A few months ago, I sat down at my computer in a rare fit of inspiration and wrote myself a manifesto of sorts. At that time, I was entering to a season of life in a new city, a season where I’d be enrolled in both an intensive Chinese language course as well as a regular undergrad course load. Add that to tutoring, and family obligations, and so. The days seemed to be rushing by, and I seemed to be rushing by– with nothing to distinguish today from the next day, and the next. I was missing the details.
And so I wrote, in stern reminder to myself, some rules.
Put a spring in your step & feel the breeze along your face when you’re walking to class. Look at the people you pass on the street. Even when you’re in a hurry. In fact, especially when you’re in a hurry.
Stop & admire the flower pattern on your coffee cup in the cafe you’re whiling away the afternoon at; at the vibrant color of the mint spring decorating your dessert. Take a photo or two, or sit back in your chair and just look for a minute, without saying anything at all. Slow down. Don’t worry about your friends thinking you’re weird–after all, they’ll understand.
They did. And so I present: the 10 marvelous things I saw today, and actually slowed down to relish.
One of the things I like best about living in Taipei is the contrast of the sleek and modern with the traditional, such as the “wet” markets that still spring up in alleys all over Taipei. This particular one is a street away from where I live.
From the wet market on Taishun St, it’s only a hop and a skip over to National Taiwan Normal University, where I take Chinese classes each morning. It’s a bit of a challenge at times to wake up knowing that 50+ new complicated characters await you at 10am, but one can’t be gloomy when there’s pink-colored cookies to much on while learning them.
And what is this mouthwatering array of deliciousness, you ask? A world-class buffet spread? Hardly. It’s the bian dang (Chinese lunch box) place right across from my house. A box of kong shing cai (a delicious Chinese veggie), roasted eggplants with garlic, tea-boiled eggs, and soy-sauce simmered fish will ring up a satisfying 55 NT (less than $2 USD).
Being enrolled in two schools’ programs at once, coupled with a roster of differing daily events, cuts my time at home down to rather less than I would like. But a half-hour home at the kitchen table, eating my bian dang and garnering some much-needed snuggles from my cats, Peter and Peanut, never fails to give me the energy to tackle the afternoon.
I’m not enrolled in classes this particular afternoon; and as I had a bit of time before I had to tutor, I took a quick stroll around the Xinyi shopping area of Taipei: a glitzy, sleek contrast to my morning wet market. I simply adore the floors of the Eslite Bookstore in Taipei–look at those colors!
Spent my tutoring session, as always, holed up in the corner of a cafe with my tutoree and helping her improve her English conversation. It’s so interesting to hear the perspective and thoughts of an elementary school student in the Taiwanese schooling system, which is radically different from that in the US. I know her day is very strict, so I like to lighten the mood up a bit by always bringing in some interesting topics Although I do think we talk rather too much about food….
And speaking of food, I know it seems rather impossible, but you can’t always have Chinese (or Taiwanese, as the case may be). A little alley off of the famous foodie street Yongkang Jie provides the perfect almost-summer dinner (Taiwan’s famous humidity is setting in already), washed down with a can of coconut water, my favorite hot-weather drink.
Ended the day at Revolver, a bar/art house/music venue with my favorite Swede, Sandra. Every month they host an open-mic acoustic-set night (in contrast to their usual raging, DJ-led parties). Oh, and to go along with the music, red wine for 50 NT per glass (around $1.50 USD). Tonight we met to celebrate Sandra’s graduation, but also to just celebrate life: the strange, the charming, the fascinating things we encounter in the cracks and crevices of our routine lives when we slow down and try to find that which makes each day uniquely marvelous.