner than what I had for lunch. I actually got so in the habit of just not doing these things, that I was suddenly consciously making the decision to do them, rather than just doing them as if there was no other way. And oh the luxuries!! On Saturday morning when I could have a coffee when I woke up!! And an orange with my breakfast!! It was like I was in a five star hotel!! My fear is that I will go back to not appreciating these things again. That has already started to happen. I much prefer being appreciative of these small pleasures- it keeps life in perspective, as well as lightens my mood so easily and frequently!

Finally, I will add a more personal note. Another hard thing I found during the challenge was having to fight a lot of disordered-eating thoughts/voices/triggers. Friends had expressed their concerns, and I was aware of the possibilities of this happening, but I was feeling like I was in a good space and I hadn’t struggled with eating for a good few weeks, so I thought it would be okay. But, when consciously restricting my intake  for consecutive days, and feeling nauseous and tired from energy deficit, it was probably inevitable that unhealthy thoughts would present themselves to some degree. Luckily I am blessed with self-awareness, and processed my experience with a friend, and managed to (mostly) work through it and (mostly) avoid unhealthy behaviours. 

Overall, to those of you who have supported me towards this cause please know that your support (both in donations, and support of me doing the challenge) has not gone unnoticed. Not only have you given me encouragement and motivation to do what I committed to doing, but you have allowed TearFund to maintain the sustainable enterprise opportunities they are offering in Ethiopia, India, Phillippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. Because of you, women are joining self-help groups, where they feel empowered, collectively save in their groups, learn how to start small businesses, and loan small amounts of money for their children’s school fees or healthcare. Because of you, people are joining farming co-operatives, where they work together to improve techniques in agricultural production, and provide each other the opportunity to take their products directly to markets, providing them with more control over the prices they receive.

If, after reading my reflections, you feel inspired to donate, you’re not too late!! Follow this link, and it will take you through the necessary steps:

Arohanui xxx

The Monster I’m Not

You know what I hate most about disordered eating? It transforms me into a person who is the opposite of my true essence. Into a monster who is as far away from the true me as possible.

The Monster I’m Not is self-centred, narrow-minded, fearful, unadventurous, anti-social, obsessive, irrational, contradictory.

The Monster I’m Not controls me, weakens my physicality so that I am unable to do the things I love most in the world- sport, socialising, outdoor adventures, gardening, yoga, ocean swimming, music…

The Monster I’m Not encourages the return of my most unhealthy habits, and immensely increases my vulnerability to the ever-feared plunge into the deepest darkness of my soul.


And when it feels as if The Monster I’m Not is taking over,

my ever-lingering self-hatred creeps it’s way up from my depths, piercing it’s way through my not-so-protective shields as easily as a craft knife cuts cellophane.


I become full.

Filled up to the brim and leaking with worthlessness.

I leak through the holes I have created myself. The holes I create when The Monster I’m Not rules over me, and that stay there even when the free me, the true me,  returns.

Yet simultaneously,

I become empty.

so, so empty.









HE TANGATA: Chapter 3: From Cage to Carriage

Usually an exchange of smiles is all Aucklanders can handle with strangers on public transport, but this afternoon was different.

My smile was met with a friendly comment about the weather, followed by an eye-opening personal story that I have never forgotten.

“Gees it’s cold out there tonight, isn’t it?”

My acquaintance for the journey offered a warm, genuine grin, with firm but kind eye contact. The ‘Maori Wardens’ uniform he was sporting suited his strong, fit build, and his scars and missing teeth perhaps have a possible insight into his past.

“Yes, it is!”

“Where are you from, anyway?”

“Right here in Auckland.”


The gentle hum of the moving train enticed my body to sleep-mode, as the Warden and I watched trees wisp by in silence.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Maori Wardens program…

“Hey, what made you decide to work for Maori Wardens, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“They found me, actually. I was a cage fighter.”

“Oh wow.”

“I wouldn’t have lasted much longer. That stuff is bad for you.”


This encounter sparked an uncomfortable picture in my mind. One of this poor gentleman caught up in the life of what is deemed the most dangerous sport of all. Succumbed to the expectations of those around him. Needing the money maybe. Unable to see a way out.

Of course, this is just an assumption.

But regardless of the details of his story,

Imagine having a life like that.


Side note: For those who are unaware, Maori Wardens are an amazing organisation who serve our communities in numerous ways. They provide our people with new skills and ways forward, and train them to volunteer in our communities providing health, safety, and community development services. Check out their website if you’d like to support them or find out more: 


I do not accept.

It is funny how

while we are small and insignificant

in relativity to the earth

we are also more significant than we could ever imagine…

There is much more to this life than me

but I am important

or so He says…

I must be humbled by my tininess in perspective of this vast and powerful earth

but I must also accept my mighty significance to the One…

And this is the problem.

I do not accept.


For months my faith has been held at a stop sign

unwilling to reverse

unable to select another route.

I have misplaced my spiritual GPS

been forced to practise my faith at the confinement of the stop sign

and God is there

patiently waiting for me to remove the restrictions myself

(Typical God!)

But for months I haven’t known how.

And we cannot resolve an issue before the issue becomes known to us, can we?

and so I have waited

with less patience than Hers

for the issue to reveal itself.


And now I have found it

I have finally found what is holding me back

I do not accept.

I want to, but

I do not accept my significance to the One

I know I should, but

I do not feel significant

I do not feel worthy of Her love

And this lack of acceptance of His love

lack of embrace on my part

is actually an unintended disservice to my Creator


Which is why I’m held at the stop sign.


Isn’t it crazy how we can know something in our minds, but not in our hearts.


Good things come to those who wait

so the Bible says

so everyone says

and this realisation

though sad

surely is good.

a breakthrough

but just the beginning.


We cannot resolve an issue before the issue becomes known to us, can we?

Let the resolving begin.





HE TANGATA: Chapter 2- Alone

While living in Timaru this year, I noticed that “How ya goin?” or “How’re ya?” are used more commonly than “Hello,” and that Timaruvians are much more friendly to passersby than Aucklanders! With every person I passed on the street, a friendly “Howsit goin” was exchanged, with no expectation of a reply. I loved this(once I had gotten over my presumed need to answer the apparently rhetorical “how are you”!), and since returning to Auckland I have tried to apply the same social mannerisms, with very little success. Most strangers in Auckland look at me as if I’ve got a carrot for a nose if I try to greet them, and others prepare themselves as if I’m about to perform a violent attack.

One sunny Timaru morning, as I boarded the bus to the doctors, I greeted the man sitting across from me in the usual Timaru way. Except this time, my rhetorical question was answered! The answer was unexpected, personal, brave, and raw.

To this day, I still wonder what made this gentleman want to share, and feel so comfortable to share, such a personal part of his life with me- a stranger on a public bus. It could have been desperation, or loneliness, or spur-of-the-moment auto mode. Whatever the reason, I am blessed and honoured to have shared such a raw moment with him.

“Well I’m not that good actually.”

What do you say to that? “Poor you”? “Me neither”? “Why”? 

“Sorry to hear that.”

Luckily, he elaborated, otherwise I would’ve had to decide whether to ask for the reason for his not-good-ness or not!

“My wife passed away two days ago.”

Okay, now what do I say? Deep breaths, Cara. Pretend it’s one of your students telling you this.

“Oh my goodness I’m so sorry to hear that. How awful for you.”

“Yeah I’m very depressed actually.”

“And fair enough too. Do you have enough support from loved ones?”

“Nope. I’ve got no family. No friends. It was just me and her. Now it’s just me. I’m all alone in the house. I’m all alone everywhere. I don’t even know why I’m on this bus. I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know.”

There is an incredible beauty in sharing in someone’s deep sorrow. It is such a raw, unique connection. So incredibly painful and difficult, but so incredibly beautiful.

I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know.

I know that feeling.

After offering a hug and suggesting he ring up a counsellor or the local FamilyWorks agency, I had to disembark and leave the lonely man alone once more.

And it felt terrible.

It was the first time, and only time, in my life that I have felt the desire to take a man at least four times my age under my wing. I wish I could have protected and looked after him.

I wish I had done more.



HE TANGATA: Chapter 1- Joyologist By Day, Superman By Night

Point Chevalier shops bus stop on a very hot December afternoon. Slurping a juicy mango in the most uncoordinated manner possible.

“You know, you can sit down.”

“Oh yes, thank you very much. I just didn’t want to spray you with mango juice!” I replied.

“You seem cheerful and full of joy!” remarked the smiley man, who seemed cheerful and full of joy himself!

“Oh yes well the sun is shining, and I found a mango for $1 at the supermarket!”

“Yum I saw those,” said the smiley man’s wife.

“I’m a joyologist,” said Mr Smiley.

“Me too!” added Mrs Smiley!

“Haha, I love it!” I said, with a giggling grin.

And it was here that Mr Smiley began his autobiography and collection of answers to life, with no prompting or questioning from me:

“All we need is joy, and so that’s why I’m a joyologist. I’m an expert on joy. There is not a second in my day that is not filled with joy. Joy is the most valuable thing you could master. All throughout the Bible joy is proclaimed. To be with God is to be filled with joy. Are you a joyologist?”

Before I could answer, Mrs Smiley affirmed her husband:

“Yes, joy is everywhere! Keep smiling!” she chirped.

“And at night, I become superman. I fly to the Grand Canyon, and Great Barrier Reef. I zoom all around the whole world and make it back by morning. I believe in perspective and adventure. No point wasting my time staying where I am. Might as well be superman. I see everything, learn everything. Adventure is the most worthwhile thing you can do. Don’t go and buy lots of plastic crap- go on adventures instead! Last night, I went to Italy and Greece. The Good Lord says put yourself out there!”

I finally managed to fit in some minor contribution to the conversation:

“Wow! So do you do this superman thing in your dreams?”

“No?” he replied, confused. And then continued:

“I have the best life ever. The best of both worlds. Joyology and adventure is all one needs. God bless you!”

And just like that, with a pat on my shoulder from Mrs Smiley, the pair hopped off the bus and strode through the busy Auckland traffic, smiling their infectious, and seemingly permanent, grins.


He Tangata.

He Tangata

He aha te mea nui te ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, the people, the people.


This Maori proverb has always spoken significantly to me.

When we shift our focus away from ourselves, away from material things, and away from our addiction to busyness and success, we are left with something quite beautiful, and much more meaningful.

He Tangata.

If we really make the effort to venture deeply into the observation, celebration, and connection of the beings around us, it is incredible the beauty we encounter. It is a unique kind of beauty. A beauty that is vast in all ways. A beauty that can only be experienced in the depths of the heart, and can only be ingrained in the depths of the mind.

He Tangata.

Maybe I’m observant, or maybe I’m nosy. Maybe I’m approachable, or maybe I have shaky boundaries.

Whatever it is, I seem to often have very interesting encounters with people, the most interesting often being random members of the public. Some are fun, some are uncomfortable, some are sad, some are educational, some are hilarious, some are particularly deep and meaningful. But there is always one common factor. ALL are beautiful. ALL teach me something new about how human beings operate. ALL fulfil me deeper than any other worldly experience.

He Tangata.

People are worth celebrating! We are all so unique, and providing each other the chance to express ourselves authentically, to connect deeply, and to learn from each other is, I think, one of the most worthwhile ways to spend our time.

So I’m starting a new series of blogs, called He Tangata. In this series I will share snippets of my interactions with people in my travels through life, in the hope that others may realise the beauty in connecting with random members of the public.

So stay tuned!

He aha te mea nui te ao?

He tangata,

he tangata,

he tangata.




Inside the Mind- breaking stigma with knowledge

Trigger warning: This article mentions specific details of compulsions and emotions relating to eating disorders.

Mental health awareness has improved considerably in the last five years, which has been so encouraging. However, we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of funding and resources for public support services.

One mental illness that I think is still highly stigmatized, significantly under-supported, and poorly dealt with, is eating disorders. We can sit around and complain about this as much as we like, but that will achieve nothing. So, recently I have been trying to figure out why eating disorders are so often swept under the rug.

One large reason, I think, is lack of knowledge of the actual psychology behind eating disorders. Research shows that the main way to reduce stigma, as well as dissolve societal issues, is to establish an increase in knowledge of the issue.

Maybe that is what we need to do here.

Have you ever wondered what actually goes on inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder?

If so, read on.

I am going to share with you some of the compulsions that have been a part of my life from a psychological perspective, in the hope that understanding will be gained, and stigma will be eased.

*please note: I am speaking purely from my own perspective and experience. It is near impossible for me to cover the experience of everyone with an eating disorder. It is important to understand that although there are similar and recognisable signs and symptoms, everybody’s experience is different.

Social eating:

What it looks like: Not eating with others, constantly looking at and/or commenting on others’ food, leaving the table early, not turning up to social events that involve food, keeping a large distance from the food table, avoiding conversations linked to food/body image/exercise.

The psychology: Eating disorder suffers feel very insecure about their relationship to food, and often about their body image too. They are so insecure, that they experience an extreme sense of self-consciousness about their behaviours around food. There is often an overpowering voice in their mind that convinces them that everybody is judging them. This voices seems uncontrollable, and the feeling of relentless judgement of our eating habits is terrifying. As humans, we try to avoid things that terrify us. Therefore, it seems easier to avoid eating socially, rather than fight that intense self-conscious voice.

For people with eating disorders, there is a constant war going on in the mind. A war between the logical, healthy voice, and the toxic eating disorder voice. When we feel controlled by eating disorder voices, there is still part of us that knows deep down that what we are doing is wrong and unhealthy. A large part of my disordered eating journey was trying to navigate what is right and what is wrong, because the mind-war threw me off and I found myself feeling very confused about things that had once seemed so simple and automatic.

A large part of this navigation involved obsessive comparison of myself to others. My intention behind this relentless comparison was to try to relieve my confusion and regain my grasp on realistic thinking. It didn’t work. It just made me more anxious and more obsessed. When there is a controlling monster inside of you that wants to convince you that it is your friend and your conscience, and you are trying to function normally as if everything is fine, comparison seems the only way to try to grip on to reality as it slips further and further away from your grasp.



Restriction of food is common for people with eating disorders, and is normally the behaviour that is noticed first. The psychology behind this is very varied, so I am only going to speak from my own experience.

What it looks like: Skipping meals, being dramatic and stubborn, being ungrateful for what has been made and prepared, being fussy, “playing” with food more than eating it.

The psychology: Restriction normally became a problem for me when I was already feeling fragile about something else, or when I was tired or stressed. I lost the energy to fight off the monster voice, and so it came in strong. As a meal time was approaching, there was a powerful, unidentifiable force preventing me from eating normally. It’s like there is someone holding a knife to my throat, telling me that if I eat, something very bad will happen. If someone actually did this to you in real life, you obviously wouldn’t eat, would you? It’s that terrifying.

It is not as simple as just not eating, either. Sometimes the ED monster tells me that I’m not allowed to eat certain foods, or I’m only allowed to eat certain foods, or that I’m only allowed to eat a certain amount.

Sometimes the voice gives reasons. These reasons include that I don’t deserve to eat, I deserve to be sick and tired, a certain food is poison to my body, or that eating properly will make me weaker and more worthless than I already am. Of course, these are all utter, evil lies. But when these lies are so strong and manipulative, it is easier than it seems to let them control your life.

For me, if I did manage to ignore the evil ED voice and eat properly, I would experience a sickening sense of anxiety, guilt, and insecurity. In my most fragile times I didn’t know who I was without the ED compulsions, and choosing to do the right thing and fight the voices seemed scary and confusing.



This is something I find very hard to talk about because I am so ashamed, hence why bulimic behaviours often go unnoticed.

What it looks like: Throwing up to be dramatic or to gain attention, a failed attempt at weight-loss, wanting the taste without the calories, “being gross”.

The psychology: Again, I can only speak from my experience. For me, purging was never about trying to rid my body of calories. It began as a way to let out strong and distressing emotions in a way that wasn’t harmful to anyone else. However, over time this led on to yet another powerful voice. After a meal this potent urge to throw up would emerge from nowhere and conquer my mind, and I could think of nothing else until I had done what the ED monster required. If I managed not to listen to the voice, I would feel a confusing mixture of guilt for keeping the food in, and confidence for doing the right thing.


Body Dysmorphia

What it looks like: Always thinking they’re “fat”, making negative comments about themselves to gain attention, constantly looking in the mirror and weighing themselves, always comparing their body image to others.

The psychology: People with body dysmorphia have an actual skewed view of what they look like. What they see when they look in the mirror does not match up to what everyone else sees. We are not just being dramatic and self-conscious- we actually have a dysmorphed perception of ourselves. It is basically a “you are your worst critic” scenario to the extreme.

What I hate most about body dysmorphia is how selfish it made me. I became so self-conscious that all I could think about was myself, even though I hated myself. This was uncomfortable and shameful.


*I am well aware that I haven’t covered all of the components of eating disorders, and I acknowledge those sufferers who have struggled with compulsions not mentioned here. Since I am not a professional, I feel I can only speak from my own experience.*

I have only recently started opening up about my struggle with disordered eating. I have managed to keep the most part of it secret for years. This secrecy was all out of shame. I have been stigmatizing my own illness.

Is this, perhaps, at least partly because of the social stigma around me?

And I have been one of the lucky ones. One that has only been noticeably physically sick once, and for a relatively short period of time. One that was provided with support and advice at an early stage. One that, for the most part of the journey, has managed to make it through the daily battles with ED voices, and not be fully conquered by them.

And yet it has still been awful.

So I hope that by reading this, you will understand that eating disorder sufferers are not dramatic, selfish, and image-obsessed teenage girls. They are rational human beings who, because of their disease, are caused to act irrationally. Their weight and body function aren’t everything, in fact this is a very small component of a much larger, mental/emotional issue.

They are unwell,

they wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone,

and they need your support for their recovery.