Hello, Harbin..

After a year of plotting and pondering, I am finally in China. Harbin, to be exact. Leaving Durban was a bittersweet moment – you know, knowing that you finally did it. But, leaving the people you love behind. It doesn’t make it easier that I am not quite a fan of flying. I often choose the window seat closest to the emergency exit. Then, I drink at least 3 glasses of red wine to help me sleep. It was comforting to sit next to another cryer (she was leaving her husband and daughter to teach in Dubai) so both of us had our tissues in hand as we took off.

I was a little silly to buy the cheapest ticket to Harbin; it was the longest 3 days yet. Arriving in Beijing was madness – that’s when the culture shock started. No queues. There were thousands of people at the airport yet it was way after 23:00. Then getting the taxi was even more daunting. I had the address written on my phone in characters yet no one wanted to take me to my hotel (I needed to rest on a bed and shower as I had a 9 hour lay over). It was time to use some Bing Translate. I asked a young gentleman to help me get a taxi to the hotel. To find that the reason why the drivers would not take me: the hotel was too close. Eventually, I made it. And, passed out straight after a much needed shower.

I went in to a restaurant at the Beijing Airport and asked for breakfast. I got noodles with an egg. Even though I asked for a vegetarian option, I still got a chunk of something meaty. I took the China Southern Airline to Harbin which was small and rattle-y. Thank goodness, I was so tired that I passed out. The food: a dry bread roll and milk and one dried prune. I am not even joking. As the pilot announced that we are descending in to Harbin, I looked out the window. Beautifully green.

Two hours later: what a warm welcome. Theo and Sara were waiting at the arrivals gate with huge smiles and somewhat, sighs of relief. With the stares and at times, the outright racism, I am glad I have come here for an adventure.

I have finally sorted my VPN and internet connection so I can write regularly.

With love,

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Road trip to Bush Fire..

What a magical weekend.

Right, let us get the background first. I have been interested in attending the MTN Bush Fire Festival for the last three years. It seemed so worldly and care-free. But, I could never really afford it – very common issue, I’d say. This year (27-29 May 2016), the universe was on my side. In the shape of a very kind and fun soul, of course.

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This meant, R-O-A-D-T-R-I-P!! It is a little odd but I take them seriously. Snacks, a BOX of CDs to suit every mood, checking and double checking documents, more snacks and an endless amount of water. Also, a really annoying sing-a-long happy-go-lucky voice. I must sound like Donkey from Shrek. Oef…

After over six hours, buying an assortment of alcopops and getting a new stamp on my very bare passport, we were ready to set up camp in Mahlanya Market, Malkerns, Swaziland!

We arrived quite late in the evening but I had a smooth gin and tonic sippy cup to keep me warm in the long queue of campers. The music was pumping and boy, we were getting super excited to get in to it all.

The entire set up was absolutely phenomenal. Africa, you beaut! If you had to walk around the camp blindfolded, you would have no idea where you were – the languages, accent, diverse music! This is where my heart belongs.

Saturday morning. The one thing I never miss about festivals is the shower queue. After standing in a snaking queue to jump in to a cold shower but what’s worse is the cold water running out then having to dry your soapy body with a dry towel. Half loaf is better than no loaf, they say. Half clean and ready to eat, drink and dance through the festival.

 

A beautiful atmosphere, incredible talent and one of the best that I have attended with the absolute gem company.

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The image that captures the weekend: fun, colourful and just dance
Warmth fills my soul when I think about this amazing weekend.

With happiness & love,

x

In the Woods Somewhere..

Today is one of those days when all I want is to hide away in the woods…somewhere. I need an escape from the chase, or lack thereof. It is probably time to take a step back and really look in to what I really want to do.

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I may be having an existential crisis (read: quarter-life crisis). My mind is always doing back-flips and somersaults, nothing is constant up there. Which is a great thing, obviously. But, frustrating at the same time. You know.

I am hoping the universe helps me out along side the long pros and cons tables, early mornings and late nights. Somethings gotta give, right?

I will be standing at this crossroad for some time – it’s all up to me.

No pressure.

With love & confusion,

xcave

My Mantra..

Spicy chai tea. Headphones in with shanti mantras calming me down as I attempt a stroll through the tornado – my mind.

It is insane to think that last night, I had so much to say. The words in my mind kept me up and woke me up in the wee hours. Settle.

I saw someone after almost two years. Startled is an understatement.

“Why are you here? This is my city!” shouting in my head last night. The eye contact I was not expecting shook me. However, it is alright now. You can stay. I mean, not that anybody needs my permission.

Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

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I joined my yoga instructor and a new friend at the morning I Heart Market today. They make amazing mocktails from fresh coconut water and pineapple or orange juice. So many laughs and genuine happiness just by being with the right, positive people.

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Let’s continue this journey with some zest, shall we?

With love,

x

 

Walk-Abouts: Second Hand Markets and Galata Tower

The thing about travelling alone is that you won’t be in any of your photos unless you take silly selfies. I had to just get over the loathing of this silly trend!

The first proper day in Osmanbey/Taksim. I decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood. On my way to Taksim Square, I saw a random street market. It happened to be a second hand market! My favourite kind of shopping!

IMG_0930Unfortunately, my experience turned awkward when I realised that I was being followed. Oh, this ended up being a first of many. A local guy, started to speak to me in Turkish and I told him that I really do not understand. I just know the basics to get around. He still followed me and, in not so many words but mostly pointing, asked if I wanted to go to his house with him. He was persistent so I pretended that I was getting a taxi and he left. I continued to walk to Taksim. A little confused. I was again followed when I was on Istiklal Caddesi by a man that pretended to be talking on the phone. I have never encountered this before and it was a real shock. I have spoken to some local friends about it and I understand why this has been happening. It is rude and degrading in every possible way.

IMG_0929You will find freshly squeezed orange juice at some local markets. It is so good and refreshing. I have found that the Turkish lifestyle revolves around food and drink (mostly cay or coffee). This means that you will find street food wherever you go.

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IMG_0957You would never think that there is a Catholic Church right in the centre of the busy Istiklal street. It is absolutely stunning.

From walking around so much in the heat, i took a little rest outside the Galata Tower. The evenings around the Galata Tower are bustling with young people drinking beer. It is cheaper to buy beers at the supermarket than to drink at a bar. Seriously, alcohol is so expensive here. I don’t think one could afford to become an alcoholic. I surely have been drinking far less than I would be in Durban.

IMG_0976IMG_0980Just like the street food vendors, the buskers are everywhere and be sure to support them. I have seen great acts as I have been exploring the city.

IMG_0961β€œTo awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

I love being here.

With Love, x

Good Samaritan Saturday..

Well, my mother is. I tagged along to help her out. On the 16 May, my mother had her little tea garden stall at a local Flea Market. This was not just any flea market. She was taking part to raise funds for Ningizimu Special School.

Ningizimu is a school for children, up to the age of 18, with special needs. They range from Autistic children with learning disabilities, happy little girls with Down Syndrome, positive kids in wheelchairs. They are all happy, lively young people with a positive outlook! As you may have guessed, this is not a mainstream grade school; however, they learn a range of skills from playing the Marimba and being a part of a steel drum band, pottery classes, sewing & upcycling classes.

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My nephew, the little Picasso that he is, decided to draw me a picture of a…Rhino! Haha! Can you see the horn?! This is adorable. He was extremely proud of it and I could not take it away from him!

I found these amazing upcycled bags made by the learners. These bags could last a lifetime! Why? They are made of old Tyre tubes. Yup! This is thinking out of the box! I am now a proud owner!

The Up-cycled Bags!
The Up-cycled Bags!
I am the Proud Owner of this Bag! :)
I am the Proud Owner of this Bag! πŸ™‚

We were also entertained by a rather impressive marimba band. The students, of course!

What a beautiful Saturday! Well spent. Worth waking up early to set up. We raised some funds for the school! Waahaay!

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Success! We are happy chappies!

So, from now on, I refuse to say, “I can’t…”

Loads of Happy Hearts and Smiles.

With Love,

x

PS: My mother is a teacher at Ningizimu Special School.Β 

PPS: I bought something else for myself. An old, old suitcase. Then, look inside, to see the label. It used to belong to a friend’s family. To his grandfather, to be precise! Small world!

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Autumn Hike in Injisuthi, Drakensberg..

I can use my limbs again!

Also, what I did not know was that you find little boys shouting out “SWEETS” when you drive past. Apparently, it is quite common in the more rural townships. We had about four boys herding some livestock shouting out for these sweets. We had to stop and wait for the cows to move out of the way. During this time, we had these little 8 year old boys almost climbing in to the car demanding sweets or money to buy said sweets. A friend had an apple to give one of the boys. They can get quite aggressive but at the time, it was hilarious! Little boys having fun.

Woah! Breathtaking experience that I will, I dare say, do it all over and over again!

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I organised this hike to Injisuthi, Drakensberg thinking that it would be a walk in the park. Just a walk to a cave, casually, you know. Little did I know that this trek would take 7 hours just to get there! I may have said some prayers and curses in the last hour as it was dark, I was not feeling too well (altitude, lack of food, exhaustion, hot & cold) and I couldn’t figure out why we could not find this darn cave!

We arrived at the Marble Bath cave SEVEN MINUTES before the heavens opened and it poured. It was so cosy, and absolutely breath-taking! We were completely sheltered from the thunderstorm and fell asleep like a baby with the sounds of rain, wind, river streaming and thunder as my lullaby.

Oh, I was the leader and map master! Ahem…

Here are the photos of this glorious, majestic and well-worth it hike! (Clearly I have not had enough, I am planning a four day hike as we speak…)

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Thank you, Nature! You are one helluva a stunner!

With Love,

x

PS: That water (Marble Baths) was delicious!

Day 248..

After counting down the minutes and seconds at work, we had mini celebratory drinks. Celebratory and venting drinks, more like. Long week at work, and it’s a Friday! Always seem so unreal, you know, the 17:00 mark on a Friday.

A colleague, and now new friend, Jen and I went for two drinks (and a shooter). It was supposed to be one drink. Awful being the designated driver. All the time. I wish I had a driver. Or, money for a cab every time I want to head out. Drop Kick Murphey’s on Florida Road is always such a good vibe.

Sounds odd but it was great to have girly advice and venting time. Give insecurities the boot and live life as it comes; enjoy it, savour every moment and show the ones you care about exactly how you feel. No what-ifs. Noted. Many may have the same problem as I. Opening up seems a great deal. So, from this day on, I am going to be more open to the ones I like, love and care about. As Jen said that the worst thing to do is unintentionally push friends and family away because of your unconscious actions. Oef!

What you see

Because, it is a beautiful life..
Because, it is a beautiful life..

Don’t hold back.

 

Love & Light,

x

Breaking the Silence..Day 239

I have had this urge to whip out a pen and a notepad for weeks now. I just have not gotten around to it. Or, the right frame of mind to jot down my thoughts. A lot has happened. Changed. Seems to be alright. Still not in the right frame of mind. As though I’m holding something back. You know, when you’re too afraid of your own emotions. That if you get a pen and paper to start writing, you’ll first smile then just cry. The insecurities, uncertainties; the two voices in my head. Something is missing. Freedom. That’s it. Freedom.

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So, here I am. Sitting in this office that I cannot wait to get away from. I knew before I even started this 8 to 5 shindig that it was not for me. But, it’s something that everyone goes through. Okay, not everyone.

It is a perfect time to make some exciting changes. Some people come into your life to shake you up a little. I may have shared this before but I did see some sense in this passage written by Elizabeth Gilbert:

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…”

No, I may have not found my soul mate. I think this applies to friends or people you meet along this undulating journey.

Love & Light

X