While I was in China, I had this insatiable desire to soak up every bit of the country with all five senses. That was my goal. I wanted to get better with the language, but I also didn’t want to spend my time inside a building studying. Whenever I got out of class, there were always plans, places I wanted to go, and activities to check off my list. Smells there seemed stronger, more prominent-- from the roses in Beijing to the stinky tofu at the Shanghai night market. The tastes were bold and vibrant. I had this mindset while eating a meal that caused me to slow down and take note of every flavor and texture. I remember thinking to myself while eating a meal “I don’t ever want to forget how wonderful this tastes.” I attempted to take in mental images of every mountaintop and skyline. Even the people riding by on their way to work on mopeds and in taxis were a fascinating sight for me. At every subway stop there was something new to explore and take in. I found myself walking beside busy streets and listening to locals purchase produce from vendors. I picked out words and phrases I knew and simply loved listening to them talk.
In China, walking gave me time to observe the world around me, take it all in, and be alone with my thoughts, even if I was surrounded by others. Since I’ve gotten back from China, I’ve started commuting mainly by bike, because it does a similar thing for me as walking. I get to slow down and notice little things on the back roads of Wilmington that I wouldn't have normally laid eyes on. I get to experience the smells of magnolia trees and Cook Out, along with the chatter of elderly men in their front yards. In a car it’s so easy to put yourself on auto pilot and tune out. Sometimes the music on the radio becomes nothing more than a filler, and of course there’s always the temptation to pick up your phone and text while driving. While riding my bike, I’ve become more alert and cognizant of the world around me.
To put it simply: I feel tuned in.
Along the same line...but not...
It recently became time to invest in a new coffee maker. At the recommendation of a couple of good friends, instead of going with the simple Mr. Coffee, I took a leap and went with the French Press. Since then, I've pretty much telling everyone about my French Press like it’s the Gospel.
The thing I really enjoy about it is the one matter I swore I wouldn't like: it takes longer than a normal drip coffee maker. For me, a good 15 minutes. However, if there’s one thing I've learned it’s that food always seems to taste better when it requires you to slow down and put some effort into creating it. When I’m sitting at my desk in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee, I drink it slowly now, savoring it. I’ll take a sip of water every now and then so that I can pick up my coffee and taste it, again, like I did the first sip.
It seems like such a simple, almost comical, thing; yet, it has been the little things such as bike rides and french press coffee that have helped me adjust to American life once again.
I believe it’s the little treasures in the midst of our day-to-day routine that allow us to slow down, tune in, and take in, with all five senses, the life we live.