I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, IL. While we went downtown at least weekly, I never went north of the Chicago River. Then it happened; I got a job on North Michigan Ave. and moved to the Northside to be close to work and the theatre I belonged to. I lived in a building where Chris Kobiachi taught me to say “Asian” instead of “Oriental. She had two gay friends that were cool and just like all the other women I knew. My good friend at the theatre was Sophia Maria Guadaloupe Garcia. When I wanted Mexican cuisine, off to her family’s house I went. Margaret Wong’s mother had me chopping vegetables for the Chinese food I would eat with her family.
I worked at a recording studio, and almost every other week we were eating delicacies from the country of employees or musicians. French cheese from John Gruyer; lox, bagels, and cream cheese from Freida Levy: Feta cheese, Greek olives, bread, wine, and Baklava from Frank Samet. No wonder I love cheese; I was introduced to a whole new world of cultural treasures right within my own home town.
Beyond my cultural ventures in Chicago, I have had the blessing of traveling and living in a few places, in and outside of the USA. Here’s the deal; you can stay in a resort, your side of town, or your neighborhood and choose not to explore the sensual pleasure of sights, sounds, people music, the art of the city, or country you visit, or you can jump into a new experience. One thing I have discovered is that I have an insatiable appetite for culture. Point me in the direction of an art studio, museum, a street festival, and an active neighborhood and I’m good. However, I must say that coming outside of your comfort zone may not be so easy. A quick story:
My family and I had lived on the island of St. Maarten for almost a year, overlapping the time around Carnival. Carnival is a celebration held two weeks near Easter. On St. Maarten, the daily celebration takes place in Carnival Village, where food vendors set up, and entertainment comes from all over the Caribbean and the world. Fun, huh? Not for the kids and me. We didn’t get Carnival Village. Why were all the kids running around, and why were there so many people aimlessly walking the grounds? We decided Carnival was not for us, and we closed the gate to experiencing this cultural event.
Then a realization came. The next year, we began to water our garden with the flow of the people – the food, the music, and the way they moved and socialized. Carnival was a big part of that process. The Village, a big vacant field, was a meeting place for the island. Once a year, for two weeks, and every day, folks gathered their families around their favorite table in the Village. St. Maarten is a busy island, which thrives as a service industry. This Village was a way for locals to connect with and celebrate each other. Of course, visitors were welcomed too. Yes, kids ran rampant. They could, there, without worry.
By the following year, our daughter, Camille, laughed when Bob and I were jumping in the parade of Jouvert Morning. Our son, Miles, jumped in the children’s parade. By choice, we were in a garden with flowers totally different from those we were familiar with – outside of our comfort zone, and we loved it.
Do you have to travel the world to have new experiences? No. This is an invitation. Choose to open up to a new experience – jump. Attend one of many local or international festivals that take you outside of your comfort zone, www.fest300.com. Go to an art gallery, a Yoga or African dance class. Attend the cultural events your area has to offer. Open a dialogue about race relations or a faith you don’t understand. Talk to a farmer, or a man grilling barbecue. Eat some sushi, pom, or cornbread! Jump in! This is how to expand and grow and receive a harvest beyond belief.
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Featured image: Jennifer Richardson Calcao
Vicki Goldston, Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Vicki comes to us as a traveler who sees value in all creation, and she is always eager to see life through the eyes of other fabulous folks.