Alondra Bentley and Nine Stories

When a concert begins with a song about a ladybird, followed by one about falling in love and then the feelings and philosophies behind gaining white hairs when turning 30, I just know I’m going to enjoy my evening. Throw in an electric piano, ukulele and a guitar, along with a mesmerising voice and gentlemanly manners and I am smitten. Nine Stories is an upbeat, quirky pop group from Madrid, Spain and here on their China tour with Alondra Bentley, Nacho Ruiz was representing this unique band.

They played at B10 in O.C.T Loft on the Shenzhen leg of their China tour. This was a great venue for their performance as the space was big enough to cater for all the audience and yet still cosy enough to give the performance more of an intimate feel. It got even more special when Nacho from Nine Stories joined the main act of the evening- Alondra Bentley and they performed as a duo. Alondra’s voice is seriously one of the most incredible I’ve ever heard. It threw me headfirst into a memory of a warm, summery day in a forest with a picnic and all my favourite people. Her voice is light and soothing, filled with all the colours of the rainbow, and then some. Their songs were both magical and down-to-earth, just like them. I loved the way they had little chats with us (the audience) between each song and being here in China they’d even made the effort to learn a few Chinese words. I admire that so much. Not only was their show outstanding but their stage presence was also very special. They connected with the audience on a very personal level and only had good things to say about their time in China, especially in Shenzhen which they said they’d fallen in love with! This made me smile and inspired me to start reliving those feelings one gets from first arriving in a brand new city, a brand new country; those initial moments should always be cherished.

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Image sourced from here.

After the show they came straight outside to sign records and they took time to learn everyones names and wrote them individual messages, even writing Chinese names! They were very sweet and so instead of buying their cd, I decided to buy their vinyl because I’ve never bought one before and I thought this would be the perfect first vinyl purchase to make. They are such sweet people and beautiful musicians. If they happen to be playing in your city, please please go watch them! Not only will it be an absolute treat for your ears, but I guarantee you’ll leave in an optimistic mood and that smile will linger long into the evening. And then of course, you can just listen to their music whenever you feel your positive mood faltering and it’ll be returned immediately, I promise!

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Image sourced from here.

Thank you so much to Alondra Bentley and Nine Stories for gracing Shenzhen with your amazing talent and happiness! Please come back to China soon, and all the best for your wonderful future! I look forward to more sweet songs about the lovely little things in life!

This is one of my favourites, probably because I can relate to it so much!

Oh, China.

It’s almost inevitable that if you’re living or have lived in China, you’ll have experienced a ‘China Day’ or two. Those days where every single thing about this country, culture and society are going to bring you down and leave you screaming at the top of your lungs ‘Chinaaaaaaaa!’ I can’t deny, that I too, have most definitely rendezvoused with these thoughts. When I first arrived in China, fresh off the boat, it was an almost daily occurrence. Why? Well, because I couldn’t fathom the idea that maybe it wasn’t their problem, maybe it was mine. I was the outsider and instead of trying to integrate into the society, I sought out it’s problems and complained about them incessantly on the brink of driving myself stir crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I was learning the language and I actually liked China, but it was a weird kind of love hate relationship taken to a new extreme. Every Sunday I would get on the metro knowing that it would be packed to the brim, and every Sunday evening when the smoggy sun began to set I would swim through the crowds in tears, not stopping to breathe until I was safe in my bubble of a dorm where I’d turn to my roommate from Hong Kong and list my complaints for the day. She always laughed (perhaps awkwardly) and I always instantly felt better. Gosh, who even was I back then?!

Four years on, and we’re still going strong- China and I. This time however, we’ve developed something deeper. Sometimes, I still secretly complain about little things in my head but I instantly push them out as quickly as they crept in because I know that they will poison me and hold me back. I don’t want to huddle up in my cute little apartment, eating only food that I’ve ordered online, safe in the knowledge that if I stay inside, nothing will bother me. I didn’t spend 9 months of my life intensively studying this beautiful, intricate language to waste away my days in a monolingual mindset. I want to use my new skill that, in a very non-arrogant way, I actually feel pretty proud of. I’m still learning and I’ve got a long way to go to reach a level that I’ll feel fully satisfied with, but in order to reach that, I’m going to have to use it. That means accepting and respecting the country I find myself in and focusing on it’s positive points as opposed to the negative elements that burrowed me down deep four years ago.

It’s not easy, believe me. Even in my tiny, little village in Scotland with a population of 200 it’s sometimes hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on life 24/7, but throw a few billion into the pot and well, you get the picture. I have to say though, if the UK were suddenly to multiply and reach a couple billion, I don’t know if we’d survive. It puts a few things in perspective and makes you take a back seat instead of jumping straight onto the judgemental bandwagon.

I took a break from China  for a year and a half and I believe it has done wonders. I didn’t leave because I needed a break, I left because I fell in love with Taiwan and I chased that dream as much as I could, with a stop in Hong Kong along the way for good measure. Now I’m back and it’s hard to describe the thousands of feelings that rush through my mind on a daily basis here.

The main thing for me is that in the month I had in Scotland previous to moving back here, I decided to adopt an attitude that would prepare me for only positive thoughts. I knew it’d be the only way that I could really achieve what I’ve come here to do, and at the same time ensure that I enjoyed it every step of the way. If I wake up one day and find myself complaining about every teeny-tiny thing, I’ll pack my bags and I’ll leave- it’s that simple.

I like China. I like that no day is the same even if I do get on the same bus every morning at 7.58am, passing the same group of ladies who dance with magnetic tennis racquets outside the Walmart. I like the food and the fact that no matter how much you’ve tried there will always be something new for your taste buds. I like the tea, all the tea of China! I like that really, deep down, no city or village in this vast, sprawling country is ever the same as the last one. I like learning about the many quirks and superstitions that encompass this ancient civilization. I like balancing my yin and yang, and yes, I do like drinking only warm water.

Oh, China.

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The A to Z of Daydreams

A tall, dark and handsome gentleman that sweeps you off your feet in the moonlit eve, carrying you off to his motorbike to let you ride through the darkest tunnels, a mixture of dust, lust and laughter shimmering in your trail.

Bottles and vases and jars perched on a wooden shelf filled with scents and tastes of ultimate desire, all higgledy piggledy in a squint little row.

Caressing waves as you dip your toes in the sand to be tickled by mysterious sea creatures and sharp, but comforting shells.

Daydreams that you alphabetise in a butterfly notebook that lies at the bottom of your bag, so that you can later share them.

Early morning walks through the forest that lead to the beach filled with secret coves that contain many, many secrets.

Friends from far and wide simultaneously making the decision to all move to the same place at the same time. Forever.

Green emerald grass as far as the eye can see, on all four sides.

Heart-shaped leaves that begin to sprout whenever two destined strangers kiss for the first time.

Iceland adventures in a pair of crimson hiking shoes with a nose to match.

Jams made from fresh Scottish berries from a dusty old recipe, scrawled in delicate handwriting by your dear Grandmother, sealed with that signature sweet kiss.

Kisses that linger for days and leave you in a daze.

Love letters delivered by hand, love letters hidden in trees.

Movies on a rainy Sunday under a cosy blanket with an endless supply of irresistible dark chocolate.

Northern Lights, every night.

Opening your eyes and being greeted by bright sun beams shining and dancing across your bedroom floor, urging you to jump up and welcome the day with the energy it most definitely deserves.

Playing on the swings in the place of your birth, flying freely in the breeze, the stars and dusky clouds tickling your eyelashes.

Questioning every little moment of peculiarity and becoming more of a curious creature by the day.

Reveling in the act of nostalgia next to an old suitcase overflowing with spontaneous photographs from those golden days, oh you know those days.

Stars covering every smidgen of sky on a still, balmy evening after a dance in the midnight ocean.

Travel tales shared between sudden strangers in unexpected circumstances, resulting in a  friendship that never glides from the pure state of unblemished innocence.

Unicorns and faeries and princesses with long, golden locks; frogs and princes and green-tinted witches: the art of still believing.

Vietnamese as starter, Italian as main, Belgian as dessert, on a picnic blanket with teacups of pink tea, accompanied by bird song and a plethora of butterflies.

Wanderlusting until the end.

Xylophones in shades of rainbow, harps finely-tuned, a guitarist with green eyes and a baby grand piano.

Yurts in the grasslands of Mongolia housing the most hospitable of hosts, with a gaggle of giggling geese at the front and a herd of Yak grinning in the back.

Zebras chilling on a nearby hill trying to get the attention of the ever-so-elegant giraffes gossiping by the bramble bush.

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Image sourced from here.

Tales from the Teacup: Shenzhen

A mere thirty years ago the throbbing, booming metropolis of Shenzhen was but a calm, fishing village. The dominant factor being bicycles, horse-drawn carts and the scent of freshly-caught fish. Now, however, those days of merrily riding along the wide-open roads, a rainbow of vegetables piled up in baskets attached to the front and back of the bell-cladden bicycles have been replaced completely and utterly by Sci-Fi-like skyscrapers that creep closer to the sky with every passing day and a throng of traffic jams so tightly jammed together, it’s as if everyone and anyone (and I really mean everyone) has moved to Shenzhen.

It’s now the fifth most populated city in the world and believe me, it’s in it to win it. In the year and a half that I left Shenzhen and since coming back it’s as if the people have multiplied ten-fold. And why not?! This city is truly a’buzzing with opportunities. That friendly, fishy scent from the village days might still be lurking, but it’s suffice to say that money, power and people have found their way in and it looks as though they’re here to stay.

For someone like me, who thrives on the history and traditions of a place, the back alleyways teeming with stories and a community spirit that would give the cosiest, cobblestoned streets a run for their money, it’s easy to wonder why a place like Shenzhen would seem like an attractive place to live. Sometimes, you just need to search a little deeper for what you’re looking for. Shenzhen might be a brand-spanking new baby city, but what she lacks in age, historical tales and a unique culture so associated with the likes of Beijing and Guangzhou- her big Chinese brothers- she makes up for in her melting-pot way. This melting-pot that Shenzhen so encompasses is brimming full of people from all over China. People of all ages, dialects, home towns and taste buds. Throw in a bunch of young and old entrepreneurs from far and wide, east and west, as well as urban planners, architects, designers, artists, musicians, businessmen, bakers and you get quite the creative ensemble. It has most definitely been a speedy transformation, but the shape that Shenzhen is taking appears to be one with many sides. Both positive and negative, like most things in life, but pushing more towards the positive.

It can be fun living in such a new place, knowing that you are getting the chance to play a part in the moulding of it’s future. Shenzhen is a city full of youth and it’s up to us-the generation of Shenzheners- to make it a place to be proud of. Aside from it’s whacky fake eiffel tower, it’s endless plethora of ‘massage parlors’ and it’s heaving traffic, it’s a place I’ve called home temporarily, both in the past and today, and it’s a city that is undergoing an exciting development.

It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and originally I was in that category. However, if you thrive on leading an independent, opportunity-filled lifestyle for a little while, perhaps Shenzhen might be worth exploring. I shall be unveiling some hidden gems from the city on my blog over the next wee while, so if you’re new to the city or a curious creature- feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below!

Love,

Luna

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Monday Musique: Stars – Elevator Love Letter

I haven’t seen the stars since I arrived back in China. These days lately have been the hazy kind, the grey murky kind that seep across your every path clouding and shrouding everything in it’s reach, enveloping it all into one big industrial bubble. Luckily, there is no shortage of green trees in my new neighborhood and a nice splattering of blossoming pinks along my morning motorway commute. These allow me to glide along in the daily penguin parade without getting too far sucked into the repetitive mist. And there’s always music. Today I am enjoying one of my old favourites- Stars, a dreamy indie group from Canada that have been delighting my ears from my high school years when I wore a plastic strawberry hair bobble every single day. Stars always make me smile with their sweet, mesmerising melodies and ethereal voices. If I can’t have real stars right now, at least I always have Stars in the musical form.

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Image sourced from here.

What do you think? Dreamy, right?! Please feel free to recommend some new musique to me. Every Monday is going to be Monday Musique day from now on, yay! Hopefully I can introduce you to some lovely tunes!

Love,

Luna.

Compassion and the Camel

A mere beat of a moment after the rush hour madness has subsided and the lavish-Post Chinese New Year- lanterns have come out to play, a flash of peculiarity ignites the boulevard. Something shifts as the usual hustle and bustle builds to a crescendo, perfectly in rhythm with the dancing ladies of the square. Of what it is, she isn’t quite sure. She mentally notes down the transformation of the strawberry sisters with that of a weather-beaten lady selling freshly roasted chestnuts from the back of her rusty bicycle. She breathes a sigh of relief as she spots the flower man in his usual spot, smack bang on the little island in the middle of the road. He doesn’t have any sunflowers today and she doesn’t have any money so she darts her eyes in the opposite direction and scurries past, afraid of making him think he’s lost her to another flower man with possibly pinker bunches. She doesn’t like to let people down, it’s one of her niceties and yet, also one of her biggest downfalls in the society that she finds her feet currently sunk into.

She has soup on her mind. Her Father’s lentil soup which originally belonged to the two Bettys, her late, doting grandmothers. Tonight she will attempt to recreate this taste of her childhood and as she runs through the recipe in her head she almost misses it. She glances at the small crowd gathered by the road and a sliver of hope that it’s the strawberry sisters enters her mind. It’s not, it’s most certainly, bewilderingly not. It’s a camel. The biggest camel she’s ever seen and there it is, just lying by the road, invisible tears mangled in it’s fur, it’s head bowed low tickling the once empty patch of road. She immediately looks away and continues on her way, but to no avail. Her feet won’t carry her a step away, her hand won’t reach into the bag to grab the phone that her head is telling her to grab, to document this exact moment. Her heart beats faster and her eyes begin to water. She wishes she could scoop out her never-ending flow of tears and drop them into the camel’s eyes for fear of his completely drying-up. This isn’t the desert. This isn’t a zoo. This isn’t some mountain pass on a Mongolian moor. This is China in all it’s chaotic glory and calamity. This is the side of a motorway in Shenzhen on a Thursday night at 8pm and she doesn’t understand anything that is going on.

In China, life can be strange, strange in the sense of nonsensical. This moment just topped every previous bizarreness and then took it to the next level, that of cruelty and sadness. The chattering crowd surrounding the camel shifted from toe to heel and back again. No camera shutters were heard clicking, no laughs echoed in the darkness tinted with a red glow, and no action was taken. People stared and murmured mutterings to their partners, then picked up their shopping bags and headed into Walmart to buy their eggs.

A parting quickly arose and she peered in. Huddled next to the front foot of the camel was a bearded man. He was extremely dark-skinned and his hair was as black as midnight oil, slicked to the side with grease and sweat, or both. He had no hands, and he clasped a calligraphy brush between his mud-encrusted toes. His delicate written words were fleeting, failed attempts at a cry for help. His tears had caused a tsunami of ink to leak onto the road, mixing with the dirt, tar and dry camel droppings. His body shook back and forth and a frayed, flimsy length of rope connected camel to companion.

As she stared into their eyes she could tell that neither of them were there of their own accord. This was a situation that involved a deeper, darker third party. Perhaps these menaces glanced on from the slippery bridge overheard or from the cosy, steamed-up windows serving piping-hot dumplings, twinkles of delight and hunger in their eyes for every penny dropped onto the paper of calligraphy, the calligraphy running into the drains and disappearing, almost as fast as the dreams of dignity the bearded victim and his desert friend once had.

She keeps walking. She wants to stop, scoop the bearded man up and place him on the camel and point them in a north-westerly direction towards home. But that just isn’t possible. Instead she averts her eyes, glancing back only twice to make sure she saw what she thought she saw. She hurries home, shaking and practicing the conversation about cruelty against humans and animals that she plans on having with the next Chinese person she sees, who she hopes might be able to help. The security guards are eating, the front desk ladies have gone home for the evening and she notices warm lights peeking out from closed curtains. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t even know the word for ‘camel’ in Chinese.

The next morning she’s awoken by a shade of blue. As she runs for her bus to join the daily penguin parade, she notes the camel droppings dotted around the square. There’s no distinct trail, it’s as if they just disappeared into thin air, carted away to some other square of dancing ladies in some other far-flung city filled with cracks in the roads that contain little compassion, if any at all.

The 113 pulls up and she jumps on.

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Image sourced from here.