by Nancy Bestor
There are certain characteristics of travel in foreign lands that I always find fun and fascinating and always remind me of how different things can be when I’m far away from home. I don’t always like everything I find—I’m reminded here of squat toilets in Thailand—but good or bad, they’re undoubtedly foreign.
Standing up at the espresso bar is the only way to drink coffee in Italy. It’s cheaper, it’s more delicious, and you feel like a local, except in my case, because of the bulbous Keen sandals on my feet.
Public transportation is not just about getting from point A to point B. You can also buy a wide variety of products from a wide variety of salespeople on buses, subway cars and trains who offer items ranging from gum and candy bars to hammers, razors, English language tapes, and the most popular item, CD’s. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been startled on the subway in Mexico when a young man with a huge boom-box filled backpack boards my car and starts blasting Mexican music. He plays several seconds of each of several tracks, then walks and talks up and down the car, selling the CD. And amazingly to me, people buy it. Lots of it! I don’t know if these items are cheaper than in stores, or if people are buying for convenience, but they really do buy. Once I was on a bus in Mexico when a group of clowns boarded. After they spoke for a couple of minutes, people began giving them money. I have no idea what they were selling or representing, but they were just a little bit scary.
A “restaurant” might not have its business license displayed. They also may not follow first world standards for health and safety, but that doesn’t mean their food isn’t delicious. In fact, their food could be phenomenal. We at least try to make sure there are other folks eating at a food cart. If it’s popular, that’s probably a good sign.
Markets display and sell meat, poultry and fish with everything attached. Head, feet, eyeballs, tail, – you name it. And we tourists are there, ready to snap pictures of it all. (You’ve got to love the toddler in the crib, right behind all the hanging chickens.
Children in other countries find Americans just as fascinating as we find them. And I have to remind myself, I am the stranger in THEIR country.
Food cooked on the beach is always better than any other food you will eat. I don’t know why, but it is true. Trust me.
Finally, children are difficult in every country. Apparently.