I read a story recently about Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride being renovated, in part to introduce wider seats because “small world” visitors were getting bigger. I haven’t been on that ride in many years and would be perfectly happy if I never do again: five or ten minutes of that “It’s a Small World” song implants an earworm that can take days to get over.
That is not to say, however, that I don’t like the sentiment: I love living in a place that offers the opportunity to experience other cultures without having to leave the county, much less the country.
I love going to a Chinese restaurant and hearing my order called out in Mandarin, even when the guy cleaning the tables is Mexican. I like going to a real Italian restaurants and needing Google’s translation service on my smartphone to read the menu. I loved finding a Greek place with the best falafel I’ve had this side of Israel. Thai, Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese cuisines are all available. There’s even a West African joint in Fayetteville that serves Ghanian fufu and peanut soup.
In Cary, the Grand Asia Market sells everything from fresh-made Chinese dumplings to 20 varieties of tofu, beautiful dragon fruit and even frozen durian, which smells like rotting flesh when thawed, but is a delicacy in Southeast Asia. Whether buying rice in 50 pound bags or live tilapia netted from the tank, it’s a store that could just as easily be located in Hong Kong, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur.
After listening to the various singsong dialects throughout the store, it’s almost surprising to discover that the cashier speaks English, too.
I love it.
Our world is vast beyond our imagining in some ways, and smaller than we imagined in others. Whether it’s a visit to an Asian market for sweet rice rice or an evening of watching global athletes compete in the Olympics, we’re surrounded by reminders that we Americans (or we Southerners) are not the center of the universe or the repository of all wisdom, but one culture among many in a world filled with wonder.
It’s something worth remembering.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.