Nostalgia is my middle name

Last weekend I took a trip back to Shenzhen in China, seeing as it’s just across the border from Hong Kong. Shenzhen is the city I lived in for a year and a half, and probably the place in my life that I changed and grew the most in. It’s the city I had my first proper full-time job in, in one of China’s biggest animation companies – Fantawild Animation. It’s the city that I dealt with heartbreak in, fell in love in, made big decisions in, multi-tasked a full-time job and studying in, and a city I just genuinely enjoyed living in, despite what people say about it being just another big Chinese city. Now, I am an extremely nostalgic person, but when I went back to visit I couldn’t help but feel that strong independence I used to feel there creeping back in and making me feel lighter. It’s a city filled with potential, filled with young entrepreneurs trying to make the most of their creative business ideas. It’s quite an exciting place to be and it’s changing and growing everyday.

I was happy to see that’s it developing in the right direction. They’ve now implemented a rent-a-bicycle scheme at main metro hubs, and I noticed more bike paths too. It seemed cleaner and greener, and less polluted. Infact, the sky was extremely blue.

But I was also a little nervous to enter China after having lived in my beloved Taiwan for the past year, but it seems my feelings haven’t changed. I still like China a lot. It’s very different to Taiwan, but it doesn’t make me like it any less. The opportunities in China are still very much thriving and I can’t help but feel that everyday in that crazy, cool country is one big adventure.

Here are a few pics of my trip back to Shenzhen:

IMG_20131116_182319 In China, I did voices for cartoons. I snuck back into the office on Saturday and left notes for my ex-colleagues to say ‘hi’.

IMG_20131116_183005 IMG_20131117_124017 This is the BEST Green Tea in the world, seriously.

IMG_20131117_124253 IMG_20131117_125127 Africa in China. Of course.

IMG_20131117_125246O.C.T. Loft, my favourite part of the city. It’s a big art district filled with cafes, creative working studios etc.

IMG_20131117_125510 IMG_20131117_152629 This is F518 Idea Land, another creative art district in Bao’An district. It’s also very cool.

IMG_20131117_153938 IMG_20131117_162339 IMG_20131117_213049 Old Heaven: my favourite cafe in the whole, entire world!

IMG_20131118_085542 IMG_20131118_184938 20131116_113512 20131116_113912 20131116_113928 20131116_114048 20131116_114116 20131116_114140 20131116_114430 20131116_114454 20131116_114535 20131116_124756 20131116_134034 20131116_141621 20131116_145449 20131116_16420020131117_150638It was so good to see my old haunts, hang out with my old friends and remind myself why I like China. It felt like everyone on the street was smiling, the sun was always shining and the little moments of chaos that I encountered, which are extremely common in Chinese cities, well, they’ve just inspired me to write stories in my head and turn them into hilarious tales to share with everyone.

China, we’re still good friends: 我還是喜歡你.

Love,

Luna.

my search for the most perfect cafe

I found Old Heaven cafe 舊天堂書店 at exactly the time I needed it in my life. It was perfect. I was new to Shenzhen, I didn’t particularly want to live there at that stage and everyone needs ‘their’ cafe. I found mine and I haven’t found another since. Oh, I’ve been looking, changing my bicycle route on the off-chance that another Old Heaven might pop up in these back-streets of Taipei. Alas, no such luck. Could it be that Old Heaven is truly the most perfect little cafe in the world?

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I’ve made it a challenge to myself to try and find one that outdoes it. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I can’t quite deal with the fact that I no longer get to go there. It’s not that I want to replace it, it’s just I need another space that has that same special quality.

What’s so special about Old Heaven I hear you wonder…?

Well, how about the fact that it’s a book store too. Or the fact that it also sells vinyls, cds, notebooks and classic posters, to name a few. It has a cat, and the best green tea I’ve ever drank in my life. The furniture is mis-matched, and the lighting is more than perfect. There are different nooks and crannies, each with their own unique atmosphere. There’s a record player, and a cd player, and you can play DJ. There’s an antique fooz-ball table on the little patio under the trees, sprinkled with white blossoms that smell divine. There is a little upstairs table. It’s my favourite. I would curl up on that sofa and spend hours writing. I even  wrote my proposal for the Taiwan Youth Trekker’s competition which won, sat on that exact sofa, sipping on the best green tea.

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You can watch concerts there, listen to lectures on every topic from art to the future of China. You can browse and buy books. You can get drunk on their wide selection of beers and cocktails. Their Long Island Iced Tea is lethal (in a good way, of course). They play music that seems to blend with your mood, allowing you to emanate possibility.

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(Old Heaven is below this crazy-cool building)

It was like a second home. I could go there with the knowledge that even if it was packed, there’d always be a seat for me somewhere, even if it was a dusty step, or a rather uncomfortable wooden number tucked in the corner.

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I spent an evening with my family there. I spent days upon days with my best girl and guy friends there, chatting and drinking bottomless green tea and freshly-squeezed apple juice. I probably cried there, got drunk there, danced there. I even fell in love there.

Old Heaven is my best.

Taiwan had a few possible contenders, but none can equal the beauty of Old Heaven. Nor can Scotland, South Africa, England, Hong Kong, Thailand and anywhere else I’ve searched since discovering my cafe.

Perhaps you’ve been to one that might be a suitable competitor? What makes your favourite so awesome?

If I never find one as cool again, will I be left feeling cafe-unsatisfied forever?

Maybe I should open one that’s even more amazing, if that’s even possible…

Yeah, I really like this cafe.

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p.s. Due to a major lack of photos, I guess I’ll just have to go back…

star-shaped rice.

Star-shaped rice. What a delight. Just last week I was struggling to get through my usual 12hr teaching day, when I received a little message from a friend. ‘Star rice is back!!’ YES!

It takes a while to get used to eating rice everyday (give me potatoes any day of the week). But when you stumble across the cutest restaurant in the world, complete with books shelves filled with old books, low ceilings that you bump your head off every single time, RIBENA!!!!, ONLY vegetarian delicious food-complete with cucumber and broccoli…yum!!, what more could you really ask for?!
STAR-SHAPED RICE. That’s what! It makes rice taste so delicious, even by itself. So I was pretty darn happy to be back in that place. I skipped up the stairs, bumped my head along the way (lovely nostalgic ache) and sat at my favourite table by the window overlooking the lovely trees on my old campus. It felt like home. It was delicious. They even threw in some spring rolls for free!!

When it closed down last year I was devastated. Pretty much resorted to sitting in my dorm, only eating star-fruit and cookies and refusing to ever eat rice again, unless it was star-shaped. How could they just close down? What about my lunch? Why would they want to take away the most beautiful rice creation? I never got over it. If it ever closes again I will cry even more than I did last year. And let me tell you, that will be one pretty big puddle!