開心 happy happy

開心…

In Chinese, this means happy. It’s made up of two characters which are ‘open’ and ‘heart’ so it literally translates as open your heart, which I think is pretty darn cool. That’s what happiness is about right? Opening your heart and letting happiness seep in, or out onto other people. Opening your eyes to the world around you, daring to let someone in. Some people believe that if you open your heart too much you can become vulnerable to the elements and people around you, but I think it can fulfill you in ways like no other. Just walking through the park, listening to your favourite song with a smile on your face, your nose dancing among the freshly blossomed jasmine, heart and mind and senses open and alert, that’s how happiness is created and reveled in. If I see someone reaching out to help someone else, or two people that are so clearly in love, I also feel their happiness. Because they’re not afraid to open their hearts. If we hold back and close our hearts on the world, how can we ever feel true happiness? The happiness that comes from an open heart, a heart that is not scared to jump out and embrace this epic world we live in! Let’s open our hearts, aka be happy! That was totally not meant to sound like some kind of preach haha…I just thought it was quite an interesting Chinese character.

The 5th Youth Trekker competition!

Earlier this year I came to Taiwan to research creative arts through The 4th Youth Trekkers competition. You can find out more about the 5th one here, which is now open for entries. It’s an amazing opportunity which gives you the chance to travel around Taiwan and document your findings on your chosen topic. It could be anything from sampling the cuisine, to photographing butterflies. You just need to write an itinerary of no-less than 10days and state your motivation and chosen area of interest. I was lucky enough to be a winner this year and if you think you also have the passion and drive to participate in such a cool, once-in-a-lifetime contest, then go here for more details! You won’t regret it, I truly had a unique and incredible experience…hence the fact I now live in Taiwan!

The Velveteen Rabbit

This is an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, first published in 1922. My friend got married this summer, and her friend read it out at the ceremony. I think it’s so sweet…

“What is REAL?” the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit .

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Treasure Hill Artist Village

Treasure Hill in Taipei truly lives up to it’s name. I’d been meaning to go there for the longest time and as I followed the signs on my bicycle it became increasingly clear that I was heading to quite the spot. As you wind alongside the Fuhe Bridge, colourful enticing art work aligns the walls. You are immediately greeted with quirky-looking houses dotted across the hill, which to explore, you must pass through an incense-filled temple with the most beautifully-crafted roof. The houses were built by the residents themselves, and scattered in amongst these, are artist spaces, organic kitchens and cafes, as well as numerous other nooks and crannies brimming over with wonderfulness. As I climbed and scrambled over the rooftops, the view of green spread out before my eyes, washing over everything. Not only does this village have giant emerald mountains right in front of it, it also has it’s own rooftop gardens which people have created. Treasure Hill is just bursting with innovative ideas.

Luckily for me, I just happened to be exploring during the Taipei Fringe Festival, so there were theatrical people with full faces of paint round every corner. Stage sets were being organised, props prepped and costumes adorned. What a place to be inspired! I ran into a girl who asked me to come see her show the following day. It just so was, that the very show she was in, was the one I had already marked as a ‘must see.’

Which is why, the very next day, I sped off again on my bicycle to the magical Treasure Hill. The show was called ‘dream! Life’ and was created by the Funky Dreamers. It was performed in 3 different spaces, which were 3 houses next to each other. I’ve never seen a play set in someone’s actual house before…it was amazing!! It was like being smack bang in the middle of someone’s reality; seeing it from their eyes. As we followed the heart-broken girl into the street, the city of Taipei before our very eyes, we could really feel what she was going through because we were right there with her. No fake set, no what ifs…we were actually right there. The other actress was playing a homeless girl, and as we exited the first house, she was right there, on the street. It was SO real! I’ve not been so gripped by a performance in a long time. They were both unbelievably talented, and used a lot of visual elements to enhance the experience. Real photographs from over 26 countries, taken by the director, brightened the white walls and they used a polaroid camera to take real photos, in real time, for a few lucky members of the audience (me included, yay!). It was a really intimate experience, and the use of real houses in an actual village excited me!

Treasure Hill really is a treasure trove of creativity. I’ve only just skimmed the surface but I love what I’ve seen so far. It must be pretty cool to be an actual resident there. A community of innovation and creation, and such a cool vibe to be a part of. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Heart-shaped Formosa

As I sat inside my slightly squint, sand-made heart, I couldn’t stop myself from falling hopelessly in love (metaphorically, and actually, in this case literally too) with this magical little island. Brushing the grains of sand from my hair, and stepping out of my heart, I headed towards the Monday-morning, untainted waves. One toe ebbed in, and instantly a surging chill shot through my body. All memories of the past serendipitous week came seeping straight back.

Almost immediately, I felt like I’d just arrived home. In a tiny, cobble-stoned alleyway, I found my name delicately written on a white map, with a key inside. Trust. Love was inevitable. A country filled with the most trusting, friendly people as far as the heart could see. I was smitten. And it didn’t stop there. It was as if everyone had woken up and decided to embrace the day to it’s entirety. Not one person was left out. The whole island was gathering energy and carrying it to the furthest corners, radiating everything in site. The grass was definitely greener. The streets sparkled. In a forest, in the most southerly point of the country, I danced. Indie music was being blasted from the midnight dew, to the tips of the tallest branches. At that moment, I heard my name in-between the neon beats. Mid-twirl, my mouth formed a perfect ‘O’. Of all the places in the world, deep in a woodland, and I happen to chance upon a meeting with an old friend.

Well, my love for this country multiplied leaps and bounds; all the way to an eco-magnificent home in a soon-to-be, cultivated rice-paddy. A friendly stranger, the only kind in Taiwan, thought I might like to meet a friend of his. Over a cup of tea and a freshly-baked loaf, we took our Sunday morning by storm. Conversation was flowing, motivations and inspirations to maintain the special va-va-voom that Taiwan has so deeply-embedded within her, were being raised. And in amongst the chatter, a connection was noted. The lady of the residence had backpacked around my country in her day. She’d hitched rides with postmen and traveled all across Scotland. And here I was, in her beloved land, being given a dose of the same kindness that, apparently she’d received from my countrymen. We’d come full-circle. It felt right.

As fast as the cold burst of energy from the ocean had arrived, it quickly dispersed back into the light waters; to be carried to another shore, on another land, creeping up on some other nostalgic soul. I took this as my cue to skip back to my heart.
To my surprise, what had been a heart- if a little skew- only moments before, had clearly been swallowed by the sea during my whimsical recollections. But it’s OK. It was bound to happen. Yet, another country that effortlessly succeeded in stealing my heart…

 

This is a little piece I wrote after I visited Taiwan. Clearly, those feelings lingered on and on because I find myself living in Taipei now and it’s pretty darn cool.

Salvador Dali- mind of genius

Entering the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, I did not expect to stumble upon an exhibition of amazingness. Currently, the hall is exhibiting Salvador Dali’s crazy cool mind, and if you’re wandering through Taipei, I highly recommend a little visit. I’d heard his work was pretty freaking surreal, but the mind truly boggles when it looks at his stuff. It’s fascinating and utterly eccentric and yet, beautiful. It’s running until 30th September, and you can find out more info here. I love this guy…

I especially like this last butterfly lady. Oh Salvador…

early days, a hazy daze.

Do you ever have those days where you start to question the choices you’ve made, the paths you’ve taken? Why on earth are you living in some random alleyway in some eastern city, gazillions of miles from everything you were brought up to know? Those grassy pastures filled with strawberries couldn’t be further away, and yet you CHOSE to come here. I’m sure this feeling is inevitable on every new journey, whether you’ve just moved to a far-flung land, or you’ve moved to the town down the road from the village you grew up in. I’d like to just blame these mixed feelings on last week’s blue moon, but that beauty can’t always be responsible. It’s time I accepted my fate, my sought path. Tomorrow is my first day at National Taiwan Normal University, where I’ll be studying an intensive Chinese course. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m confused. But it usually works out just fine, infact I’m sure I’m going to love it. Sometimes life is just a little hazy. I guess we can’t emanate rainbows everyday.