Nu-bell and the fated world of cartoons.

Everything happens for a reason. It does. Don’t argue mmmk. I woke up, not so long ago, and thought to myself ‘why am I sitting in this glass pod? why am I not dancing around South Africa in golfing attire with my long-leggy-blonde friend?! why would I think of skipping out on the wedding of the year…a.k.a a big, amazing Knysna reunion?! what was I thinking when I decided to work an 8.45-6 (yes, not even just 9-5) job, even if it did involve making a butterfly and a bumble bee talk, instead of skinny-dipping on magical islands in Thailand and dancing my face off to The Jezabels live in Hong Kong?’ I mean really, come on. Time for a change…But what if I was making the wrong decision? This worried me. Well, thank you fate- you old chum, you, because it turns out it was 100% the most perfect, amaze-balls decision I’ve ever made!!

I woke up a few days ago to a message from my friend/ ex-colleague saying our company decided to turn public, meaning they had to cut at least 1/3 of the employees, including himself and ME, if I’d still been there. Immediate reaction: WHAT!!!! Do you mean to tell me that if I’d stayed in the company and skipped Thailand, The Jezabels, SOUTH AFRICA <3, a fairytale wedding AND a trip home to Scotland, that what...I'd just have lost my job anyway?! OH BABY, thank you FATE! Thank you gut instinct, thank you to all the friends who were like 'just quit, come play!' THANK YOUUU UNIVERSE! You see, sometimes you must just follow your heart. Something or someone, somewhere, told me to leave, and I did, and VOILA! It was totally the right thing to do :) Sigh…

And as if that wasn’t enough to blow my little mind, I decided it was time to buy a bicycle for home. There isn’t any way I’m paying bus prices here, and I can’t drive (I know, lame…) and so off I went in search of a new Bluebell…not that she can ever actually be replaced…no way. But as soon as I walked into the second-hand store, I was drawn, by force, to a little loner bicycle in the corner. She was purple, she was rusty, it was love at first sight. She even folded in half. She had space for a basket and a bell. She was almost perfect. Done. I attempted to ride a few others, but nothing felt as soft and right as she did. Haha. So, off I skipped, bicycle in hand, ready to give her a name and show her off around the village.

I got in the car and opened the little tag that was attached to her. Her birth certificate… NO WAY! What date was she finished being worked on…a.k.a her birthday…? None other than the best day ever…MY birthday!! Of course. Why else would I be drawn to her like a magnet?! Because it was meant to be…Why? Because my lovies, everything DOES happen for a reason.

Now I can officially announce that she has been named Nu-bell (because she’s new, she’s cool and she’s feminine (nu in Chinese means female). Big shout out to Gareth for the suggestion! :) Bluebell, Nu-bell…what’s going to be next in Taiwan? Ideas are welcome :)

Recycle your Bicycle @ The Bike Station

If you have an old bicycle or are looking to find a funky new ride, then go here and have a peek! The Bike Station is located in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. They’re Scotland’s largest bicycle recycling organisation and they actually go out and seek old, abandoned bikes and turn them into brand-new creations. I’m excited because this weekend I’m going to check out the Perth store to see what goodies they have. I should probably lower my expectations because when I dream of my ideal bicycle…it looks a little like these:

To cycle around Beijing on a red sparkly bicycle…

‘So, will we able to cycle everywhere? With everyone? In all the alleys? Past all the temples and stuff…?!’

‘Umm…kind of…’ : /

I mean, OK, we could have, but did we really want to battle against the gazillion cars blowing disgusting fumes in our faces? Not really, no. The pollution in Beijing was thick. Thicker than I anticipated. But after a while, the chest pains were just a flitting feeling, mixed in amongst the smog and the white fluffy dust balls flying everywhere. They got caught in my static hair. I’d read that Beijing is insanely static in Spring, and that was no understatement. However, none of it really mattered because I was in Beijing with my family, the sun was shining, the sky was white (Chinese blue) and we had a big ol’ wall to conquer. 
I can’t quite believe I’ve lived in China for 2+ years and this was my first time to venture to the big city. It felt like I was stepping into this ancient civilisation for the first time. That first morning at the Forbidden City, standing right there in-between all the palaces, just soaking up the history and politics of this middle country, was when it all started to sink in. Everything this country stands for and is made to believe in. I got chills standing in Tian’an men Square, a surge of adrenaline climbing the steepest stairs to the top of the Drum Tower, a satisfying relief when we finally found a restaurant with delicious Peking duck, and an overwhelming wave of excitement as we reached the unrestored parts of The Great Wall and nestled ourselves in amongst the remains of this crumbling wonder to share a well-deserved bar of chocolate. And it truly is a GREAT wall!
Beijing might be one of the most polluted cities on our planet, but it’s also one of the most exciting! I could have spent days exploring the Hutong (old, traditional alleyways), sampling all the wild and delicious treats on offer at the numerous food stalls and cafes, and just generally people watching. That’s what I love about China; there’s such a huge sense of community, especially among the older generation. My parents were bedazzled by the hundreds of old-timers out waltzing in the park, and my sister couldn’t stop laughing when we exited a restaurant to find at least 80 women, of all ages, dancing, in a synchronized manner of course, to hardcore trance music in the courtyard outside the Drum and Bell Tower. Beijing might be growing at an incredible rate, but somewhere, deep in the Hutong, you can still pretend it’s old Beijing, the one we all imagine…filled with rusty bicycles and old men playing Mahjong. That idealistic Chinese life still exists, you just have to go out there for a ramble in the alleys to find it.
And when you least expect it, you might bump into someone you know. As I mentioned previously in a blog post about coincidental encounters, you never know who you might run into. If it hadn’t been for my sister being desperate to find a ‘non-squat’ toilet, we might never have ventured down random alley-way no. 325, in which case we might never have bumped into a random friend that I’d previously travelled with in southern Vietnam. A friend I was aware of whom was living in Shanghai, so if I’d been venturing around that city, I wouldn’t be too surprised, but in Beijing, in a random alley, well that’s just crazy.
So Beijing, you served us well. And if you could just put some more sunshine out there, and maybe a bright blue sky every so often, I’d certainly consider exploring you a bit more. Maybe I’ll even live in a Hutong one day and cycle everywhere on a red sparkly bicycle, collecting red bean baozi for breakfast in my basket before commencing a game of cards with my neighbours…

fate mmmk.

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing direction. You change direction, but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm is not something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right into the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand does not get in, and walk through it, step by step. There is no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverised bones. That is the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.”

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.

chance encounters in this tiny beautiful world.

Dancing my face off to MGMT ‘Kids’ in a forest, at a music festival, in Taiwan. Surrounded by new friends, twirling and jumping, not giving a damn what people think of me, because no-one knows me here…or do they?! Of all places, I did not expect to hear someone calling my name at an indie fest in a forest. Least of all, someone I actually know. But that’s precisely what happened. I spun around when I realised that it wasn’t the lyrics, it wasn’t my new friends and it certainly wasn’t a random Taiwanese forest creature. It was a boy from my literature class, from when I was an exchange student in Guangzhou-China, back in 2009. Of course. And seriously, what are the chances? These strange, coincidental encounters keep happening to me, in the most random places…

Taiwan was a particularly interesting trip in terms of bumping into people that I had connections with. I arrived in Kaohsiung and when I realised my dorm friend was from Macau, I was like ‘Oh, I just saw an amazing band from Macau last week- Turtle Giant…’ and naturally, the lead singer is her boyfriend.
Then there was the boy from Belgium who I shared a dorm with at Taroko Gorge. Three days later, I was sitting in a cafe waiting for my airport shuttle, when who happened to walk past…yup! In a completely different city, on a completely random corner of the city…
It makes me wonder how many times I may have walked past someone I know, but possibly I was looking the other way, or had my head down. What do these encounters mean? That we actually live in a teeny-tiny world? Or are they just pure coincidence? I haven’t a clue, but they keep happening to me.
Last week I was in South Africa, at the National Arts Fest in good old Grahamstown. I just sat down with friends to enjoy a cold beer when my Dad called. I ran outside the beer tent to find a quiet spot and  as I answered, I happened to look up at the same time. I thought I was seeing things…Surely that couldn’t be Roxy, a girl I taught and lived with in West Virginia, USA, back in 2007?! It was her all right! She IS South African, so it’s not that bizarre for her to be chilling at the country’s biggest fest, but of all the times and places…What if my Dad hadn’t called at the exact moment that she was also outside the tent? Would we have met in some other location, or would we be fated to have missed that chance encounter? 
And then, only a few days after this, I was at Neighbourgoods, a funky market in Jo’burg. My friend asked me to look after his stuff in the alleyway outside. For some reason, something in my head told me to turn around, and as I did, I caught a glimpse of someone familiar! A friend of my friend who I’d met only days earlier was walking towards me…Of all places! Firstly, I didn’t even know he was from Jo’burg, and I was seriously standing in a random little alley. What is this world?!
I won’t rattle on about the other gazillion moments like this, but for real, what does it all mean? I love it. And it doesn’t even surprise me anymore. I’d be more surprised if I didn’t bump into someone I knew. I’ll be upset now if it doesn’t happen for a while. I fully expect to bump into a random acquaintance from China or South Africa when I’m out for a stroll in my wee Scottish village. Watch this space…