“Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon and the truth.”

– Buddha

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Cheerleader

I’ve had such a glorious few days…

The gang rented mopeds and we rode from Hue to Hoi An. It took a full day which included a lot of unwanted activities: like falling off of a moped. Only an hour or so in combined with some awful dirt roads and a Vietnamese lorry driver resulted in Aiden coming off, swiftly followed by Eloise and I. If anything we were very lucky to come away with scratches, grazes and cuts – no broken bones or bikes! Sasha also suffered with a punctured tyre but we were saved by some locals at a restaurant we stopped to eat at. I love how the Vietnamese are always willing to help with mopeds and bikes local or tourist.

Once we were sorted and wrapped in bandages we had the most amazing drive. We pedded to the Hai Van Pass (As seen and most known due to Top Gear) and it was breathtaking, one of the best days of Vietnam despite the mishaps. The road is like “A ribbon of perfection” as described by many bikers – I’m so fortunate to experience it all. So many beautiful greens, blues from the lake and sky and the glorious misty mountains ahead. I can still remember that moment when I couldn’t stop smiling to myself under my helmet, now that’s a moment that will stay with me forever.

Currently typing from a hostel in Hoi An, I have really enjoyed visiting this lovely city. The ancient Hoi An markets and streets at night are beautiful, pathways are lit with lanterns of various colours, fairy lights, candles, the lot. The river reflects all the different colours and lights doubling the beauty. We’ve met more great people and also bumped into some older traveller friends from Hanoi which was so much fun and a suprise! This is why I love travelling, despite only knowing these people for a few days you become friends and end up meeting in different places when your routes combine or twine together, you end up treating them like old friends. It’s such a beautiful thing – I’ve learnt so much about relationships and friendships from others and simply being around so many different cultures. Even in our group I am amazed by all of the achievements and adventures they’ve all had separately – Aiden having worked for wildlife conservation in South Africa for a year, Caio was mugged four times (even with guns and knives) yet he still persevered and travelled with a big grin, and just so many more. I even met a fellow writer, it was so lovely to talk about writing with someone so clever. He really understood about inspiration and new themes of writing – I’ve taken away some tips and hints from him.

Also, being in tailor city I’ve had a few pieces of clothing tailored for me which is so cool. I have a new playsuit, jumpsuit and bikini all made with my size and preference. I even chose the material! I love it so much.

Off to Dalat tomorrow – I can’t get enough of Vietnam.

The reason why this post is called Cheerleader is because it’s such a fun song and reminds me of certain people and memories…

“Oh I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader..”

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Sa Pa and Beyond

After an amazing five days in Sapa hiking and living with the locals in the mountains, my eyes are tired and warn out from constantly flinging open in alert, as the sleeper bus angrily jolts around corners. Eloise adjacent to me also struggles to sleep, while Sasha squeezed in the corner of his seat, he tosses and turns to seek out some sort of comfort on the hard leather. Caio and Aiden from the beds above us complain about the lack of leg room and we all hope for the arrival of Hanoi’s busy streets. I take a deep breath, cuddle into my scarf and fall into a deep, uneasy sleep.

Suddenly I am awoken to the Vietnamese bus driver shouting loudly that it is our stop. Scrambling our possessions together we all hop off the bus one by one: Aiden, Caio, Eloise and I grab our bags, but hang on a minute, where’s Sasha?
We collect Sasha’s bag for him and wait on the road. As we organise ourselves and haul on our luggage, the bus drives off into the distance with Sasha still as a passenger. We all stand there struck by the fact he didn’t have enough time to jump off and we all assume he’ll have to get off at the next stop. Worried, Aiden takes all extra 15kg of Sasha’s belongings and we wearily trudge to the Vietnam Backpacker’s hostel with Eloise leading the way. It’s dark, we are all exhausted and we’ve managed to loose Sasha in the matter of five minutes.

As we arrive to the hostel we head straight up to the 5th floor lounge to try and sleep as there’s no point in checking in. We are all planning to head South the following evening (another sleeper bus to look forward too). Eloise momentarily gets a call from Sasha explaining that he had lost his passport briefly and discovered it hiding under his seat. With a sigh of relief we all can relax and wait for him to join us. I spot a sofa and run gleefully into it’s open arms and grab my blanket, slowly allowing the night to seep into my eyes. Nearby chatting and snores filter out of my mind as I finally fall asleep..

Despite the journey being annoyingly tiring, I have had such a brilliant week. I was so glad to leave Hanoi for a while because the craziness of it’s streets were echoing in my head. The beeping, dodging of moving traffic and constant grabbing from business women was starting to get me. In realisation of this, I headed to Sa Pa for five days, and had one of the best experiences of my trip so far. Not only did I spend a whole day on a moped driving around the gorgeous mountains, through clouds, visiting rice fields and new towns, we also stayed with a local tribe’s woman for two days.

Her name was pronounced Su-Ling (I’m unsure of how to spell it) and she was such a beautiful lady. She picked us up from the hostel and we walked to her village. We ventured through dirt tracks, through small woods, across bridges and into the mountains. The views were breathtaking, it felt as if I was in a movie. We met a lot of villagers along the way of all ages, I noticed the large numbers of small children that were covered in mud, running around holding bamboo but always giggling away. They shouted ‘Hello!” at us and carried on playing in the trees: what a childhood.

Su-Ling answered our many questions about her culture and the surroundings as we passed through, we were located only 7km away from China’s very own boarder. We were all very pleased to find out that the villages had schools, a clinic and an excellent community. People and animals lived in harmony together with no fences or separate living areas. It was the first time in Asia that I had seen such profound creatures, moths bigger than my hands, colourful butterflies, tiny pigs, dogs that resembles wolves, small cats, cute chicks, big buffalo, playful puppies, and even a snake or two. Eloise also seemed to attract the hugest bumble bees and orange beetles with her bright yellow top which always caused a few laughs.

Once we arrived at the homestay we all settled in very quickly. The darkness crept upon us and before we knew it, it was already the evening. Su-Ling introduced her husband, her two small children and her neighbours from a near-by tribe. The house was simple, made of a mix of raw stone floors, bamboo walls and wooden doors. The family cooked vegetables on an open fire and we all helped make spring rolls while our bellies yearned for the tasty food to come.

Within half an hour, we were all sat around the outside table. Plates of chicken, pork, beef, rice, spring rolls, smoked garlic cabbage, boiled cabbage, tomato tofu, soup and more were squeezed onto the table and everyone’s eyes widened. Chopsticks at the ready, we all dug in to such a wonderful feast. I think they were the best spring rolls and tofu I had ever had, all traditionally executed by a joint family effort. I really enjoyed what Su-Ling had told me previously – she said how as the female she was the one that acted as the breadwinner and went out to work, while her husband stayed at home looking after the children. As a feminist this delighted me, to see that women can earn money for their family even in a tribe in the middle of the mountains that owns such a strong history of culture and tradition.

With full stomachs, the ‘happy water’ was brought out to play. Happy water is homemade alcohol named rice wine, fermented in a week or two process in rice water which has been boiled and cooled several times. Taken in shots, we all shout ‘cheers’ (pronounced Zh-yoe) in their tribal language. After twelve shots I think everyone did indeed start to feel happy.

The following day we woke up to another beautiful spread of pineapple, bananas, pancakes and local honey. Heads rather sore we slurped down our coffees and geared ourselves up for a beautiful day of hiking. Breathtaking views (by breathtaking I mean it, I struggled up those long uphill mountain tracks..) we ventured through such wonderful areas that made me appreciate nature even more. While we lagged, Su-Ling simply armed with an umbrella to shelter from the sun barely even took an extra breath; this was her life and her job. Despite standing at a mean 4”10 she was a very hardy lady who knew her footing well and I couldn’t help but ask her millions of questions. She even said I was rather tall – that’s something new to experience.

After a day of hiking it was time to be dropped back to the hostel. Brimming with hugs and thanks, we gave our appreciation to Su-Ling for letting us stay with her, she really was an amazing tour guide – I loved the fact that I didn’t feel like a tourist but like a friend. I’ve always wanted to experience something like this, and I am just so happy that I was fortunate enough to be with a group of awesome people and have such a trip under my nose. This will certainly stay with me forever: including the number of times I had to say “No thanks! Not today, Nope!” to cheeky women trying to sell me purses, fabrics and jewelry, all apart of the fun of Asia.

We are currently in Hanoi and have our bus all booked ready for another adventure. I managed to buy some paints for only 15,000 VND which is roughly 50p, so that’ll be good fun to add to my diary. I think it’s time for a spot of lunch now while Eloise heads off to the famous and weird, Vietnamese Water Puppet show. Who knows what to expect?

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Eczema: Under the Skin

Ezcema is a very common irritation which causes red, blotchy patches on the skin. These areas are often incredibly itchy which lead to prolonged scratching, thus the breaking of the skin which then fashions a whole cycle of hell. It’s linked to hypoallergenic, sensitive types often flaring up due to sudden environmental changes, detergents or even stress. As a sufferer of ezcema, I would love to be able to breach out to those who find themselves caught in what seems like the never-ending journey of itchiness.

I am nineteen years old and have had bouts of ezcema throughout my life. I consider myself very fortunate that I have a caring family that have always helped me try to find out my ‘trigger’. At the early ages of five to seven, it used to be so sore due to my uncontrollable child naivety to scratch away at my poor skin. However my mother and father used to be so careful to use safe washing detergents and soaps. Eventually it cleared, then of course as all ezcema warriors know – it reared its ugly face again and again. I am currently travelling the world and have battled it throughout. However, I would like to share my recent experiences with you all.

Self image and confidence is a huge problem with ezcema. It’s ugly, it makes the skin on my face dry and flake off so I can’t even use foundation or makeup to cover it. When I wear shoulder revealing tops all I can see in my eyes are huge red areas with cuts. My hands are dry and cracked, often bleeding and puffy. Nonetheless, I’ve stumbled across a mind-breaking treatment –

I don’t care about what I look like with it anymore. Ezcema is apart of me and they do say “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” so that’s what I do! I’ve met so many different people from different cultures and not one has ever commented badly on it. If anything, it’s normally me that ends up explaining about it and they sympathise. I will never forget one comment by a friend I had known for a day, when my ezcema was so awful, open, raw and all over my arms. I looked like something out of Star Trek. Yet he said to me “You don’t have to be ashamed of it Lily, there’s no need to hide it from us. If anything we really don’t care.” Ever since then, I’ve realised that it’s not others that care so much about it, it’s me.

Since overcoming this, I’ve come so far and have been so much more relaxed about ezcema. This in turn rules out one of the elements of the skin condition itself, I’ve managed to de-stress. By doing this to myself I’ve reduced the ‘panic scratching’ which is my subconscious to attack my ezcema when I’m nervous. I understand that it is so hard to gain this, and don’t take me wrong it’s taken me years to just accept it. No matter how old you are or where your eczema affects you – you are in control.

This leads to the physicality of control. I allowed myself to be over taken by it’s evil power and gave up. As I am currently traveling South East Asia, it got infected instantly and caused a whole new world of pain. I couldn’t even look at the sea for the thought of my skin in salt water (despite it does heal open wounds) the burning made my eyes water. I eventually went to the doctors and had to go on a drip immediately, followed by a course of antibiotics.

Ezcema needs to be controlled with creams whether steriod or moisturiser. Keep a routine going, for the past five days I’ve noticed a flare up, so every morning and every evening I’ve moisturised my skin with a thick cream combined with a thin layer of  steriod over any open areas, and it’s worked a treat! I completely overlooked routine after being told so much (apologies mum) and it’s really helped. Also, if I’m ever really itchy then I take an antihistamine tablet and it usually helps within an hour at most.

I know I am not the worst off with my ezcema and I really can sympathise anyone that has this skin condition. It’s hardwork, time consuming and actually very draining. Yet, I just want you all to know that it’s not the end of the world, there’s so many new ways of looking after yourself and I really think if you believe in yourself you can do it. One of the best medicines is relaxation, if it’s ever really getting ‘under your skin’ then sit back and breathe. I’ve personally taken up meditation and yoga which really helps me. Equally, you can take a moment to organise your thoughts into positivity and reflect this energy into your actions. You’re not alone!

If anyone would ever like to talk to me, feel free to comment on this post or give me a message. Your life should never be ruled by the limitations of something so unworthy, ezcema is a demon but nothing worth more than happiness.

Emerald Eyes

A snake lures in the meadow,
Flash of emerald eyes and dark scales
He hangs silently in the shadow;
Owner of a tail of grotesque tales,
He snidely sneers at his past
Revealing fangs like blooded swords,
He sees his victim at last
As he slithers out and forwards.

The moon shines fiercely bright,
His tongue smells her scent sweet,
Flickers of flesh and man’s bone highlight
The snakes pray is but for defeat,
The meadow holds firmly it’s gaze
And the stars weep to the night for her fate:
Because the little mouse is lost in his maze
Her destiny cornered by her love of late.

A loud shriek floods the black air,
She has been caught in his trap
Spiteful and horrid, he did not care
He could use her heart as a careful map
To lead him to another lover,
For this snake was that of a green devil
He had no father, son or mother
He was born of passion on an unhuman level.

The snake’s name was Cupid
But armed with no bow nor arrow,
He snatches the romantics and the stupid,
And bleeds their bones of marrow
As he lost his lover unfairly, that’s why he was cruel
His duty is to ruin those on a heartfelt path
Is Cupid but a fool?
Because now he lives only for his romantic wrath.