...And although the bench I am sitting on is plopped right in front of a crowd of bushes that are at the moment hovered around by bees, as my arms and neck are unfortunately potentially to be exposed by bee stings if I don't notice bees coming around me as I type, I am sitting on the bench in nothing but relaxation.
This is probably because I just came back from a trip I took with my friends to a cafe I had never even heard of before, that sits along the streets nearby the university. It's called Ugly Mug, and even though the name of the place obviously may not sound the most welcoming, walking into the cafe will ultimately take you by surprise.
The first thing you would notice as you walk in is the large impact of the size of the cafe. The space is very small, and yet all the tables, chairs, cups, syrup bottles, and pieces of artwork (on the walls) are arranged in the most perfect way, so that even if the cafe is incredibly crowded (which it was when I was just there), you won't feel like the walls are closing in on you. Instead, you feel sheltered, like no other place in the world will give you this form of security and happiness all in one.
You would also notice the authenticity of the cafe, making you realize that everything has been put together with the most care and attention, as if you had just entered the domain of a dedicated houseowner. The paintings look like it took hours just to make sure they were aligned correctly, as the menus displayed behind the cashier are not mere sheets of paper or wood, but instead carefully illustrated chalk inscriptions, making you want to order just about anything they could make because you start believing that the food will contain just as much of the "homey"-ness and warmth as the presentation of the cafe itself.
And as I was sitting in one corner of the busy yet lively location, laughing and conversing actively with my friends, I couldn't help but make constant effort to take in everything that surrounded me. Under the glass sheets covering the petite tables that we leaned against, random notes have been laid out for all the customer to admire and contemplate, as if we have been exposed to a mini exhibit of artifacts that previous customers have produced during their visits at Ugly Mug. Some of the notes contained phrases that were most irrelevant for the atmosphere of a cafe in general, but I still enjoyed observing each and every one of them because I felt closer to the environment that I had been brought into. I was also surrounded by the most perfect shade of yellow that covered the walls (besides the paintings, which were paintings of dogs, so cute! :) ); they gave me warmth because they reminded me of my aunt's house in California that I visit almost every year, where it is all about yellow, olives, and avocados (since those are among the list of my aunt's favorite things ;)). Obviously, there were no olives or avocados stuck to the walls at Ugly Mug...But just recognizing the same feelings I would get out of gazing at the yellow walls and towels at my aunt's house made me feel at home.
I think that's what I loved most about Ugly Mug. It wasn't just the fact that I was with my friends (which of course was very important to me), the delicious-ness of the food and drink (I ordered, for my first time, a lavender chai latte; I always have gotten chai lattes in general, but never at that specific flavor...And it was amazing!), or the perfect mesh of art and conversation that seemed to form as the theme of the cafe. No, it was the undeniable familiarity that anyone who's enjoyed the comfort of the word "home" and everything that connects you to it, whether you are actually at home or not.
I hope you have had, or will have, the pleasant experience of planting yourself in a restaurant (or in any other place; it obviously doesn't always have to be a place that has food, though everyone knows food is one of the top things people can feel connected to because it reminds them of the most memorable feelings and moments of their lives...Hence, the movie Ratatouille) where you may not expect to, but do, make the same connection to "home" as I have.