Chinese opera and getting lost


Dear Inquisitive Stranger,

I’m lost. I veered off-piste and don’t know where I am. Not a Scooby Doo.


Actively getting lost and revelling in the performance? How frivolous of me! Such a flippant use of my day.


Or is it? When did taking a breather to explore the world around us become pointless? When did the art of getting lost become a lost art?

In an age when we are contracted to obligations that consume our day, it is rare to revel in what has become a precious commodity: time. We delight in the breathing space wrangled from the clutches of a day cluttered with responsibilities. Bliss is the luxurious moment we can bathe in the richness of time.

So if gaining time is the goal, getting lost is the festivity.

To lose yourself in the moment, in a book, in your surroundings is to celebrate ‘me time’. Numerous studies demonstrate the importance of taking time for ourselves. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s study (2012) proves that allowing our brain to rest is crucial to mental processes, learning and development. In a nutshell, finding time for ourselves is essential for our health. Maybe downtime is not so frivolous after all. It seems that giving ourselves a respite should be made a priority. Our mental health depends on it.

But isn’t getting lost a bit scary? What if we fall? What if it takes a long time to find our way back?


What if we discover something new and have a bloody brilliant time? Dorothy would have missed out on friends and adventure had she not trusted the feet in her ruby red slippers to steer her along the yellow brick road.

Some of my fondest memories have been the result of misplacing myself. Had my on-board sat-nav not been kaput that day, I may have missed out on an appreciation of Chinese opera.

Once upon a time in Hong Kong, I was struck down with a boring bout of jet-lag. Before the birds had risen to greet the sun over Mong Kok, I was lying in bed waiting for something sleep-like to happen. The ancient Greeks juiced lettuce to beat insomnia but I wasn’t about to put my faith in liquid salad to lull me into slumber so strapped on my jogging trainers and headed out the door. After a while of running with no particular destination, I found myself navigating the rabbit warren of trails through the thick mane of trees on Joan Collins Mount, so named because it’s bouffant appearance reminded me of her Dynasty era wigs.

Despite being on an unfamiliar trail, I was convinced it would lead to somewhere familiar. Instead I discovered a wire fence. I had taken so many twists and turns I was not sure I could successfully navigate my return. Two sensible options lay before me: use it as a prop to act out Eternal’s ‘Just a Step From Heaven’ video or keep moving forward. The smell of adventure was in my nostrils so I shimmied under it by way of the tunnel apparently excavated by an animal or fellow explorer. Louise Redknapp and her fence fist beating role play would have to wait. Yonder!

On the other side, I found myself in a sea of tall grass that had all the makings of a Steven Seagal movie set. Mercenary bad guys would belly crawl through this undergrowth to ambush the ex-Navy SEAL turned cook. The only detail missing from from this scenario was the battleship. After I was satisfied my movie extra skills had been sufficiently brushed up, I stood up to gauge my location but the tall, dense grass meant visibility was zilch.

I was lost.

Lost on a small hill in one of the busiest districts of one of the busiest cities in the world.

Suddenly, I heard a sound! What was that? Bogies at 11 o’clock! The babble became a din that evolved into a cacophony of commotion which detonated into a bellow of bedlam. Then the yowling began.


Intrigued by who could be making a fracas at such an early hour, I pushed forward until my head poked out of the undergrowth. Before me was a troop of retired ladies dancing in synchronicity to Chinese opera. The unexpected presence of my floating head in the fray did not seem to rattle anyone, instead they beckoned me to join their elegant fan dance. Although we only shared a few words in a common language, the ladies demonstrated their moves and taught me some instructional vocabulary. Soon I was inaugurated as the youngest member of an all-girl band dancing to Cantonese opera.

During the time I was lost on the hill, I added ‘up’, down’, ‘turn’ and ‘smile’ to my Cantonese repertoire, met some delightful elderly ladies whose gracious grins I shall never forget and achieved the unexpected by gaining an appreciation of the local opera scene. It was a magical experience of human connection, despite no shared language.

Dear Stranger, I appreciate that if Cantonese caterwauling is not your idea of peaceful downtime, then this may not be an encouraging tale. Hopefully, however, it will inspire you to set aside time to temporarily misplace yourself. Embrace the extravagance of being lost as you float down River Adventure on a boat named ‘Spontaneous’.

Today, I find myself lost again, yet feel confident I am exactly where I am meant to be. When I set out, my intention was to buy a winter hat but took a wrong turn at the nail bar and am now sat in ‘Lay Bricks’ enjoying one of the best currant buns of 2017. Stumbling into a cafe where the barista’s aesthetic is as appealingly smooth as the coffee they serve is just swell. What a wonderful mistake this has turned out to be.


So, Stranger darling, I appeal to your sense of adventure and ask you to go get lost today. Ignore the blue dot, stick a pin in a map or simply do away with it completely. Spin around 5 times then set forth in an unexplored part of your neighbourhood or a foreign city. Meander into a maze or the ignored aisle of your local supermarket. Set yourself adrift in a library or the pages of a great novel. Just be careful of the Lost Boys, they bite.

The lost art of getting lost is not really lost, you just have to know it can be found.

Peace, love and cha cha cha.

Don’t behave!


Lay Bricks – destination for lost adventurers

555-13 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Sinsa station, line , exit 8

Monday – Saturday 11:00 – 01:00, Sunday 12:00 – 00:00
Rest is not idleness. Check out Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s study  


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