The Last Unicorn

“It’s a rare man who is taken for what he truly is,” he said. “There is much misjudgement in the world… We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

-Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

I want to be that rare woman who is taken for what she truly is, free of judgements and assumptions and stereotypes that seem to circle the air like insistent, buzzing flies. We are far too quick to judge these days. That colleague who just gave you a bar of chocolate for no reason, did so because she felt like being kind, and knows you like chocolate. She didn’t do it so that you’d buy her something in return, or sleep with her, or because she wants to climb the career ladder. Some people are just genuinely thoughtful, and I feel like they are a dying breed, just like The Last Unicorn. What if there are only a handful left in the world? It sure feels like it right now, what with all the shit happening around about us. When did humans become so evil? It’s upsetting and downright embarrassing to be from the same species as these disgusting, sick psychopaths that seem to populate our society. When did things go so wrong? Why isn’t everyone being sweet to one another?!

It’s times like this that I’d rather be a unicorn. And I guess I kind of am because the unicorn is our national animal in Scotland, and I think I am nice almost all of the time, even when people push me off the bus because they’re selfish and have forgotten how to be gentle. I’ve talked about this dog-eat-dog world before, but seriously, it’s not improving. What is a girl to do? Run away to the forest and befriend the deers? Take all the happy people (friends and family and lovely strangers I’m talking to you!) and create an island where we go back to the roots of what life is supposed to be about- loving and nurturing the people around us and the planet we are so blessed to be able to call home, and continue developing and creating it so that it flourishes in the best way possible? Yeah, I don’t know any more. It seems people would rather be greedy pigs and destroy everything our ancestors worked so hard to provide us with. I think maybe we even misjudge ourselves. We think we need all of these ‘things’ to be happy, but we don’t. And I don’t know why we continue to build these crazy sky-scraper cities?! We’re meant to live in nature, with nature, at one with nature. Oh, I’m completely guilty of it too. Here I am living in a gigantic, ginormous city pretending that it’s normal to share a bus with 100 other people as I commute back and forth between work and home, eating food that I haven’t grown myself…etc etc. I am a selfish human too. But I don’t want to be. I’m trying. Even if I miss my stop because the crowds on the bus won’t move to let me off, that’s OK. It’s better than me elbowing them in the ribs like they do to me.

We must always be the bigger person. Just because people don’t stand in line in China, doesn’t mean I’m not going to. Just because they spit their food on the table and drop litter, doesn’t mean I ever will. I’d rather wait in line for 30 minutes than push in front of someone. If we could all just start looking out for one another again, that’d be great, thank you. Now, if only it were that easy. And it should be easy. If we weren’t so cowardly, so scared to adjust our thinking and our ways, it would be the easiest thing in the world. I’m dreaming again, but let me tell you, it’s much nicer dreaming than it is being one of those self-centred, narrow-minded so and so’s.

So, back to unicorns. In amongst all these cruel people, it can be hard to spot them, but they are out there, somewhere. They are the ones smiling at you, even if they don’t know you. The ones who won’t let a door slam in your face, the ones who say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ like their mothers and fathers taught them. They are gentlemen, ladies, people who other people don’t say bad things about because there is nothing bad to say about them. They are honestly almost mythical creatures in this day and age, just like unicorns. They listen, keep their word, are respectful towards all people, animals, plants, trees and stars and they are definitely not trolling the internet being rude for no reason whatsoever. Who has time for that kind of ridiculous behaviour anyway when there are conversations to be had with people you care about, books to be read that will actually feed your mind, food to be cooked and enjoyed that will nourish your body, parks to walk in, oceans to swim in, forests to frolic in…?

Let’s please just start loving each other and doing things to help one another because we want to, not because we have to in order to get something back in return. Let’s be selfless and look out for the people around us. Let’s be one of those ‘mythical creatures’, those diamonds in the rough, instead of just another narcissistic, negative nancy.

It’s true what they say: “Being a human is getting too complicated. Time to be a unicorn.”

Love,

Luna

creases and crinkles, the wrinkles of love

Words dance in front of my eyes, floating up from the page and forming a scene right there on the bus, or under a tree, or wherever I happen to be whilst inhaling this treasure trove of creation. A journey without a side helping of literature is a strange one indeed. From as far back as I can remember I have always had my ski-slope of a nose stuck in a book. Life without reading, I don’t even know what that is, nor do I want to imagine. In fact, if I go more than a few days without reading a book, I actually feel completely out of sync with myself and the world around me. It’s not that I use reading to escape from my life, on the contrary it’s the opposite. I read books to compliment the journey I’m on. Believe me when I say, that life in China is no short of one gigantic adventure, and I could happily while away my days thriving on the hilarity that ensues around every corner in this mad country, but I like being able to supplement the adventure with characters from other lands. Reading Murakami’s books in Japan, would of course be ideal, but in 2009 and 2010 I hungrily read almost all of his novels to date while commuting back and forth to my job in Guangzhou, and truly, his words were the perfect companion for my daily ride. I will forever associate his stories with the Guangzhou metro, and the way I would greedily try to grab a few extra pages while maneuvering through the daily crowds of white collars.

Growing up with Roald Dahl’s wacky imagination and reading his books on road trips with my family, or while curled up on my Granny’s sofa after school, I wouldn’t change that for the world. My Mum always said “Siobhan, this summer you should play outside more”, but I would worry…when would I have time to read all my books then? And so of course I just took my books with me and flopped down at the side of the park and read while the other kids played football. OK, that makes me sound extremely anti-social, but me and football…no (haha)! Then, later as a teenager, those long summer days spent contemplating Sylvia Plath and Bret Easton Ellis’s dark minds. Books hidden under my chair at work, stolen moments of a chapter or two while the boss wasn’t looking. Teenage love affairs where books sharpened and heightened all of those emotions, ten-fold. Just the way music does. Words are also like music, making each experience a new one depending on where you are and what you’re reading at the time, those memories lingering forever after. The time I went to work at a summer camp in West Virginia. Those feelings of being trapped inside a wooden cabin in the forest, with only Barbara Kingsolver there to save me from the overwhelming desire I had to run back to Africa. And moments now, where I read stories of faraway rural places of the country I find myself in, trying to figure out what makes this place tick, who are the people that make up this land and what is it they dream of, long for. Are they also just dreaming of a simple, happy life?

Every time a book is read, it’s a completely unique experience. I’m not sure if it would have been the same if I’d just read all those books while lying in bed. There’s something about taking literature out into the world and carrying it with you wherever you go that just makes it more real, giving it a life and an odyssey of its own. Books explore so many different themes and different kinds of people, it’s only fair that they too, get to embark alongside these different readers who are living all across this incredible planet.

Books don’t want to sit on your shelf gathering dust, or be left on your bed-side table, tea-stained and burnt by the lamp. They want to come with you to the beach and feel the sand between their pages. They want to climb to the top of the mountain with you and see the view of the scenes where their secret stories take place. Sometimes they might just want to cuddle up next to that big oak tree, while you picnic on your blanket nearby. They want little notes of gratitude or recommendation left inside, and they don’t mind creases or crinkles, because those are just wrinkles of love. They are even partial to a bit of dancing, so it’s OK if you forget to empty your bag and bring them along to go clubbing. Books want to be shared, and passed on for generations to come. That musky second-hand book scent is one of appreciation, a scent that arrives from knowing they have provided someone with a sense of joy, even if only for a single fleeting moment in time.

Now that the digital age is well and truly dominating, these poor books are getting dustier, overcome with neglect as they get left behind by all these people who prefer the ease of e-readers and lack of guilt at killing trees that they apparently feel from reading these digital books. The thing is, as long as people keep chopping down trees and making paper, books will continue to be printed. And if a tree had to die to make that novel, the least you can do is buy it and read it. Also, second-hand book shops are EVERYWHERE and I am going to continue giving them business because for me, finding that precious book at the back of a bookshop is something I get really excited about. I know it’d be so much easier to just log on to Amazon and click and buy, but seriously where is the fun in that? I enjoy a book so much more if it took a bit of time and effort to find. And then I can cherish it forever, or pass it on to people who I know will love it as much as I did, as opposed to letting it get lost on my hard drive, stuck inside my computer with no crinkles of love, no fingerprints of chocolate. No, I’m not OK with that. Even if they do stop making new books in actual book form, I will just read all the old books lurking around the world. And really, holding a real book in your hands is just so much better, coffee stains, strange smells and all. Don’t you think?

Here’s to books. Thank you for nourishing our minds and our souls, for making everyday more colourful and for sacrificing your original form to fulfil our imagination’s desires. We are forever grateful and promise to keep giving you the love and time you deserve.

Love,

Luna

p.s Are you reading anything lovely right now? I’d love to have some new recommendations. Happy reading!

Me and Murakami

Whenever a new Haruki Murakami book comes out, I kind of disappear for a few days and get lost in his Japanese world of mysterious people, jazz music and whisky. I am so excited that in exactly 1 month I will finally be visiting Japan for the first time. If anyone knows where Murakami hangs out, please let me know. It’s not like I plan on stalking him or anything…

Anyway, now that I’m becoming quite comfortable with the Chinese language, I decided to start a new challenge: reading Murakami’s books in Chinese!! Of course if I could read the original Japanese words that’d be even better, but well, I might need a few  ten years first. My Chinese teacher is extremely accommodating with my weird requests of things I want to study, such as discussing Murakami’s magical, fictitious world in Chinese. Last week my homework was to share my opinion on his views of living a simple life that’s more in-tune with the cycles of nature. We were reading an excerpt from “What I talk about when I talk about running” and actually a lot of my views on life are similar to Murakami’s. This is probably due to the fact that he’s had a huge influence on how I view things. I started reading him when I was 16 years old and back then I’m not entirely sure I fully understood what I was reading, but I loved how simply he wrote. That’s a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it?! Basically he writes the most beautiful, simple stuff but it’s fully-loaded with a whole bunch of metaphors and deep, dark feelings. I think my positive streak tends to haze over the depressing parts and just focus in on the beautiful encounters and the way everything always seems to be connected. That’s what life is like to me.

Here’s a translation of the Chinese essay I wrote. Ha, it feels pretty cool to be translating my original essay back into my native language. I still can’t believe I understand Chinese. Today on the bus I was having a conversation with myself in my head (as you do) and only when I got off the bus did I realise it was in Chinese. Sometimes I actually have to translate my thoughts into English because they are constantly occurring in this foreign tongue. It blows my mind. Learning a language is so fulfilling, really!

So here is my English translation (it will probably sound pretty lame but in Chinese I promise it’s better…I think):

Haruki Murakami and Siobhan imagine what it’d be like to live a simple life

The first time I read a book by Murakami, I felt so moved, in a way that I can’t even begin to describe how I was feeling. Even though I didn’t fully understand everything he was talking about, I immediately became addicted to his style of writing. His books have really influenced my way of thinking, and during my teenage years they made me want to travel to Japan to experience what city life is like there. Growing up, I always lived in a small village in the countryside. The first time I actually experienced the big city life was when I moved to China. I remember walking down the streets of Guangzhou and staring up at all the huge skyscrapers, the constant mass of people swirling around me on all sides. During those days I sometimes felt like I was really living inside one of Murakami’s stories. Most of his stories have one main protagonist who is almost always a bit of a lone-wolf. In Scotland I never felt lonely, but after coming to China I suddenly understood what it could feel like to be all alone in a strange city. Now I’m living in Shenzhen and even though the population is much bigger than Scotland’s, I still sometimes feel a little bit lonely because most of the people living in this city are still strangers to me.

In Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running”, he talks about how he wishes to have a more simple life. He thinks that running his own jazz bar was an amazing experience, but also extremely difficult. During that time he realised that if he really wanted to give writing 100%, he needed to make some drastic life adjustments. I agree with him. I really believe in living a healthy life, going to bed early and waking up early. During my grandparents’ days, this was actually the norm, and everyone lived much healthier lifestyles. People who get up early and go to be early seem to live longer. I think there’s something in that…Nowadays, in cities, it’s almost as if we’re animals living in a zoo. When we walk down the street it’s like we’ve forgotten all our manners and only care about ourselves and where we are going. This way of living is seriously messing up our world. I wish that we could go back to living a more simple life, a life that is at one with nature. It’s about time we throw these bad habits away and get back to what life is actually about.

In his book, Murakami also touches on the subject of education and how some changes need to be made. Education here in Asia is very different from the system I experienced back in Scotland, whereby when we turn 16 years old we can choose exactly which classes we want to take. This kind of open-minded education system means that we can pursue our individual passions without having to follow a strict regime. If you don’t like maths, or believe that there is no bone in your body that connects with maths, you can choose something more suitable, something that is more aligned with your chosen path. In my school there was no need for us to have to tolerate a subject that we had no passion for. I know I was very lucky. This kind of education meant that from a young age I was able to start developing my independence, chase after my dreams and live a more free, honest life. There was no pretending. If I wanted to study something, I could study it, and vice versa. This also meant that from a very young age we were able to start nurturing and planning for our future.

I often imagine what it’d be like to be a successful writer like Murakami. Of course this is just a dream, and I am, what a lot of people would call a ‘dreamer’. Murakami is my writing idol. He manages to combine plots of mystery and magic, with elements of reality mingled in there too. This combination really excites me. Seriously, his stories are beautiful.

I can’t wait to go to Hong Kong and buy his latest book. I’ve waited for so long and cannot wait to see what he’s come up with this time. I also can’t wait to save money so that I can live a more relaxing life. One day I want to move back to Scotland and live in a tiny cottage in the countryside. Everyday I will wake up to the sounds of birdsong and fall asleep with the first shades of black. This kind of lifestyle will be very peaceful.

Below is the Chinese version, although I apologise to all my Taiwan friends for writing this in simplified Chinese. Believe me, I do not want to convert to the simple characters but I’m studying for HSK and I need to become more familiar with these strange simplified ones. Oh, but traditional characters will always have my heart.

村上春树和雪芳想象中的自然的生活

我第一次读到村上春树的书,我被感动得说不出话来.那时候,虽然有的感觉我不能体会,但是我已经迷上了他的写作方式. 他的小说影响到我,让我想去日本,过大城市里的生活.我从小一直住在乡下. 搬到中国的时候那是我第一次住在大城市里. 我记得, 在广州走在街上的时候,看到那么高的大楼, 碰到那么多人, 我常常想象我活在村上春树的小说里. 他的小说里通常有一个很孤单的主人公. 我在苏格兰的时候没有这样的感觉,可是来中国以后有时候也会感到孤单.深圳的人口比苏格兰的多,可是因为我大部分的人不认识, 所以一个人有一点孤单.

在村上春树的文章里,他说他想过比较简单的生活. 他觉得经营自己的酒吧辛苦得不得了.如果他要好好儿地写小说,他需要改变生活方式. 我同意他的看法.我也觉得早睡早起是最健康的生活方式.在我外婆外公的年代, 这样的生活方式是非常常见的. 在那个时代, 大家都很长寿. 现在在城市里,我们好像变成动物园里的动物. 我们走路的时候对别人没有礼貌, 只管自己的生活. 这样的做法让我们的世界变得很糟糕. 我希望我们都可以回归我们祖先那种自然的生活方式, 然后慢慢地改掉我们的坏习惯.

除了这个问题,村上春树也觉得我们的教育体系应该有所改变. 东亚的教育体系跟苏格兰的差别很大. 在苏格兰,我们到十六岁的时候可以选自己喜欢的课.这样开明的教育体系让我们国家的年轻人很满意.如果我们不喜欢数学,或是觉得自己没有数学细胞,我们可以选别的比较适合的课.我们不需要忍受讨厌的课. 我知道我很幸运.从年轻的时候我开始独立的生活. 这样自由的教育体系让我们的社会很安定. 我们会追求理想的工作,理想的生活. 我们有想做的事情就可以去做. 有的人很早就开始计划他们的将来.

我常想象有一天我也可以当一名成功的小说家, 跟村上春树一样. 这只是梦想而已, 我真的是一个梦想家. 村上春树是我的偶象. 他的小说情节都很神奇, 还有现实的描述. 在小说里, 这两个要素是最令人兴奋的组合. 村上春树写的小说非常美丽.

我好期待去香港买他最新的一本书. 我等了很久, 真等不及早一点开始读. 我也等不及存钱以后开始过自由的生活. 我打算回苏格兰,住在乡下的小村舍. 我每天听到鸟唱歌的时候起床, 天色变暗了就准备睡. 这样会让我觉得很安宁.

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You’re never too old for an adventure

As we sipped on our freshly-brewed Lijiang tea, our thoughts drifted to what we were about to embark on. Mama Naxi glided across and presented us with our lucky rainbow woven necklaces for the trip. We accepted with a nervous smile as we gazed out at the remnants from last night’s torrential downpour. We hesitated. What if we slipped off the edge, washed along in the muddy flow, never to be seen again?! That sinking feeling started to dance down our bodies and none of us seemed in any rush to finish our hearty breakfasts.

I decided to eat my banana now. No point in waiting for a trek that might not occur. As I began to peel, we all stared in the same direction, surprise quickly becoming the feeling of the moment. That old lady from the bus to Dali was sat behind us, nibbling on some pancakes as she typed away like some secretarial whizz-kid from days gone by. What was she doing here and who was she emailing? Curiosity got the better of us. I casually strode across the room to take a glance.

From the moment we boarded the bus in Kunming- three foreign girls on a bus to somewhere mysterious- the last thing we were expecting to see was an old white lady of around 90 years old, traveling solo in south-west rural China. She was sat on the front sea, a book in her hands and a look of familiarity in her innocent eyes. Either she’d been here before or she was no stranger to that little thing called courage. I’d say both.

When we reached Dali four hours later, we watched as she navigated the streets like a pro, hopping into a tuk-tuk with an air of elegance. All we could do was laugh as we clambered into a taxi, no idea where we were headed.

The next day we were sat in a cafe indulging in a spot of ‘literacy hour’ when she strolled by. We gave her a smile and she carried on her merry way. Who was this lady?!

Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised to find her at Mama Naxi’s Hostel in Lijiang, the starting point for the epic Tiger-Leaping Gorge trek. Eyes glued to her neatly-brushed hair, we were mesmerised as she wandered up to Mama Naxi and asked when the next bus to Tiger-Leaping Gorge would be departing. Here we were- three fit young 24 year olds- debating whether we could undertake a two day trek along one of the highest gorges in the world after an abundance of rain, and the old mysterious traveling lady was headed in exactly that direction.

Let me tell you, when you experience something like this, you throw all fear out the window immediately. If a 90 year old lady can do this, we’re darn well going to do it too! And we did! I gobbled that banana, downed my tea, straightened out my sparkly dress and prepared to dominate that gorge like a leaping tiger.

While waiting for the bus we were more than enthused to have a chance to talk to the old lady. Her name was Connie and she was from Connecticut, USA. She was indeed close to 90 years of age and was traveling around China all by herself for the third time in her life. I have never met someone so fascinating in terms of worldly-travel as I did on that rainy day in the labyrinth that is Lijiang, China.

Connie was on her way to Bali, Indonesia to enjoy her last days on this beautiful earth. She had chosen one of her favourite places to spend her remaining time and hoped to write a book before that moment arrived. She had been everywhere! I’ll never forget her animatedly telling us about learning to type in Afghanistan in the 1950s where she worked as a typist. I was astounded! She had sadly lost her husband a few years before but refused to let their shared passion for travel dwindle, and so there she was, sat in a damp hostel in the centre of Yunnan province in China all.by.herself.

She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t lonely; she was a pro at this and she loved every moment. During our conversation of her many trips to Africa, specifically South Africa (the country my friends and I had all met in), she reached into her black canvas bag and pulled out a worn box of coffee. She might be a spontaneous, world traveller but there’s no country she traverses without her trusty coffee beans.

I like that. It brought her aura of amazingness back down to earth a little. To this day, I can’t get her out of the wanderlust section of my brain. And now that I’m reading ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson, it’s becoming even more poignant. I hope that when I’m an old lady I continue to explore and cherish all the beauty and wonder that this world offers.

It really is true…you’re never too old for an adventure.

5d0a589e4f0c11b8178bc3453e2d027aImage sourced from here.

Rereading ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’

Muriel Barbery’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. Back in 2010 when I first read it I remember having a continual smile on my face for the three days or so that it took me to finish it from start to end. That may have had something to do with the fact that one of my best friends lent it to me, and thus it arrived filled with her signature scribblings in the margin and the typical nutella chocolate stain or two. Not only is the story itself bursting full of enlightened thoughts and philosophical characters, the pages too are brimming full of handwritten notes from a friend who floats through life on a very similar wave-length to me.

Now, three years older (and wiser?!), the book reads slightly differently. I can’t help but feel that my positivity is more on par with the characters in the book now, whereas before maybe I didn’t fully understand everything I read. This second time around there are messages shooting out left, right and centre at me and I feel I have to bookmark every page for a later date.

I don’t want to give any of the book away, as the words are such a treat to digest, and I most certainly won’t do them justice; rather, read it for yourself. It’s an easy read, with a very simple plot, and yet the issues brought up in the book are quite complex. Thanks to the whimsical, poetic prose though, it flows very easily and will honestly leave you grinning and feeling lighter, if only due to the dramatic nature of the younger protagonist (but trust me, she’s still a wise one).

I just want to share a few of my favourite snippets from the book and if you like what you read you can go buy yourself a copy and let me know what you think! Maybe we can start a ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ fan group…!

“Tea and manga instead of coffee and newspapers: something elegant and enchanting, instead of adult power-struggles and their sad aggressiveness.”

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Image source: Lovely Elika

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”

“Art is life, playing to other rhythms.”

“This pause in time, within time…When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is possible only with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship…”

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have a few more chapters left…

If you have any book recommendations, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what books are floating your boat right now. Thank you!

Love,

Luna

p.s Apparently there is a movie version?! Has anyone seen it? Is it any good?

The adorable Emma Magenta

Any book that begins with this line- “She became a cartographer of the heart”  with regards to hope and love, has me hooked. Emma Magenta is an Australian writer, illustrator, artist, lovely person, oozing creativity. My friend gave me a copy of her adult picture book- ‘a gorgeous sense of hope’ a couple of years ago at a time when I could definitely have used a little pick-me-up in the love department, and it quickly became one of my favourite little reads. It’s a love fable and it’s adorable…

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I just ordered one of her other books- ‘the peril of magnificent love’ which I’m really excited to read.

I think her drawings and quotes are really cute and can be uplifting, or just extremely hilarious. They are simple and yet, so evocative.

Here a few of my favourites from her Facebook fan page which you should join immediately here and also buy her books on amazon too…

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I’m sorry but aren’t these just amazing?! All of these photos were found on Emma’s Facebook fan page here…join it!

The Gift of Rain

“The most rewarding way to see the place one lives is to show it to a friend. I had taken the beauty of Penang island for granted for a long while now and it was only through acting as Endo-San’s guide that I learned to love my home again with an intensity that surprised and pleased me.”

The Gift of Rain- Tan Twan Eng

I have found this to be so true, not just with regards to my ‘home’ in Scotland, but also to wherever my ‘home’ may be at the time when friends or family visit. Being an enthusiast of most places means I rarely have a day where I’m not in awe at one thing or another in my ‘home’, but sometimes the sparkle can dwindle and all it really takes to relight it is for me to play tour guide, and before I know it I’ll be seeing my ‘home’ through rosier spectacles.

Acting as someone’s tour guide, just as the protagonist in ‘The Gift of Rain’ says, really does make me re-learn and re-discover the beauty in the little things that make my home so special. It really is all right before your eyes and it seems funny that it would take an outsider to reignite your enthusiasm for a place.

If, like me, you were bitten by the travel bug and love nothing more than a little exploring, why not purchase a copy of a travel guide to your OWN country. I just bought Lonely Planet’s guide to Scotland. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more of Taiwan and South Africa than I have my own country, and that’s not cool, especially seeing as Scotland is teeny tiny.

Have you been to Scotland? What was your favourite place? Actually, if you haven’t been, I suggest coming NOW. Like right NOW. Because I don’t know what is happening in the world…I’ve never seen this much sun in my life!! I’m more tanned than when I lived in hot countries (haha) and here the sun only sets at around 10.30pm in summer! What are you waiting for?

Next stop- Loch Ness and The Highlands. I’m not about to take this beautiful homeland for granted because who knows just how soon I’ll be flying East again…

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I love my little home.

Oamul Lu and his world of illustrations and animation

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this magical illustrator/animator from China, but I couldn’t resist sharing his artistic delights with you. His art is inspired by things he encounters in his daily life and he wishes that we can all find our own wonderful life and enjoy ourselves.

I think he’s adorable and I’d be over the moon if I could ever collaborate with him on children’s stories!! You should check out his site here and contact him if you have any ideas.

Here are a few of my favourites…

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bus fall map-of-the-world ROSE1700 ROSE2700 ROSE4700 star 雨水2bf0d44348b0c790b98dfce5384ccdd4 cd3346a16ef1ddbfda4a289d76a03c08All of these images were found here.

Don’t you think this is some of the most imaginative, beautiful work ever?! I love it!

Nine Days

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As a good friend of the real Ti-Anna, from the moment I heard that Hiatt was writing a novel inspired by her real-life story, I couldn’t wait to read it. Yesterday she lent me her copy and I ran home and finished it from front to back in less than 3hours. I couldn’t put it down. I read a lot of books and never once have I finished any of them in one sitting, until now that is.

From the moment the book began, I was enthralled. Hiatt’s writing style is fast-paced and he doesn’t beat around the bush, but this is great because it sweeps the reader along on the adventure, never lingering long enough to lose the intense burst of adrenaline that is catalysed in the reader due to this thrilling story. And for a novel that is covering such serious topics as human rights (or lack of) and human trafficking, Hiatt still manages to create a lighthearted undertone thanks to Ethan’s witty narration and his doting on Ti-Anna.

Hiatt also captures the epitome of both Hong Kong and Hanoi, and as someone who has traveled to both, I felt like I’d just been catapulted straight back into the hustle and bustle of those glittering cities, hanging out alongside Ti-Anna and Ethan as they delved deeper and deeper into the mysterious, and sometimes terrifying adventure that this book encompasses.

Afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not just because I know the real Ti-Anna, but also because this novel is based on a true story. Thus, I can only hope that this book receives the recognition it truly deserves, in return bringing about awareness of the ordeal Ti-Anna’s father is still suffering from. Who knows what might arise from it?

p.s Part 2 anyone? I sure hope so!

I can’t recommend this book enough. You can buy it on Amazon here and read more about my friend Ti-Anna and her father Wang Bingzhang in an article she had published in The Washington Post back in 2009 here. Actually, it was from writing this article that she came to meet Fred Hiatt, which is precisely why we have Nine Days. It’s quite amazing really, you never quite know who’s going to be touched or inspired by your true-life story, or what might spiral from it.

Please also take a moment to sign this petition regarding Ti-Anna’s father’s situation. It’ll just take a second and the more we support this case, the more likely it is that we can make a difference.

Hands down to Ti-Anna for being such a brave individual and not giving up on her quest to help release her father, and in return thank you to Fred Hiatt for writing this book, ensuring that Ti-Anna and her family and friends have international support and strength.

The world needs to know about this atrocious case of taking away one man’s freedom, a man who merely stood up for what he believed in, a man who just wanted the best for his country.

So, read Nine Days. It’s intense, it’s real, but most importantly- it’s one step in the right direction.

stranger than fiction

We live in a tiny world, we really do. I can’t even recall the amount of times I’ve stumbled upon friendly faces in a strange land. Old faces in new places, from days gone by under a different sky. These fateful meetings always take place in real time. I am there and I experience it for what it is, be it coincidence, chance, fate…

But I always thought it’d be pretty cool to find a belonging of someone and to go on an adventure to track them down, just like Amelie. Finding a faded love letter in a peculiar place, or a message in a bottle washed up on the sand; I love stuff like that. But sadly I’ve never had the chance to embark on such an escapade.

However, a few weeks ago I was just about to click ‘delete all’ regarding my inbox ‘trash’, when I thought ah what the heck, I’ll just double check. Then, I found this:

Hi Siobhan:

I recently bought a used book in Hong Kong - ¨The Gourmet¨ by Muriel Barbery.

On p.64 there is a highlighted section sorta about the lost passion of youth. Someone (or yourself) wrote in red pen, ¨Unless, of course, your name is Siobhan Lumsden[smiley thing]¨

Well, that was a fun thing to put in! 

So, I just had to check you out on the net, blah, blah. I am almost 60, and while I would applaud your attitude, I have found it necessary to maintain a deeper sense of cynicism to survive, which, paradoxically, can also preserve certain ideals, etc.

I hope you too can also continue to be yourself when you are 60!

Michael Ranieri

OK, so it’s not the beginning of a love story haha…but I still thought it was pretty freaking cool. And that, that is precisely why I am friends with Tarrah Macdonald- the girl who sent me the book and who ever-so kindly always highlights little sections to grab my attention. This kind of thing reminds me just how awesome our world is. Little encounters like this are so encouraging, and they make me feel less sad about the number of books I give away to second-hand book stores when I pack up ship and set sail for another country. Clearly my books are being bought and cared for and continuing on their journey, all the while allowing 60 year old men to question their cynicism.

And no, I don’t know how this Michael got my email, and I’m going to pretend I’m not creeped out by how exposing the internet can be.

I’m also going to keep being positive, and yes, I probably will still be the same at 60. I highly doubt my personality is going to let cynicism crawl in anytime soon, if ever.

So, next time you’re about to throw that old book away, stop, write your name on the front page, or highlight a section that you identify with and sign your name next to it. Who knows? You might make a new friend!