Nearly ten years ago, I moved from Sydney to Seattle. Ben and I had been dating long distance for more than 2 years and we wanted to live on the same continent and in the same city.
Seattle was a big move for both of us – Ben was moving from Minnesota – but we’d visited together before the move and knew we liked it. So, we took the leap and signed a lease, hoping that we could live together as well as we travelled together.
Ben moved several months ahead of me to get us an apartment and to get settled in his new role with the same company. In that time, he also managed to get us a new group of friends.
By the time I arrived in late 2008, Ben had been welcomed into a group of 20- and 30-somethings who had moved to Seattle from around the country, and a couple of people who are Seattle natives (a rare find).
Less than a week after my arrival, a lovely couple, Jeff (from Iowa) and Lauren (from California), threw a ‘Welcome Sandy to Seattle’ party.
I also got a few comments that suggested that some people were surprised that Ben really did have an Australian girlfriend – which made me laugh – but on the whole I was warmly welcomed and immediately felt at home with this incredible group of people, all of whom are still close friends.
Flash forward to May 2018: Ben and I are in Seattle for a couple of weeks before we head to Minnesota for the summer. We’ve both been back since we moved to Australia five years ago, but this is our first time back here together.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing our old stomping ground – what’s changed, what hasn’t – as well as catching up with the many, many people here that we love.
We have family here, Ben’s aunt and uncle, and his cousins who have families of their own. We have friends we made at work, the friends who attended that very first party, and those we know through them. We were very fortunate to have such a wonderful network of people for the four years we lived here.
It’s been important to us to maintain those relationships, even though we’re so far away. And, I’m very glad we have.
Since being back, we’ve met the many children who have been born since we left, tiny versions of our friends who we’ve watched grow up on Facebook, but who initially eye us warily until they warm up to us.
With our friends and family, we’ve caught up on travel adventures, houses sold and bought, health challenges, plans to move out of Seattle, plans to stay put, job changes, political bafflement, and the everyday stuff that we don’t get to talk about unless we’re face to face.
It’s been been brilliant, a top-up for the soul.
Someone back in Australia asked if Seattle feels like home. And it does – but mostly, that’s because of the people, our Seattle peeps.
Our family is on the move. My partner, Ben, is being transferred to Melbourne, Australia early in the new year, and we are packing up and heading down under. For those of you who don’t know, this will be a homecoming for me, as I am an Aussie born and bred. Melbourne, however, will be a new home city for both of us, which is part of its appeal – discovering it together. I will be cheating a little, as I have several friends there I have known for 20+ years; I am very excited about being able to see them on a regular basis. And Melbourne was named the most livable city in the world for the second year running!
Things I will miss about Seattle:
All the people we have come to know and love.
Not seeing all the new babies arrive and/or grow up. : (
Restaurant month(s). 3 courses for $30 is awesome.
Happy Hours – not as popular in Australia (boo).
Dogs. Every other person has a dog here – in the city – and I just love their little faces.
Mt Ranier, the Sound and other stunning views.
Politeness. Even the homeless are polite in Seattle.
Customer service. It is really good most places, including the grocery store.
Woodhouse winery in Woodinville. So good.
Things I will not miss about living in Seattle:
The trash and cigarette butts on the street.
Things I am looking forward to about life in Melbourne:
Buying a bike. Melbourne is basically flat and has lots of bike trails.
Being close enough for family and friends in other cities to visit on (long) weekends. Aussies are happy to take a cross-country flight to visit someone.
Long weekends. There are lots, including two within two months of our arrival – Australia Day long weekend at the end of January and Easter, which is 4 days off at the end of March.
Great coffee pretty much everywhere.
Drivers who can drive and awesome public transit.
Better weather than Seattle. Melbourne is the same latitude as San Francisco, so similar to that.
Traveling within Victoria and beyond, especially the wine regions, south-east Asia, Tasmania, New Zealand and the Great Ocean Road.
It is now 10 days into 2011 and I have nothing by the way of resolutions. Nada, rien, niente, zippo. And because, “Have you made any resolutions?” is usually the first thing that follows “Happy New Year”, the question has been posed a lot.
So I started to ponder “why?” – why haven’t I sworn to lose some pounds, to be better at the things I should be better at, or to finally begin that project/class/new venture I have been meaning to start?
I haven’t really got a decent answer to this epic question. Maybe that should be my resolution, “I resolve to determine why I have no New Year’s Resolutions (except this one).” How very meta.
I have, however, been mulling over some New Year’s Absolutions, things I can absolve myself from once and for all. So here they are.
I absolve myself from:
Losing a few pounds. I can sprint upstairs and carry heavy boxes. I can walk 6 blocks uphill to the bus stop without puffing or sweating. I can give myself a break on the ‘couple of pounds’.
Finishing the re-write of chapter seven. Chapter seven has haunted me for months from its prominent position on my desktop. I currently have no desire to finish chapter seven – perhaps I never will. One day I will gain world-wide notoriety for being the only author to publish without an end to chapter seven. I am moving chapter seven off my desktop immediately.
Buying a bike. I prefer my cycling indoors, so if I thoroughly exhaust myself I do not then have to cycle all the way home. Plus, we live in Seattle. Where there are hills. Big ones. Oh, and did you know it rains a lot here?
Reading Oprah book club selections. I have started four of these, and I put down three of them. I am sure that there must be some that aren’t trite and/or depressing, but I can’t be bothered weeding those ones out.
Sneaking a peak at work email when I am home. This is very, very naughty. I get sucked in – and a quick peek becomes an hour, or three. I will cease it immediately – unless it is a snow day and I am working from home.
You step out into it. It consumes you, touching you in ways that make you uncomfortable. It doesn’t have your permission, but you have no choice; it forces itself on you. Sometimes you can forget that it is there, but not today.
Its companions are damp, cold, and quite often, wind.
The damp seeps into your clothes, chilling you from the outside in, while cold nibbles at your extremities turning them blue and then white. When wind intrudes, it cuts through to your very bones. And yet this trinity of misery is not as powerful as their master, The Gray.
You have adopted a stoop: head down, shoulders rounded and protective. A frown has made its home on your face. Your curl into yourself, wishing away the pervading presence of The Gray.
It invades your every thought. It pushes you down from above and sits heavily on your shoulders, on the crown of your head, on your eyelids and the tip of your nose. You do not stand tall. You are never not cold.
Your mood is gray. You crave nothing, hate nothing. Everything is neutral. Extremes have no place in your existence. Your soul has been doused in peroxide. Sometimes, just there in the periphery, you see glimpses of passion, of disagreement and debate. Yet you have succumbed to the numbing, and do not participate.
You make jokes about it with friends and colleagues, trying in vain to lessen its hold on you. The jokes are stupid and only serve to highlight what you so desperately wish you could disguise: that you crave sunshine like a starving man craves a hot bowl of soup.
You ignore it, pretending that it is not just there on the other side of the window pane. You laugh so hard you made no sound. You scoff potato chips straight from the bag. You make lazy love on a Sunday morning. You read the latest best-seller, voraciously turning the pages. You meet friends in trendy coffee shops and drink $4 lattes. You pretend and pour yourself a gin and tonic, with fresh lime and extra ice. You drink it with the thermostat turned to 78. You pretend that it is light outside.
You seek camaraderie among fellow ex-pats. Californians become your closest allies. Those who are native to this place apologize. “It’s not usually like this”, they say. They are tired of The Gray too. Yet it continues to out-stay its welcome. You cannot remember last summer, except in snatches of blurry images, the colors fading each time you recall.
And sometimes, just when you think The Gray will always be there, it goes. Warm air floods your lungs, and you can feel the freckles forming on your nose as you tip your head to the sun.
You are forgiving in these moments, forgetful of the how much The Gray weighs, of how dense it is. You become lighter. Your exuberance is contagious and those who love you flood back, eager to bask in your joy, to share it, no longer having to pretend with you, but sharing an important truth: that light is life.
You start to forget The Gray.
And yet, it has not left, not for good. It has only waited in its own shadow, just long enough for the forgetting to begin. And then it returns.
You fight it. You are drowning and want to push through its viscous mass and break the surface into the light. You want a warm breeze to play with your hair, and trickles of sweat from your elbows and knees. You want the steering wheel to be too hot, and to sink your bare toes into the sand on a sun-soaked beach.
You hope. You know there will be an end to The Gray. But not today.
I have been home in Sydney for the past week to finalize a work visa for my new job in Seattle. The trip, while being ‘immigrationally necessary’, has been the greatest gift.
When I landed the position at Groundspeak two months ago, I was thrilled – and then a little sad. I realized that it meant I would not see Australia, my home, for at least a year and a half.
Hence, the reason I have treated this week as a gift. The work visa was approved on Monday morning, and while I awaited the return of my passport, I enjoyed every moment of being home.
I have hugged old friends and chatted excitedly on the phone to others. I have swapped stories, gossip, concerns and triumphs, catching up on nearly a year of absense. I have talked at length with my dad, and spent an evening of laughter and tears at my aunt and uncle’s dining table.
I have indulged in many cups of coffee made by top-notch baristas, and stocked up on Jaffas and BONDS undies. I have taken dozens of photos of the most beautiful coastline in the world, filled a ziplock bag with sand from Bronte beach, and raided my storage boxes for much-loved books I want to take back to Seattle. I brought one suitcase, and I am taking two back. I have a tan.
And after just a week on Aussie soil, and my accent is as thick as ever (Ben calls it my Aussie accent ‘reboot’).
In a few hours I will be jetting across the Pacific Ocean on my way home. When I get there it will be one hour after I left, which I love, because it feels like ‘time travel’. I lost a Thursday on the way over, but am happily swapping it for two Saturdays.
On arrival, after hugs and kisses, and unpacking and showering (is there anything that feels better after a long-haul flight?), Ben and I will head over to our friend’s place for their housewarming party.
I will get to hug my new friends, and swap stories about our escapades over the past week, and plans for our upcoming holiday season. I will spend the rest of the weekend trying to get on Seattle time as quickly as possible, for on Monday morning I (finally) start my new job. I cannot wait.
So, I leave home to fly home, just as I did a week ago. When you have two places you call home, you are prone to twinges of homesickness, you will always miss loved ones, and you will sometimes slip into the annoying habit of comparing the two places – even if only to yourself.
But you will also have more love in your life, more joy, more nostalgia, and more hope for the future than you can possibly imagine.
As soon as my work visa is sorted, I will be working for Groundspeak, who run Geocaching.com among many other things.
Geocaching, as a recreation, was new to me when I applied for the job. I researched it, and decided that not only did I want to work with the people at Groundspeak, but that I wanted to become a geocacher. And so I have.
Ben and I signed up right away – when I was mid interviews. He has one of the fancy schmancy phones that does everything – including answer the phone – so we were all geared up with GPS technology. We created an online profile, and searched for caches based on our zip code.
Voila! Over 500 caches popped up within a 5 miles radius. Um, yeah, let’s narrow that down a bit.
We chose one and headed out from our apartment towards the Seattle Center. Unbeknown to us, we had picked the day of a huge festival to find our first cache. Our first task was to navigate our way through the throngs of people all desperate to get their hands on freebies, corn on the cob, or beer in plastic cups.
We rounded a corner and headed down a ramp, finally easing away from the crowd. You see, when you participate in geocaching, you want to keep a low profile. No one wants their cache raided or stolen by ‘muggles’ (they have appropriated the term from the Harry Potter series), so you have to ensure that you are discreet.
Down the end of the ramp, and around the corner, the GPS assessed that we were ‘there’. Now it was our job to find the cache within a 15-25 foot radius, not knowing exactly what we were looking for, and all the while trying to appear like we weren’t looking for anything at all.
It didn’t take long. Ben took a chance on venturing a little way into the garden bed and it paid off. The cache was a sealed Tupperware container, and enclosed was a log book, which we signed, and a few trinkets. We took nothing, but left a coupon for free yogurt.
We were quite pleased with ourselves, despite the fact that the ratings for difficulty and terrain were both 1/5. Still, we were no longer non-geocachers. We went to a film that afternoon, and when we got home, logged onto our profile and shared our success.
Since then we have sought three other caches, two of which were successful. The third is located in a small nature reserve in West Seattle. We chose it because we had yet to get out to West Seattle, and it was deemed a 2.5/5 for both difficulty and terrain. We wanted to kick it up a notch.
We discovered a few things that day.
Firstly, geocaching gets you out of the house, which is a particularly good thing when you realize that you are still in your pajamas at noon on a Sunday.
Secondly, if you choose caches in places you haven’t been to before, then you get to go somewhere new! This may seem obvious, but it is delightful, nevertheless, to go somewhere you haven’t been before.
West Seattle gave us this view of our neighborhood.
We also discovered the joy of finding a cache that someone else cannot find. While we were looking for a Rating 1/1 cache close to where I took this photo, we saw other people looking for the same cache. They were following the readings on their GPS, trying to be surreptitious, and left after they had looked in all the same places we had. Only we decided to keep trying after they left.
At that moment I looked down and saw a small piece of paper next to my foot. I picked it up; it was a fortune from a cookie. It said “Your short-term goal will be realized soon.” I showed it to Ben, just as he put his hand on the cache. Cool!
The last thing we discovered that day was that you can try too hard.
We went in search of the 2.5/2.5 cache (that is 2.5/5 for difficulty and terrain). We had some notes from the previous finders, and we had the location in our GPS, but under the dense canopy of trees, the GPS was rendered next to useless.
It got us in the general vicinity, but we could never seem to get close to the cache, no matter how deep we went into the woods.
At one point I had climbed down a steep incline, fought my way through giant ferns, knocked down about 5o spider webs, and traversed a fallen log that was 8 feet off the ground on its far side. Nothing. And the only way out was to repeat all of that in reverse.
After more than an hour we were both dirty, sweaty and a little baffled. We went back to the main path, and even tried a couple of other small paths. None of them could get us any closer to the location marked by the GPS.
We called it a day.
We walked back to the car, drove back across town and when we got home looked up the cache. One note said, “The position of the cache is visible from the main path.” We had tried too hard. We had been searching for a cache that would have been rated much higher than 2.5/5 for either terrain or difficulty. We had dug holes, looked in trees, and gone WAAAYYYYY off the path.
But we’ll go back. I want that cache!
So, as I wait for the visa thing to be sorted, I am learning many wonderful and interesting things about all aspects of the geocaching world.
I have learned that in Western Australia there are 1818 caches. I have learned that most people I know in North America are geocachers themselves, or know someone who is.
I have also activated the Geocoin given to me by one of the founders of Groundspeak during my final interview. (Thank you Brian). I have set its course for the UK, and then Australia in the hopes that it will find its way back to me here. Isn’t that cool?
And, courtesy of my new boss, Jenn, I have my own geocaching profile now under the profile name, Sandy (for those who have accounts too – they’re FREE!) . At the moment I share all my caching information with Ben and our joint profile. Perhaps we will always cache together, as we are loving our mini adventures, but this gives us the chance to broaden our individual horizons too.
So, this is a little insight into my new world. I hope to see you out in it.
The thermometer in the northwest of the U.S. has nudged (and sometimes tipped over) the 100F mark for the past few days now.
As an Aussie girl yearning for a ‘real’ summer’s day, I was equally thrilled (It’s hot!) and amused (Will the people here please stop freaking out?) when I saw the forecast.
But you see, Seattle is equipped for the cold, not the heat. Our apartment, with its two tiny windows in the living room, has central heating, but no air-conditioning.
We are on the bottom floor and face north, so our place cooler than most other apartments in this building, but there is no air movement. If I cook for more than a few minutes, it gets very hot in here.
“We are eating only raw food for the next few days,” I informed Ben. He rarely complains about anything, and this revelation was no exception. I think he is just thrilled that I am willing to prepare dinner at all – cooked or raw.
Sleeping has presented its own problems. Two nights ago was the hottest night on record in Seattle – 71F/21C, which is very warm when you’re trying to sleep.
In my last apartment in Sydney, I had many windows. On a night like that I would have thrown them all open, and enjoyed a cooling sea breeze throughout the night. Not here.
Here we sleep under only a sheet, with a giant fan blowing on us. We sleep perfectly still to avoid the chance of touching or generating any superfluous body heat.
And you cannot buy a fan or air-conditioner in the entire north-west at the moment. Sold out!
Yesterday Ben and I were out in search of a salad spinner (so my life would be complete). We got our salad spinner (and my life IS complete), but as we left the store, a man pulled up in a car, leaned out the window and asked a staff member, “Do you have any fans?” “Nope,” was the heart-breaking reply.
“Really?” an incredulous Ben asked me. “I know this is unusually hot weather, but it gets warm here. Don’t people have fans anyway?” It’s a good point. We have been sleeping with a fan on all summer.
“You know, we have two fans,” he continued. “I bet we could sell one for $100 right now.” When we got back to the car, the thermometer read ‘104’. “I think we should keep the fan,” I countered.
Forecasters predicted that yesterday would be the hottest day in Seattle’s recorded history. They were right. While we were buying a salad spinner, the city of Seattle was suffering. It is not used to the heat, it is not built for heat, and it is ill-equipped when a wave of it hits.
Malls, cinemas, and parks with wading pools are bursting at the seams. Restaurant takings have gone through the roof in recent days. People are showing up to work early and staying late, because most people here do not have air-conditioning at home.
Having said all that, I write this from the coolness of our apartment while outside it is 91F/33C. If we keep the blinds closed, the fans on, and the cooking to a minimum, we can keep it cool in here so sleep comes easier. A salad for dinner tonight, methinks.
So, the cynic is silenced.
Yes, it is hot, even for an Aussie girl.
Finally, I am reminded of a favorite poem by Shel Silverstein. Enjoy.
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade,
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.
When you move to a new city, your senses are heightened. You notice that everything feels ‘new’, because your body is picking up on the subtle differences between that place and your previous home.
The salt air here in Seattle is brinier than in Sydney, more pungent. On sunny days, the sky seems bluer here too, perhaps because it contrasts so starkly with the usual grey. The people here are friendlier, especially those who work in stores, “Are you finding everything okay?’.
This heightened awareness, however, does not last. Through a series of simple little acceptances, small snippets of knowing, a place starts to feel like home. The novelty of charming details dissipates, as do the annoying differences (‘I have to pay when someone sends ME an SMS?!’).
Instead those details become part of a fabric called ‘home’. The appreciation may remain, but we come to know those details as the norm. We stop saying, ‘Back home in Sydney…’ and think of the new place as home.
Seattle is now home.
I have started looking after two little boys, aged three and five, once a week. Mostly, our time together is fun, or at least fine. They paint, and play endlessly at a game that I can only describe as ‘not much of anything at all’, but includes lots of running, and uttering of unintelligible words. I even made muffins with the little one, who delighted in cracking an egg for the first time all by himself.
These boys love to stop and smell the flowers, and I mean that literally. Yesterday, a three block walk to the bus took 15 minutes, because they stopped at nearly every garden to smell and admire the flowers. Sweet – a little annoying after 13 minutes – but mostly, sweet.
When I first met them, I was charmed by their strong American accents; it is generally cute to hear any child speak in an accent other than your own. ‘Oh, their R’s are so pronounced – how darling!’
However, that novelty was quickly forgotten yesterday when the oldest one ‘chucked a tanty’ (threw a huge tantrum, for my North American readers). There is nothing cute about a tantrum in an American accent. There is nothing cute about a five year old screaming anything in any accent. (We made up – me and the five year old. Although, I am a forgiver, not a forgetter.)
Yep, Seattle is home.
I have a new local coffee shop now. I thought that it would be Uptown Espresso, which I discovered on a visit here last year, and for a while it was. Their coffee is good, and they are only three blocks away.
They were usurped, however, when I happened upon the smooth smell of well-made coffee wafting from the door of Cafe Lladro, a few blocks further from my home.
Jackpot! Their coffee is great. ‘A double tall non-fat latte, no foam, extra hot,’ has replaced ‘tall, skinny flat white’, and is just as good as Pavel used to make back in Sydney. I never thought I would say that about a cafe in the same city that birthed Starbucks, but I am happy to proven wrong about this particular previous gripe. And I would be remiss not to mention that their friendly efficient service is the icing on the cake. Great coffee and good service. Nice.
Oh yeah, Seattle is home.
Last Friday night there was an impromptu gathering of friends at the loft of Lars and Anya, or ‘Larzenanya’, as they have come to be called. Lars promised us a ‘$25 Hamburger’ – not because that is what they cost to make, but because that is what he could charge in a restaurant. It was a big call.
We arrived to gracious hellos, the pouring of drinks, and burger order forms. In: blue cheese, special sauce, onions, or a combo of these. On: Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese, or Mozzarella? Done: well, medium-well, medium, medium-rare, or rare. Wow. Not sure on the math, but I approximate at least 1500 permutations of burgers with those options.
Lars manned the grill with confidence and flair. Anya, ever the charming hostess, ran front of house like a pro. Ben, long time avoider of red meat, signed on for the ride.
When my burger was done, I added my fixings, and savored the anticipation. Onions in, and Swiss cheese on a medium-rare burger with barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard.
Phenomenal. I was delighted by every bite, and judging from the lull in conversation throughout the room, so was everyone else, including my mostly-vegetarian boyfriend.
This month Seattle Magazine has readers voting on the best burgers in Seattle. I would argue heavily that the Larzananya’s Burger should win.
For sure, Seattle is definitely home.
I have said before that Ben and I do not know what the future holds for us both professionally, so therefore do not know where work will take us in the coming years. For this reason, we are truly savoring all the little things about Seattle that make it home.
It’s natural beauty takes my breath away. The wonderful friendship we continue to make, make my heart full. That I am picking up some work outside of home is a blessing (no matter the little ‘moment’s that come with child-minding).
I knew well before I moved here that I could happily live in Seattle. And now I do.
I live with an amazing person. Yesterday morning, despite a niggling cold, he jumps out of bed and says, “Let’s have tea on the roof.” So, we made mugs of tea, grabbed our books, and headed to the roof of our building to enjoy the morning sun, and our incredible view.
Yes, it is a little gray today (it was sunny yesterday), but we are so close to the city and the water that I love the view no matter the weather. That said, the next time the sun shines – more and more as we head towards Summer – I will take more pics.
Back to the person I live with: yesterday afternoon, suffering a little from cabin fever and too many video games, he says, “Let’s head up to that park we haven’t been to yet.” It is about three blocks from home, and is less like a park and more like a series of paths and trails that traverse the giant Queen Anne hill. The canopy of trees is thick, and the air smells earthy and clean. Walking the trails I could just imagine fairies and princesses doing the same. We climbed the paths to see where they went, and headed back home. The Spring blossoms have spread a carpet of pink over the neighborhood. I stood under a huge tree and jumped up to touch the branches. A rain of petals showered down, “It’s snowing pink stuff!”
Just a little excursion shook off the cabin fever, and the post-flu blues.
This is such a beautiful city, with many wonders – big and small – that we get to encounter every day.
This is on the drive home from Ben’s aunt and uncle’s house.
Woodinville is about 30 minutes from the city, and is a semi-rural neighborhood, with white fences, rolling green hills and dozens of types of trees.
On the way back from Woodinville, we make this crossing of Lake Washington on the 520 bridge. This was a day when the wind was whipping along the lake, and because the bridge is floating, the water can be rough on one side and calm on the other.
And sometimes we get to share this city with visitors. My mom was here recently, and we took her to Bainbridge Island. We crossed Puget Sound on the ferry on a beautiful Spring day.
The main streets of Bainbridge Island are filled with cafes, stores and this church:
And the shores are lined with trees and houses.
For $6 dollar ferry ride, which is spectacular in itself, Bainbridge is a little treasure close to home.
More and more we are enjoying the company of new friends. Last weekend, our lovely friends Matt and Crystal invited us out on their boat, along with Monica and Brian.
It was still and peaceful out on the lake, and for some reason we were the only people who thought to get out there. We had the whole lake to ourselves. This blew us away:
Ben and I had our king and queen of the world moment as we headed back to the marina.
These are some snippets from our life here in a beautiful city. We are not sure how long we will be here – another year, or maybe more. We just want to be able to say we took a big bite out of this city. Oh, and to our friends here: keep the invitations to those parties coming!
In Australia (and England, and a few other countries steeped in the Imperialist love of hot tea), any bad situation can be helped, if not fixed, by a nice, hot ‘cuppa’. In fact, it is a common response when a friend bemoans their dilemma to say,”I’ll put the kettle on.” Things start to look up when there is a big mug of tea in your hand.
The term ‘cuppa’ comes from the lazy way we antipodeans say ‘cup of tea’. We say ‘cuppa tea’, and because we shorten as much of our language as possible, over the years it has become ‘cuppa’. I have known since childhood that hot tea is a cure-all, but it was only last year when I learned why tea is such a therapeutic beverage. I knew all about the antioxidants (I don’t live under a rock), but the ‘at ease’ feeling that tea elicits is due to an amino acid called L-Theanine. Tetley tea launched an advertising campaign in 2008 highlighting L-theanine, and on their site have this to say:
Tetley is a natural source of theanine
Since ancient times it has been said that drinking tea brings relaxation. Scientists are now studying the effects of theanine and it is believed that although theanine creates a feeling of relaxation, it doesn’t shut down the brain. So it allows you to be relaxed yet alert at the same time.
Relaxed, yet alert. And isn’t that how you want to feel when your life is in crisis? I should say that I am drinking tea as I write this, and even though I am not in crisis, I do feel relaxed and alert.
I got to thinking about tea a couple of days ago when Ben and I went to a favorite coffee shop close to home (yes, I appreciate the irony). As we walked to the coffee shop in the rain, we passed by two homeless men sitting under an awning, each bundled up against the cold and the wet. I barely glanced at them, but as we stood in line to order our ‘cuppa mud’ (as the sign in Caffe Ladro says), I couldn’t get the men out of my head. I was about to enjoy sitting in the warmth with my best friend drinking a hot cuppa, and they weren’t.
I ordered 2 extra coffees and a couple of giant cookies, and put together a little tray for each of them. I left the coffee shop, and walked quickly through the rain to where they were. “Here,” I said handing them the coffee, “this is for you.” The surprise and then gratitude on their faces broke my heart a little. I walked back to the coffee shop, brushing tears away. As I sat drinking my coffee, my thoughts kept returning to the homeless men.
When I moved here three months ago I was hyper aware of the indigent population, but it soon became ‘normal’ to walk past and not look directly at a homeless person. It bothers me when I do that, though. Every time.
When I go to the supermarket, there is almost always a homeless person standing outside selling Real Change, which is a newspaper dedicated to social change. It sells for $1, and not too long after moving here, I started avoiding the sellers and walking straight past them into the store. For the sake of $1. I’ve stopped doing that. When I go to the store now, I carry the $1 in my pocket, walk up and say ‘hello’, and look the person in the eye. It is a brief exchange, and they are always thankful, but it is mostly selfish on my my part.
You see, I am still job hunting, while I work part-time for my mother. Money is tight at the moment, and I dip into savings more than I would care to, but I am more fortunate than most. I have a beautiful home, I have a bright future and I have love in my life. I can also afford a cuppa at my local coffee shop, so I can certainly spare a dollar once in a while. Those small exchanges I have through the week with people far less fortunate than me remind me to keep my head out of my bottom, and stay positive.
And when the knock-backs sometimes get too much for me, I put the kettle on and sit down with a nice, hot cuppa. It helps, really it does.