One of my Subway lessons taught me that these new people did not prioritize convenience in the way I did. I believe this to be the most difficult lesson for Americans in particular–a culture so focused on making things faster and easier and then a little faster and even easier–to learn when moving overseas. At least it was for me.
It hit me the hardest in the form of a microwave, or lack thereof. After living in Oxford for three months, I moved into a house with two native English girls. With me, I brought a few suitcases, plastic storage bins, and a toaster and coffee maker–purchases I had made upon first arriving in Oxford in the fall and items missing from my new kitchen. When I noticed they also didn’t have a microwave, I made plans to return to my old house and get ours. This plan changed when one of my new roommates commented about having a microwave in the shed. They kept it there because they had no use for it. “No use for it?” I almost yelled in astonishment. Fortunately three months in England had taught me to try and contain myself when possible, so I casually accepted the fact a microwave was living in their shed and didn’t offer them my own.
While I feared starvation, I decided to silently embrace this new challenge of no microwave and in turn learned the value of taking the longer route. The longer route with popcorn, leftovers, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and various reheating of staples like coffee, brownies and pizza.
Instead of zapping, I baked, cooked, made lots of fresh coffee, boiled water for pasta and rice dish leftovers, or just ate cereal. Regardless, I did not go hungry as feared. And I learned how to eat without a microwave by secretly watching how my roommates did it. I learned to enjoy the food preparation process and to carve out more time for my meals, which slowed down life to such a degree I had not expected. And I often miss that slowness.
While I now inhabit a place with a fully American-equipped kitchen and am so happy I do, I would not have added a microwave to those nine months in Oxford.