As most of you know, Beth (the other MI intern) and I share a traditional “HK” style apartment (read: tiny kitchen and bathroom, small rooms) in one area of the city. However, for the month of July, we are house/dog-sitting for one of our ministers at our church. She (and her family) live in apartment outside the main part of the city. More importantly, they have a TV, a dryer, an oven (with four burners), two bathrooms, and a fridge taller than me (so I guess “normal)! The apartment complex has a pool and a tennis court. To me, she lives in LUXURY! What surprises about this experience is what has become the new “normal” for me and then, what we think of “normal” in the US, and then also, how we define “need.”
I have written about my living space in HK a few times in one post called Feeding Myself and also shared photos of my apartment. But let me elaborate on my normal for the past ten months. It is normal that if Beth and I both need to be in the kitchen at the same time, we will be touching. It is normal that I hang dry my cloths. It is normal to watch TV on my (or Beth’s) computer. It is normal to bump the shower doors with my elbows when I wash my hair. And of course, it is normal to to sleep in a twin bed.
This past week
While staying in this new apartment, which is still not much bigger than my place in Philadelphia was, Beth and I can watch TV or movies on an actual TV. I can sleep in a double bed, dry my cloths in a dryer, cook more than one pot at once, and bake more than six cupcakes at once. I can dance in the kitchen and most impressively, I can sit at a table and eat breakfast. It’s truly about the little things in life!
Versus the US
For the majority of people in the United States, my experience of the past week is part of our daily lives. Most people have dryers, dining room tables, ovens, four burners and a fridge that fits more than one week of food. But what my experience living in my normal apartment has showed me is how much stuff I have, how much stuff I need, how to be extremely conscious of collecting things, and how much space Americans use. (Don’t be fooled; I still have an A LOT of clothes) Americans tend to take up so much space and have to so many things and consume so much. All of that uses resources, mostly money and oil (in our cars, in production of those things and also in transport).
HK has taught me about my consumption, but not just about how much gas I put in my car or how much electricity I use, but how much I consume from the world around me, including space. So I invite each of you to consider your own consumption in a truly comprehensive way because if we all reduce our total consumption, just consider the possibilities for not only the environment but also those living in poverty.