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Scents of Adventure

After a recent trip to the U.S., a taxi dropped us off at our home in Japan.
We got our bags, paid the driver, and then - like always when we arrive somewhere - I took a deep breath.

With my first sniff, I picked up a slight fishiness from Yokohama Bay.
On the second sniff, I could tell (from pollution in the air) that there had not been rain recently.
My third sniff brought the scent of pork buns, steaming on the streets of Chinatown, and a smile.
I knew I was home again.

It's said that travel awakens the senses. If that's true, then moving to Asia might have brought my sense of smell back from the dead.

Glenns' Wonderings

I say this, because I don't have many odor memories from America.
Sure, I remember the smell of Mom's cooking, but that's not a public odor.
Most U.S. cities donít have open-air markets, fragrant seasonal flowers, or cigarette-drenched hoards of people milling about.
In fact, the smell of America might be characterized by the absence of smell.
Wide-open spaces, dry air, and a general belief that strong odors are a form of pollution, keep dramatic aromas to a minimum.

At one point during my trip to the States, I realized that I had gone three days without smelling anything that I wasn't supposed to smell.
While my mind felt that this was a good thing, my nose and heart were not convinced.

Maybe this is because it's my nose that truly speaks to my heart about the adventures I've been on.
My eyes and ears have experienced some amazing things during our travels, but in most cases, I've already been exposed to these on television.
Even many of the foreign foods Iíve tasted can be found at restaurants in any major city.

Odors are a different story.
Like seafood and grandmothers, aromas just donít travel well. We must go to them.
As a result, smell is the most innocent of our senses.
No matter how jaded our eyes, ears, or palate might become, our nose is always ready to be shocked or impressed.
Bombard my nose with exotic scents, and Iíll know that Iím on the road to discovery.

In Singapore, for example, the smell of Frangipani, pepper crab, or the dreaded durian (an odor quite accurately described as, 'eating your favorite ice cream while sitting on a toilet') always stopped me in my tracks.
Often, these smells provided the only proof I had that I was actually in South East Asia.

In Vietnam, open sewers, markets, and street food mix up a potent jungle stew, where the wet smell of unending life and death literally surrounds you.
Places like Vietnam remind us that life, in fact, stinks.
Where there is no smell, there is no life.

Itís to my great sadness, then, that aromas (save for cigarettes and beer) are disappearing in Japan. Only the food vendors - ramen booths, steamed yam sellers, and others - are able to catch my attention.
Sometimes I worry that weíre headed to an odorless world or, worse yet, to a world where fake odors cover real odors.

Until then, Iíll take comfort in the knowledge that, when I want to find a place exotic and unknown, I can follow my nose - and my scents of adventure.

GH 09/00
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