Best of 2016: Personal Edition

Hello there! How have you been? I hope you had a fantastic 2016 and focused on the good moments instead of the bad ones!

Before the Best Reads 2016 list which should go up on the blog tomorrow – that is Saturday – I decided to make another one that highlights some of my personal best moments or experiences from 2016 so you’ll get to know me a bit better and hopefully share your own stories in the comments or write a blog post about them and share that.

I don’t usually summarize the pros and cons of the past year – I just roll with whatever happened not classifying it as either best or worst. I’m the type of person that when asked “What’s new with you?” or “What have you been up to?” replies with “Nothing much”. And it’s really difficult to explain this. I should know, I’ve deleted this paragraph over ten times now. It’s just that I never think my little adventures good or interesting enough to be brought up in conversations. They are mine to hold on to. I get my laughs on with them, through them. Does that make me stingy?

Maybe I’m shy that way. I’m bad at telling life stories. And that may be because I turn the tiniest, most mundane things into “adventures” or experiences if they brought some joy to me personally. It could be a movie I saw or a game I played. It could be a damn pair of jeans I bought. If it improves my mood it becomes one of those good moments that then become highlights. See, it’s different for everyone so if you find the things I’m about to talk about boring or if they are basically just your regular weekend, that’s fine.  This is an attempt, an experiment at summarizing the cool things that went down in 2016. Witness me!

Alright, enough with the weird exposition. Let’s talk about life, trips, movies, games and work all with the help of photos! *sprinkles excitement dust*

Graduation! I start with a bang. Yeah been there, done that, I know. Still, I did get my Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications/ Journalism and soon enough will be getting a Master’s degree in basically the same BUT DIFFERENT…in Online Journalism. There’s that.  Here’s a picture that’s just missing a bullseye on my face.

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Now that that’s done let’s talk trips. That’s interesting!

AN ADVENTURE CROSS COUNTRY AND BACK HOME

I’m not much of an outdoorsy person. Don’t get me wrong I love nature but I rarely get a chance to go exploring. So because of that I don’t have a great deal of experience especially with harsher terrains. So a 30 km hike on a brutally windy day in September was just a dandy idea. But Rila Mountain, the highest mountain range on the Balkans has always been on my bucket list. So naturally….

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I went. It’s perhaps one of the most serene places I’ve ever been to and once you get your footing right and you take a pause, a breath you equally shrink and expand within the embrace of the mountain. You can shiver because it’s barren and grey with not a rustle in the bushes or you can soar, transcend over seemingly bottomless lakes, get lost in the fog or bathe in the sun, walk paths made by people speaking a long lost tongue, and if you listen very carefully you can hear the dance of wild horses over green fields.  I could picture myself so alone up there with my footsteps audible and my breath ragged and my cheeks burning from the wind and I loved it. It elevates you.

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It was very early on our walk right after the first steeper region which demanded a bit more effort to get over, that my lungs and heart told me to f* myself. That’s the view from there.

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I got my zen on though and chanted “I am one with the nature, the nature is with me”. That joke is not old yet!

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Jokes aside it was an experience 2500 meters (or 8202 ft) above the world, of harsh beauty, pure blue ancient lakes, descending fogs and bellowing winds. Right side, me going all National Geographic and stuff.

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I managed to climb up and then hop back down steep trails and narrow paths, up and over rocks the size of a Mini (I’m tiny, I had to climb over rocks that other people just jumped over) and down fields which led to secret waterfalls, a tiny oasis where it was strangely warmer.

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The 6 hours going up and then coming down Northwest Rila Mountain roughly 3 on 3 for both activities were amazing with breathtaking views.  The seven lakes  – The Tear, The Eye, The Kidney, The Twin, The Trefoil, The Fish Lake, The Lower Lake – were worth every aching joint.

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Speed up a week later and some 3 to 4 hours of driving, I found myself at the foot of the Belogradchik Rocks.  They even made a cameo on Game of Thrones!

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See? Apparently top secret White Walker Kingdom is in Bulgaria. Who knew? I should send a raven to Jon Snow…or should I? #housebaelishfortheironthrone

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Back to reality! Did I dare tiptoe on the edge of this rock?

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Sure thing!

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I also had time to swing by a 10th century fortress called Baba Vida in the town of Vidin on the Dunabe River. From Wikipedia: “The building of Baba Vida is tied to a legend, according to which a Danubian Bulgarian king who ruled at Vidin had three daughters: Vida, Kula and Gamza. Prior to his death, he divided his realm among the three. Vida, the eldest, was given Vidin and the lands north to the Carpathians, Kula was awarded Zaječar and the Timok Valley, and Gamza was to rule the lands west up to the Morava. Although Gamza and Kula were married to drunkard and warlike nobles, Vida remained unmarried and built the fortress in her city.”

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In a small village not far from home, I squinted, my sunglasses forgotten at home, under the countryside sun on vast fields of gold, the stale air pervaded by the delicious and sharp scent of meatballs, and then chilled with some very friendly horses after their traditional rural and tiring race. Also I nearly got trampled.

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In the heart of the city, I froze my socks off stalking these frightening dudes for hours upon hours! They carry the scent of animals whilst becoming demons, their pelts reeking with the sacrifice made many winters ago.  From young to old. From babes to white-haired elders. And they make music with their bells.

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Shameless self plug time! For more photos you can check my DeviantArt and my Instagram!

Enough with the travels. Let’s talk movies and tv shows! Grab a blanket, sit on a cushion and pop that salty popcorn. Don’t forget a handkerchief cause that thing hella buttery.

ME, MYSELF AND THE MOVIE SCREEN 

I don’t know about you but sometimes I measure how good my day is going by the movies or tv shows I watch. I’ve been a cinephile since I was 5 and often times immersing myself in a movie meant safety. Movies created a sanctuary for me just like books did and I could carry their narratives with me everywhere, re-create scenes, rewrite dialogues, reinvent the story. I won’t go full throttle into reviews, there’s plenty of time for that whenever, ya’know. But because of that mechanism I developed or even slight dependency on movies I can also say that some highlights of my 2016 were movies and tv shows I enjoyed watching.

Like…

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No…wait. What are you doing here, Suicide Squad?! We talked about this! Go away, shoo, shoo!

It keeps trying, poor thing. Apologies for the ugly scene. Stranger Things, come wash away the pain!

I’m making a small pause here. Stranger Things was the highlight of the 2016 summer tv shows and I can’t argue with that. We all have our routine tv shows (even you Game of Thrones no matter when you shift you air date) that we watch throughout the year, season after season. We go with the flow, relaxed and in calm comfort with the characters and the narrative. But then something like Stranger Things comes along and it takes everyone by surprise. It breaks the routine very swiftly and becomes memorable instantly.

Stranger Things combined the best of the 80’s and juggled with tropes familiar to the majority of people. If it tickled your nostalgia that’s great, if it brought back fond memories of D&D, The Clash, E.T., that’s fantastic. If it scared you and made you scream at Netflix to get season 2 finished already, that’s marvelous. For me it reintroduced elements I came to love through other movies and it fueled my passion for sci-fi and fantasy to a new level. It left a very impressive imprint and became the cause of many conversations during late summer nights in the park or over boardgames and bear.

I said no reviews and yet I did a tiny one. Okay, okay, let’s speed this up. Let me just make a collage of all the movies and tv shows I fell in love with this year. It’ll take less time.

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I’m certain I’m missing something but regardless these were movies and tv shows that kept me awake till the early hours and I don’t regret a second.

The natural transition from this topic is to go to Best games 2016 (played, not published).

MY CONTROLLER ISN’T WORKING PROPERLY

As much as I wanted to play the bajillion games that came out this year I couldn’t. For the majority of them I don’t own a PS3 or 4, or an Xbox, or a Wii, or… and so on and so forth. You get my point. I ain’t even PC Master Race. So no The Last Guardian. I’m so sorry, Trico!

That however is no excuse for not trying Oxenfree, The Final Station, Inside, SOMA and all the other games I can’t think to name of the top of my head. I suck. Such a noob. Also I’m scared my laptop will die on me or something like that.

So I took a trip down memory lane and instead spent time playing Borderlands 2, Undertale, Child of Light and lately Dragon Age: Origins which so far I’m in love with.

Let me kick this off with Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software). I know, I know it was 2012 when it came out and you’ve all played it but I discovered this game not long ago and absolutely fell in love with its ridiculous, charming, psychopathic, colorful story, humour and characters. It has probably one of the best DLC’s in FPS games with Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and one of the most lovable villains in the face of Handsome Jack! (Thank you, Dameon Clarke).

Apart from sniping the hell out of every bandit and Loaderbot whilst trying to hoard all the tons of weapons, snatch porn magazines for Scooter, start a Hillbilly-Irish war, blowup trains with the help of a crazy thirteen-year-old bomb expert, get sucked in by threshers (I hate them!) and many, many more insanely dangerous adventures, me and my good pal Zero go on another little adventure in the midst of missions and that is…photography. Controversial maybe given how gorgeous in landscape Skyrim and The Witcher are, but I found the cel shaded art lovely and the more I explored the more great and colorful scenery I found.

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There are a lot of collages going on. I am not creative at all.

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I will skip Undertale because I already did a review on it earlier this year (you can check the link) and Child of Light because I haven’t finished it yet. I’ll just show you the art. It’s a gorgeous turn-based, role-playing game with beautiful music and a poetic narrative.

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Photo: Ubisoft

But this one I cannot skip. About 14-15 years ago I received the Game Boy Advance SP console by Nintendo as a gift. It came with five games one of which was Golden Sun. It blew my mind back then. I couldn’t’ sleep, didn’t want to go to school. All I wanted to do was play.

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At the time though I played it, didn’t pay much attention to the dialogue, I didn’t get the story elements and didn’t finish the game. But little ol’ Game Boy is still working fine and the Golden Sun cartridge has never been far away. So this summer I inserted it, sat down with a bunch of snacks and drinks and began the story anew. And what a story it is.

Golden Sun (Camelot Software Planning & Nintendo)

Four teenage heroes are forced to journey the land after a raiding party attempts to steal the keys, four jewels called the Elemental Stars, for unlocking Alchemy, a force that allowed for the development of great civilizations. The breach created by the main villains allows for the free flow of Psynergy which transforms the land and its creatures. The player’s character and three of his friends are tasked with finding the stolen Elemental Stars and in doing that you as the leader of the group get to battle monsters, explore dungeons and solve puzzles.

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Photo: Uvlist.net

One of the coolest things about this game is the elemental creatures Djinn. Not only are they adorable but through them you can modify the character’s class and exhibit great powers in battles via summons.  Each combination allows for the usage of different powers.

For a game published in 2001 it has great interaction system, fantastic music, fluid battle system, in-game purchase, puzzles that require the usage of Psynergy, dialogue speed, a training arena outside the game and much more. The only downside for me is that the continuation of the game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is pretty hard to find today let alone for a normal price. Trust me I’ve searched in every game shop.

If you ever get the chance to play this game do it. It’s great fun.

And with this we move into the final section of this ridiculously long list. Work or…

THE GAME CHANGER

If you’ve been stopping by the blog or if you’re following me on Twitter you’ve seen posts and tweets about a web-serial called Moonrise. It’s the superhero, sci-fi sequel to the superhero, sci-fi novel called 16Sunsets written by Mark Gardner.

I did a guest chapter on 16Sunsets and Mark was really cool about it. At the beginning of 2016 he asked if I wanted to co-author Moonrise with him and after he emailed me his ideas I was on board.

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I’m including Moonrise as one of 2016’s highlights because it might just become the first published work that has my name on it. And it started here, in 2016. It has also become a fantastic way to educate myself on how these collaborative works function, how the publishing aspect comes together piece by piece. It’s a very strict routine that keeps me in shape writing and writing and writing.

A quick note – I have every intention on finishing The Dorley Cycle. A wave to all those who know it or remember it. That story will come to be, true in form and in words. It is my heart and soul still.

However Moonrise will precede it by all means. And I couldn’t be happier about that because I love working on Moonrise. I love sci-fi and superheroes and superpowers. Stories like Moonrise offer the biggest playground for nerds like me. I’m told I’m also in the story in the form of a super hacker. How cool is that? In that universe me and Mark get to be children toying with all kinds of weird powers emerging in the midst of a political propaganda and a mass genocide waiting to happen.  We can be cruel and kind and just and also insanely powerful. It’s a vast universe that I inhabit with satisfaction.

The series is currently at chapter 33. I urge you to check it while it’s still fresh on Mark’s blog. I want to thank him again really quickly for the opportunity to join the madness. I’m having fun. It feels like home. I hope that when it comes out you will enjoy it as much as I do.

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So there you have it. These are the highlights of my 2016. Some are simple and straight to the point, others take more brain capacity to remember in detail. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Regardless of their simplicity there are many nuances attached to all of the above situations or experiences. All of them are built up on emotions and those get lost in the vortex of thoughts and the repetitive everyday. I remember what I need to. On the surface still floates the joy, the happiness, some words and laughs. I don’t need to submerge myself to find what gave me freedom and composure.

And hey, I did manage to list a bunch of things. Yeah, sure I’m having a slight monologue here but if you stayed for some of it, glanced at the photos or squinted at the words, I’m happy. We had a conversation. I talked and you listened. I shared the things I think are boring and either bored you or entertained you somewhat. So thank you for being here. I hope you’ve had tons of fantastic memories from 2016 that you shared with friends and family and I wish you a great deal more in 2017. Journey ahead!

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