Two Thousand and Thirteen, farewell.

Dear Two Thousand and Thirteen,

I wish I could say you were a walk in the park that was sprinkled with sweet-smelling blossoms, sunlight peeking through the branches and warming up my freckled skin, or a tall, dark and handsome lover that seduced me under the stars with a picnic of delight, but Two Thousand and Thirteen you were more of a hike in the snow with a sharp wind that tested my balance every time I reached your peaks, dotted with an unstoppable rain without the quirky kisses. You were ready to throw me off course at any given chance, and you did- over and over again.

I’m not defeated that easily though.

I decided to give you one last chance on your last day before Two Thousand and Fourteen came and took over. I climbed one last peak, known to the masses as Ellie Mountain. As I got higher and higher, your sunshine got brighter and brighter and I realised how far I’d come (literally speaking, that was a lot of stairs, and of course, without trying to be clichéd, I have most definitely grown and matured over the past 12 months). I packed my suitcase far too many times this year, said numerous goodbyes- only to return a few months later, got my heart a little broken, repaired said broken heart, spent what seems like the entire year trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, all the while growing more and more positive throughout all of the confusion and haze that seemed to attach itself to me continually.

Sometimes I think I must be crazy to be so content without any kind of master plan, without the stability that we all so badly seem to crave, and yet the minute we do have it we’re ready to throw it all away for some spontaneous adventure. Actually, even if I did seem to fall into a never-ending maze of uncertainty in 2013, I had a darn good time trying to find my way. I wasn’t looking for the exit or entrance or whatever you want to call it; I was just meandering through the twists and turns of everyday life. I let those curve-balls fly smack bang into my little life and then I threw them right back where they came from. I embraced the unknown and I cried a lot, but mostly I laughed and admitted, that, yes, this year I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing, but it’ll figure itself out, it always does. And it did. And now I can look back on what was, yet again, another fantastically, fateful year full of extreme emotions, ridiculously fun adventures, challenges that pushed me to the max and memories spent with friends and family that I will cherish forever.

Life is a pretty funny journey, but I wouldn’t change mine for the world.

Two Thousand and Thirteen, let’s not forget the time we…

*Brought in the new year and ended the old year on the same street in our beloved Taipei with some of the bestest friends from our sweet days spent in Taiwan, whilst watching fireworks in a whole array of colours come flying out of the majestic 101 to shower luck on us for the coming year.

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*Cycled around a bend in South Africa to come face to face with six elegant giraffes.

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*Plucked up the courage to approach Lomography Taiwan about a possible internship all in Chinese!

*Started to dream in Chinese and forgot how to speak English properly…

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*Took an overnight train to Green Island and fell asleep on a harbour wall, awakening to sunrise on our faces.

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*Partied so hard with amazing friends the police had to come and tell us to be quiet…in Taiwan.

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*Dressed up as Minnie Mouse and danced through the streets of Edinburgh.

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*Celebrated my birthday ceilidh-dancing with the most special friends from far-away lands.

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*Spent a day searching for Nessie and faeries with a friend from days gone by.

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*Played Bridesmaid to my best friend and laughed, cried and smiled all day from happiness.

*Frolicked around London town and attended my first, magical bilingual wedding.

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*Road-tripped around Portugal, getting lost in the tiniest, cutest villages with my beautiful, hilarious family.

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*Landed back in Taiwan in the rain and spent a wonderful, strange month job-searching, cycling around mysterious alleyways, and eating some of the most delicious food you could dream of.

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*Put on my brave face and flew to Hong Kong to start an internship with Lomography Asia.

*Hiked, camped and laughed until I ached.

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*Started my Luna’s Letters project. (Stories to follow…).

*Took a little trip down the memory lane of China, and loved it!

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*Manoeuvred the city like a boss, embracing the glittering skyscrapers, the cows on the rolling hills by the sparkling ocean and the new Cantonese tongue.

*Learned a bit more about what I want from life, and what I don’t want. (I’m a simple creature really.)

*Flew back to the beloved Taiwan to spend another Christmas and New Year with some of my favourite people in one of my most favourite places on the planet. (Blog post to follow).

*Realised how cyclical my life is. I even wrote my 2012 round-up post on the exact same day last year…take a peek.

That pretty much sums up this delightful life; the world’s a’turning and so are we, around and around and around. And you know what? I like it like that!

Love,

Luna

To Tainan 台南, love Luna Finula.

Dear Tainan,

Before I had the pleasure of meeting you, I’d heard a lot about you. Don’t worry, all good things. It’s said that if you really want to get a glimpse into traditional life here in Taiwan, then you are the perfect location. Thus, as the train glided into your station, my head was abuzz with images of temples of grandeur and sleepy little back alleys filled with wise old men mixing potions to better mankind. I was not mistaken. Infact, you immediately had me in the palm of your hand. Not in a manipulative way though, I put myself there. You’re just too darn charming.

The way the sky is always blue, with the perfect consistency of cotton clouds. A palm tree is never too far from view even when stuck in one of your little rush-hour jams. I know you’re a city, but I prefer to think of you as a temple town. You certainly have enough of them anyway. I’d be walking down one of your cute alleys and if I wasn’t paying attention, I’d stumble right into a pot of incense at the foot of a temple. I especially like your Confucius Temple. The overall simplicity, and the way the wood is getting old, it creates the right effect. I like the purples and golds that you’ve meshed together. It gives the impression of wisdom, which I think fits nicely. And I appreciate that you haven’t re-coated the paint. I like it in it’s rustic, tarnished entirety.

I could have wandered your streets for days in my pleasantly surprised daze. And because you’re so flat (that’s a compliment), riding a bicycle along your cobbles is a welcomed treat. I cycled all the way to your Anping Tree House. What a marvel! The sun was beginning to set when I arrived, giving the exterior a mystical feel. It felt damp inside, but safe too, if you know what I mean?

I also watched an incredible sunset from your Chikan Towers. This is something everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing. I just perched myself on the balcony of your tower and caught the sun setting behind the tropical trees.

When night fell, I took rest in one of your many accommodating houses. I chose FuQi Hostel and it was a good choice. Perfectly located so that I could walk on foot to your nearby delights.

Oh Tainan, your night markets! It was like another world. A carnival for the senses. Everything was bright and there were thousands of people squeezing past with all kinds of foods that I could never even have dreamed up. I even saw someone chewing on a mosquito skewer!! You sure know how to put on a good show for the party people out there.

I like that most about you. You’re very chilled, but you also have that sneaky, lively side. I can tell that living in your land would be immensely fun! You have two sides, which keeps it interesting.

Your natural temples in all their glory, the way your palms tickle the tops of the chipped wooden roofs, your alleys and the way they wind and surprise every time. From bars with Scottish memorabilia, to magical little cafes, to the narrowest lane my body has ever had to scramble through, to cafes from eras gone by; you’re lovely.

Tainan, please retain your traditional charms, but feel free to continue pursuing your artistic dreams too. I’ll never forget walking down a slightly wonky-looking lane and catching sight of a yellow submarine. Behind this specimen were a group of graffiti doodlers prettifying your dilapidated walls.

I like this mix of old and new, the quirky and culturally-preserved, the art and the religion. It’s as if you threw them all into together, gave them a stir and voila! out popped Tainan and all it’s whimsical charisma!

Keep it kooky Tainan!

Love,

Luna Finula.

To JiJi 集集, love Luna Finula.

Dear JiJi,

Even though I only met you once, I’ve thought about you a lot. I love that to reach your beauty you have to ride a small train past fields of sunflowers and jungles of temples. You don’t bombard with your wonder. You’re subtle and you make people work a little to discover your secrets. And what secrets they are! I had forgotten how content one could feel. The feeling lingered along your dusty tracks long after having departed. I wasn’t scared of you, even when I got lost. At times I felt frustrated because you seem to be very underrated and you deserve a lot more recognition.

When I arrived, you made me feel ever so welcome. I just wandered on in and you didn’t even question my being there. It was as if you’d been expecting me. Your people are also extremely kind. I immediately sought out my ride for the day, in the fashion of a white beauty of a bicycle. She had a perfect basket and quite the melodic bell. A one of a kind. We meshed well together and she was a great companion. She may have had some kind of special power as she led me down roads I might have thought better of. Oh, but what treats I was presented with.

We began our journey downhill. I took control of that one and just let her go. I couldn’t resist. But it soon became apparent that we were lurking in dangerous territory. I’d taken her off the pleasant paths onto the monstrous motorway. Dust and dirt and fumes flew into our view and she made me turn back. We found the most stunning little back road. This was where my heart began to lighten and I stopped to admire your flower fields. Pinks and crimsons and buttercup yellows. Everywhere. And your bluer than blue sky, with palm trees touching the tips of your fluffy clouds. It was calming. You had me under your spell from that moment.

And as the sun got stronger and the sky got bluer, we rode. Along your bridges and banks and brooks, passing curious cafes made out of tree trunks, not quite ready for the visitors to this land. When I became peckish I didn’t know where to turn. I twisted around your small streets and eventually settled on a local-looking joint. I think I chose wisely. Your banana fried-rice was smack-lipingly delicious. I never would have combined those two simple snacks, but you did this so well. It was a meal fit for a king, and it helped carry me further into your jungles.

On I wound, through your tropical forests and along your perfectly created cycle path. Thank you for being so accommodating to the more adventurous of souls. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I found your temples. They were eccentric and dilapidated, but the fact that an earthquake shook them into ruins, somehow made them even more beautiful. They stood wise and proud, and despite being slightly squashed and shattered, they maintained their elegance and I really respect them for that. You have strong soldiers in that little gem of a town of yours. Nothing will crush them completely. It’s admirable. And I can only thank you for being so caring. They may have slipped into the pool of pessimism if you hadn’t been there to give them a little shake and reinforce to them that there are still people out there who want to admire them. They DO have a purpose, just like every other being on this earth.

Ji Ji, you really are a gem. I’m sure you’re only going to keep on flourishing, but please promise me one thing. Please keep that unique feel you’ve got going on. It’s as if, once you step off the train, you pour an aura of calm over your people and allow them to slide on into your jungle at their own free will. No time restraints, no pressure, just a chance to do a bit of exploring, a bit of searching, for whatever it is the hungry traveler is after at the time. Be it banana fried rice, a jungle or two, a temple that’s been through trauma and still stands, or even just a friendly face to chat away the little hours with.

You’re special Ji Ji. I haven’t met many a place like you and I hope you realise how wonderful you are. I hope the sun always shines for you and that you never lose that positive power you emanate from all your exciting edges.

Love always,

Luna Finula.

p.s i really like your love-heart shaped leaves. They charmed me.