Not knowing I needed to pay 6 MOP, yes ‘mop’, for keeping my bags in the trunk, I found myself being thrown out of the taxi by a very angry, shouting Chinese driver. I walked into the Conrad Cotai hotel where I had an hour earlier booked myself a room, unable to control my tears or even speak to the concierge.
Twenty-four hours prior I was in a hotel in Bangkok, safe in the arms of my favorite person and now, here I was, thrust into Macau, SAR (Special Administrative Region of China and formally a Portuguese colony), with not a friend for miles.
I had come to Macau to be part of a jazz trio to open the new Ritz Carlton for Galaxy Entertainment. The property was decked out in wall-to-wall marble. There were crystal chandeliers everywhere, even in the elevators. It was the five-star hotel brand’s first all-suite property, but I didn’t feel like the five- star singer I assumed I was on the plane ride over.
On arrival to Macau, I was picked up and brought to an apartment to live with 4 other girls. When I entered the apartment no one was there, but the apartment was obviously lived in. A dozen pairs of dance shoes were scattered near the front door and dishes were in the kitchen sink. In my bedroom the paint was coming off the walls, the curtains were grey with dust, there was no toilet tissue in the bathroom and I was offered to eat duck belly. Hmmm, not what I was expecting.
Macau glimmered with luxury hotels and casinos, glamour and new money, but I felt like a plank of old wood shoddily hammered into a vast dance floor. My ego was sore and I was panicking. I had signed a two month contract, what to do?
I took a deep breath and one step forward. From the hotel I messaged the HR team explaining I had moved myself out of the original apartment they had placed me in earlier that day and that I had checked into the Conrad. I would wait to hear from them about a new accommodation in the comforts of a hotel room. I would not lower my standards.
Fortunately within two days I was rehoused, not onsite in the Ritz Carlton hotel as I had wanted, but I was given a better apartment.
A week had passed and I was well into rehearsals with my new band members, a veteran hotel pianist from the Philippines and a Canadian saxophonist. With only two hours of rehearsals each day I had a lot of time to explore the great big casino land I was now in. I travelled around both islands. I visited the majestic ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral in old Macau and wandered the small alleys of Taipa Village. I checked out the various casinos, hotels and restaurants, tasted wine and listened to live music. I was enjoying the exploration, but I found myself in search of something more than the new money that splashed itself around me. I couldn’t shake the coldness of Macau, and I was lonely.
“Was this the life I had chosen for myself? A few hours a night of praise and glamour for an existence alone; going to sleep in an empty bed, cooking meals for one and discovering the new sights but with no one to share them with?”
Yes I had Facebook and Skype and alone time was sometimes nice, but the solitude was wearing on me. The cheerful expat-performer that I was, it was the first time I thought to myself,
“Is this how I want to spend the rest of my life? Travelling alone from new city to new city every 6 months?”
Determined to make the most of my time I continued searching for a space that felt ‘right’. I soon found Macau Soul , a venue with the cozy vibes of small town Europe. From the first day I walked through its doors I felt a calmness come over me on every visit. Light jazz classics danced from the ceiling, the sofas were soft like in a family lounge and the tables were sturdy and strong. Wine was by the bottle, bread was homemade, as were amazing complimentary marinated olives.
Macau Soul provided me with the soul of Macau that I was looking for.
It got me thinking that maybe the life of a gypsy was not all it was cracked up to be. Maybe this city-girl, was at heart, a small town girl. With the ever changing status of entertainers in the eyes of employers, I decided I would rather be a star in the eyes of the people that love me, than subject to my fickle love of the business.
A month passed and I was offered a contract extension. The city was growing on me, I was making friends, the money was good and the hotel brand was great but I needed something more. I listened to my instincts and took another contract that came up in Hong Kong. The starting date gave me two months in between to spend time with my family in New York and with my partner in Aberystwyth, Wales. I was relieved.
Looking back, Macau was a challenge but I am also grateful for the opportunity.
I learnt what makes me happy (not casinos and flashy new hotels!), happiness is not about what money can buy.
I learnt to stick up for myself and my standards; people will treat you the way you allow them to. And I learnt to listen to my heart. It will not steer you wrong.