Run away

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I’m on the flight heading back to Norway after spending six days in China. A break from the routines. I call it “runaway”. The phrase is certainly used with a metaphoric sense as I don’t have a good cause to justify the expression.

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My life is good. It’s how I feel most of the time and how it’s considered by people around me. But a “runaway” of this sort is still necessary. The withdrawal from the family, the duties, and the routines. I might end up living as a wanderer if I didn’t have a family. I might never settle down. This thought keeps intruding my mind. That’s why I run away regularly I think. The idea is so tempting.

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Those six days were spent entirely with my best friend since primary school. Strange, wasn’t it? Considering we’ve been living in two countries with distinctive cultures for so many years. Far away from one another physically, yet so close psychologically.

We had a four-day trip to a coastal town. It was the first time I wandered along a sandy beach in China, which I left when I was 16. It felt different from the beaches I have been to in other places. The smell of the sea, the colour of the water, the atmosphere, and the way the beach was enjoyed by the people there marked the difference.

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I had a good grasp of Chinese, I still did. But it felt distant. I spoke the same language as the locals did, yet I felt foreign. The essence of language, by that I meant the cultural aspects attached to it were lost.

This journey was a collection of moments. Some were already fading while others were being  transformed to something deeper. Like this one – falling asleep in a cafe.
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We were wandering in a place that used to be a fishing village in old days. The noise and smell typically associated with a street food market was just too much for me. It felt as a relief when I found myself sitting in the charming cafe with a British touch. Apple-carrot juice was ordered for her and green-tea ice cream for me.
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I pulled out the book from my tote bag and glanced at the cover. It was titled “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”, a novel by the Japanese writer Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The story was set in the-hundred-year-old cafe in Tokyo. The cover title caught my eyes and I picked it up from a vintage bookshop the day before.
If you were lucky enough to be given the chance to sit in that magical chair at the cafe, you would be able to travel back in time and re-experience a special moment. You would meet someone you have been longing to see.
– How long does the moment last?
– Before your coffee gets cold.
– Can I change something?
– No, you may do things differently but it would not affect the outcome. The outcome would be the same no matter how you change the things before it.
– So what’s the point?
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I read a few pages and fell asleep in the corner of the sofa.
It is so faint. No I don’t want to change anything. I just long to live in that moment again. It feels like a film, or a novel. the same protagonists, the same setting, the same tenderness and sadness. In the end, it all turns into darkness. The parting.
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The mind slowly returned to the present. It was humid and hot. I felt thirsty.
“How long have I been sleeping, five minutes?” I asked my dear friend, who was reading an article on her phone.
“One hour and twenty minutes.” she said.
So strange, it feels like five minutes, right before the coffee gets cold. I thought, sipping her apple-carrot juice.

Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

58 thoughts on “Run away”

  1. I like your writing, Isabelle. You explain your own intimate experiences in a way that feels like part of a novel. Noir, intriguing, only revealing just enough detail to pull you in and trigger an emotional response. Now the reader is hooked. How did the girl really feel on the beach in her birth country? What happened after the cafe? Great post Isabelle!

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    1. Sometimes subtlety says more than hundreds of words. I am a feeler, and I feel too much at times. Turning the emotions into words feels like a release. I like to write a blog post in this way, as if it’s a paragraph of a novel. But I don’t always manage it, and I struggle a lot. I get upset because I fail to write it as how it feels at that exact moment. Thank you for the comment, and I hope you can sense how much I appreciate your thoughtful words.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely writing Isabelle, you transported me there as an observer to your thoughts 🙂 Thank you. That book sounds interesting, and the important message… Did you move to Norway when you were 16 or somewhere else first? Taking time off from family life seems like a healthy thing to do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the thoughful words 😊 I think this blog is very much about my thoughts, which reflect my values, my beliefs and for the most part, my emotions and feelings. It can be very personal, and sometimes unconventional or even weird. Always good to know that those thoughts are acknowledged. I moved to Norway from China (Shanghai) when I was 16 and have settled here since then. It didn’t come to me as a surprise when I was considered a foreigner in China 😊 Nice to have a chat. Thank you!

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  3. The cafe really transported you to UK instead of in China, it has the British vibe there. You should be proud of yourself that you are able to converse in your mother tongue after so many years away from your hometown. I have seen people struggling to speak their native language after spending many years away from home. Good job, Isabelle!

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words Keen! I still have a grasp of the language but I’ve lost the so called “cultural codes”. It was a lovely short journey, and it was great to experience something very different from my daily life. Thank you! 😊

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  4. Hey Isabelle, I didn’t realise you were from China (Shanghai)! 上海宁!China is prettier than I remembered (or maybe it’s the way you captured it). I haven’t heard of the book, it sounds intriguing, and I have previously written a series of letters (what I call Dear You Letters) that try to explore the same sentiments of longing to see them again.
    Do you mind me asking, how did you move to Scandinavia? It’s rather difficult to settle there isn’t it? 😊

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    1. Hi Jolene, lovely to hear from you! Yeah no doubt China has gone though some huge changes. We spent four days in Xia Meng (厦门)and it was quite an experience for me. The architectural style in Xia Meng is very different from Shanghai in that it’s very European oriented. Will check out “Dear You Letters”, sounds fabulous. I moved to norway with my family, and yeah, it wasn’t the smoothest start I remember. Lovely to have a chat! Thank you 😊

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  5. Sometimes, taking a break from family and the responsibilities tied to it is important to maintain the drive to continue. My family and I lived in Xi’an, China for four years straight. While some of our expat friends returned to their home country every few months, we stayed the whole time. For anyone moving to a foreign country, I do not recommend leaving home for such a long time without a break every now and again. You don’t necessarily need to return to your home country, but finding someplace where you can take a breather and distance yourself from the experience a little will help you magnificently.

    I somewhat understand what you mean about the dual connection and disconnection with your childhood home when you visited recently. We came back from China in 2014, and my friends and world in America had drastically changed. The friends who I had last seen in 4th grade were moving into 9th grade, and what they liked, talked about, and did had altered with cultural changes and progressing age.

    You say that you’re from Shanghai? My mother and older sister spent a week or so in Shanghai, but I only stopped there once to catch a connecting flight. I hear that it is more “Westernized” than other places in China. Did you learn English upon moving to Norway, or did you learn some in Shanghai? Would you consider yourself trilingual in Mandarin, English, and Norwegian now?

    That book, “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”, sounds magical. It has an element of wonder to it, of introspection into life and the preciousness of each moment. I don’t know what moment I would want to revisit if I sat in that chair…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking time to send me such an insightful and comprehensive comment! We took a 4 day trip to a coastal city/town called Xia Meng in southern China which I had never been to before. The locals speak mandarin but they also have their own dialect which is said to be similar to the language spoken in Taiwan. What characterises the city is its European oriented architectural style and beautiful beaches. You’re right, Shanghai is more westernised than many cities/towns in China. Quite commercial in a sense.
      I think I can consider myself a trilingual as these are the languages that I use/speak on a daily basis.
      The book is brilliant, quite touching. I bought it mostly because of the title “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”, it put me to a dreamy word immediately. I’m a “cafe” person and I love concepts based on cafes. It turned out that I made a good choice. Thanks for a nice chat!

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  6. Beautiful pics Isabelle ☺
    Such summery feels in white dress and glares on !!
    And I can relate to the fact that exposure to different cultures makes us feel bit distanced from our original culture and sometimes makes us question where we belong. Hope you had a great vacation !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you cherry! You’re right and I often feel I’m an outsider when I’m in China. And it seems it’s very recognisable for the locals that I’m not a local. I speak and think in a different way. I’m not sad, feeling as a foreigner in the country which used to be my home is an extraordinary experience itself. I see things from a different perspective and I constantly make reflections. Very nice to have a chat! Thank you! 😊

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  7. Oh! Isabelle….this is lovely in SOOO many ways. From the first very sweet picture of You. I love that You do this! Take time for Yourself. Honor that part of You while also, obviously!, honoring Your children and family and home….and all else. It’s just as important; our wild spirit and that You gift it regularly is amazing. So many people don’t. I find myself “hunkering down nose to the grindstone” sometimes on days I probably would have been better served on every level running laughing down the beach or curling up in a corner with a book. Cheers to You!!! And HOW FUN! To spend that sacred time away with Your friend!!! My very best friend from high school came and visited me a couple of months ago. We’re both almost 54 now…so there is such a deep history and a thorough knowing of one another. Pure delight and sooooo much laughter! She is a prolific reader. I will tell her about that book! Actually, I’ll send her a link to Your blog. She doesn’t blog but would love it, I think. I’ve not been much in a reading mood of late…spare time is joyfully spent painting….but if I fall back into it…I will check out this book. Thank You for so sweetly taking us along for a ride! Yay Yay YAY!!! 💖🤗☀️🐬😊!!!

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    1. Thank you dear Katy, I’m overwhelmed by your warm and kind words. I can feel the warmth from you despite the physical difference between us. It has flowing through the seas and mountains between the USA and Norway and reached me. Thank you! 💖 I relate to what you feel about the connection between you and your best friend from high school. Yes, the laughter, the understanding, and the support. It’s all beyond the words. I’m touched that you would send a link of my blog to your best friend. It’s not the most amazing blog but it is written with the heart. I hope you take care Katy and are happy. Painting is therapeutic. I look forward to more of your creative, colourful and beautiful paintings. Hugs and Love 😊💖🌸

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      1. GOSH, Isabelle!!! This is such beautiful poetry! I just love it and a I feel absolutely the same!!! 💖 And You blog is AMAZING. It’s really cool because it’s SO Your voice. You’re doing what You do in a very unique way. It’s like stumbling upon someone’s open journal. Wonderfully illustrated journal. An inviting, cozy space. I was happy and proud to share Your blog with my friend! She will really love it! 🤗🤗🤗 And Thank You for Your sweet words! Today is my day off with my lovely man. We’ll go out for breakfast, play and then I’m gonna come home and paint for fun. It IS therapeutic!!! I hope You are having a super fantastic weekend!!! Sending You Big Hugs and Love right back! ☀️🐬💖🤗🌷

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      2. Thank you again for the encouraging and thoughtful words Katy! Heartfelt thanks. 💖 It really warms my heart. I’m not always confident about my writing. There’re numerous brilliant blogs out there. Your words are a real boost to my confidence.
        I hope you had a great day with your lovely man. Going out for breakfast, playing and painting, what a treat Katy. Truly therapeutic.! This is what they call quality time, isn’t it. I’m very very happy for you. Take care Katy and talk soon 😊💖🌟

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      3. Yes. I know how You feel. There are SOOOO many brilliant people in every walk of artistic expression! Some days I do my blog world visits and simply relish and float in all the AMAZING art out there. Other days, my confidence-is-on-the-lamb-and-self-mockery-took-the-head-of-the-table days, I walk away thinking, “My God. Who am I kidding?” and much worse. I think we all do that. But I hope You know You are a truly wonderful writer. You wrap me up and take me along. I honestly don’t have time to read everything all the writers I follow write. But there are a few of You that I can’t NOT read. You pull me in and that’s that! YOU made me a fan of Your writing. Each artist speaks to different people, and You have a distinct voice and a gift to offer. I’m so happy to be able to read Your posts!!!

        And Thank You!!! WE PICKED WILD BLACKBERRIES!!! Oh my God!!! I felt like a little kid. He is so fun. We got 5 cups and I made my first cobbler ever! Yay!!! Sending Huge Hugs and Big Smiles! 🤗💖🐬☀️😊

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  8. Even a good life begs to be run away from, I think… the book and your travels both sound mystical and magical. I will look for it in English. I would like very much to be carried away in its story. It would probably have me roaming the cities and villages for The Chair. One can be where one is and yet…there are moments that hold one deeply forever and live on within your heart. I catch myself rather lost… such a nice nod you make to the way once can go back again, and not at the same time however much time has passed in waking sleep. A lovely post Isabelle as always ❤️ I’m so happy you got away for a bit and found such a beautiful way to share it with all of us. Take care 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a rather short but lovely trip Suzanne. I went to the coastle town with my childhood best friend who I left when I moved to Norway many years ago. We’ve managed to maintain the connection between us over all these years, which is magical itself. The tone between us is bright and warm, as if we’ve never been torn apart. Given that we have vastly different life experiences and the physical distance between us, the deep connection is beyond what I could hope for.
      I bought the book because of the title as I knew instantly that this was something for me. I read it in the Chinese version as I have no knowledge of Japanese. The story is based on four events, or four different settings to be precise. How the four main characters travel back in time, the intentions behind their decisions. When they can’t change the outcome, what have they changed and learnt. Deep and touching. Not sure if the English version is available.
      It felt like I was a foreigner/outsider in China, strange but in a natural way. It was a successful “run away”. This is a long comment Suzanne, almost a summary of some big events that made great impression. You really don’t need to reply it. Your words have already gone straight to the heart, and they will always be there. Thank you. Take care Suzanne 😊❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I would consider myself a wanderer at times too. I enjoy going away for the weekend or a few days too or getting lost in a book. It’s a magical feeling! I love your photos. So endearing you have a childhood friend you still keep in touch with. xo

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    1. It’s a magical feeling indeed! I also love getting lost in books. I always carry a book with me whenever I go and there’re a pile of books lying on the floor in my bedroom. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Much appreciated! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Isabelle! I wanted to let You know that my friend visited Your blog and really enjoyed it! None of my friend’s who are not bloggers “like” or comment…they tell me in person or via text that they liked my work. 😊 She mentioned it to me and I wanted to let You know. She is also going to buy the book You recommended….so….Yay!!! And Thank You! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you thank you so much Katy! I’m so glad that your friend found the blog interesting. The same, none of my friends who read my blog like or comment, but they usually let me know about their thoughts afterwards. It was a good read, touching. It was written by a Japanese writer but I read it in Chinese. Hope the English edition is now available. Thank you Katy! 😊💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it is, I’m trying to find it for her as she had no luck. But on my first google attempt it showed. I’ll investigate further later. She’s really interested! Yay! Thank YOU, Isabelle! 😊🌸🤗

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      1. You have an extraordinary history!!! A French name, born in China and spent your “adult” life in Norway… How rich!

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  11. I like how you highlighted the mixed emotions that erupt with a newness as you revisit after several years since one themselves change as a person over years. It engulfs you in a battle between a desire to stay locked in nostalgia of a time that was simpler simply because life as a teen or child is happier, brighter and carefree as compared to that of an adult who is still happy, perhaps more than before but yet that carefree feelings leaves us with responsibilities.
    Also, being a wanderer has it’s own charm, to visit and revisit, to stay at a hip city today and tomorrow may be you’re off to a small village in a high altitude land.
    See, your writing is so intriguing, deep and inspiring that it has brought so many thoughts to my mind♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always liked wandering, it’s a great feeling being on my own. I have the opportunity to study the details, to indulge myself with all the impressions around me, and then to sort them out.

      Growing up with two cultures is great I think, I’ve learnt to see things from different perspectives. Life becomes richer and more colourful.
      This post is about my recent 6 day trip to a coastal town in China, rather short but a wonderful experience. Thank you twinklingwords 😊❤️

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  12. A fascinating read. I worked in Chengdu for a couple of months and the depth of Chinese culture – in spite of generational upheavals – could certainly be felt. Perhaps I’m going to return one day…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I left China at a young age, hadn’t really learned its rich history. There’re remarkable regional differences. The coastal town I referred to in the post is very different from Shanghai, which is my home city. A round-trip in China will be ideal. Thank you so much for the comment! Highly appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Isabelle,
    Please know how much I have enjoyed reading your awesome blog! For instance, finding this awesome post was like wandering through a nice library and finding a tantalizing book! It also warms my heart to know there are such nice people, like you, “out there,” all around the world! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful words! I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share some of my strange thoughts in the blogging community, and receive such warm words and encouragement from my fellow dear bloggers.

      Liked by 1 person

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