Today is Valentine’s Day. SZKoala’s other half is currently nestled in the fork of a tree in Australia – eating yummy gum leaves – but we sent a heart emoticon or two on chat and are both still having a nice day despite been away from one another.

It is 4 p.m. and I am considering venturing out to the little cafe down the road. It is becoming one of my favourite sitting and reading spots and has a very relaxing, chilled out atmosphere.

The first time I visited, I was very taken by the design of the cafe. It’s a very trendy place. The people were lovely as well. Then I realised that the music they were playing was in fact only one track which was stuck on repeat and never seemed to end! Despite the music, I went back to enjoy the atmosphere and was very happy to find that they had added a few more songs to their repertoire.

I have recently finished a book called Cadans, a book written by Micha Meinderts about a young gay guy growing up in Belgium in the 1970s. It is the first in the series, and after such a sad ending, I will make sure to read the next two books. As I am unsure how to order their delivery to China, I will carry on reading Madame Bovary, which I have had since July last year and have found so incredibly hard to get into that I don’t find so much pleasure in reading it. I usually read books in order to practice the languages I have learned, so this book is naturally the original French version. Admittedly, it is my own fault that I find it hard to read. Flaubert uses so much descriptive language, and his sentences go on and on. I must persevere.

Reading is one of the goals of my trip to China. I have several books I did not get a chance to read last year, so hopefully I will be able to read them all this year. Of course, reading is not my only goal. If it were, it would be a very odd goal to have for someone traveling in another country. That said, I am still working out my goals to be honest. I know that I want to improve my Mandarin Chinese. I know that I want to improve my abilities as a teacher, and I know that I want to save money for the future. They are my main goals, but I still feel a little strange here. As though I am not sure really why I have come.

Perhaps this is why I find that cafe so comforting. It is a place where I can sit and just be. I can become lost in the worlds created by my books. A respite from my nagging, questioning mind which is constantly hassling me about my motives, my actions and my intentions.

Shenzhen is a busy place. My neighbourhood is a noisy, bustling area that doesn’t seem to sleep. I do love cities. I love the noise and the excitement, but in these first few weeks – I have been here only one month –  it has been nice to escape from it for a little. Moving to another country is a wonderful experience, but the first month can seem like an eternity. Every day offers its own challenges and tasks that would normally take a minute to carry out can seem like a never-ending battle. In those crazy first moments, you need a zone of quiet. You need some still water. The cafe gives me that. I don’t want to be holed up in my apartment all day – I am good at making myself feel guilty for staying home – so, I push myself to head outside, to fight through the crowded streets of cars, taxis, motorbikes and bicycles, to the safety of my local cafe.

cafe1

So, I will venture out now with my book under my arm. I will order an expensive cup of coffee and enjoy the zone for a few hours.

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