I was drinking some Jasmine tea at a cheap little Asian* restaurant the other day and it reminded me of western China. I felt the aromas of that aromatic tea and closed my eyes. I was taken back to Turpan. Xinjiang Province. Back to the heat. The unforced rhythms of life in a place where the heat dictates pace and schedule.
I recalled the precious cool hours of the morning. Rolling out of a sleepy town at dawn in the haze. Quiet. Free. Smooth.
I had my eyes closed for only a moment, but what seemed like a lifetime of images flashed before my eyes.
From the cool dawn I snapped over to an empty beef noodle shop. I am the only one there. A cool spring water fed air conditioning unit blows tepid air in my direction as I slurp up the salty broth. At once enjoying the saltiness, at once despising the hot liquid doing nothing for my already over-heated body.
I sip on the Jasmine tea.
I close my eyes once more.
Near Shanghai. A great pile of noodles sits before me. Must eat. Can’t eat. Body too tired. To hang with the pain, I consume what my body craves. What my stomach will reject. What my mind despises.
I sip on the Jasmine tea. It soothes my stomach.
I write this in a Starbucks café in Auckland, New Zealand. Beside me sits an empty Tall Tzuo Chai Latte. A paper cup with a plastic lid with my name scrawled on it.
Tastes nice. Sugar overload. Worlds away from Shanghai. From Turpan.
Peppermint walls, wooden trim, textured wallpaper, tiled floor. Round tables, stained chairs.
Paralyzing normality. Comforting conformity.
Everything is a commodity here. Even uniqueness is a commodity. It is normal to be unique. Give me necessity. Allow me the essentials. Nothing else. In my affluence I can afford the choice.
Given the choice, they would choose this. Anything to get out of that.
This is not how it has to be. Can we strike a balance between this and that? Can we have affluence and a down-to-earth necessity? Or must we always want more. Or must we know our place, never strive.
Contentment is a slippery creature to grasp.
Happy despite the circumstances: an elusive state of mind.
Thank you, Creator, for what I have.
Thank you, Creator, for where I am.
Give me perseverance.
Give me peace.
Grant us sight.
Let it be.
* By Asian I really do mean generic Southeast Asian restaurant. A mishmash of Thai, Indian, Eastern Chinese, Vietnamese. Locations were unimportant for this Asian restaurant. To the New Zealander it was just ‘Asian’, and that is fine.