Tag Archives: budget

The Peruvian Experience: Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is like a small ocean. Standing on the docks of Puno at eight o’clock in the morning, the lake stretches out before you like a sea of polished glass, smiling up at the sky. From our early morning vantage point on the docks, we could not see the far side of the lake. Lake Titicaca straddles the border in between Peru and Bolivia, and it was so enormous that the Bolivian banks were completely lost to the horizon.

We clambered into the boat and set out across the lake. Everywhere you looked was blistering blue – from the cloudless sky to the smooth lake – and the wind stung at our cheeks, still carrying the last bitter edge of winter. We must have spent all day on that lake, and not once did I see the Bolivian shoreline; it was hidden in the gap between the sky and the water.

Our first stop on the lake was one of the floating islands. For those of you who don’t know, Lake Titicaca is home to a whole host of reed islands, most of them man-made and all of them supporting a small population of people who make their living from the lake. Everything on these islands is made entirely of reeds – even the slightly unsteady ground beneath our feet – in accordance with the people’s traditions. Some of the islands welcomed us nosy tourists, others were hidden away from us, choosing to maintain their traditional way of life and keep the tourists out.

DSCN1560Exploring the reed islands was a bizarre experience. The reeds which build their homes also make up the staple of the people’s diet, which they insisted we try. The island reeds tasted like watery celery, and as we ate – and as we saw that the reeds had also been used to make houses, boats and benches – I came to realise just how versatile one small plant can be. They invited us into their houses and rowed us across the lake on their boats, all of which were made of the same reeds which we had been eating a few minutes before. Needless to say, it was a very strange experience.

Then we climbed back into the tour boat and set out across the lake again. We were heading for the island of Taquile, a small island on the Peruvian side of the lake where we would have our lunch.

It was absolutely beautiful. We climbed up a small hill littered with large, grey boulders to reach the main town on the island, and as we climbed we saw clusters of small, bright flowers and clear, smooth rocks sitting at the bottom of the lake. Once we reached the town we climbed to the top of the bell tower and stared out across the lake, the edges still shrouded in a distant mist while the sun beat down upon our heads. For lunch we ate quinoa soup and fish, caught fresh from the lake only that morning, with the lake glittering in front of us.

It was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen, and I was very sorry to leave it behind.

Advertisements

Living Below the Line

For the next five days, I’m going to be living below the global poverty line in order to raise money for Practical Action. This means that over these five days, I’m only allowed to spend £5 on everything that I eat and drink.

It’s going to be difficult – it’s very likely that I’m going to go hungry – but at the end of the five days I will be able to stop. I will be able to back to my normal life – and to my normal diet – in a way that billions of people around the globe just can’t afford to do.

Please support me by sharing and liking this video on every social network site that you can think of; I’d really appreciate it. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

I’d really appreciate whatever help you’d be willing to give. Thank you.

Fancy Dress Week: Particularly Good Finders

The last costume in my week of fancy dress was definitely my favourite. On the last day I lived out my childhood dream and dressed as a student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Image

I have been a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter series since I was a teenager, so much so that my sister’s friends frequently call me in to settle trivia-based arguments, so I put quite a lot of effort into this costume. A while ago I joined Pottermore and took the official Sorting test and was sorted into Hufflepuff.

I was crushed.

I eventually came to terms with the fact that I would never be a Ravenclaw and decided to raise money for charity in true Hufflepuff style. The bulk of the costume was pretty easy to put together. Because I knew there was no way I could afford a proper Hogwarts robe I worked from the movies’ version of the Hogwarts uniform. It’s very similar to most British school uniforms, and while I didn’t get an exact replica I certainly captured the uniform look. I wore a plain white shirt, a black skirt, black pumps and a grey jumper.

The accessories was what really made this outfit, and they were surprisingly easy to find. I found a very close replica of the Hufflepuff tie for under a fiver on Amazon, and I happened to find a Hufflepuff badge lurking in my bedroom – I think it came from a Christmas cracker when I was ten. The scarf was a little more difficult. I actually went to the Harry Potter shop at Kings’ Cross station (and saw Platform 9 and ¾ OMG) but once I had gotten over my initial bout of squealing I was extremely disappointed to find that the shop did not stock Hufflepuff scarves. I skulked away – secure in the knowledge that no-one wanted to be a Hufflepuff – and eventually found one on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price. The best part was my Hogwarts acceptance letter, which my friends gave me for my birthday, and allowed me to pretend that I really was magical.

I really enjoyed wearing this costume. It was perfect: it was comfortable, it was pretty clear who I was supposed to be, and it was sufficiently nerdy, so I felt like I was in on some secret inside joke all day long. The only problem I had – and it really was a minor one – was that it was extremely cold and my paper-thin tights didn’t really keep my legs warm. I solved that problem by buying an emergency pair of long, grey socks, which kept my legs warm and kept the overall look of the costume intact.

I was very happy with this costume. I will be wearing it again – as part of my fundraising plan I said I’d wear the most popular costume in my final exam. I’m very pleased that this one won, as it’s by far the one I feel most comfortable in. I know it’s not an exact replica of the Hogwarts uniforms, but to be honest, I’m just proud that I made something so convincing in such a short amount of time.

Thank you for reading my costume posts; I hope you like them. I’ll be announcing my next fundraising project very shortly, so keep your eyes peeled! If you’d like to donate – and I would be extremely grateful if you did – then you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

Total so far: £1000 (yay!)
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1850

Fancy Dress Week: Elementary

The fourth costume in my week of fancy dress was, I’m sorry to say, less than impressive. I was dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and overall I’m not really happy with this costume.

Image

When I first chose this costume I thought it would be relatively easy to put together. I’m more familiar with the recent BBC mini-series than with the original Conan Doyle books, so I chose to base my costume on the clothes Benedict Cumberbatch wore in the role of Sherlock. His style is quite formal, plain and dark – apart from the scene when he was wearing nothing but a blanket and I decided pretty early on that I wasn’t going to try and replicate that. This presented a challenge: while I had pretty much everything for the costume, because of its plainness it would be relatively difficult to convey who I was supposed to be. I did manage to get hold of a deerstalker hat – and from Baker Street, no less – and in the end I wore a black shirt, shoes and trousers to complete the ensemble.

Needless to say, this didn’t really work. Adding a hat is not the best way to make a costume, and without Sherlock’s iconic coat – either Cumberbatch’s grey one or the original tweed greatcoat – it just looked like I was wondering around in a silly hat. Oddly enough, when I had buttons taped to my glasses or was wearing a bright pink wig, I felt less embarrassed than I did in that costume. It was nice to be able to take off the hat and pass as a normal person for a few seconds, but ultimately, I would have preferred to have done this one properly. Unfortunately, time and money made this impossible.

I wasn’t really happy with this costume. I think if I was going to do it again I’d put a lot more effort in, and maybe splash out on a coat which would add to the costume (or perhaps a pipe, if my budget is going to remain this tight for the next few years). Strangely enough, going overboard on a costume actually makes it easier to wear in public; as I hadn’t really gone all-out with this one it was by far one of the most embarrassing days of the week. If I was to do the whole week again I’m not even sure if I’d include this costume, but that’s looking pretty unlikely.

Next time I’ll be looking at my last costume; my very own Hogwarts uniform. If you’d like to follow my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

Total so far: £960
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1890

Fancy Dress Week: That Girl with Hair like This

My third fancy dress costume is one of my favourites, but also one of the ones I was most nervous about. I dressed as Ramona Flowers from the Scott Pilgrim series and sweet Jesus, it was difficult.

Image

Ramona Flowers is a character who a lot of people have already cosplayed as, so the bar was set pretty high. My student budget meant that getting an exact replica of one of her outfits was way beyond my reach, so I had to put together something ‘Ramona-esque’ while spending as little money as possible. I decided to imitate one of her looks from the 2010 film, but based my choice on how much new stuff I had to buy rather than choosing one of my favourites.

The outfit wasn’t that difficult to put together. After re-watching the film a few times – all in the name of ‘research’ – I had a pretty good idea of the way she dresses. Ramona’s outfits all focus around layers, usually aren’t very girly, and have a lot of bright colours teemed with darker, edgier stuff like leather jackets and studded belts. This was pretty much perfect for me, and in the end I wore my Captain America T-shirt, a purple hoodie, a black leather jacket, denim shorts, black tights, a studded belt and some gothy boots that you can’t see in the photo. I had to buy the belt, hoodie and the shoes but everything else I already had.

Unfortunately, I did have to do some more arts and crafts for this outfit. I bought a pair of steampunk goggles as part of the outfit. They looked perfect, but when I tried them on they made my hair bulge out in odd ways, and seeing how important Ramona’s hair is in conveying the character, I really didn’t want that. So I improvised, bought a cheap hairband from the local supermarket and literally taped it to the goggles. I had to pin it all in place to make it stay on when I moved my head, but all in all I’d class that as a success.

That just left the hair. Ramona is famous for her brightly coloured hair, and recreating it was going to be a challenge. I didn’t want to go the whole hog and dye my hair permanently, as bleaching my hair and then dyeing it would be incredibly expensive and I didn’t want to make that permanent a change, even if it was for charity. I’ve experimented in the past with spray in hair dye and the results had been pretty good, so I bought a couple of cans from a fancy dress shop and just sprayed them in on the first day of my fancy dress week, when I’d originally been planning to wear this costume.

TEST THE HAIR DYE BEFORE YOU COVER YOUR HEAD IN IT.

The dye looked awful. Thankfully there’re no pictures of that fiasco, but I can assure you all that the ‘forest green’ hair dye I’d bought was both the colour of pond sludge and the colour of radioactive waste at the same time. To top it all off, the dye made my hair look really slick and greasy, and the end result just looked like the Incredible Hulk had sneezed on my head. I washed it all out and wore another costume that day, and then ordered an emergency wig from Amazon, which I had to alter before I could wear it. I only just got it done in time, so I’d definitely recommend a little more planning if you’re thinking of wearing a Ramona costume yourself.

Once the costume was all put together I was very happy with it. It was pretty clear who I was supposed to be, and while it wasn’t quite what I had in mind at first, it was definitely the best I could put together with my budget and time constraints. The one major problem I had apart from the hair was my headgear. I had to wear a skullcap to keep my real hair out of sight, and after wearing both the wig and my steampunk hairband on top of it for a day, I had a colossal headache.

I think this holds up as a beginner’s cosplay, but perhaps not in more experienced circles. I’m certainly proud of the way I put this costume together despite my limitations, but if I was going to wear it again I’d spend more time on the hair so I could really get it right. Apart from the wig, everything I bought can be worn again, so overall I’m pretty happy with this.

Next time I’ll be looking at my Sherlock Holmes costume. If you’d like to follow my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

Total so far: £960
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1890

Fancy Dress Week: Nightmare Fuel

My second costume for my fancy dress week was the one that got the most attention. I spent a day dressed as the Other Mother from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’, and it’s definitely one of the better costumes I made. Mr Gaiman retweeted the picture, and after I finished flapping my hands in a state of nervous excitement, I got the idea for this blog.

Image

The costume was surprisingly easy to put together. Because I was recreating a whole character rather than a specific outfit that left a lot more room for interpretation. As well as the book, I had the 2009 film as inspiration, and the finished look was a combination of the two. As ever, keeping it cheap was my main concern and I put together the outfit from clothes I already had. The only real challenge was the button eyes.

I’ve always thought of the Other Mother as one of the creepiest villains from children’s literature second only to the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches’. She’s terrifying. Part of the fear that these characters inspire comes from their relatively normal appearance that conceals something monstrous. The Other Mother is almost an exact replica of Coraline’s real mother, save for her black button eyes. With that in mind, I wanted to keep my outfit looking relatively normal, feminine and conservative, while still retaining an air of menace. In the end, I chose a black dress and tights, a dark red jumper and some black pearls that I found in a charity shop for about £2.50. I also stuck on some evil lipstick (dark red is for villainesses) but I didn’t want to go for anything too showy that would distract from the button eyes.

Now I’m rubbish at arts and crafts and always have been, so this was the part of the costume I was worrying about the most. I wanted to have something convincing, but something that I would also be able to make without slicing open a finger or gluing my hands together. In the end, the method I found was surprisingly easy, and cost just under £10.

  1. Take a pair of fake glasses. The lenses must be round and if possible, the frame should be as unnoticeable as possible. I went for glasses framed with a thin, gold wire and they were perfect.
  2. Take a pair of buttons. At the very least they should be the same size as the lenses, but ideally you’d want them fractionally bigger, to hide as much of the frames as possible. As for the colour, you can pick any you like, although black is traditional.
  3. Take some blu-tack, glue, or double-sided tape. I used blu-tack because I’m lazy.
  4. Stick the buttons onto the lenses, being careful to keep them roughly in the centre.
  5. Have a cup of tea and congratulate yourself. That was hard work.

Image

I was very happy with this costume. It was immediately obvious who I was supposed to be and I successfully creeped out people who hadn’t even read the book. It was very effective; all I had to do was tilt my head and smile and they’d just back away. However, I can’t recommend wearing the button glasses for long periods of time. You can see through them but it’s quite an unsettling experience as you have to rely on what’s directly in front of you and your peripheral vision. I had to keep taking them off, as after about an hour I was beginning to get a headache. Aside from that, the only other downside was that I had to keep reapplying my evil lipstick all day.

I’m very proud of this costume. I’d definitely wear it again, although perhaps not for a whole day. All the pieces that make up the costume can be worn as normal clothes and I think it holds up as a decent cosplay. Also, it was cheap and easy to put together, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.

Next week, I’ll be looking at my Ramona Flowers costume. If you’d like to follow my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

 

Total so far: £950
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £1900

Fancy dress week: Pirate

Back in February, I decided to spend an entire week in fancy dress. I put together a different costume for every day and went to all my lectures, seminars and other university-related things dressed up as whatever I had chosen to be.  One of my costumes was the Other Mother from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’, and I was astonished to find that Mr Gaiman had shared the picture I had sent him with all his followers. Once I had finished with my several minutes of frantic hand-flapping, I saw that many people were interested in seeing how I put my costumes together. This is the first of those posts.

My first costume had originally been planned to be Ramona Flowers from the Scott Pilgrim series, but due to unforeseen circumstances – which I shall cover in a later blog post – I had to switch at the last minute. The costume I ended up wearing on the first day of my fancy dress week was a generic pirate costume.Image

The costume was easy enough to put together. I didn’t take this one quite as seriously as some of the other costumes, and because I wasn’t making a replica that left a lot more open to interpretation. I looked to the spate of recent pirate movies and famous female pirates like Anne Bonney for inspiration, but eventually I chose something which was more practical than accurate. I wore a baggy white shirt (with vest underneath for added warmth/chastity), black trousers, black boots and a red scarf tied around my waist. I stuck a grey military jacket on top to keep me warm, but I forgot to include that in the picture. I only had to buy the shirt and I was able to pick it up pretty cheap. Everything else I found lying around my house (including the inflatable sword).

However, I wasn’t completely happy with this costume. It was actually pretty difficult for people to guess what I was dressed as due to my lack of pirate hat; I didn’t expect it to be quite as central to the costume as it turned out. Furthermore, I was absolutely freezing for the entire day. My shirt was clearly never intended to be worn as a shirt – perhaps as something that could be layered with rather than worn by itself – and also turned out to be a little bit see-through. The scarf I had tied around my waist also produced a rather large knot. For most of the time this wasn’t a problem, but when it was covered up with my coat it produced a highly-suspicious looking bulge so I had to move the knot to just above my hip-bone.

All in all, it was a decent costume. It wasn’t immediately obvious who I was, but that did mean that I could pass for a relatively normal-looking person if I wanted to. I didn’t end up spending a lot of money on this one, and the stuff that I bought can (and has) been worn again. It’d probably be a bit more suitable for a student party than for serious cosplay, but it did the job all right.

Next time I’ll be looking at the Other Mother costume. If you’d like to keep track of my progress – or better yet, to donate to my cause – you can do so here: https://www.myraising.com/jo-harwood/incatrek2013

Total so far: £750
Projected final total: £2850
Amount left to raise: £2100