Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Asian Grocery Store

So we had us a little field trip today to an Asian grocery store. We ended up getting something we never expected to come home with.

It all started because our Spanish teacher, who is perhaps the most creative, enthusiastic person I know, also happens to be organizing a "world's fair" for our homeschool co-op and somehow talked us into it.

I know it's a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids about the world so they can be part of changing it for Christ, but the problem is that I am not creative. At all. It sounded a little intimidating.

"You can do a display about your country," she told us, "and have some food and fun things. Think, 'really cool science fair project.'"

At this point I'm thinking, no, this really doesn't sound like me at all. I had to do several science projects when I was a kid, and not one of them could even remotely be considered "really cool." Grace was totally captivated by the idea, however, and it was too late.

We decided to do Indonesia because we have family over there and we thought it would be a great way to connect with what they're doing and have a better vision and heart to pray for them.

Plus they've given us lots of cool "Indonesia clothes" that we could wear.

We signed up for this several months ago and I had managed to successfully put it out of mind for most of that time. But when I looked at the calendar the other day I realized that the World's Fair is almost here, and we're going to need a little more than Indonesian clothes to do this thing.

So that brings us to the Asian Market. We pulled up to Lee Lee's market this afternoon full of optimism about the multicultural experience that awaited us. We walked in the door and were immediately met with a strong and overpowering smell.

HELLO, Fish!

I immediately realized that this was a much bigger place than I had imagined (kind of like Asia itself...)

I don't know why, but up until that moment, I had somehow been under the impression that this grocery store would be a simple, lovely experience that would forever leave us with an appreciation for the diversity of world cuisine. I imagined something like this:

I further realized as I stood there staring at 35 aisles of strange and foreign items, that I had perhaps been subconsciously assuming that there would be some friendly little display showcasing a nice tasty-looking delicacy that might have a little sign saying something to the effect of "Here, Silly American, is something you can cook. And you will like it. And in doing so you and your family will develop a wonderful love for cultures of the world."

Not so. We walked down the first aisle, which showcased approximately 78 varieties of shrimp and fish flavored crackers with names like Yum, Yum and Want, Want, and I realized this could be a little more of a daunting task than I had imagined.

Not that I hadn't done any preparation beforehand. In fact, we had spent the morning researching various tropical fruits native to Indonesia and had made a list of things we'd like to try.

So we took our little list, which contained items such as mangosteen, rambutans, and klengkeng , and marched over the the produce section where we found.....

Gala apples. And eleven varieties of yams.

Well alrighty then. My head was starting to hurt just the teensiest bit and I don't know if it was the smell of fish, or the fact that my kids were starting to ask me questions like, "Where do we go now?" and "So what are we going to take to the World's Fair?" and "Look! They have goldfish crackers and Super Mario Brother's fruit snacks! Can we just get those and go home?"

Fortunately, just as I was about to admit defeat, I noticed that each aisle was labeled by country. Hope renewed, we tossed the Super Mario Brother's fruit snacks aside, and made our way to "Indonesia."

For some reason, "Indonesia" was put in the same aisle as "Holland" (which, in my opinion, not only defies geographical organization, but the whole idea of it being an Asian grocery store, but maybe that's just me). The stuff from Holland, though, looked really yummy, and my kids couldn't really tell where the line between the two countries was, so naturally they kept bringing me the items from Holland.

"Yes, Honey," I had to repeatedly say, "I know that Dutch chocolate looks fabulous, but we are actually over here by the fried prawn crackers."

Secretly I told myself that we should totally do Holland next year.

Then I reminded myself that we are never doing this again.

I will spare you all the minute details of trying to read labels and make decisions in that aisle, but for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, it was very stressful.

We finally made it to the check out line where a woman who appeared to be some kind of manager was having a very animated conversation in another language with our checker. She was clearly very upset and talked at a rate of about 400 miles an hour. Our checker just smiled indulgently and this other lady went on and on and on and on and on and my kids just stared at her, open mouthed. It was actually quite amusing.

We walked out of the store a mere 30 minutes after we had walked in and I took a deep breath, surprised at how stressful the experience was. And it wasn't just me.

"Whew!" Grace exclaimed. "That was exhausting."

It slowly dawned on me that what we had really got at the grocery store, was a tiny little appreciation for the experience of culture shock.

It made for a nice discussion on the way home. "Imagine," I said, "if you had to shop there all the time for all your food and everybody around you was talking like that lady all the time and you had no idea what anyone was saying."

We had a new-found empathy for what it must have been like for our family when they first went overseas. And what it must be like for people coming to our country today.

"Wow," Caleb commented, "If it's that hard to shop for groceries, imagine how hard it must be to find a place to live."

"What do you think that lady was saying, anyway?" he asked.

Joshua, our self-appointed expert on most things, piped up confidently. "Oh, I think she talking 'bout poop."

What? I glanced back to see if he was being mischievous, but he was completely serious.

"Oh, yeah, I know she was," he went on with authority. "Because I heard a 'puh' sound and that's a p and p says 'puh' and that starts poop and poop starts with p."

And there's his phonics lesson for the day. Glad to have that out of the way.

Because I need a nap.


Sarah said...

Oh my goodness ... I cannot stop laughing. You just made my day. And yes my friend, you will most likely do the fair again, but next time I'll go with you to the Asian market. We can make it a field trip and all get cultured together :)

Happy day,

Theresa Myers said...

LOL - I love Joshua's reasoning! I need to remember when I'm in need of a good laugh, I just need to log on to your blog. LOVE your family!!! :-)

Megan Casteel said...

I just remembered you have a blog and I am catching up. You are sooo honest and funny. It's a great read! What a great story teller you are!