By Maddy Shaw
There is something about being a young, working professional in a large east-coast city that really to epitomizes the “fast-paced city life” cliche. There are so many things to do, and in order to experience everything we want to, we have to work at a faster pace. I still find that there is no “normal” week, because each week is characterized by a special or unusual event. This week Mill Creek Farm, the non-profit organization I work for, had a film screening fundraiser at Vox Populi. We screened a short documentary about our organization and another film called What’s Organic About Organic. We had a great turn-out and raised a good chunk of money for the organization. We’re also having a big fundraiser on December 4th, which I am doing a lot of planning for. Ah, the glamour of the non-profit world…
I left the screening and biked through Chinatown, right into the night market! It is hosted by The Food Trust, which is a nutrition and food access initiative in Philly. Yes, more fodder for my food-geekiness. Several streets in Chinatown were blocked off and lined with food trucks and tents selling everything from steamed shrimp dumplings to oxtail and collard greens to gourmet cupcakes. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. I met up with Becca and Sam who live in Chinatown, and we got bubble tea and roamed the streets. Only in a big city like Philly do you get a bunch of people walking around in the streets late at night gorging themselves on every kind of food imaginable. It is times like these when the city feels like one big party.
Even at our apartment, the party continues. Today our downstairs neighbor Ahmad, a student from Saudi Arabia who goes to Penn, invited us over for a late lunch. He made Kabsa, a chicken and rice dish, plus a chocolate cake for dessert. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East, you know that Arab hospitality is completely different than what you typically experience in the US. When you go to someone’s house as a guest you are served tea, food, narguile (also known as shisha or hookah, a tobacco water pipe), more tea, more food… Guests are not allowed to wash dishes. As a US-American this makes me feel a little uncomfortable, because I’m so used to helping out with meal preparation and clean-up, especially among friends. But I relaxed and accepted Ahmad’s generosity, and enjoyed joking with him, his friends (students from Saudi Arabia and Dubai), and my housemates. This is a unique and beautiful thing about large cities: you can have so many diverse experiences within a relatively small geographic space. So far that is my favorite part of city living in Philly.
Contrast that with right now: I am sitting in my apartment alone, which may sound lame, but is actually a rare moment of peace and personal time that I don’t often get around here. I love that there is always something new and fun to do, but I also need to recognize my need for alone time. Today while I was doing homework in the park I met T., a recovering alcoholic who gave me some pretty sound advice, “the first thing you gotta do is be good with yourself”. Never underestimate the power of strangers in the park to tell you exactly what you need to hear.