Kindness, like a second skin

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Today is Nelson Mandela day and when my boyfriend told me about what him and his team are doing today- handing out sandwiches and soup to people in Cape Town- I started thinking what can I do today? 

Something that may help change the world for the better, no matter how small. You never know how your actions are going to affect others, but even something as simple as a smile or a kind word can turn someone’s entire day around. So today I have decided to write from my heart, with the hope that maybe it will inspire just one person or make someone read this post and think “Me too!”

I want to talk about kindness. We can get so caught up in our own lives, obsessing over things that aren’t even really such a big deal, that we can forget to be kind to people, kind to ourselves. We get so wrapped up in our own problems, that we forget the bigger picture. We need to be more kind. Not just to people around us, but also to ourselves, to animals, to the planet we are so lucky to call home.

Start your day with a grateful heart, for being alive and healthy. Whisper something kind to yourself and really mean it. We could all do with being a bit kinder to ourselves. Be thankful that you have a warm bed to get up from, because so many others don’t. When you eat your breakfast and wash with clean water, say thanks. These are privileges that not everyone has access to, and we take them for granted. We do. And that’s not all we take for granted. When was the last time you listened fully to the person speaking to you, the person who has chosen to share their feelings with you? Most of the time we are so preoccupied with our own problems, with staring at our phones and mindlessly scrolling through photos of other people’s lives, we barely even acknowledge that there is someone right there in front of us asking to be listened to. Be kind. Put down your phone when you’re with people. Do you really need to be on Facebook when there are actual humans around you?

It’s scary the way we think we can multitask like this and it’s not on. I am absolutely guilty of this and recently I’ve just been leaving my phone in the other room when I have company. It’s refreshing and rare. Remember the days before phones when we actually had to talk to people in real life about real issues, instead of reading them online? When you are having dinner tonight, whether it’s with your husband or your mum or even if it’s just you, leave your phone in a different room. Be kind to the moment by being in the moment. Look your wife in the eyes and enjoy the sensations and flavours of whatever it is you are blessed enough to be eating. Laugh. Compliment whoever is sitting with you and if you’re sitting by yourself, well then, darn well compliment yourself.  And if possible, choose to be kind to yourself and to the planet by only eating wholesome, plant-based foods.

Being kind and grateful isn’t hard. It’s actually the most simple thing in the world, but sometimes we just forget this. A smile costs nothing. Helping someone in need, whether it be by offering them some positive words when they’re feeling down, or by listening to them and giving them your full attention, will do wonders. We can start small, and eventually, hopefully, kindness will be like a second skin again. Something we’re enveloped in, something that fits as snugly as a favourite outfit, something that feels as good as the first rainfall after a drought of many months. At one point in time, I’m pretty sure we must have all been kind all the time, but somewhere along the way we got side-tracked, lazy, selfish. Well, I’m choosing to keep that second skin of kindness wrapped tightly around me. It feels good.

Today I choose kindness, and from everyday here on out. I choose to celebrate all the kind people in the world, and in doing so, strive to be as kind as them. There is always something more we can do to make the world a better place, but starting with growing kindness in your heart and choosing to wear it proudly every day is a good start. Smile at everyone today, and smile at yourself. It might even freak people out a bit because do strangers even smile at one another in this day and age?

Smile. Who cares if you get wrinkles. The kinder you are, the more your face will be like a map, full of lines connecting you to all the people around you. No-one can resist a bit of kindness. So what are you waiting for? Go be kind. Start with yourself and watch as it spreads. I hear it’s pretty contagious…

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Image by Patrice Murciano

Peel back the Safety Blanket

I could choose to sit back and let these days pass my by, let these thoughts float away to the furthest corners of my brain where they’ll slip away, lost in amongst all the stories I never chose to share over the years, or I could pop this gigantic procrastination bubble that I seem to have found myself enclosed in and get on with doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do but not had time for.

Things like writing this blog, writing my novel, inhaling books, practicing yoga with my stiff but grateful body. But also de-hoarding EVERYTHING in my house, and by house I mean my mum and dad’s house. There’s something about a big life change that just requires you to clear away all your old junk, your old treasures, and get rid of it. I want my life to fit into a few boxes. I know that may seem crazy, but it feels so good. I love minimalism and I’ve embraced it with wide open arms these last few months. When I packed up my life in China (oh yeah, I left China after 7 years…more on that later), I donated everything except two suitcases of clothes and old journals and some other random bits and bobs that make me smile. I donated ALL MY BOOKS. Guys, that is huge. I love reading and books are basically my babies and I gave them all away. Then I got home to Scotland and gave all my books away here too…I think they totaled more than 200. When I was struggling to do this, my boyfriend reminded me that if I just leave them to get all dusty on my bookshelves, they’ll feel upset and unloved. Well, that was enough motivation for me to send them off to new, loving homes. I hope everyone who has my books are getting as much joy from them as I did.

It’s amazing how much stuff we hold on to. It also makes me so much more aware now when I feel I want to buy something new. Do I actually need this thing? Or do I just want it because I’m feeling low and a new dress will make me happy for a day or two? I want to consume less, own less. I only want to buy things that I need and that are good quality and preferably locally made or sourced. The book addiction, however, isn’t going anywhere, so I will just need to join the library in Cape Town.

That’s right. I have moved to Cape Town! Back to Cape Town. And yet it feels like a brand new adventure, I guess because that’s exactly what it is. I quit my full-time job as a voice actor in China, gave away all my books, said farewell to Asia and headed back to South Africa. Why on earth would I do that, right?! Just kidding. Hi Dane!

I did it because why not? Because sometimes even when you love your current life, there is still something more out there. Because being too comfortable isn’t a good thing. Because change is something we need to strive for more. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, peel back our safety blankets and take a leap into the unknown. Or known. But a new known. Life can sometimes whirl us back around to the beginning, back to where we started, but in doing so, give us a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes to view this place all over again. The circle of life. If you delve a little deeper, this is what it all comes back to. Around and around we go, learning lessons, coming back to the beginning a little wiser, a little more disheveled, but ready for more.

My life has brought me back to South Africa and I cannot complain one bit. It must be where I’m meant to be right now. I’m just going with the flow. The Universe, my heart, my gut, they were all pushing me in this direction and even though it took me a little while, I managed to slip out of China’s fierce but loving claws, for the time being, and skip ahead to the next chapter of my life. And it feels good. I was terrified at first. No-one telling me what time to wake up at, what time to clock in to work at, no job to go to actually, but slowly things are taking shape and I’m beginning to take control of my own life, my own time, and isn’t that just the most empowering and simultaneously nerve-wracking thing? My Chinese safety blanket has been removed and it’s all up to me now.

Where to from here? Well, hopefully more writing, more creativity, more control…of my time, my days, my every little moment. I feel positive that this can only be a good thing. Time is precious. How are you spending your time today?

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Photo by Anthony Pontillas

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

Jane Sews

Instagram can be quite a wonderful thing; for example, stumbling across some of the most beautifully-crafted sandals I have ever seen in my life. Jane Sews is a Durban-based label in South Africa that focuses on embracing everything artisan. From just a quick glimpse lingering gaze, I could see that Amy from Jane Sews really focuses on the finest of construction to ensure good quality that you can play and frolic in for years to come. And thanks to the wonderful timelessness of Jane Sew’s items, you can be sure to be right on trend for a long while yet.

I love the way Jane Sews has a vintage, eclectic feel, but at the same time keeps it simple and feminine. The online shop adds to this flowing femininity that each of the Jane Sew’s items epitomises.

Seeing as it’s turning into Spring in South Africa, Jane Sews has recently released their Spring/Summer collection for 2013. Here are a few peeks at their latest look book…

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Do you see what I mean?! Such whimsically classic pieces, with a clean, simplistic feel- perfect for picnicing amongst the freshly-bloomed flowers of Spring. Or, if you’re up in the Northern Hemisphere- don’t fret- you too, can also purchase these gorgeous pieces through their international shipping. You might have to wait until Spring 2014 to wear one of these lovelies, but at least that’ll give you something to look forward to during those long, winter days. Personally though, I’d just throw on a pair of thick, wooly tights and team one of these dresses with a long knitted cardigan and…Voilá!

I do believe even these sandals could be teamed with thick tights and still look amazing…

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This is the Mila sandal and isn’t she just beautiful? They’re handmade from leather, and even lined in leather! And that little buckle there, that’s an antique! You can even choose between the colour block style or the natural style; I want both! And at R699 (around 55pounds), they’re a great investment.

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They also have the Margo sandal- hello peep toe! These are perfect for summer and they would go with anything. I love the rich-chocolate colour and I’m already imagining what colour nail polish they’d look pretty with.

Good, strong footwear is so important. I can’t be doing with buying a new pair of sandals every few months. I want something that will last and never dwindle to the bottom of the fashion pile. I think we all know that Jane Sew’s new sandal collection is going to be whipped off the shelves in no time. Be sure to go here and pre-order your pair today. They will start shipping from the 15th of September and I’m guessing they’ll be pretty busy!

Visit Jane Sew’s website and online shop here to view the rest of the beautiful collection, and why not become a fan on their Facebook page so you can keep up to date with all the goings on in the Jane Sews world.

Ubuntu Bikes

A good bicycle is essential. A good, PRETTY bicycle is even better. A good, PRETTY, custom, chic, hand-crafted, unique, supporting-charity-and-artists-and-community bicycle is the best. Allow me to present Ubuntu Bikes, a company and community of artists based in Cape Town, South Africa, who love bicycles and people and making these people happy with the prettiest bicycles ever!

Firstly, ‘ubuntu’- what does it mean? In South Africa it is used all the time and it’s beautiful. It’s a Xhosa (studied the language for a year in university, yay) word and literally it means ‘humanity’ but seeing as it’s a little more complicated than that, let’s let Nelson Mandela define it a little more-

“A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”

Thus, I think the name of this company is very well suited, don’t you? Seeing as 20% of what you pay goes to the Ubuntu Trust, and well bicycles being good for the environment and what not- that does your bit for the community and the world, and you’re also supporting a bunch of artists and bicycle people by buying one. You get a totally unique design that will showcase the artist’s work wherever your pedals take you, and so you see, it’s all about community spirit and supporting one another, and personally I think that is very cool. I want an Ubuntu bike.

You can take a look at their bikes on the site here and either order now, or make your own design by contacting the artist and working alongside them to make your unique, pretty bicycle dream come true, yay!

I am in LOVE with this one…

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 Bo-Kaap Bike

(The Bo-Kaap is a crazy, cool, colourful part of Cape Town, although it has a very sad history as it was a slave township. The colourful houses are the only freedom of expression and individuality that the people living there were permitted.)

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Free as a Bird Bike

(A bike with birds painted on, um, yes please!!)

You can also buy accessories on their site, such as this perfect little basket…

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Unfortunately, the Free as a Bird bicycle has been sold, but luckily for meeee (I wish!) the Bo Kaap Bike is still available. I’m quite sure they also deliver overseas, so if you fancy treating yourself to a beautiful bicycle, head on over here and check out their epic designs.

All of the above photos were found on their site.

An Encounter with Elegance

The sky hangs low. Clouds align themselves just above the treetops, urging us to pedal faster. They seem to be in tune with the vulnerable clock of the day, trying their best to linger a little longer, but simultaneously brewing the inevitable- yet another farewell.

We ride on, rich rusty earth flirting with the wheel, flurrying in every direction, swirling up further as we bounce between the rocks and trunks. I grip tighter, welcoming a painful array of blisters. We pedal faster, rounding the corner of a steep enclave, determined to find some kind of opening.

With every turn of the wheel, I can’t shake the thought of my impending departure. I stop. Nestling myself amongst the long grass, I try to let it seep away.

Camouflaged against a nearby tree, she catches me off guard. She appears as if from nowhere, and in her quest to get a better understanding of us, twists her neck over a branch, her lashes tickling a patch of leaves with their incredible length

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I expect trepidation, but find curiosity. She takes a few delicate steps forward as I pick myself up and brush away the haze. I blink. Five more appear on the horizon. They drift through the grass, forming a gentle barrier.

They stand and watch us. We watch them back. The clouds sweep by, revealing undertones of composure. We are still, enveloped by their presence, not daring to move for fear of ruining this fleeting encounter.

The most majestic of the six cranes his neck towards us, penetrating our present state of wonderment. We shuffle back, a tingle of realisation flooding to the surface- this could be it for now. We keep our eyes locked, confirming our acknowledgment of the situation, a situation that is so seldom celebrated. It appears we are experiencing something out of the ordinary. I try to grasp it.

But it slides out as quickly as it had sailed in. We pick up our red-stained bikes; they glide back to revel in the new warmth of the day. We notice one remaining. He is standing guard as if he knows something we don’t. We get closer, inching towards him with a hint of regard.

I feel distracted. The blisters prickle my palms, and the red earth that was once a sticky paste, congealed in the spokes of my bike, flakes away. I try to focus on what lies ahead. There is a look of endurance in his eyes. I, too, want to master this art of patience that he so perfectly embodies. As I ponder this, he turns and floats off to the others, already halfway down the hill. He leaves our path wide open.

LolaAndCash- i left my heart in South Africa

i have a bit of a problem. you see, back in 2007, i left a country and forgot to take my heart with me. let’s be honest, it was inevitable. have you been to South Africa? if you still have your heart inside your chest then probably not. don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. infact, it’s pretty fun. it means i have to go back often to ensure that my heart’s doing OK. actually, it’s doing great thanks. however, there’s another small issue. i like living in different places. right now my heart is chilling in 4 different countries (or 3 depending on your political outlook) and i’m wondering how i can make it 1 heart again? where do i choose? is it OK to leave little parts of yourself dotted around the globe? my 4 countries are so fun and each offers a different, but amazing lifestyle. i’m hanging out with my South African heart section right now and i stumbled upon this gem…

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it seems pretty fitting really. i found it here on LolaAndCash’s etsy store. the jewelry is designed and made by Vikki, a Cape Town based creator. her designs are all handmade quirks and capture my favourite parts of this country. i really want the necklace above as well as some of the following…

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you can also request a custom-made item. great for gifts or as a little treat for yourself. LolaAndCash you are awesome!

i also stumbled upon these gems for my other country loves from this etsy-store. truche is a Chicago-based designer and from the look of her store, she can customise any country with a little cut-out heart. so, i guess it doesn’t really matter if i happen to leave my heart all over the world. if i wear one of these necklaces i can always carry it with me. yup. i’m going to look so cool wearing 4 necklaces…

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my home- Scotland, and then my little sweet potato- Taiwan. funnily enough i haven’t yet found a China one…interesting.

2012 and the livin’ is easy

Here I am, on the first week of the new year, wondering how on earth 2013 crept upon us so fast? Why, it was only just yesterday that I was watching my lantern lingering mid-wind, ready to be carried into 2012 high above the dusky tree-tops of my little town. And yet, all of a sudden I find myself sat upon a sofa in Taipei.

Last year could most certainly be summarised as chasing the kaleidoscope dream (to quote The Jezabels). Let me share a special snippet from each month. It was truly a magical year…

January

Standing with my family in the dark, packing my case by candlelight, three of the four roads out of my village blocked by trees from the storm. The Jezabels, The Naked and the Famous and Metronomy live in Hong Kong. Performing as Mulan (in Chinese) in front of thousands, adventures to far-away lands filled with numbing spices and the cutest pandas and a wedding of wonder in a village frozen in time.

 

February 

Getting lost on a boat to Macau, the scent of incense and freshly-baked bread, cafes of cushions in Hong Kong, spending everyday with my amazing friend, bluebell and burnt paws, KTV and sushi, lazy days in Shenzhen.

 

March

From the world of Animation to Chinese class to days curled up in cafes with my nose buried in Taiwan travel books, I prepared for my big trip. The last day of this peaceful month was a new beginning…

 

April

Taiwan. Creativity at it’s core. From art districts in Taipei to music festivals at the most southernly point to sleeping in a forest and showering in nature. Taiwan was magical, and little did I know at this point (OK, I totally knew) that later in the year it would become my new home. April went fast. A delve into the past. And then I danced along the Great Wall with my family, and dragged them from temple to palace to dumpling house and back again. It was bliss.

May

Scary decisions were made. Farewells were bade. Tickets were booked. An incredible chapter neared the end, ready to give way to beautiful new challenges. Transitions can be very unsettling. This was a friend month. And it made it more calming. Bluebell was passed on.

 

June

You wake up one day and realise you’re leaving and the feelings are so mixed. But, you made the decision, so push through it, embrace it. Everything happens for a reason. I packed up my glass pod, said goodbye to my cartoon characters and unbelievably special friends, colleagues and random people who made my everyday in Shenzhen. To this day, I still miss my vitamin water man, the lady who sold me potatoes, the smiling man I bought my newspaper from everyday, my yoga instructor…and the list goes on. A dusty sunrise in Shenzhen gave way to Thailand. Best friends, isolated islands, cocktails, sun, too much sun, chats and laughing and tears, adventure. The Jezabels again in Hong Kong. An incredibly fateful second last day, and a birthday that won’t be forgotten. Jumping in the pool during a storm, with 4 hours to go before a flight to South Africa…

South Africa. Sigh. Friends and Love and Rhodes and reunions and Paradise and road tripping and…

 

July

As a perfect journey in South Africa came to a finale, I landed in the arms of my best friends in London. Onward to Cornwall, and upward to Devon for the wedding of the year. The epitome of beauty. A 10 hour train ride to the homeland, welcomed home by a serendipitous sunset over the Forth. Hugs and family and fields of emerald dotted with red. Strawberries and ice-cream everyday. A vintage Raleigh, my most devoted side-kick. Lazing and reading and pondering.

 

August

Scottish road trips and lochs and castles. TAIWAN. Hello new life, new land, new world, old friends and new. Enter Lulubelle.

 

September

Thrown into a Chinese world. Goodbye English. Cafes and cats and hot springs and fortune-telling old men, splattered with a sprinkling of love-heart shaped leaves.

 

October

Bumping into old faces in new places. Going into Space for one night, a rainbow land for one day.

 

November

Beaches and Braai’s and Buddhas. In forests. Up high. And down. And onward to eat banana rice in the Jungle, on a small small train. Whizzing down through the island to stay with Monks and to faint in their temple. To ride a scooter for the first time around a quirky island. Art districts and temple towns and adventuring.

 

Decemeber

Christmas without snow, but with friends and sunshine and blue skies. A new semester, a shitload of new Chinese. English gradually getting worse…uh oh. Engagements and celebrations and a new year on the horizon. A friend from afar, but not too far, and a sunset above the clouds. No sunrise, just rain. But Norah Jones ‘sunrise’ will suffice. Tea and buses and trains and chocolate and fireworks and a new year…

Happy New Year! 新年快樂!