18 Mar 2011

This Much I Know Is True - An Interview with Barnaby

Hi everyone, I absolutely cannot believe it's friday again ALREADY?!? *wears puzzled expression*. Anyway, as it's friday, that means it's interview day and tonight I am delighted to have @BarnabyHazardM on the l-shaped sofa.

Tonight's interview theme is around travel and Barnaby certainly has done a fair bit. I was curious to interview him to see what he'd learned from his travels and also about the blogging he's been doing in relation to it. 

Just to fill you in, BHM was born in the UK, grew up and was educated in New Zealand, taught English in Japan and now proofreads medical letters in India (and writes whenever he can). He's 26 and the 'baby' of the family with two older brothers. Sometimes he talks too little, sometimes too much; whatever the case, he tries to be honest - which I think is a great aim!

Food-wise, we're having a little variety tonight with veg pakora, garlic naan and er, roasted cashew nuts! Apparently we're also drinking single malt whisky (on the rocks) so I'm guessing we'll be slurring our words by the end - and we're listening to some 60's choons tonight. So grab a snack and chill out with us...

Me: I think you know what I'm gonna start with so ... what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
BHM: Just an easy one to start, eh? (Does everyone say that? Haha!) It’s so hard to think back and find one piece of advice that stands out but there’s one I can think of off the top of my head: my friend Emily suggesting India as a worthwhile place to visit. I’m so glad I followed that advice, as I really do feel it has changed my life for the better.

Me: Wow sounds like travelling has given you a focus, can you tell us a secret about yourself?
BHM: I was obsessed with (i.e. addicted to) blackjack for a while in my early 20s. I never lost big money, but I went to the casino a lot – like once a week. I totally thought I could beat the system and studied how to do so, then I understood that the house always wins, and the fun slowly went out of it, so I stopped.

Me: So then how did you get bitten by the travelling bug?
BHM: New Zealanders have this cultural concept called ‘the big OE’, or overseas experience, which many people undertake after finishing university studies in order to get more perspective on the world outside our tiny, isolated nation. I’m part of that group, I guess. Many head for English-speaking countries (I imagine you’ve had plenty of pints pulled by NZ bartenders in London), but because of a long association with Japan through friends and work, I decided to start my overseas adventure there.

Me: Wow, I'm super jealous, so go on, tell us a little more about life in India + also Japan
BHM: It’s a cliché, but life in India really is filled with contrasts and contradictions. It often drives me crazy – things like my local temple festival, which entails 4 days and nights of non-stop music, chanting and drumming blasting from banks of speakers placed throughout the neighbourhood, punctuated by regular firecracker explosions. How is keeping an entire neighbourhood awake all night celebratory?! But the longer I stay, the better I get at accepting things the way they are. Of course, the people are also generally open-hearted, curious and friendly, and I have made lifelong friends here.

Japan was quite a different story, very rigid and machine-like. That worked for me for a while, but with the guidance of my dear friend as mentioned above, I decided to go for the opposite and dive into the comparative chaos of India. An interesting thing is that even though Japan and India are so very different in so many ways, there are still deep similarities.

Me: What about your blogging and documentary work in India + what your aims are for this
BHM: Wow, you’ve done some impressive research! The aim of it is basically to document the stories of people in Varkala, this small tourist town in which I live, with a focus on the way the influx of foreigners in the last 5-10 years has affected the local population and the atmosphere of the town. As an outsider who actually lives here, I’m in a position from which I can kind of navigate both sides to some extent and hopefully get deeper inside this unusual culture that is emerging. At the moment I’m not sure whether this would work better on film or in book form, but it’s a project I really want to see through to fruition.  Unfortunately I have yet to start any work on a documentary here beyond the planning stage (and I actually have very little previous experience in filmmaking).

Me: What is your most memorable travelling experience - and also the worst?
BHM: Well, for someone who’s been living abroad for three and a half years I haven’t actually done that much… but I’d have to say that the most memorable POSITIVE travelling experience was the first time I went to Kamakura in Japan and wandered around about 10 different Shinto and Buddhist temples for a day. I ended up moving to that town shortly afterwards.

Most memorable NEGATIVE travelling experience was being assaulted and nearly thrown off the train by a drunk guy on a recent overnight trip to Mumbai. It was a complete aberration – I’ve never felt unsafe at any other time in India – but it was pretty scary.

Me: Yikes, yeah, pretty scary for sure! Okay, so last travel question, what have you gained from your travels + experiences away from home? Will you ever go home to NZ?
BHM: SO MUCH in terms of understanding the world and cultural differences/similarities better than I did before. The main thing, though, is also the main thing I gained back home: close friends who have taught me a lot about life and my own nature, all in their own different ways.

As for going back home to NZ, gosh, that’s impossible for me to say right now. It is hard to imagine a more comfortable and safe environment than NZ as I remember it… but my goal at the moment is to be able to live and write full-time in India whilst being able to visit my family and friends in NZ at least once a year.

Me: Now for the fun questions! First up, what would be your last meal?
BHM: Sushi. I hated fish until I went to Japan; now I miss sushi every day.

Me: And your favourite book.....
BHM: This changes all the time, but at the moment it’s ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai. The prose is so wonderful; sometimes I read a random page for inspiration. A friend of mine aptly described as ‘one long poem’.

Me: What about a favourite song?
BHM: ‘Save Your Love For Me’ by Quinn Walker. It’s the weirdest, wildest 5 minutes I know, with brilliant, off-kilter lyrics like ‘My hand’s a tambourine, my kidney’s filled with stones’ and Walker singing in a ridiculous falsetto. Completely demented and awesome.

Me: What really annoys you?
BHM: Seeing two people from different cultural backgrounds clash over a minor, transitory issue, with each refusing to allow for the other’s contrasting perspective. Oh, and loud firecrackers in the middle of the night. They SUCK.

Me: And finally, what do you know to be true about life?
BHM: These are going to get easier, right?... Not a lot, to be honest… I often feel like the more I know and experience, the less I understand the bigger picture. I am, however, pretty sure that our capacity for love, in all its forms, is a powerful force for good and think it should be promoted above all other potentials we have. I don't care how earnest that sounds, I really believe it!

I think that's a great answer - and a great way to finish the interview. Thanks so much for taking the time answer my nosey questions, it's been really inspiring to hear about your travels - and understand more about places I've yet to visit. 

If you're interested in hearing more about Barnaby's travels and adventures, you can check out his blog and follow him on twitter @BarnabyHaszardM. Also he'll be back on the blog tomorrow with a guest photo essay of his travels which I am VERY excited about. 

Hope you've enjoyed tonight's post - and check back tomorrow for the photo essay. Also don't forget my Top 10 80s tunes on sunday as well as all the usual stuff during the week.

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building


  1. I LOVE travel pieces. Never been to India or Japan, but both are among my most desireable destinations. Just about the most flavorful meal I've EVER eaten was an Indian dinner (don't ask me what it was) in a trendy establishment in Center City, Philadelphia. NOTE - Center City is roughly similar to a 1/3 scale Manhattan and fills the original area of William Penn's 'Greene Countrie Towne.' Japan's been a fave since 6th grade. We spent months studying the place and mounted an unbelievably authentic kabuki production, with costumes, make-up and everything. Sakura, sakura ya yo ino so ra wah... there I still remember it. (it's a cherry tree poem about spring blossoms.) So, domo oregato Hazard San and to your illustrious interviewer as well.

  2. Great idea to put Barnaby under the spotlight!! Blackjack?... who would've known! ;-) I love the Varkala documentary idea. Having lived there myself and experienced the new landscape, I really think it's work exploring. There is a lot going on below the surface.

  3. Yep, more madness here in Varkala this week Sharell, at Deshadan of all places! I could write several books about this place, you probably could too.

    Thank you, Becky, for a very enjoyable experience. I hope you'll allow me to return the favour in due course.

  4. Hey there, glad you liked it, this was such a fun interview and great to get a bit deeper into why we travel + what we search for in our globe trotting.

    Barns - sure interview would be great, just drop me a mail!