Oh the Places You Will Go!

26 Sep Oh the Places You Will Go!

How often have you written up a grocery list, gone to the store, found what you needed, and left with only buying a few extra items (*cough* chocolate ice cream) that weren’t on your list?  Okay, so maybe you did buy more than you meant to, but I would wager when you do go to the store you stick to browsing those items that you are familiar with: bananas, apples, bread, eggs, milk, etc.  

You probably haven’t even glanced at the more exotic foods our grocery store has to offer because
1. How do you even eat them?
And
2. What do they even taste like?  

Last week, a coworker announced we were going to celebrate Wacky Wednesday with some ‘wacky’ food, which included a package of Rambutan.

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You can see why she would call them wacky.  Because who in their right mind would eat something like that?  Yet, I was surprised and very excited to see the Rambutans, or lichas as I know them, on our break room table.  

Let me tell you a story.

In 2006, I spent the fall semester of my sophomore year in Central America.  My group mostly lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, except for two ten day trips: one to Nicaragua and one to Guatemala.  While I enjoyed every part of traveling through Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, Guatemala was my favorite trip by far.

Guatemala is an easy country to fall in love with.  We drove from Tegucigalpa in the south central part of Honduras to Chichicastenango in the central part of Guatemala, an 18 hour trek.  The trip is full of lush rain forests, towering volcanoes, and winding roads.  It isn’t hard to see that this land used to belong to the Mayans.  Ruins are carefully preserved but the people live on in the tribes spread across the country, each one identified by the colors and patterns woven into the men’s tunics and women’s skirts.

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We visited the Chichicastenango Market–the largest open air market in the world; toured Antigua; swam in natural hot springs near a volcano; picked fresh coffee beans ready for roasting; and observed a ritual animal sacrifice by a local tribe–really. (It was a chicken and the whole thing was pretty low key when it was all said and done.)

What does all of this have to do with some fruit you’re still not sure you want to try?  Another person, from another country packaged that fruit, which then traveled thousands of miles to reach a grocery store in northwest Indiana of all places.  I want to share with you, as much as I can, the Guatemala I know where I first tried a Rambutan.  

For me, this ‘wacky’ fruit makes me think about a warm, humid place known for its political upheaval but should also be known for its rich cultural history.  For me, eating a Rambutan sends me back to a trip sailing across Lago de Atitlán, where my group snacked on a bag of lichas while we listened to our professor share the history of the twelve pueblos ringing the lake.  

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So the next time you swing through your local grocery store, go ahead and try something new–something foreign.  It may take you to unexpected places.