The slang meaning of crunchy is to have a healthy diet and way of living; natural and earthy. It has a pejorative flavor, which makes me hesitate to write out this list, but the truth is that I came by these values overseas, insulated from the mudslinging right and left arguments of my home culture. Now they’re precious to me, and though I don’t fully understand all of the affiliations, it’s getting easier to roll with the punches and rock on. It also helps to read Anne Lamott.
- Walk/bike for transportation. I used to think that exercise was something to be block-scheduled. It required its own hour of the day and a wardrobe suited to the activity. As a commuting teacher overseas, I rode my bike in skirts and wedges. Activity became not something to be isolated into the appropriate hour of the day, but integrated into a lifestyle.
- Hang the laundry. Do you remember An Altar in the World? BBT wrote about blessing her wooden clothespins and the Domestic Arts. Brother Lawrence believed that daily duties were an opportunity to practice the presence of God. I started hanging my laundry overseas because that was my only option. Now it puts me in good company, and my clothes dryer sits unused in the basement.
- Use fewer resources. On the wall outside of every apartment where I lived there was a countdown. It was the amount of electricity remaining on a prepaid card and worked as a declining balance. Other utilities worked the same way. There was a typecast, foreigners use way more than the locals. Why is that? Why, just going about my daily business, would I use more resources in an apartment that is exactly like my neighbors’, when they without strain use considerably less? At first it made me self-conscious, and then it just made me conscious. Small adjustments like plugging multiple cords into a power strip and flipping the strip off at night or when not in use, cuts off an energy drain that is happening even when electronics aren’t “on”.
- Recycle. There wasn’t a formal recycling program where I lived. It was a subsistence program. The poor and resourceful gathered recyclables from the dumpsters to trade for change. So, I began to bag our recyclables separately and place them beside the dumpsters. They were always claimed within the hour. Sometimes I would cross paths with a gatherer on my way to the dumpster and hand them over. What gratitude! Now, recycling to me has faces. It’s a practice linked to the welfare of people as well as planet.
- Minimize. Every item that we own down to the spools of thread in the junk drawer requires energy to manage, and sheesh, that’s not even considering what it takes to move it. I loved Patty’s post last week, didn’t you? Have you felt the frenzy to gather and store? To buy another bin or cabinet so there’s room for more? I didn’t move overseas to manage my stuff. It taught me to love less.
- Shop local. Cart vendors, open-air markets, mom-and-pop shops. Did you know that when we use our money within the community in which we live, it fosters creativity and innovation and networks of relationships? This feels like Kingdom building to me.
- Urban urbane. I didn’t always love cities. I thought living in one was part of the cost we count. Did you know that a historical shift happened in the first ten years of this millennium? The scales tipped and for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Cities are happening now, folks. Living overseas in a densely populated region changed me. Proximity and community – having every shop and service I need within a two mile radius and culture and people literally overflowing into the streets – became deciding factors in choosing a new residence.
- Seek out Green Space. In a world of concrete, asphalt, and glass you notice and cherish the green space. This book helps me do that with my little people.
- Bring outside in. Every new home I inhabit, I pot a Wandering Jew. It’s become a ritual that orients me to God’s provision and my pilgrim status.
- Can’t buy it, or don’t like it, or don’t want to pay the premium = Make it. I learned to wrap my crockpot in towels to incubate yogurt. Peanuts and a high-grade peanut oil with a sprinkle of salt and a dash of sugar (or cinnamon!) in a food processor or blender makes yummy peanut butter. Melt butter, brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon into a syrup at the bottom of a wok; add oats and stir. Voila! Granola.
Thanks to a life overseas, wherever I go I’m crunching my wok-made granola. I’m good with that.
What lifestyle choices have you adopted and adapted because of your life overseas?
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