I’ve been to a few cultural grocery stores: Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Vietnamese. After each trip, I’ve left feeling like I had just been to the other side of the planet.
There’s nothing like being enveloped by the sights, smells, and sounds of another culture; another life different than your own.
It gives you a clear sense of someone else’s ‘everyday’ routine, which is essentially just a different version of your own ‘everyday’.
The first one I went to last summer was a Chinese grocery store at my local Chinatown. I wasn’t too excited to go at first but went along with it, just to pass the time.
I absolutely loved it.
As soon as I pushed the door open, a heavy rush of air burst through, and once inside, I was sure I had been transported to faraway China.
The set up was like any other store, with aisles and displays of colorful bags and boxes. But there was something distinct, something that made it really stand out as its own place (and I don’t just mean the Chinese characters).
There was a semi-fishy, semi-salty smell from the meat counter looming nearby. To my surprise, it made me salivate a little, and I continued surveying the array of items.
I spotted bags of crispy, crunchy snacks dipped in hot sauce, squishy gummy candies, and yogurt-coated Pocky sticks. Cans of gluten meat substitute, endless spice containers, and tiny boxes of tea spanned each aisle.
Walking through it all, I imagined the sun setting and going home with my purchases for the night, the pungent scent of heavy dew mixing with the minty musk from the Juniper trees lining the street.
It was another life, one that could potentially be my own. What I most loved was feeling like I could be part of a whole new different world, even if just for a few minutes while browsing through some shelves.
It awakened that part of me and my imagination which believes that anything is possible and that we are all connected in some way. And it makes me want to keep exploring, writing, and tapping into that part of myself, to feel at one with the world at large.