A whole package

Diary of 29.04.2016, when people are preparing to celebrate Vappu (May Day) in Finland-something belonged to my old story, and now, my other kind of story in France. 

While running yesterday, I thought to myself, hey, why not just taking a train and going wherever tomorrow? 

And today I did. I was supposed to go to Antibes, because I asked around, and was suggested. I woke up late of course. Because i am a night owl, no matter how much I try to wrap things up and tell myself to sleep early, it always failed. So I couldn’t take the train I planned to. In France, they always have lunch break lasting from 1,5–2 hours, including train services.I spent lunch time at home, then. I have been trying not to pressure myself for some changes in schedule; in fact my life so far has no particular special schedules. 

I had lunch, and did some more researching for work. After 14:00, i started (finally) biking towards the beach, sent a package for my boss and then bought train ticket. The train was going towards somewhere, I had no clues about. I didn’t make any researches, as always. I rarely did. The only thorough trips I did find information beforehand were to London and Poland probably. Most of other times, I am either too lazy or trying not to have expectations. 

Les Arcs-Draguignan was the first stop. I would imagine it be bigger, just because on the train schedule, the city was marked darker than Mandalieu La Napoule. It was a medieval city, also according to tourist brochures I picked up from Tourist Information (just had to, I knew no one and I couldn’t speak French..). And as always, I never followed them. It was as if an act of reassurance. I am horrible at reading maps. So,basically, I hold the brochures in my hand but not following them at all. Anyway, the point is, Lec Arcs-Draguignan was indeed medieval. Roads filled with rocks, paths are either really up hill or down hill. Houses are quite closed next to each other. Some windows even have clothes hanging out, adding extra colourful touches to greyish and brownish walls. Its vintage sense interested me. Probably because I was in the old town though, I was told by the woman working at tourist information office. I kept walking around, following through corners to corners but then ended up at to the original point. I knew it would happen so, as I did not follow the map. However so, the city was quite interesting I wanted to see if they have same patterns outside of old town. Well, rest of the city looked no different than Mandalieu centre and I was not a big fan of Mandalieu centre anyway. I stayed in the city only for around an hour. 

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A land whose inhabitants trace back to the fourth millennium B.C., Les Arcs has been attracting people for more than 6 million years…All of our paths, fields, and monuments have tales to tell. There are fascinating people to meet and traditions to discover in this brightly sun-lit land.

Even though the city was nice own its own sense, I went on the train with an unfinished feeling. I decided to get off the stop at Saint-Raphael-Valescure. Tonight will be Friday night, and I figured there would be no need to rush home or anything. I deserved some rest, as well as the excitement. You know, I have not been on the road like this since Sweden.  I did short explores around Mandalieu La Napoule, and spent half a day going to see Cannes with my boss. Yet I have not been on a trip of just myself walking around and probably being lost or having ‘travel problems’ (that’s what I have always called my unfortunate incidents happening while I am travelling). So I walked towards Centre Ville of Saint-Raphael first, but area was rather small. I kept following my own instinct, and the crowd. I got directed to a museum of Archaeology. After leaving there, I tried another direction, but was lead towards a local citizen area which was not much different from my city. I know what you think, I cannot expect every city to be different. I do know that, which is okay; but I just did not have much time. As I walked back to train station, I took another risk of new direction. And there was city’s secret—the secret making my trip from good to better. Saint-Raphael has spectacular coast view. There is even a park on top of a congress building or museum (I suppose) that people can enjoy these views:

I was right on time before the sun ran away. His light was not too strong and wind was not much breezy. It was that soft transition from day to evening, and people like to sit on benches being taken away by nature shortly. Romanticism enlightened whole view, and I felt stung catching other couples hanging around, just a bit, because I walked away quickly. I did not wish my “crush” moments with the sun to be affected. Just right next to this park, there is a harbour.

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Boats, boats, boats…

After Saint-Raphael, I headed towards home, for dinner and other work stuff I might need to catch up, or not, depending on my mood. Now, here was where my ‘travel problem’ acted, I was surprised it went lost for a while. What I did not realise, was the train I took at 20:14 was not going to my city, as the last one in my city has passed by. At first, I was panicked, assuming it was the express train arriving at Nice Ville. After few deep breaths, I told myself, it would be okay, there could be options going home, even if I had to pay a fortune for taxi. I had credit cards, money, phone not dead yet, and new address noted. I should be okay, after all, nothing new about these anymore.

Fortunately, the train stopped at Cannes, which was much better as Cannes is nearer to Mandalieu. I took a bus, after 40 minutes waiting. I finally got home, being quite exhausted but I still want to write something.

It was a whole package. The incidents, walking lost, jumping from this city to another one, getting bored quickly, but also getting high in awe with everything lively around me; they are what reminding me goodness of being alive. I have always wondered why young generators today are addicted to travelling, as a common thing. I realised, possibly the stress of this fast-paced life make us forget sometimes the beauty around us, even if just flowers along streets.

Travelling is our chance, or at least my chance, to notice artistic touch of the simplest thing. I’d like to be reminded like that. I’d like to be awaken after hours of walking and finding. Just like other post about hiking, journey is tired but final end, no matter what it is–some days, it could be the views I expected for, some days, it is just satisfaction of having an experience—encouraging me to keep going.

See, I am actually much luckier than a lot of people.

What do you know, third week is a charm!

Small Boy

He picked up a pebble

and threw it into the sea.

And another, and another.

He couldn’t stop.

He wasn’t trying to fill the sea. 

He wasn’t trying to empty the beach. 

He was just throwing away,

nothing else but. 

Like a kitten playing, 

he was practising for the future

when there’ll be so many things

he’ll want to throw away

if only his fingers will unclench

and let them go.

-Norman Maccaig-

I noted down this poem, while reading the book “Seven ways to Lighten Your Life before You Kick the Bucket” of Walt Hopkins and George Simons. My reaction was evoked rather strongly. Maybe it was the last two sentences “if only his fingers will unclench and let them go“. Or maybe it was realisation that growing up makes it harder letting go, from small tangible objects to intangible feelings, and fact is the latter is much more difficult. I do not think we can ever get rid of feelings and thoughts, except knowing better to manage them, and accepting them. A nurse told me a while ago, “if the problems are in your head, you cannot run away from them“.

So I brought my problems with me coming to France, thinking me moving is an a metaphorical act of letting go. It turned out more as an act of running way.

My friends ask me “How is life in France so far?“. Every single time, I always stop for brief seconds before answering them. I was trying to search for and form appropriate answers to receivers. Are they my closed friends asking? Have they known anything about what I ran away from? Are they interested in long answers or simply “it has been okay“? Should I be totally honest or partly or not at all?

I think too much, don’t I?

But I do go through all thoughts. Sometimes, I even want to say “oh that is a hard question to answer to“. However, in fact, France has been generous to me. Mandalieu La Napoule has given me beautiful weather, so I can walk outside, breath in air filled with flowers blossoming, look at people slowly changing summer clothes & look at kids swimming in the sea and build sand castle. I am in my third week here, and there are so much more about this city I have not yet discovered. The city is small. I could have tried to pack ‘top things I need to see‘ in the city for my first week here. But I didn’t. I wanted to fight against force push of life’s flow. I would remain slow, and let my mood guide me of what to see in the city day after day. It is a little scary, noticing it is already my third week here but my level of knowing in this city is quite low, not to mention my French—which has not developed at all.

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Me trying to appear like I am learning French on the beach

It is also a little more scary, noticing I had just been here for three weeks and felt as if I had been much longer. There were days waking up with much heaviness, and attempting to go through those days with as much positivity as possible, stretched out concept of time.

I am in my third week here, and Mandalieu already started to tell me “honeymoon phase is over“. It is not a bad thing though, I was totally prepared for it. I even was looking forward to it. I wanted to write this post at the end of my first week, but it has been delayed until now. Among all other reason, it was because I waited to see if there would be anything else coming up before I claimed all good sides about life being here. It is different between a travel life and actually living there, despite how much you wish to be authentic and interact with locals. See, I am not saying it as such a bad thing as some people might think. Travelling is supposed to grow different feelings inside you. Travelling is an escapism, a way for some finding their identity or just a new experience. Hence, despite how much you wish not to be seen as a tourist, you still are a tourist. As much as how people differs in living, tourists also differ in their travelling approaches. I just want to say, it is okay accepting the fact travelling mostly would just give you “honeymoon phase”. I did accept that, which is why I waited for signs that such phase might end. I moved here not for travelling. I moved here a new story in my life.

In this new story I am still on veriest first page, struggling of what words I should express, I found three secrets. One secret is about the person I see everyday. That person has gained a tremendous treasure of stories and experiences, and almost every topics I brought up for talking, the person would know what other relevant stories to share. Those stories are not only expressed through our conversations, but through objects, paintings, furnitures and books I noticed in the house. Some stories do not need to be told, but I can still hear it by the person’s face expression whenever evening time makes both of us a bit nostalgic and our souls are more quiet listening to life flowing. That treasure of experiences, I, again, only allow me to slowly discover. I don’t wish to see them all, because I value some private parts of my life, I suppose it is reasonable I respect others too. I do wish to see parts which surely would inspire me, would remind me of why I moved here originally and why I should “keep on keeping on” (from George & Walt’s book). This person has the passion and spirit for work & life I admire.

The other secret is about another person I have been hanging out with, one of most private people I have ever got to interacted with. I am normally not comfortable with silence, being next to someone else, except for my closed friends. For some reasons, with this person, I learned to get accustomed to the silence existing between us sometimes. In fact, I have been quite comfortable with it. Because it is a new person, a new kind of relationship to build between us, but we don’t try to push it. I am aware we might not have so many commons once we share things more, but we don’t try to force those commons for existing. We shared with the other what we felt like we wanted to share, in spite of whether having any spoken responds or just a simple face expression. Then, we kept other parts we don’t want the world to know, to ourselves. And maybe one day, when we get more comfortable, the stories will slip out. And maybe not. And that should be just fine. This person has a beautiful smile I adore, I even feel a bit disappointed those smiles are not expressed so often.

The last secret is myself. Travelling can become an addiction, and you might hear people sharing their endless stories of meeting different kinds of people. They are all true, as well as those alone moments with no friends/families/people you know around, which are often placed at corners of the stories. Leaving a place I called my second home city for a better cause was because I wanted to be better. Moving to a place where I mostly went through all inner battles alone, with no closed ones to run to for a hug or comfort is a reminder of loneliness. I craved for contacts few times when reminder hit. I would pick up my phone, scroll up and down seeing who I could contact, what things I could publish on social media to get attention from some. Yet, I still put those acts aside sometimes. I took a deep breath of silence, and I fight by myself. My daily battle has been being sensitive to myself, taking care of me, listening to me and loving me. I know I need to find me, love me before anyone else is allowed to. This is what I am fighting with, against any feelings telling me I should not do all those above things. So, last secret is I realise me being stronger and braver than I ever thought I was (a good one to admit).

Anyway, enough of my words. If you are already here, you deserve to see some nice scenes of Mandalieu, through my lense:

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Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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…Ucket

What are the reasons for your decision to buy a book?

For me, I first look at covers (and yes, that is how covers/ packages are ridiculously important sometimes and sure, you are welcomed to disagree). Among all those book covers placing on shelf after shelf, usually, there are some stopping my eyes from moving. Secondly, I pick up those books. I look at the names a bit more closely, letting any triggered, excited, confused feelings rising up, and I look at the back with reviews, before I open to read first few pages inside. That is generally my process. Of course, it also varies sometimes. I might already got recommended to particular books, or I already knew I would buy that certain book for number of reasons I established before stepping into bookstores. Other people have different approaches, and there will be few among them saying my approach seem to focus much on the outside. Well, I do agree.

I was advised while ago to try reading first 10 pages of any book, and if you feel like you still want to read more, then buy it. It was a great advice that I managed to apply with good results. Though now and then, I tend to be ignorant of many things and little stubborn to try not to follow advices, just because they would make me appear smarter. So I do judge on the outside looks.

The point is, I do not think I would ever naturally pick this book “Seven ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket”. As you can see, the book title indicates it is not even for me. I would be honest to you, that I only read this book because amazingly, I happened to start working with one of the authors—George Simons. As part of ‘the job’, I read the book even though George did not ask me to.

I finished it one hour ago, and refused to go to sleep now without finishing this review first, as tomorrow word flows might disappear. And I did not finish it out of obligation, or effort trying to impress George. In fact, I got sucked into the life stories of George and Walt, and their idea of writing this book originally:

So what did we do when we got stuck on the bucket list? When stuck, play with the words!

And they did. I know you might think the book will TELL you how to live your life to the fullest before you cannot anymore, and here are seven ways to do that, etc., cliché. Well, you are partly right, except George & Walt do not TELL you instructions about those 7 ways to live fullest and happy life. Those seven ways are collection of their stories, throughout their lives. Each of them has their own website: Walt Hopkins and George Simons. Through there, one can see layers of experiences they have obtained, and one should not be surprised of quantity of stories they can share.

What surprised me though was how many notes I made for myself while reading it. Because they wrote this book, aiming for old guys; but did say “we are reasonably certain that people who aren’t guys and who aren’t older will still want to read at least some of this just to keep an eye on us—to find out what the geezers are up to now”. On the contrary, many things in the book that I learned, I am sure other young generators can pick up too. They can be short phrases from sentences or sentences from paragraphs, but I recalled myself smiling or holding breath, or quickly searching for pens underlining while stumbling onto words that touched to my soul. This is the reason for my love of books: I always manage to find something related to my life. Book is a kaleidoscope, once you allows it to be, and you can see all different shapes it can become.

Here are some illustrated examples:

  • From George: “Memories are an important part of life and identity”.

“Just because everyone is doing it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it too.”

  • From Walt: “…That is very difficult, because thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future distract me from the present. It can be as simple as paying attention. Perhaps by looking up from my keyboard to look out the window of this speeding train in which I am writing today—and see a delightfully multi-colors spinning ball out in the middle of a field among other scarecrows.”

Have you had many moments when you sit there listening to endless stories told by your grandparents, and feeling like watching movies of a whole different world? I have never had that with mine, but reading this book feels like it (weird, isn’t it?). I could envision myself as those children I saw on televisions, sitting and concentrating to listen to their grandparents telling how their lives once were different. I did not only learn, but I also got reminded of things I forgot, and because the personal touch is unique enough, I even felt being advised what to do sometimes. I am sure, out of many stories they shared, there would be one or two stories you catch, and think, “Hey! I am only … but I experience this too!”. I never thought much about age (at least I think so) because people are often surprised knowing my age. This book reinforces my belief. It should never be about ages. I don’t have to be that certain age to understand what they might have been through, or they don’t have to be my age to experience what I do. One does not have to be 60s or 70s, to think: “Even at times when you do not need to be highly attentive to friends, to family, to the people you live with, you still need to be sensitive to yourself”.

On the other hand, the book also demonstrates how it is clearly written for old guys through their sense of humour, their way of using playful words or references (that unfortunately, I or some other young generators might not understand). George and Walt’s idea is to move beyond the “bucket list”, and create seven other lists:

  1. Chucket—dump the stuff you don’t need or want.
  2. Shucket—Keep what’s important but distill it.
  3. Ducket—Dodge demands that others throw at you.
  4. Fucket—Trash what no longer works for you.
  5. Plucket—Grasp the sweets that life still offers.
  6. Trucket—Walk your talk and follow your dreams.
  7. Tucket—Tell yourself what’s working in your life.

In each chapter about each list, there is also a reflection part; in which readers are invited to join in the book’s thinking flow. So I would recommend two tips to any readers:

  • Take notes about the meaning of above 7 terms. They are certainly mentioned again throughout the book but for me, there were moments my reading flow went too smooth, I forgot what each term meant whenever I saw them again. I figured, it would be better if I have a note next to me, so when that happens, I can check quickly.
  • Read it slow. And do reflect when reflection part comes. Or at least stop for few seconds for the questions planted in your head. What I did was, sometimes, I marked them down, and told myself to come back one day to reflect. Maybe when I got to their age, because for sure, this book will stay with me until then.

I wrote this, more than just a book review. I caught part of the sentence Walt wrote: “…that part of being alive is noticing life around me, turning it into a story, and sharing the story with others”. I personally always believe in the art of story telling. I put a lot of exclamation marks behind this sentence. So, by reading this book, I noticed lives of two remarkable people through their stories and let myself be inspired. I felt it to be a little responsibility of mine to share their words to even more people, despite my humble blog network.

If you find this to be interested enough, they have a Facebook page which goes beyond these …ucket lists for you to check out!

Why not the present?

My problem is when I am doing something, I jump to thinking of doing another. Or when I am already middle of something, my brain got distracted of the next thing I should plan to do. Like, if I am reading a book, some moments I would think what I would at for lunch, what I would do at 3pm, 5 or 6pm that day. It makes days now and then going by stressfully busy, because there will always plans and lists of things to do. I do that all the time. I always need or should have plans. Just at this moment, I was planning to read a book. I planned earlier to hike, then reached a point for stopping and reading. But i kept hiking. Because there was no point perfect yet and i didn’t want to stop. But it was part of the plan. So i finally found one. Stopped. Open the book. Read few pages. And unconsciously thought about continuing to walk because I need to come back home at some point. I had other plans to finish at home. 

This is why I am rarely at rest or peace. 

So I closed the book. I was annoyed and pissed at myself. I asked “Why do you keep doing this?“. Either you wandered in nostalgia, a past, a longing for something/someone no longer be a part of your present life. Then you don’t feel satisfied with presence. Or you fly forward to the future, in which you are supposed to have all the plans but never sure that would ever work. Then you have the pressure of making it work, or the disappointment when it does not. You are not satisfied with your presence. 

I asked myself again :”So really, why?“. Remember five whys you might be taught in your Marketing class? I am doing it right now. 

I always need to have plans. I guess it was because without plans, I will be seen as a person without any clues for future, not prepared. And that was certainly not how I was taught. I was trained to follow a beaten path, a path with all the plans. Simply said (but often not simply done), I have plans to draw in front of me to follow. Since I moved abroad, I started to go off that beaten path. Surprisingly, I didn’t stop drawing up a beaten path of my own. Because I was supposed to be that girl who knew what she was doing. Because I need that to have my parents realise I am good enough, and I am not worse than the neighbour kid. 

I asked myself again with the past, “Why?“. I guess it was because the past is something done. I know what was good, and what was bad. I know the outcome. So my brain could pick between good things and bad things to think about. And because nostalgia is a human thing, to want for something you don’t have. When you do have it, there are other questions coming to mind. You even find out you might not want it as much as you thought. 

Then I asked myself again, “Why not the present?” My present is not the best, but what I went through was certain not either. I only picked out lovely things to long for, but forgot the bad ones. And once I am reminded by the bad ones, they become ghosts which have yet remained to my life. I can’t let go. Future is uncertain. Clearly uncertainty cannot be better or worse, I will never know.

So why not present? So why not just finishing a thing I started to do, finish it and then plan the next thing. So why not just doing nothing even? Present now is sitting under the sun, listening to a strong wave of wind shaking all the trees and their leaves. They are dancing around me. Maybe they are happy summer will soon arrive too. Present is mountain appearing in front of my eyes. Present is grey rock under my feet. Present is white slash over blue clear sky. Present is the book I am reading, which was written by my current employer, and even though I do not belong to their target group, I have enjoyed it, picked up quite few tips for my own. Present is I have just finished my thesis, finally, and even when it is not yet 100% perfect version, I have just finished writing everything! 

I know, believe me I do, it is hard to forget all these when life carries you on. You forget a lot of wise things you told yourself once. You forget you only need to focus on NOW. Since you have lists of things to do for tomorrow, next week, next month. And you might feel what I just said was nonsense. And you might think I have no purpose. And I cannot say you are wrong about the last one, I have not figured out either. But other things you have in mind, I had them too when bumping into all sort of writings online. I got burnt out for a period of time, and the result continued now (not that it will be applied on you, you might be much better in time management than i will ever be). 

So I hope at least, whenever you feel overwhelmed, just a few seconds, as I did today when I closed the book, asking yourself :”Why not the present?” 

The little excitement I got at 03:22 am in the morning

I am such a night owl. I know this, but realised the truth in it today and admitted by starting my post with confession. My head, for some reasons, become much more clear during the nights. I have been stuck with ideas to write my next blog post, as I feel like being given a bit extra spared time in France to do things I enjoy, rather than repeating the word “thesis”. Truth is that is not true. I am here learning and starting to work for my internship, meaning my “list-to-do” is potentially longer. Yet I still feel the luxury of space and time, as if someone is trying to present them in front of my face, and tell me to take it! And use it wisely to focus on yourself! And don’t you dare deny or try to return to me!… 

I have the tendency of wandering around my words (did it again!..) but the point is, today, I visited this small little shop selling potteries and scented soaps/ candles in the La Napoule Center of Mandalieu La Napoule. The name is Creation Ceramiques. I bought two scented soaps and a bag of home-grown lavenders by the shop’s owner herself. So another confession, I am a sucker for nice scented accessories. And being on the French Riviera is now becoming a dangerous jackpot.

The perfume industry on the French Riviera dates from the 18th century, when Grasse, an inland town in the western part of the Alpes-Maritimes, became known as the perfume capital of the world. This was due to the splendid micro-climate that encouraged the culture of the flowers and aromatic plants like lavender and jasmine, among others, enabling the creation of top quality perfumes.

Nowadays, the industry is still thriving, and is a great draw for visitors to the Riviera – for example, there are almost 14.000 hectares of aromatic plants in the region. The main perfume producers, Galimard, Fragonard and Molinard, have large plants in Grasse which organise tours, giving the expression “smelling like a perfume factory” a new meaning when the tourists emerge from there!

I don’t know yet anything about Grasse, as I am trying to learn everything about Mandalieu from scratch, and without the help of tourist office. But surely, Grasse has been added on my list of where-next? in France. I like purple, no, i am obsessed with the color. And I used to link lavender with perfume as the first thing whenever thinking about France. However so, I discovered today in the shop another amazing aromatic plants for perfume: mimosa.

Image result for mimosa soapSee original image

(I had my own picture of my new fresh soap, but I couldn’t get it here, so had to use alternatives from Google).

My boss told me I arrived little later than the mimosa season and I did not feel bad about it until today. The aroma from this plant is particularly amazing. It is a mixture of sweet and sour, even if sourness is blurry. Its aroma is much the same as its colour. For me, seeing and smelling it share one strong bond. I placed it in my clothes drawers. I shared bits from my small bag of lavenders to small boxes and placed in around the house. I had my lavender soap already opened for using in the bathroom. The place soon will be wrapped in the natural scents from these amazing aromatic plants! This is worth one of reasons for you to travel to French Riviera, and learn about perfume making industry. At least, I am sure it have become one of my quest.

Originally from Australia, the mimosa was first introduced in Europe in the mid 19 th century during one of the voyages of Captain Cook. He thrived on the French Riviera thanks to the favourable climate and a silica sol. Planted in 1880 in Croix des Gardes in properties which also spread in the wild throughout the region and perfumes in the air of the countryside … The mimosa will multiply in the region, in Mandelieu, Pégomas, Tanneron or La Roquette. The markets grew and whole cars containing mimosa left daily from La Napoule railway station to the north of France and abroad.

The mimosa is celebrated every year by the inhabitants of Mandelieu-La Napoule. Officially celebrated for the first time in 1931, the Mimosa Festival was a great success. It has continued to grow in scale from its origin of one flower parade at a big party.

According to tradition, the organization of the festival is entrusted to the inhabitants of the town, in a good mood, they bloom freshly picked mimosa tanks. A meticulous braiding branches around the subjects made each year according to the selected theme. The good will of all, gives the party an authentic folk atmosphere recognized by all its visitors.

“You can’t do that! Stories have to be about White people”

Young Writers of Colour by Darren Chetty I’ve spent almost two decades teaching in English primary schools, which serve multiracial, multicultural, multifaith communities. I want to explore two things I have noticed. 1)    Almost without exception, whenever children are asked to write a story in school, children of colour will write a story featuring white […]

http://mediadiversified.org/2013/12/07/you-cant-do-that-stories-have-to-be-about-white-people/

“If the nostalgic returns, a condition of his return is that he will leave.”

Amazing article I randomly caught on Discovery Readers, about nostalgy and authenticity seeking. As my thesis research has been involved with authentic experience demanding in tourism, I found almost every words in the article similarly matching with my own perception. The author intelligently pointed out the type of authenticity people might search for from a city nowadays, is also demanded to be poetic, growing from the seed of nostalgy – longing for a life human once had. Or at least that’s how I have understood it. And the best part I loved, is the author’s description of what authenticity should be, a combination of true daily lives’ events, of anything, even unpleasant, happening to local people.