Although I’d gladly travel to the ends of the earth, you don’t have to go far to get a taste of the exotic. Especially living in Washington, DC. Seriously. I want to go back to Thailand so badly for the food. And then just yesterday I was tipped off to where to find the best (real) Thai food in the district.
While I can go just a few short miles from home to find a good rendition of naan or dim sum all year round, May was particularly great for exploring the world without hardly leaving home. All month long various embassies and cultural groups hosted events for Passport DC. It was a chance to discover and share the cultural diversity living in the city.
Along the way I learned that Hostelling International operates an amazing facility right here in DC. While they do the obvious (provide affordable accommodation to visitors), they also work hard to stay involved with the community. At the end of May they hosted a multicultural open house inviting the community to experience their Passport DC event, One Global Village.
The event kicked off with a performance by local musician Jon Rooks. As he played the guitar, people milled about meeting each other, getting henna tattoos and speaking with volunteers. The volunteers at HI-DC are impressive, each one active in the local community and dedicated to spreading global awareness.
One volunteer, Najima Bawa, who is also a returned volunteer and a current employee of the Peace Corps, ran a booth that I stopped by to learn about her time working in Kenya. Another volunteer Caitlin Thomas, who also works at Peace Corps with Najima, ran the Make DC Smile booth.
She encouraged participants to write down the little things that make them smile and take a picture. Make DC Smile was actually founded by another HI-DC volunteer, Massoud Adipour, to promote positivity in the DC area.
And everyone stopped by to enjoy the spread of international food – falafel balls, Peruvian style chicken and Mongolian dumplings – and a West African ginger juice stand.
After we had settled in with food, we got the chance to tour the hostel. I have stayed in quite a few hostels over the last year, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a hostel in the middle of DC. I quite honestly didn’t even realize we had them. I’m happy to report I was impressed by the facilities, management and services I saw.
After our tour, members of Grupo Ondas Capoeira Virginia volunteered to perform capoeira followed by a Mongolian dance performance. The event ended with an Indian music performance by Sameer Kadri and Ravi Makhija. The performers wanted to demonstrate that the Indian and Pakistani cultures are very similar despite the ongoing conflict between the two countries.
While learning about each culture only increases my desire to travel to their corresponding places in the world (isn’t that the point?), I am happy to live somewhere that offers a variety of cultural experiences just a few steps from home. If you are in the area, don’t miss the Passport DC events next year. There are so many fun ones to choose from!
Thank you Fatimata and volunteers for organizing such a fun event at HI-DC and inviting me to join in the festivities! I am truly impressed with the work I’ve seen you do in my visits to HI-DC.
*The event was organized by HI-DC’s Community Engagement Committee, which includes Fatimata Gakou and the following volunteers: Amana Bawa, Caitlin Thomas, Massoud Adipour, Najima Bawa, Jason Miller, and Sanchali Kasbekar.