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National Dishes and Local Smells - The Orientalist

About National Dishes and Local Smells

Previous Entry National Dishes and Local Smells Mar. 25th, 2004 @ 04:42 pm Next Entry
Since my little blog went up a week ago I have been surprised by the two responses I have already received. Without even publicizing this site people seem to stumble into my Orientalist blog. The original plan for the blog was to keep friends and family up to date on my trip. But as I am receiving comments I figure I might as well start posting.
Although my trip is about 2 months away I feel that I am in the midst’s of the third most exciting stage of traveling. The first is when you arrive in a foreign airport, and can see and small the differences. Just as every country has a flag, anthem and national dish a country has a smell. Canada, my country has an evolving smell that changes with the season. In Montreal, winter smells like frozen automobile exhaust and in the summer the city smells sweet, like a sugar cube between teeth. Whenever I’m wandering though a deep underground parking lot I am reminded of the smell of The Port Authority in New York City (this is meant as no disrespect to NYC, I’m just talking about their bus station). The second wonderful thing that happens when you arrive in a new country is the few visual moments you had imagined in your mind of what the country looks like are replaced with a multitude of moments you could never have imagined. Although Alain Botton, in his book The Art of Travel delves into this issues, I have been thinking about the unimagined moments of travel for a long while. Long before you have even booked your ticket you begin to imagine the trip. You tack together a slide show of the trip, drawn from brochures, scenes from movies, the black and white plates in your Lonely Planet guide and images of what you want the country to look like. My slide show begins with the Montreal International Airport at six in the morning, and the empty barricades that lead to the AirCanada desk. Then a vision my layover, trying to sleep upright in the bucket seats at Kennedy Airport then handing my boarding pass over to a stuardess from Egypt air and placing my green backpack into the overhead. The final image is Cairo international airport at 11 am, and a man with a large mustache and a long cigarette stamping my passport. Why the moustache? Because that’s the only memory of a conversation I had with my cousins who lived in Cairo for a year (who knew I came from a family or Orientalists?)
But, from the actually of departure, comes rich and vivid moments, that in their complexity surpass any 2 dimensional customs lineup.
I will leave it here for now, in till next time.
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