I find that after living in the same place for a year or so, I settle into my favorite haunts and hideaways. There is an occasional foray into the unknown, like my recent drive through an off-my-beat neighborhood because I needed something only carried in “that part of town.” I stay in my comfort zone, as most creatures do. And I begin to think that my way is good, even becoming a little ethnocentric in this city of great diveristy. It is then that I realize I need a little dose of another equally valid reality.
Fortunately, I don’t have to fly to another continent for an experience that challenges my daily habits. The city where I currently reside comes to my rescue. San Diego! With little effort and initiative, I can find any number of hole in the wall shops, restaurants and multicultural environments that push me closer to the edge of my comfort zone and urban reality. Sometimes they put me in a past comfort zone, like my childhood-in-Africa zone. The cultural diversity in San Diego is astounding, though you don’t see if you only hang out at the tourist hot spots. My favorite places are certainly off the beaten path and are not advertised in the envelope with coupons I get every week in my mail box – that’s for sure. In that spirit, meet Axum Market on El Cajon Boulevard. Purveyors of fine imported items like green (unroasted) Yirgacheffe coffee beans for five dollars a pound. Or Ketepa tea. Or a variety of “exotic” grains and flours sold by weight in zip locks for much cheaper than a certain “whole paycheck” store a few miles down the road. Or, my favorite discovery last week – twenty bite-size mandazis (East Africa donuts best dipped in hot chai) in a ziplock for one dollar. We may not be able travel to Kenya any time soon, but we, including our toddler girls, can enjoy these delicacies at home. Shopping here extends my paycheck and allows me to shop for items that make a visit down the street and a meal at our table a little more interesting and a little less ethnocentric.
Mandazis and green coffee beans ready for me to roast – unexpected treasures.
Find your local hole in the wall store frequented by people not like you. Go in. Explore. What did you find?