“Among all the foods in the world, only sunflower seeds can meet the conditions conducive to killing time. People who can snack on sunflower seeds are great and active implementers of leisure.” — Zikai Feng (1934), Essays in Yuan Yuan Tang
If you ask me what my most satisfying online order was last month, without a doubt my answer would be sunflower seeds. I have been a big fan of snacking on sunflower seeds since childhood. However, I hadn’t had them for a while since I moved to LA for my graduate studies. Finding packaged shelled sunflower seeds was a big surprise for me since I had only seen people here in the United States eating unshelled seeds as sides or as an ingredient to season food. As you may expect, I excitedly purchased six bags of sunflower seeds in different flavors. My most enjoyable time of day soon became the half-hour after dinner when I got to lie on the sofa, watch TV shows, and snack on sunflower seeds.
Eating sunflower seeds is a fairly simple process–you place one seed between your upper and lower incisors with its tip facing inward. Then, simply squeeze it between your teeth, and you will be able to hear a crisp cracking sound, indicating that the shell is open and what’s between your teeth is the seed inside. This sound is quite relaxing for me because is it clear, crisp, and seems to come from the inside of my own head. I guess it is the reason why eating sunflower seeds is also called “cracking” sunflower seeds. In Chinese, the verb for this action is pronounced as “ke”, which sounds almost identical to the sound when the shell cracks. After you crack the seed open, you can throw away the shell and enjoy the seed. With enough practice, the experienced sunflower seed eater (like me) can complete the above steps in one second without the shell touching their tongue or getting their hands dirty.
After snacking on sunflower seeds for the whole week, I started wondering about the magic of these little seeds. Zikai Feng, the influential Chinese artist, summarized three advantages of eating sunflower seeds that make it the best activity for leisure and time killing. First, people never get tired of them because their flavor isn’t that strong. Imagine you are eating salty barbecue-flavored chips; you would get bored easily of the strong flavor after a while. Sunflower seeds taste like plant seeds with a very light smell. After being pan-fried, the bluntness caused by the soft textures disappears. The seeds become crispy and stiff with a light taste.
The second reason is that sunflower seeds cannot provide a sense of satiety. Even after eating the whole bag of them, you will not feel full. They are too small to be a staple food. I find it hard to stop eating them once I start since my stomach never sends my brain a signal of being full.
For many people, quarantine has made it difficult to establish a regular routine that resembles a normal lifestyle. This can lead many of us, myself included, to feel overwhelmed by work. Finding time to spend in nature is of the utmost importance, but depending on where you live, it can be difficult to incorporate time outdoors into your everyday schedule. Two ALI Conversation Partners, Alyssa Delarosa and Elizabeth Goodman, reflect on ways to get outside during quarantine and list places to visit in Los Angeles that provide some peace and respite from Zoom and online classes.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
[7 minute read]
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES DURING QUARANTINE
By Alyssa Delarosa
During this time of quarantine where zoom calls, Netflix binges, and a non-existent sleep schedule threaten to take over our lives, there are many wonderful resources and guides on activities to keep us busy on the internet. Some of these resources recommend completing at-home workouts, recipes, meditation, and other hobbies that are beneficial for your mental health. Out of all these wonderful resources and guides, I want to specifically highlight sources that encourage outdoor activities, as I believe that outdoor activities are vital to our mental health, physical health, and general well-being.
While there are plenty of activities to do indoors that can prove very effective for our mental and physical health, we are doing these activities in the exact same environment each time.At the start of quarantine this was not necessarily a bad thing, but in the long-run this practice can prove somewhat damaging for our mental health. We are being constantly exposed to the same environment for hours and days on end, which can have a “prison-like” effect on our minds and make us feel trapped and gradually begin to lose interest in finding meaning and enjoyment in our lives. This is why I do not simply recommend outdoor activities, I strongly encourage them as a necessity.
The complete and total change of scenery that outdoor activities provide can be blissful beyond imagination. I currently reside in Ventura, California (a rural beach town about an hour North of the USC campus) and I am always sure to allot some time to make the ten minute drive to the beach, where I can spend the whole day surfing, walking, or merely observing the beauty around me. I often find myself standing in complete awe with my feet in the sand, the wind caressing my cheek, the sound of the waves swelling and breaking, and the smell of the salt in the air. The restlessness I may feel indoors does not matter as long as I escape the clutches of my house and run into the embrace of nature.
When you’re done reading this, I want you to go to your calendar or planner, digital or physical, and start marking the time(s) within your schedule that you are able to engage in any outdoor activities. It does not matter your location; the main objective here is to simply get outside! If you live in the city, this could look like simply taking a walk in the streets nearby your house or apartment. You also do not necessarily need to leave your home or dorm area, as you can relax with a good book in hand on your porch, patio, balcony, or any other accessible outdoor area.
The USC campus itself is a beautiful place to take walks outdoors, with numerous parks located on campus such as Alumni Park and the EF Hutton Park. If you do not live near or on USC campus and do not have access to any parks or trails, keep in mind that the objective is to simply produce a short change in your environment so when you leave your everyday desk and living space, you can re-enter more recharged and refreshed than you were when you left.
Just because we’re in quarantine does not mean that life has to lose color, meaning, and enjoyment. Exchanging our daily home scenery for the beauty outside can help encourage all of us to live happier lives. One day our lives will resume but in the meanwhile, let’s appreciate the time we have now and continue to live and thrive in the nature surrounding us.
FOUR OF THE BEST PANORAMIC VIEWS OF LOS ANGELES
By Elizabeth Goodman
From the skylines of Downtown and Century City, to the Santa Monica Mountains, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the views from atop the city of Los Angeles are hard to beat. When city life, crowds, and traffic get you down, take some time to rejuvenate by visiting some of LA’s most breathtaking panoramic views without a long hike. Here are some of my favorite scenic views from various lookouts in LA, all of which are accessible to students and most of which are free (although you might have to pay for parking if you drive). All of these outdoor spots also provide a great escape for anyone seeking some time outdoors during quarantine! Go on your own or with a friend for a socially distanced hike to a great view.
“Top of the World” – Pacific Palisades
This lookout in Pacific Palisades has rightly earned its name with views that stretch from Downtown Los Angeles to the left, to Catalina Island on the right. It is unique to be able to see where the sand meets the sea while enjoying the immediate surrounding greenery and mountains. An easy less-than-five-minute walk after parking will lead you to this stunning view, and there are many other hiking trails to explore in this area if you want to spend more time here.
Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel– Santa Monica
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant at the top floor of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica offers an unparalleled dining experience. The rooftop on the 18th floor boasts a panoramic ocean view from every table in the restaurant. Between the gourmet cuisine and superb view, this is an exclusive experience you won’t want to miss out on. Note that this restaurant is currently closed due to recent quarantine mandates, but when restaurants begin reopening, be sure to include this one on your bucket list!
For many of us, this summer, which was once full of travel plans and internships, has been reduced to three months of uncertainty. It’s been a strange transition for me to go from a structured week of class and extracurriculars to feeling directionless. Everywhere I turned this semester there was an irksome reminder that I was falling behind. When I checked Linkedin, my peers were posting about their remote summer internships. When I checked my inbox, I was receiving emails from career websites about how to stay competitive in the current economy. At first, I felt overwhelmed and defeated that I wouldn’t have something to put on my resume for this summer. However, I realized that most people I know are in the same situation as me. Instead of stressing over something that I have no control over, I can put my energy towards doing things that make me happy. For those of us who have the privilege to relax this summer, this is a great opportunity to do things we haven’t set aside time for in the past because we were too preoccupied. Here are some ways you can pass the time during quarantine.
Sitting or lying down all day has become the norm. However, it isn’t ideal for our health. If you hate the gym and don’t have motivation to work out, a dance workout is a really fun way to stay active without it feeling like a chore. Thanks to Youtube, there are plenty of free workout videos which are a great replacement for attending a real class. Here are some youtubers I enjoy who have been posting fun dance workouts: MadFit, The Fitness Marshall, and MYLEE Dance.