Parts Unknown

I’m not one to be broken up about celebrity deaths and the like, but Anthony Bourdain’s death made me particularly upset.

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go.”

That is, quite literally, what I’m doing, and he’s a figure that helped inspire my decision to spend my summer in this deeply foreign country to me, a country whose language and culture has not been a focus of my academic studies. His passing due to suicide, amplified in its effect on me due to my current traveling situation, begs a lot of questions as to what one is supposed to get out of travel. While traveling may seem like a heavily-external exercise, the effects of it are deeply internal, and, apparently, not a self-evident way to achieve happiness, but a way to simply add a perspective to become, say, more empathetic or thoughtful.

I am no picky eater, yet I have found certain things I have been offered here unappetizing, yet I never decline. The worst that happens is a temporary unpleasant taste in your mouth, while the more likely situation is a taste that is new to you, and pleasant because hey, they wouldn’t be eating it if there wasn’t something good about it. Meanwhile, a rejection of a food without tasting it (for non-medical reasons, of course) is a rejection, however slight, of the culture and lifestyles of those with whom you are embedded. I didn’t come all this way, far from the comforts of my friends, family and bed, to be comfortable. I thought about the philosophy of Bourdain in the week before I read of his death, and I thought about it before I put this bizarre-looking white-translucent dab of fish in my mouth. I just sure hope its the right one.


One thought on “Parts Unknown

  • July 9, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for your reflection on Anthony Bourdain and his focus on the culinary sides of cultures! I can really appreciate and identify with your feeling of not always wanting to eat what’s being served. Having done a lot of traveling myself, there have definitely been times when I, too, have shoved the food in only to be polite and not because I really wanted to eat it!

    Things seem to be going well for you even as you navigate a very, very different landscape. I’d love to hear a bit about how your internship is going at some point, too. Are things going well at work? What goals did you have for the internship, and how have they progressed? Where have they not progressed? Do you enjoy the work that you’re doing?


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