Home is everywhere

“Oh hi, we haven’t seen you in a while.”

This was not the greeting I was expecting when I returned to my favourite local beef noodle restaurant in the back alley behind my old apartment in Taipei. Seeing as I hadn’t lived there for three years, I assumed I would be forgotten. Just another foreign face among many. But I was wrong. They hadn’t forgotten me. They smiled at me like I was an old friend and they remembered my precise order. As the old tattooed Taiwanese guy went over to slice some noodles into my bowl, I sat there feeling amazed. Most of the time, nothing changes. We assume because we’ve changed, that everything will have changed. But these people who run successful restaurants, they are still there. And what keeps people coming back is this kind of attitude. He could have just been pretending, but it seemed pretty genuine. It felt good to be ‘home’. And that broth! No one can make beef noodle soup as good as that place. I walked back to the apartment in a state of awe.

My smile remained as I noticed the amount of letters lying in the basket of my bicycle under the stairs. Yes, my bicycle still sits there, waiting for my return one day. She may be covered in rust, with love-heart shaped dust, but she is as loyal as ever. The fact that my old roommate has let it sit there for years, and that no one else has dared throw it out too, makes me feel overjoyed. Returning to Taiwan is really like returning home. The streets still sparkle, still smell of the same deliciousness. The same old men play cards in the park, nestled deep under the trees where squirrels and butterflies frolic by day and bats by night. Everyone in Taiwan looks happy.

Anyway, enough about how much I love Taiwan. That’s not something I need to annoy you all with. I just wanted to write about the feeling of coming home, even if it’s not your ‘actual’ home. I tend to feel that way in a lot of places, especially Scotland and Taiwan, and South Africa of course. But even in places like Luang Prabang too. When I visited there for the first time in February this year, I instantly fell in love. As I walked the streets dotted with monks flitting in and out of temples, I felt like I’d been there before, like I had lived there once upon a time. I didn’t need to use a map. The streets felt familiar, the people like family.

Perhaps it’s a mindset. A way to instantly feel comfortable in a place. Just let it assume the role of ‘home’ and you’re instantly on the path to a wonderful experience. As the saying goes ‘home is where the heart is’. And if we break this down into simple terms, the heart is wherever you are. And thus, everywhere you go is technically ‘home’. I like that. Of course there will be some places that just don’t float your boat, and that’s OK. You don’t need to give your heart to everywhere. But if you feel at ease, please open your heart and accept a place with wide open arms and a curious hunger for everything that place encompasses. Don’t be afraid to let it crawl under your skin, burrowing there forever more. That’s what makes us human. The fact we can let things, people, places affect us. The fact we are able to open ourselves up and say “yes, here I am, here’s my heart, I am vulnerable.” We should want to be moved, want our hearts and our world to be rocked on a daily basis. Why settle for anything less? Find the place, the person, the job, the book…whatever it is that makes you feel at ‘home’, makes your heart feel like it’s right where it’s supposed to be in that moment.

And if you think you haven’t found ‘home’ yet, maybe you just need to open yourself up a bit and start collecting things around you to build your ‘home’ in all its metaphorical glory. Live a life that blows your mind everyday.

Love,

Luna

13062458_10153958169911418_4794728906419436446_n

Taiwan, 我想你

Yesterday I was lying in bed reading and I suddenly got a pang of nostalgia for Taiwan. As I turned the page and tried to focus my mind back onto the words, memories and images of Taipei kept popping into my head. I messaged my old room mate to tell him I missed him and that was when I realised: it was exactly three years ago to the day that I moved to Taiwan. My heart knew. Oh my, how time flies. And yet it’s funny the way my heart still longs for that land like no other. I’m not joking when I say I must have a bit of Taiwan inside me. Surely my great great great grandfather was Taiwanese or something. He had to have been. Is it natural to have such a strong connection with a place that isn’t your home?

Whenever anyone mentions Taiwan, my heart instantly beats faster. I truly love that island. The year that I spent there was one of the most special times in my life. It’s probably the last time I will have been so free. My days were spent cycling on my dusty, pink bicycle, to and from class. My mind was submerged in a world of Chinese characters constantly and I began to struggle to formulate coherent English sentences. I felt so at home and yet so far away too. And the connections I made with people, the friendships, they were real and filled with so much understanding. Not only was my brain undergoing a mental transformation to fill it with as much Chinese as it could possibly fit (occasionally throwing out the odd English word or two that it no longer felt the need for),  my heart was also on a journey too. I was growing, and faster than I could have imagined. There were mornings when I would wake up and panic. I was 25, single and back in university. Then I would get up and remember that I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was exactly where I wanted to be, where I needed to be. There is no way that Taiwan and all its lovely people crept into my life for no reason. I was in my place and it felt more than right.

I miss it so much. I dream of moving back and navigating those old, familiar alleyways on my pink bicycle again, but sometimes it’s not the same when you go backwards. Things change, people move on and part of me really believes that it was that one year in particular in Taiwan that was magical. It was the people I met at that time, the journey we embarked on together that made it so special. There’s only so much hopping back and trying to recreate the good times that you can do before you realise that everything is as it should be. You can go back as much as you want but you can never get those exact same feelings in the exact same place back again. They were unique to the moment, and no moment is ever the same.

Taiwan will always be my magical land. Since that year I have been back three times and all were as enchanting as the first, but they were different. And I accepted that. I know I will live there again one day. I know that deep inside my heart. And it will be a totally new and different experience, and that is OK. As much as I loved my year in Taiwan, I wouldn’t want to try and repeat it anyway. It was perfect in all its highs and lows, and I will forever cherish every single second of it.

Taiwan, I miss you.

Love,

Luna

IMG_20131228_160548

The Art of saying Farewell 再見

Everyone knows, to put it simply, that saying goodbye sucks. After leaving Scotland in 2007 and having lived abroad ever since, it’s suffice to say that I have almost mastered the saddening task of saying farewell. It’s almost not such a big deal anymore. There’s actually a few tricks to make it feel more like a ‘see you in a bit’ kind of goodbye.

Firstly, don’t plan how you’re going to do it. In fact, rather pick an obscure nondescript location, like a bus stop on a bustling street filled with rush-hour traffic, or some back alley with adjoining lanes that you can quickly scamper down to prevent nosy neighbours catching you mid-tear flow. Not so long ago, I embraced my friend in a little lane behind our university, in a crowd of friends, next to a small antique market. As we said goodbye, his bag strap dug into my neck, and before I knew it the hug was over and he was on his way. With a quick glance back, and a smile, I knew I’d see him again soon. I almost always see good friends again. Another occasion that sticks out in my mind was when I left Taipei. It was the hottest day of the summer. The steam was actually rising off the ground, mingling with the dust particles and floating up towards my eyes. I could blame the waterfalls of tears that erupted from my eyes on the dust, but I’d be lying. I was absolutely distraught to be leaving Taiwan and all my amazing friends. I clung onto my friend desperately on the street outside our apartment and I think the taxi driver had to scoop me up and put me inside with a big packet of tissues nestled on my knees. My other friend came along with me and I cried the whole way to the airport. But then suddenly, when the moment actually came to hug her goodbye, we both just burst out laughing and high-five’d each other. I knew I would see her again.

In Chinese goodbye is zai jian 再見 which directly translates as ‘again see/meet’, aka see you again, we will meet soon. This is SO much better than our English ‘GOODBYE’. There is absolutely nothing good about saying bye, nothing at all. And even just a quick, simple ‘bye’ doesn’t work for me. I always say ‘see you soon’, because chances are, I will see you soon. It’s definitely gotten much easier over the years, and it helps if you just don’t think too much when it’s happening. I am prone to overthinking things, and usually in the last few hours leading up to my departure or a friend or family members departure, I will go all quiet and not be able to look anywhere except down at my hands for fear of a sneaky tear or ten hundred that might happen to slip out and roll down my cheek. Whenever I leave my family in Scotland, I usually can’t eat the last meal we share together. I just feel so sad. I’m trying to overcome this, but it’s tough. We have a ‘farewell ritual’ that consists of me giving them each a handwritten letter and the quickest hug and squeeze possible. However, I know that they will never stop waving until I am completely out of sight and through immigration. I squeeze the tears back into my eyes when I walk away from them and when I glance back, there they are, waving and grinning.

I think that’s what we have to start doing. Just make our farewells more casual. No dramatic tears, no airport scenes of falling onto the floor crying. More high fives, more laughter, more sneakily looking back and sticking out your tongue and winking. Life is too short to make a huge deal out of saying goodbye. And as the mighty Chinese would like to remind us, it’s not ‘goodbye’ it’s see you soon. It really is. So now, instead of dwelling on your impending departure or thinking about your departure 5 minutes after you’ve only just arrived (you know you do this), start living in the moment. Enjoy the remaining minutes you have with your loved ones instead of jumping ahead to the moment when you will need to leave them again. But when it is time to leave, laugh with them all the way to immigration or all the way to the train platform. Make it easier for both of you by doing something silly like doing a crazy dance from the window of the train as you glide off into the sunset, or throw them a paper aeroplane letter as you walk through immigration (just don’t get arrested!!). Keep it simple. Saying farewell doesn’t need to be a traumatic experience. And actually, it just means that you can get even more excited for when you next see this person. I might not be a fan of airport departures but I certainly love an airport arrival, and watching other peoples arrivals too. There’s something so romantic about it, even if there is no one there to collect you. I personally like pouncing on whoever is waiting for me. Be it my Dad, my Mum, a lover, my sister, a stranger (no, just kidding with that last one! Again, you don’t want to get arrested!).

Anyway, the point is, don’t over think it. You will see that person again because the Chinese say so, and you don’t argue with the Chinese, OK! Haha. No, but seriously, you don’t. They have 5,000 years of history, people. They know.

And so, on that note, I shall bid you farewell for now my beautiful friends, and to those who live across the oceans, I shall see you soon. 再見!

Love,

Luna

Photo by Gamy Wong

Tales of Taiwan

I really can’t explain how fond I am of Taiwan. I could be walking down the street and hear the word ‘Taiwan’ and my ears instantly perk up and I’ll be left smiling. One day my colleague said “Oh, I loveeee Taiwan” and I looked at him and almost cried because I love Taiwan too and I miss it, I miss it like I miss my home.

That’s why when Christmas came around, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Of course I wanted to go back to my beloved Scotland but I only get a few days off in Hong Kong and so Taiwan was a pretty good alternative.

As the airport bus dashed along the bridge towards the airport, I gazed out at the tranquil beauty around me that occupies the surrounding cityscape of Hong Kong. For the first time I felt an overpowering sense of love for this new city. Sometimes it takes leaving a place for you to realise how much it has grown on you. My friends in Taipei had warned me about the neverending rain, and here I was leaving glowing sunshine. Sigh.

I didn’t really care though. In Taipei you get used to the rain, so much so that my favourite part of Hong Kong came to be on a rainy night because it reminded me of Taipei, haha. I decided to embrace the rain in Taipei. It gave me a chance to really kick back and relax and even though rain isn’t quite snow, it was close enough to conjuring up a real Christmasy atmosphere and so I was just fine with that. My friends were quite surprised at the lack of adventures I was embarking on. To be fair, I did go out everyday and visit new and old places alike, but I also felt pretty content cuddled up on the sofa watching a movie with some of my best friends, chocolate brownie scent filling the air, a pot of mulled wine bubbling on the stove. Afterall, isn’t that what Christmas is about? Relaxing, overeating, spending time with your loved ones and drinking copious amounts of hot, cinnamony wine?!

In-between eating my body weight in brownie, I went to plenty of delicious restaurants to even-out my body weight a bit by indulging in Beijing style roast duck, soup dumplings from Din Tai Fung (YUM!), mango ice, turkey with all the trimmings for days, amongst many other feasts. I also saw the new Woody Allen movie ‘Blue Jasmine’ and a Taiwanese documentary 看見台灣 at the new Eslite Spectrum which I loved!

As soon as the sun came out to play I was on top of Ellie mountain doing a spot of gymnastics, marching along with the marching band at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and basking in the incense and crowds of temple-goers all chanting as one. It was a short trip, but a beautiful one. And there’s something lovely about flying on the 1st of January, as if you’re starting afresh, flying back to a new beginning, high above the clouds with a real sense of hope of what’s to come.

Thank you Taiwan, for once again being so magical! I’ll see you soon I’m sure!

Love,

Luna

IMG_20131226_183121

IMG_20131224_222022 IMG_20131225_000521 IMG_20131225_153847 IMG_20131226_015641 IMG_20131226_015914IMG_20131226_183251 IMG_20131227_154511 IMG_20131227_171031 IMG_20131227_173015 IMG_20131228_160548 IMG_20131228_160646 IMG_20131228_221548 IMG_20131230_112426 IMG_20131230_193039 IMG_20131231_130048IMG_20131231_162307IMG_20131231_161623IMG_20140101_041537

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.

IMG_2254

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

F1180023

*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…

IMG_2264

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

F1070001

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

1011717_10151656732110218_339101273_n

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

IMG_20130616_174349

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

IMG_20130623_222906

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

IMG_20130722_185258

*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.

IMG_20130817_000132

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

IMG_20130823_090313

*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.

IMG_20130905_145814

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

*Hiked, camped and laughed until I ached.

IMG_20131027_172503

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

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

IMG_20131116_183005

*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

A Four Year Friendship with an Angel

It’s funny the way friendships can begin. I still remember it so clearly. It was 2009 and I was doing a 6 month exchange programme at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China. It was my second week in China and everything was overwhelming. I can’t explain what it feels like to be a newbie in China, especially a 22 year old foreign exchange student who has the Chinese vocabulary of a 1 year old and is missing everything that isn’t with her in China, namely her boyfriend and all her friends from Rhodes University. Thus, it was on a hot and humid day in September that I stepped into the lift and tried to wipe away my tears of frustration before I reached the 9th floor and had to explain (yet again) to my Korean roommate why I was crying (again). I didn’t even notice that there was anyone else in the lift with me until a sweet voice appeared out of nowhere…

“Hi, my name’s Angel, I think we have an English Literature class together.”

Out of thin air, what would become my guardian Angel during my time in China, just appeared. And of course her name would be Angel.

We quickly became close friends, and throughout my six months in Guangzhou we embarked on many an adventure together. She took me to Hong Kong when we had our first week off from classes and I experienced the city for the very first time from a local. We traveled across south China on a night train to Yangshuo and spent an amazing week cycling around the countryside with her boyfriend Benson and eating all kinds of delicious food. We spent Christmas eve together in 2009 and I even got the chance to visit her Chinese hometown of Huizhou.

When it came to say goodbye in January 2010 we both cried and had no idea when we’d be able to hang out again. Luckily for us, in August 2010 I decided to move back to China and as soon as I arrived in Hong Kong we went for dumplings and I stayed with her family for a few days.

I didn’t see her again for a while, despite now living very close. Actually it was by sheer coincidence that in May 2011 when I was partying with two of my best friends who were visiting China, that I bumped into her on the street in Hong Kong’s party central. This fateful encounter rekindled our friendship and after that we saw each other every couple of months, either in Hong Kong where she lives or in Shenzhen where I was living at the time.

I moved to Taiwan in August 2012 and during the 9 months that I lived there she came to visit twice and we traveled to many places on that magical island together and had such a ridiculously fun time.

Now I’m living in Hong Kong and as soon as I landed, she picked me up from the bus stop and instantly made me feel at home. It’s so good to live in the same city as her and be able to have dinner together on work nights or have a weekend day out, such as last Sunday’s Clockenflap music festival. Yesterday it was her birthday and I’d like to dedicate this post to our friendship that continues to blossom no matter the distance or years that go by. Tonight we ate dinner at my apartment and it felt so great to have such a close friend who’s seen me grow and go through so many changes over the past four years, and vice versa, actually be living in the same place as me. There’s nothing quite like catching up with an old friend over a cup of green tea and a big bar of chocolate to make you feel at home.

Angel, thank you for being such a loyal, kind, fun-loving friend! I am so grateful to have you in my life and to be able to experience living in the same city as you again! Here’s to many more fun, spontaneous adventures in the future of our friendship! Who know’s where the next step of our journey might take us?!

8433_188355155099_7984755_n Cycling around Yangshuo in China. One of my best memories from my days in China.

10029_173838431417_2931557_n First time in Hong Kong ever!

10836_194664841417_2350931_n In our element. Chilling in rural China.

19948_289129476417_992535_n Making pottery in Angel’s hometown.

19948_289151661417_352473_n Classmates!

19948_289151801417_4633086_nChristmas 2009!

59388_473523221417_6464949_nAt the Big Buddha in Hong Kong, 2010.

249971_10150269512121418_666757_nOur fateful encounter in Lan Kwai Fong, 2011.

309772_10150383436725100_49524793_n Shenzhen, 2011.

417718_10150723664445100_1255001464_nHong Kong Lomography Store, 2012. Funny, that’s where I work now!!

599287_10151016664790100_1624644322_nThe Jezabels concert 2012, just before I left Hong Kong!

430909_10151344904035100_1674095859_n Reunited in Taiwan, Christmas 2012

538620_10151354256885100_516120348_n We are pretty awesome!

543965_10151354237070100_155438151_nGrandpa Rainbow’s Village in Taichung, 2012

282941_10151354251525100_292244586_nStrawberry picking in Taiwan.

602705_10151354269920100_241653260_n Watching the most spectacular sunset above the clouds at Alishan.

1454905_10152024077190100_1480318065_nAnother sunset! This time at Clockenflap music festival in Hong Kong, 2013 (last Sunday).

Wow, talk about a trip down nostalgia lane! Angel and I certainly have some freaking amazing memories, and these are only a handful! Here’s to the memories to come!

A Forgotten Film

Now that I’m working at Lomography again, it would be ridiculous not to make use of the discounted film processing. Last week I realised my Diana Mini had an old film in it from around a year ago. I decided to quickly finish it off at the weekend as I was so curious to see if any of the photos would turn out, seeing as it had been gathering dust on my bookshelf and had been carried halfway around the world and back again. I didn’t even remember that it was actually a black and white film inside. Now that I’ve gotten the photos back, I realised my little film started it’s journey in Taiwan, then went home to Scotland, then back to Taiwan again, then to Hong Kong and finally a little trip to Shenzhen. I think only half of the photos actually turned out, but I’m still quite happy with the ones that made it.

Here are a few snippets of my year spent with some special friends from all around the globe…

R1-00 R1-01 R1-02 R1-04 R1-05 R1-06 R1-07 R1-09 R1-11 R1-13 R1-15 R1-16 R1-19 R1-20 R1-23 R1-24 R1-28

freshly-peeled oranges, Cantonese and a cackle.

Every time I enter the building the fan blows cool, soothing ‘you’re home’ air directly onto my face, tangling my hair and letting it stick to my strawberry lips. As I peel my hair back, the security guard always greets me with a real smile. Sometimes he sings and silently sways along with the drone of the fan. I like him. He’s one of the most down-to-earth souls I’ve met in this new land so far and he keeps me feeling positive.

Actually, all of the security guards in this city seem to be genuinely lovely. In the first building I stayed in they would wave to me morning and night and say ‘hello miss’, ‘goodnight miss’. When I moved to dingier quarters, the security guy smelled like freshly-peeled oranges and he replied to my Mandarin with Cantonese and a cackle. Those were both short, but sweet friendships.

In my office building there are two men. One is very tall and one is very small. They both bid me farewell in unison and we always share a group smile. Their energy levels never dwindle, even under the moonlight, and this is why I have a soft spot for them.

It’s the people in a city that give my life continuity and meaning. I don’t live by the rhythms of the forever-changing cityscapes, the towering skyscrapers that seem to jump out on a daily basis; I live according to the rhythms of people that surround me. I am still fairly new here so I haven’t quite got to grips with it all yet, but there is definitely a string of familiarity in my everyday. Today the lady I buy breakfast from tried to get me to buy a different flavoured bun. Being a creature of habit, this upset me a little. I just want two red bean buns every morning, nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps in Hong Kong people mix things up a bit more. Even my juice lady threw some cabbage into my orange juice last week because she said ‘oh, try something new, girl.’

In Guangzhou I’d ride the metro with the same people everyday and eventually we’d share a ‘good morning smile’ and look out for each other when we were shoved on or off the train by the morning-rush. In Shenzhen, without a doubt, I’d buy a newspaper from the skinny, happy man with funny, quirky teeth, and immediately after I’d go to the next stall for my daily vitamin water. I’d feel bad if I bought from anyone else but that gentle, old man who slightly resembled my Grandad. I became really close to the lady I bought juice from in Shenzhen, so much so that when I left China, she gave me blue roses along with my last juice.

I think it’s important to have some kind of small friendship with the people you see on a daily basis. They are the ones who see you every single day and even though you might regard them as ‘strangers’, actually they are still a part of your life. I shudder at the thought of living in a place where I never learn my neighbours names, or the habits of the old people on the block. I want to be able to greet the security guards by name and ask about their lives. I want to buy my fruit from the same lady everyday and get to know her. Just exchanging coins and a few fake niceties isn’t enough.

In Taiwan I think I befriended everyone. One particular place stands out for me, that of a Taiwanese restaurant in Yong Kang Jie. I would go there quite frequently with my classmates so it was only natural that the waitresses would begin to remember me. Infact, when I went back this Autumn, one of the older ladies who works there ran up to me and told me how much she’d missed me. I was so touched. It’d been three months and with the influx of foreigners who come to Taipei to learn Chinese, I thought surely she’d have forgotten me. Anyway, one day during the Chinese New Year festival, I was eating in that restaurant. I ran down the stairs as I realised I was going to miss my train to the lantern town. I tripped on the bottom step and the heel of my boot went flying off. I wobbled back to a stance and red-faced, made for the door. The kitchen is all open-plan and I was standing right in the middle of it. Suddenly, all the chefs stopped working and came running over. They pulled up a little crooked stool for me and sat me down. They proceeded to pull out their tool-box to try and screw my heel back on. One chef started hammering a gigantic rusty nail into my boot and the other chefs screamed at him. They thought it would go straight through to my foot. Another younger chef whipped out an industrial-sized bottle of super-glue and glued my heel back on. It worked! There were honestly about 8 chefs standing around trying to help. They stopped their work to help me glue my heel back on. Something so small and yet there they were, straight to my rescue. It amazed me.

That’s what I’m talking about here. I want to be friends with these people. If they play a part in my daily life, no matter how small, then they are not strangers. I think that’s one of the keys to maneuvering a big city life. Who knows what kind of memorable friendships might blossom.

I don’t know if any of the people I’ve written about here, or any of the other numerous souls that I think of fondly from time to time, still think of me, or if they even noticed me in the first place, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I am so grateful to them for colouring my life a shade brighter and making my everyday in these cities feel a bit more like ‘home.’

399401_10151076243851418_872405378_n

Abandoned Hopes in the Forest

It was one of those hazy, early mornings. She’d irresponsibly danced until the little hours, despite knowing the following day’s planned adventure. But, the party must go on.

***********************************

They sat on a dusty step in the blinding sun, slipping behind shadows for shade. She nibbled her daily dose of guava fruit, eagerly awaiting the bus’s arrival. The other two approached, bags of food in tow and they set off. The journey was quick and she left her headache in the elongated tunnel.

They hopped into a taxi and much to the driver’s amusement, asked to be dropped in the middle of nowhere. And, we all know that’s how good adventures begin…

IMG_4802

They walked along the deserted path, breathing in the fresh jungle air. That it was going to be a magical day had clearly been established. They curiously wondered as to what the abandoned buildings had once been, and sunshine aside, they scared each other with tales of zombies and ghosts of serenity-seeking tourists from years gone by.

IMG_4806IMG_4809

Are they naked?

IMG_4808Come now, of course not. But they bathed in the river as if they’d never bathed before. The water was the freshest their skin had encountered in quite some time. Flowing straight from the source, they let it wash over them, replenishing any lost minerals from city living. They ate a feast fit for a king, and pondered staying forever, living like original cave men. It felt good to be so close to nature. Did they have to let it go? Must they go back to the hustle and bustle of the city?

IMG_4811The curiosity of such a place took over their imaginations long into the afternoon. Why would this heavenly spot be so empty? They smiled when they realised; this is Taiwan. There are so many secret spots, each unique in it’s own special way. The irony lay in the fact that this had clearly once been a hot spring resort, or a high class hotel of some kind. And yet, now abandonment emanated through the skinny palm trees.

They reveled in it.

IMG_4824As they wandered back to keep their date with the taxi-driver back to the city (in such a land of mystery, to stumble upon a taxi by chance would be quite the miracle), they stopped to take a snoop around the suspicious-looking ruins.

IMG_4828 IMG_4836 IMG_4841 Clearly something friendlier than zombies dominated the area, else why would there by plants of the signature heart-shaped leaves (so commonly found on this glorious island) dotted around?

IMG_4843 Gigantic, empty pools of nothingness sat silently, desperately seeking some form of hydration.

IMG_4846 And yet plants continued to blossom and bloom, sprinkling the scene with a palette of pastels.

IMG_4849 IMG_4853 They did not want to get in the way of this guy, so they swiftly made a snappy getaway. In this land, spiders are not to be messed with.

IMG_4855 They could happily while away their days here with no shortage of peace and quiet, in it’s purest form.

IMG_4858 IMG_4860

Unfortunately, adventures sometimes need to end. Luckily for them, this secret retreat is very easy to reach and so they will most certainly return when the weather is a little warmer, to grace this luscious land with their laughter and stories of jungle zombies again and again.