Five Years Time

“Oh well in five years time we could be walking around the zoo with the sun shining down over me and you…”

Or…you could still be living in China.

You blink and take a few trains, too many planes, and before you know it, you’ve been here for five whole years.  For 1,825 days, give or take a few, you have been frolicking on this Asian soil. A journey that began on a swelteringly hot day back in August 2010 with a broken-down bus in a city called Guangzhou. Fast forward five years with a skip to the south of that city and a hop to the right and you are smack bang in Guangzhou’s little sister Shenzhen. I would like to say I have spent the entire five years in one place, but that would be an absolute lie. I have mainly been in China (mainland) but there is of course my ongoing love affair with Taiwan and there was a brief but beautiful fling with Hong Kong. Oh, and there was a moment last year where I questioned why on earth I wasn’t living in Japan? I always do wonder if my university in South Africa had offered a Japanese course, would I find myself living in that quirky Murakami world instead of crazy China? I will never know, but hey, I could always move to Japan some other time…

Five years in Asia. Five years with my head bursting at the seams with all the new words, new cultural quirks, new places, new faces. Five years and thirteen Asian countries worth of stamps, memories and love. Five years older.

And I am nowhere near done. I don’t think I will ever be done with a place that has been my home. It will always be my home even when I’m not actually living there. My ears still twitch whenever I hear a South African accent and I haven’t lived there for five years. I see Scottish flags everywhere, even in the clouds and whenever anyone mentions Taiwan my eyes light up and my heart beats a little faster. I feel at home in Asia where it’s always a little warmer, where people show their gratitude through a bow or an ear-to-ear smile, where incense coils burn in mysterious corners and float along the alleyways, the dust settling on the red lanterns that hang from every eave. Monks swim by in the rush hour crowds of suits and old people play on the swings. The pungent scent of durian pierces your senses and there is no escaping stinky tofu. It will chase you down the chaotic streets and sooner or later you will end up chasing it. Things you could never imagine enjoying will become normal. You will swap your coffee for matcha tea and you will master chopsticks like a ninja. Oh, and you will most certainly start dreaming in the local language, and maybe you will even begin to use your feet to trace Chinese characters on your sheets while you sleep. It’s a weird and wonderful land here. It’s hard to actually comprehend five years worth of Asian adventures. This blog is also five years old if you don’t count the thousand mini interludes that I took from writing…

Well anyway, here’s to the next five years and wherever they may happen to take me. For now though, I am here. And no, there is no ‘five year plan’. I’m not sure they really pan out the way you want them to anyway because if I look back to my first day in China, I certainly didn’t think that five years later I’d still be living here. But that is life. It’s always surprising us. Just focus on being happy and spreading that happiness around wherever you happen to be, and the rest will fall into place.

Love,

Luna

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

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A staycation at Hui Hotel

Lately I’ve been craving exploration but without the stress of actually having to go anywhere. There’s only so much escaping into fictitious lands I can do before I actually have to take a trip for real. Back in May I went away four weekends in a row. To Shanghai, Xiamen, Hong Kong and Singapore. All of these weekends were so much fun, but I got absolutely burned out afterwards. The amount of time spent actually travelling to these exotic locations (OK, except Hong Kong because that is only one hour by boat) added up pretty quickly and I can’t say it was stress-free (hello China flight delays!!). So that was when I had the wise idea to go on a ‘staycation’.

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(Image sourced from here)

Originally I thought about the new Hilton Hotel in Shekou, a mere 10 minute cycle from my apartment, but the idea of being able to see the area I live from the hotel rooftop felt a bit silly, so I decided to venture further afield to the deep, dark core of the city- Futian. Whilst browsing hotels on Trip Advisor, I stumbled upon Hui Hotel. A fairly new, boutique 5 star art and design hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking the lush Central park. What more could you want? After seeing a sneak peek of their quirky room designs, and their egg-shaped bath tubs, I was sold. There’s something about a huge, soft, white bed and a bubble bath that I just love about hotels. I like the way you can slip into a hotel room and become anonymous. However, I dislike the way most hotels are designed very plain and boring. That’s why I was immediately attracted to Hui Hotel because their design is so unqiue. The hotel reception is dotted with surreal sculptures and in the entranceway they have a vertical garden growing up the wall. They have a very long coffee table filled with bird cages with real birds inside. When we asked where the swimming pool was located we were happily surprised to see that it is actually tucked right behind a long glass window, level with the floor of the check-in desk. So as we swam up and down the pool, we’d occasionally see a curious hotel guest kneeling down to take a photo of the quirky pool. All of the doors in the hotel are camouflaged with the walls so at first glance you can’t even see the door to the bathroom or to your hotel room.

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We were fortunate enough to receive an upgrade to one of their premier rooms. It was beautiful! My favourite part was the way the roof sloped down to the wall in a curve and that our window was a floor to ceiling one. It was raining quite heavily and because our room jutted out from the front of the hotel, we could hear the rain beating down and it felt like we were in a hut in the jungle. Also, the beds are extremely comfortable. I could sink in and stay for days. I loved the little random things they added, such as a bowling pin in the corner and the LED clock on the wall.

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The hotel offers two dining options- a traditional style Chinese restaurant on the first floor and a Western restaurant on the eighth floor. We tried the Western restaurant and while the food was just OK, the view was incredible! It almost felt like we were in New York as we were overlooking Shenzhen’s Central Park. After dinner we chilled in The Library Bar, and it had so many cool architecture and design books to browse. It felt so relaxing to sit on the sofas surrounded by books, whilst being served cocktails from the bar. Unfortunately due to the rain we never got to experience drinks at the rooftop bar, but the next day, Howard (one of the friendliest hotel staff I’ve ever come across!) gave us a small tour of the roof and it was amazing! I will definitely go back on a weekend to experience drinks with a view high above the city.

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The spa is also so beautiful and ‘zen’. We had incredible massages to end off the lovely weekend on a soothing high. I actually didn’t want to leave this hotel. I felt like I’d disappeared into a world of calm, far away from the dust and stress of the city. The coolest part of the whole weekend was that within 20 minutes I was home again. So the usual post-holiday blues didn’t really have time to catch me in its claws. There was no travelling time, no rush to catch a plane or a train. I just floated home in the back of a taxi, the faint scent of the eucalyptus oil lingering on my post-massage skin.

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Thank you Hui Hotel, you were magical! (This post was not sponsored, I just really loved this hotel a lot, and you will too, so check them out here.)

Love,

Luna

p.s Have you ever been on a staycation? Isn’t it wonderful?!

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

upside down and back to front, for fun

Not so long ago, just a few moons back, things felt a little out of balance around here. A dart pierces through the light-hearted air, but instead of landing smack bang in the middle of the board, it slices downwards, smashing every inch of the glass table. Cups crumble between my fingers. The pavement seems to be waiting for me to trip. The buses are deliberately crawling along at a snail’s pace and there is nothing any of us can do about it. The world is battling between flashbacks to days gone by and glimpses into the future. It seems impossible to just ‘be’ right now. To lie back and read a chapter without having to go back and reread every single word again twice, because the first time around the words seemed to slip off the page and fly away. And good luck retaining any of that freshly inhaled knowledge because brains are just in their own little world at the moment. We’re trying to go forward but we’re constantly being pulled back. Computers crash. Phones freeze. People say things they don’t mean. We’re all confused. But there must be a reason for it all, right?

Sometimes we need to delve back into the past to be able to move on in the way that we want to. Washing away all those old ghosts and signing and sealing with a kiss any old unfinished business. When the same problems arise over and over again, let’s be honest, you need to deal with it. Even if it means falling over a few times to get there. Just have faith that all will work out the way it’s supposed to. And if all else fails, blame it on the moon, or on whatever retrograde happens to be gracing us at the moment. Those retrogrades can be hectic, especially mercury ones. My entire life flips upside down during mercury retrogrades. Everything flows in the wrong direction and I end up just hanging there, afraid to move a muscle in case it changes direction and I’m stuck in a backward, upside down, higgeldy-piggeldy world forever.

Eventually though, things cool down. The bus comes on time and the cup that smashed is magically whole again. You find yourself galloping though books, digesting every last word. Now you can independently choose to flip your world upside down, just for fun. In the form of inversions. Headstands just for the crack! You start to enjoy that mad rush of blood to the head which ignites every last morsel of imagination hiding in that old brain of yours. You suddenly have epiphanies on every corner. Things start to make sense and you tuck the past away at the back of your dusty cupboard, or even better, you sweep it up and sprinkle it out of your window, watching as it lands on nearby tree branches. That’s lucky for you because if you wake up one Saturday morning and have a particularly strong bout of nostalgia, you can whip open the window and breathe it all back in. It’s always there. You just need to learn when it’s best to leave it alone. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it’s totally unnecessary. And as we know, the most important thing is right now. How can we make life beautiful in this wonderfully unique moment in time? Well, leave the past lingering on the treetops, or at the back of your cupboard. Leave the future exactly where it’s supposed to be- in the future, in an unknown world, just out of reach. Nobody knows what’s in store, so instead of worrying about it all, let’s celebrate together, right now.

Love,

Luna

Illustration by the talented Lucy Evans

The Chinese Path

I knew I would never master the clicks, never fully understand the grammar no matter how hard I tried, and outside South Africa, when and where would I need to use Xhosa? And so it is that on a sunny February morning back in 2009 I found myself sat in a room with a bunch of other students listening to the sweetest Chinese man promoting a new Chinese course that the university was about to offer. Decked out in white running shoes, navy slacks and a white button-up shirt, I was sold. He was so enthusiastic and his combination of excitement, innocence and nerves led to me immediately signing up for the course with absolutely no idea of what to expect, or whether or not I’d actually enjoy it.

Well, um…here we are. Six and a half years later and I am STILL in China, so clearly Ma Laoshi did something right. When I think of it like that, my Chinese should be a lot better than it is. Basically I have spent more than a quarter of my life immersed in the Chinese language and culture. What?! I remember when we had only been studying for a couple of weeks, Ma Laoshi came up with this crazy idea that we should participate in Chinese Bridge. I could barely pronounciate ‘ni hao’ nevermind actually speak and compete in Chinese. And yet, after only three months of studying the language, four of us Chinese students found ourselves flying to Cape Town to compete with people who had been studying for years. Hilarious idea? Yup. But due to our refreshing enthusiasm and promising talent (for beginners), we were all awarded scholarships to study a semester abroad in China. Oh yeah and one of the four of us actually won the whole competition! Gisela Zipp, I’m looking at you. So yeah, clearly Ma Laoshi rocks! As we nibbled on noodles and attempted to master chopsticks, we just sat, flabbergasted at the idea that we would be going to China that year. I mean, I don’t think I even knew how to say ‘China’ in Chinese, and yet I was over the moon at having this chance.

The moment where we found out Gisela had won. Haha. Classic.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I went to China and I’ve been stuck here ever since (well, with a break in Taiwan and Hong Kong for a year and a half too). Nothing could have prepared me for the adventures the past six years have brought me, and it was only this past weekend when I met up with Gisela (one of the girls I studied Chinese with in South Africa) that I really started thinking about it all. How one tiny decision can sway the rest of your life. How you can find yourself on a completely different path from the one you had planned out in your mind. Up until the moment I found myself in that classroom signing up for a Chinese course, totally on a whim, I probably thought I would finish my studies in South Africa then move home to Edinburgh and work in theatre. But then something shifted, something clicked. Was I always supposed to end up in China, speaking Chinese? It makes me wonder if it was all predestined, or whether I had a choice? I normally just follow my heart even if it doesn’t make sense. I’m not very rational. And yet, I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way. Something attracted me to the Chinese language, and that brought me to China, and here I am, sat at a desk in Shenzhen, skyscrapers to my right, animation studios to my left. I don’t know how long I will stay in China, but I do know that it will forever be a huge part of my life, both the language and the culture, and of course the friends I’ve met along the way.

After participating in Chinese Bridge in 2009, Daniel and I were asked to host the 2010 South African Chinese Bridge.

Thank you Ma Laoshi for planting that seed of enthusiasm inside us. Even though we only studied with you for a short time, you helped pave the way for a future than can only be described as nothing short of incredible.

Ma Laoshi and I.

Life is very funny indeed. But I love it all the same.

Love,

Luna

To Inspire, to Breathe

The first time I walked into a yoga class, I walked straight back out. I was at Rhodes University in South Africa and I thought I’d accidentally stumbled into a gymnastics class. People were so flexible that I couldn’t actually make out where arms began and legs ended. I ran for my life. The same thing happened when I was 5 years old and I slipped on a pink leotard and matching tu-tu. I shyly stepped into the ballet class and within minutes was in tears. I want to be able to do ballet, I want to be able to do the splits mid-air and do headstands without the support of a wall, but until recently I hadn’t found anyone who could motivate me enough to make me really achieve this.

Enter Vlada: an incredible yoga teacher from Ukraine who just happens to be teaching here in Shenzhen. I went along to my first class with her with the same expectations that I always have when I try a new yoga class for the first time. That I’ll be the least flexible in the class and end up going home with more tension than when I first started. That all the other girls will judge me and raise their eyebrows when I have to use a strap to reach my feet because my legs are so flipping long and my arm strength is the equivalent to zero. However, something was different in this class. That initial intimidation and insecurity immediately evaporated and in its place drifted a sprinkling of confidence, determination and utter calm. These girls I am practicing with and learning so much from, are not people I need to fear or compare myself to. They are embarking on their own journey of self-discovery and they are people I can connect with, share energy with and in the studio we practice in, you can feel that. It’s real. When we slide the glass door shut, and sit on our mats, our egos fly out the window and float down to rest on the tree tops. When class is over, I try not to pick it back up on the way out but sometimes it finds me and I carry it home again. But mostly, when class is over, I glide home. I never really thought about it before but the reason I am probably lacking flexibility is because I hold so much tension in my mind, and thus in my body too. This is the first time in my life that I really feel like I’m letting it all go. Not just the tension, but the insecurities too. I might not be able to do ‘crow pose’ or the splits, but I can now quieten my mind and little by little, day by day, I can feel my body getting stronger, and my mind too.

Maybe this is why I’m writing again. Yoga is my new inspiration, my ‘muse’ if you will. To inspire= to breathe in. I am breathing in new, fresh air, both literally and metaphorically and wonderful things are happening. I have never enjoyed exercise so much in my life. I feel even more compassionate than normal. I am more patient. I am sleeping better. I feel taller (that’s a lot of tall!). As opposed to normal exercise which seems to only focus on the body, with a couple of happy hormones thrown in for good measure, yoga is as much about the mind as it is the body. And for a repetitive newbie like myself (I’ve actually been practicing on and off for 3 years, but never as consistently as I am now) finding the perfect teacher, studio and people to practice with is essential. Something about practicing in a studio halfway up the mountain, with birds and trees for company, in a city of millions, just makes it even better. It is truly a little sanctuary of zen and I am beyond excited for every class.

That’s the way it should be, isn’t it? A daily habit that isn’t something you dread, or something you just do to keep in shape. It should be as easy as waking up and welcoming the new day. And yet at the same time, something that constantly challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone, whether it be trying something you didn’t even know you were capable of, or crying during savasana (corpse pose). The first time this happened to me a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked. I am an emotional person and I cry often, but I hadn’t expected these sneaky little tears to slip from my eyes during such a relaxing end to a beautiful class. But slip out they did, and I let them. Clearly, my body and mind had something to release and so there was nothing else for me to do but to allow it. This class had been focusing on restorative poses and so as the class neared the end I could feel tension slipping away, and layers of stress being pulled back. Underneath was just raw emotion and it poked its head out in the form of tears. I was so curious as to why this was happening. I wasn’t feeling particularly sad or tired, and yet my body knows best. I think of it now as a form of cleansing, a purging of old emotions and tension that were lying low in my heart and now it is time to let them all go flying out to melt into the tree tops with my ego, my insecurities, my anxiety and my stress.

Now, I am learning to embrace it all. The tears, the way my shoulders sometimes feel like they might pop out of place if I stretch a little further, the way the blood flows to my head when I’m upside down and I feel like I’ve just kissed my favourite person while simultaneously eating the best salted-caramel chocolate cupcake of my life (yoga rocks!), the way I feel like I have met these girls and this teacher at the most perfect time, the way the energy in our studio is poignantly positive- flowing from one person to the next, denying nobody. And our teacher’s voice. She is so gentle. Some teachers make the class all about them. They want to show-off and get a big ego-boost. Vlada is at the other end of the spectrum completely. She cares. She is passionate about yoga, not just as a form of exercise, but as a lifestyle and the most exciting part is that she inspires all of us to start believing in this too. I learn so much in every class, not just about yoga poses and meditation and disconnecting from technology to focus more on nature again, but also about myself. I am learning my strengths, my weaknesses, my flaws. And I am learning that yoga is not just a bunch of fancy poses done by beautiful people wearing expensive yoga pants who stick out their chests and with their eyes say “look at me, look at ME!”. Yoga is none of that. Yoga is about connecting back to yourself, to the roots of the earth, to each other, to the positive energy that flows throughout your veins. It is a discipline that can unite you with your higher self, with the ‘real you’, with all the people in this world.

To put it simply, I am addicted. And I would say that along with my travel addiction and my matcha tea addiction, I am onto something good here. Thank you Vlada for inspiring me, and thank you to everyone who joins our practice. I feel rejuvenated.

Here’s to our yoga journey!

Love,

Luna

p.s. You can check out Vlada’s blog here: www.shenzhenyoga.com

Bliss in the City

The weekend floats away as quickly as it started and before you know it, it’s Monday again and you awake with a smile, drifting on the last remaining fragments that made up the last two blissful days. Oh, but if only the weekend could be longer, the stars a little brighter, the air a little cooler. Sunday night creeps out from the shadows of the blinding sunset and carries you along in a state of longing to jump back to Saturday night and do it all again. To sit in a flower garden adorned with big, fierce candles that are burning below delicately draped fairy lights that twist and hang amongst the trees. A sweet scent of waffles wafts around the plants and comes to settle on your curious little nose. A glass of cold, white wine perfectly compliments the French melodies rising out of the accordion, the musician serenading the crowd with his talent and his charm, and you sit back and just enjoy this little moment, this secret, magical garden party, deep in the heart of the city. Later, as you wander home, the electronic beats carry over the tree tops with the full moon and follow you, resting on your shoulder, making the journey to bed a little more upbeat than normal.

You sleep in a daze of moonlight and birdsong, mixed with a dose of acoustic songs from the night before. The morning brings a wispy blue sky, and a serene kind of stillness. You buy fresh lilies and a coconut and lie back to rest your eyes, because it’s a Sunday and naps are compulsory. Travelling across the city, you alternate between dipping in and out of a book you can’t stop thinking about and watching the other passengers get on and off the bus. You arrive in the real city where skyscrapers tickle the sky and construction replaces trees. Climbing to the top you spend the rest of the afternoon on a high, with more naps for good measure. When the sunlight is reaching its limit and the light is just perfect, you run up to the roof to romance with the sunset which pokes out from buildings creating a kaleidoscope of rays, bouncing off rooftops from glitzy new towers, and also from the village, way down below in all its dilapidated glory. It’s in this exact moment that you feel a sense of calm wash over you. It is possible to feel at ease high above the chimney tops, even when you’re a villager at heart.

You take to the streets to discover more delights of the city. Cars whizz by and children frolic at your feet and old people play mahjong cross-legged on the curb. The streets of China are never ever quiet, even on a Sunday night. It’s hard to feel lonely with the constant buzz all around from fruit shop vendors and karaoke houses. Eventually though, you escape the noise and if you were to believe in teleportation you might think you’d just landed smack bang in India. Between bites of spice and rice, you indulge in deep conversations and feel like this is exactly where you’re supposed to be, right now. In a slice of India, deep in a Chinese city with someone from just across the chilly, Irish sea.

‘The View’ by PascalCampion (I loveeee this artist’s work!)