Food is one of the most intimate ways we experience the foreign. How a table is set, what utensils are used, who takes the first bite, the order in which the food is eaten–all of these details are clues to the values of the larger culture. Columbus has Ethnic Expo each year. It’s a two-day festival involving restaurant stalls, a parade, performances and fireworks. Pakistani biryani, Ghanaian jollof, Polish pierogies, Mexican tamales, French crepes.
None of that was foreign to me. I’ve eaten it all before. I’ve seen displays of dance and music and theater from around the world. Foreign implies strange and unfamiliar. I was startled by the crowd. The crowd was maybe 200 people–Columbus is a small town–but I think I barely brushed the sleeve of a stranger in trying to maneuver through it. In Vietnam, people touch. I could stand in a supermarket aisle, looking at a shelf, and another shopper might literally move me over by grabbing my arms or hips. I forgot that Americans don’t touch, especially in a small town. How lonely! All those people trying to get to a food stall or jewelry vendor before heading back to their car, where they will close themselves in to drive home, alone.
Weekly Photo Challenge is a WordPress-organized series. Each week, there is a different photographic theme. This week’s theme is near and far. I’ll tag each post with “postaday” and “weekly photo challenge: [insert theme].”