It seems you all enjoyed reading my post yesterday, so I thought I may elaborate. I hope I don't get boring!
My first experience with a culture other than my own was at age 12 when my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Madrid. We thought it was so funny when he wore a bikini swimsuit to the lake, complained his mouth was on fire with MILD salsa and refused corn on the cob because that is what pigs eat.
Well, the tables turned when I was 16 and went to live with a family in Madrid. They laughed at me when I accidentally told them I was pregnant instead of embarrased making myself even more embarrased..... not more pregnant. They were amazed at my white skin, blond hair and "outdated" clothing styles. And, when I told them I had 4 siblings, they nearly fell over in shock!!!
This was also my first experience with American stereotyping. Many families refused to let their children associate with me because they were sure that being American, I would be just like the wild girls on Beveryly Hills 90210 (a popular show at the time). However, after a few weeks I was friends with them all!
The most shocking things to me, at 16, about Spain were:
1. The bidets next to the toilets. I'd never seen one before.
2. The moveable walkways in the mall. I had only seen those in airports.
3. The meat markets and seeing a chicken actually plucked. We are so removed from our food in the states!
My favorite things about Spain were:
1. The people.
2. Chocolate dipped, rolled up pastry hearts, Nocilla, and coke from a bottle (the only way it was served at the time).
3. The festival for the patron saint of Segovia, although I can no longer remember who he was.
And, a bit about the food:
1. The first morning there I opted for Frosted Flakes. It was recognizeable. I like cereal. How could I go wrong? Well, I'll tell you....... shelf milk! YUCK!!! I never did acquire a taste for it and chose a peach for breakfast ever after.
2. Spanish olives are not the same, neither is Spanish pizza or Spanish cheeses. It's not that they're horrible... except for the olives, IMHO.... but if you're expecting what you're use to, it's quite shocking! My pizza had fish on it, need I say more.
3. Didn't Columbus go in search of spices? Well, I'm telling you either he didn't bring them back or the Spanish refused them! Their food was very bland to me and most of it tasted like strong olive oil! It was hard to choke down at first, but with time, I actually began to like it.
My next foreign experience wasn't until a few years ago when I went to South Africa. Again, people thought Americans would be like they see on TV: divorced, sleeping around and with no morals. So, I tried my best to be polite!
I have a lot of respect for South Africans of all descent. It is not an easy country to live in and they have many social problems to figure out. But they were very kind to us, even breaking one of Johannesburg's stereotypes (there is horrible crime there) when someone returned Eric's camera that he accidentally left at a table in the mall.
The country is beautiful, the animals are amazing and the fruit is delicious. Although, I wasn't a huge fan of biltong which is jerky made out of Kudu. I wasn't too hip on Kudu steaks either, but they weren't that bad.
Then, I went to Japan where I'm sure Eric was the tallest person in the entire country! I was second tallest. The Japanese seemed to love Americans and all things American. They are lovely, gracious and polite people. Being in Tokyo was like being in a super clean and safe New York with a little less diversity.
My first morning for breakfast, I enjoyed slug risotto. Yep, you read that right. I picked the rice dish thinking it would be safest. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the dark bits that I thought were mushrooms had antennas. Living up to American stereotypes, we snuck out to Starbucks for breakfast after that!
To my surprise, I found that I really liked raw tuna sushi and I really didn't like pancake doll cookies, although they smelled wonderful (that's a funny, but long story). It was also surprising how unsettling it is to be in a country where you cannot recognize the alphabet, read a street sign or ask someone for help.
What I have found with all my travels is that people, although very different are very much the same. We all care about our families, our loved ones, our livehoods and being liked and appreciated by others. Those things are universal!
I'm sure China will have it's supply of culture shock and beauty just like everywhere else! I'll let you know what I think of it all when I get back. Until then, enjoy these Circa projects..... it is the crafting season afterall!
By Leah Killian
By Stace Michaud
By the way, Vanessa has been found! It seems she was hiding out in Canada.