Today is a good day to have a good day

I'm the kind of person who writes down her whole life in her planner (I just got a new Lilly Pulitzer large agenda day planner orange grove monkeys 2014-15 and I adore it!!), from my homework to appointments to blog post ideas. I have countdowns and am always looking forward to the future, which is great, but on the other hand, waiting and waiting can sometimes make me bored of present life. Stop living with the mindset that tomorrow will be better. Why not let the best day be today? Instead of thinking about what you want life to be like in the future, live in the present, get lost in the moment, and enjoy what you have!

busk [buhsk]
verb (used without object)
1. Chiefly British. to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public space.
2. Canadian. to make a showy or noisy appeal.

1850-55; perhaps, if earlier sense was "to make a living by entertaining," < Polari < Italian buscare to procure, get, gain < Spanish buscar to look for, seek (of disputed orig.)

Related forms
busk-er, noun

I dread performing because I'm such a self-conscious person, so the last thing I'd picture myself doing was busking, but that's exactly what I did! I was invited to join Kathleen, Lenny, Gloria, Kevin, and Ivan on their busking adventure in late March at Beijing's 798 Art District. We ran into many teachers, students, and strangers. One thing led to another and... I think that we're getting some screen time in this random dude's documentary or something?!

We met around noon and a few of us hadn't eaten lunch yet, so our first stop was at the Cave Cafe. In between eating, we brainstormed songs we could perform, and also jammed/practiced a little. The presentation of all the food was amazing! But what else would you expect at a cafe situated in an art district filled with people with eyes for visual aesthetics?

After rehearsing, AKA mindlessly chilling out during our jam session, we still had no idea what we were doing, but managed to pull together "Pompeii" by Bastille and "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons, which became our anthems. Otherwise, we kind of just sang any song most of us knew the words to, which actually wasn't very many. Most of us only knew single verses or lines from various songs, but not enough to actually perform. Without Lenny's 3G iPhone to search up lyrics, I'm not sure how we would have managed.

Towards the end we started mellowing down and simply made music. We didn't know words to many things, but that was okay. For example, Kevin and Lenny were the only people who knew the words to "High Hopes" by Kodaline, so the rest of us improvised by echoing them and playing around with harmonies.

And then along came a man who was filming stuff for a documentary. I'm still not quite sure what was going on exactly, but I think he was filming a "day in the life of me" documentary for a video competition. He's a musician himself and was intrigued by us (I guess). After quick introductions, he sat down with us, sang a few of his original songs while we improvised around the melody, and his camera crew filmed it all. He also added us on WeChat before he left. *win*

Due to transportation issues, after busking at 798, instead of going home, we all made our way to Crossroads, a Christian youth fellowship. And of course, we did some more jamming there.

My favorite parts of the day were when we just let the music flow out of our mouths. OUT OF OUR SOULS! We played a game called Four Chord Melody, in which someone starts playing four chords over and over on the guitar, and everyone else just sings whatever. We started off with "Apologize" by OneRepublic and went from there; some songs we incorporated in this game were "Rocketeer" by Far East Movement, "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift, "My Happy Ending" by Avril Lavigne, "Nice Guys" by Chester See (or NigaHiga?), "Titanium" by David Guetta, and much more! Moments like these were the most fun, the most energetic, the most heartfelt, and I think the people walking around 798 felt it too. Even though we were just jamming amongst ourselves, albeit in the middle of the plaza, people stopped to listen.

For me personally, the most magical moment of the evening was when we sang "Set A Fire" by United Pursuit. It's one of those things you had to have been there to understand. Not to get all Christian on you or anything, but I truly do believe that I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that in that moment everyone else felt it too, whether they could pinpoint it or not. At the very least, we could all agree that it was something special. Busking at 798 was easily one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Other highlights were when we literally sang (or rapped) whatever the heck entered our thoughts. Come visit the 798 Art District the next time we perform if you want to hear our hit singles, including "There's A Cat On The Roof," "This Morning I Got Rejected By Northwestern," and "That Man Has Nice Yellow Shoes."

When we found ourselves back at the 798 Art District for the Kaleidoscope Art Exhibition, Kathleen, Kristy, Gloria, Shawn, Kevin, and I did a little low-key performance, though I'm not sure that I'm allowed to say I performed, because I pushed away the mic that was held up to me. I've never liked performing because I get stage fright and become terribly self-conscious, but after my first busking experiences, I've been more open to the idea.

The only reason I agreed to perform in the first place was to support Kathleen, Angel, and Tiffany who were running the event, and because Gloria told me the performance would be "chill," but when we got to the cafe where the reception was being held, I freaked out when I saw a stage with instruments, chairs, and mics. That did not translate into "chill" for me. Soon after I arrived with the other performers, we migrated outside of the cafe to practice. Before that moment, we hadn't even decided what songs we wanted to sing.

Poonie, Bridget, Rozy, and Kathy, on the other hand, did not have a performance to worry about, so they had the luxury of roaming around 798. My favorite part of the 798 Art District is how interactive it is. Kathy got a chance to climb a big red dinosaur sculpture, which is something we've all been dying to do since forever. Last time we tried to climb the sculpture (three red cages stacked on top of each other with a different red dinosaur in each one), the guards kicked us off and then eyed us suspiciously as we lingered around trying to figure out another way to get in.

To be honest, I don't think that the actual performance went spectacularly. I was thankful that we decided to perform towards the end when there were less people hanging around in the audience. We were all a bit shy of the mic (me mostly), and we were all pretty tired.

The stage was cleaned up. The gallery was cleared out. But after hours is where the magic happens.

When I busked with friends at 798 for the first time, I had no expectations, but it turned out to be extraordinary and I met some cool strangers. I hoped that performing at Kaleidoscope would work out just as well, or even better. I had expectations and they were high. By the time I thought the night was over, I couldn't help but feel a bit deflated. Luckily for me, it wasn't the end of the night.

I am so blessed to be surrounded by such enthusiastic and talented people. The sound of our instruments ranging from strings to voice to percussion, reverberated around the gallery, and all I wanted to do was lie on the cold hard ground -- OH OOOOH TROUBLE TROUBLE TROUBLE, jk it was a comforting cool solid ground -- and drown myself in music. The lot of us seriously contemplated having a slumber party right there, but the thought of our parents slaughtering us once we got home prompted us to choose otherwise.

We ended up leaving at 11:00PM only because we needed to catch the public bus, but cunningly prolonged the night by catching the last one. When we got dropped off at the stop nearest to our houses, we even made a run to McDonalds before heading back home. I ordered bubble milk tea, 5-piece chicken nuggets, some kind of chocolate cereal McFlurry, and was tempted to buy an apple pie pocket too.

On the second day of the official Senior Study Leave, my friends and I headed over to the 798 Art District (again), because c'mon, who actually studies during Senior Study Leave? Haha jk, everyone studies except for us. Anyways, after my great experiences busking on the streets of 798 and then jamming in a gallery after the Kaleidoscope Art Exhibition, the 798 Art District has officially become my favorite place to hang out.

Shawn brought his Super Professional Recording Equipment, but while it was really cool, it was also kind of intimidating. When we first started, our sound was nothing like it was when we busked on the streets for kicks. Our first recording of "Pompeii" by Bastille didn't have any technical difficulties, but it was, well, bland. I think everyone was a bit nervous and felt the pressure of perfection. Whatever sound we made would be immortalized by a recording after all! But how could you not have fun with your friends when using snazzy recording equipment in an empty art gallery?

My favorite moment was... No, not the pizza (surprisingly). It was playing The Question Game:

Playing this game is such a great way to bond! An example of a question you might ask is "What is something you're truly afraid of?" An example of an obvious answer would be "a spider" if you're arachnophobic, and an example of something less obvious would be "approaching people when I haven't done what they've asked of me" *cough*CAS supervisor*cough* +elaboration. My favorite question was "What's your life story?" One of our stories was extraordinarily inspirational; there's something quite beautiful about a vulnerable soul.

Each time I headed out to the 798 Art Gallery with my friends, our initial intentions differed from what ended up happening. For the better. What I'm trying to say is that although it's great being metacognitive, once in awhile you gotta live your life without thinking about your life so that you can just simply enjoy it.

I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music. -Billy Joel

Photos taken by the lovely Kathleen and Rosalind.