Imagine sampling exotic foods in the Far East, dancing amidst the sights of Spain, or savoring every decadent morsel of Italy. (Sounds nice, right?) Before you sigh over the price tag of a global jaunt, or fret about language barriers, take note: The Great Lakes Bay Region is the perfect place to experience culture from around the globe without ever leaving Pure Michigan!
Go Global: Asian Style
Hello: Konnichiwa, Japanese; Ni Hao, Chinese; Xin Chào, Vietnamese; Wàt Dee, Thai
Blended within our Michigan towns are rich, cultural nods from Japanese, Chinese, Thai and many other Asian cultures – fused with opportunities to taste, explore and experience another world when you Go Great Lakes Bay!
Take Tea, Traditionally
Step through the handcrafted bamboo gates of Saginaw’s Japanese Cultural Center, and prepare to be immersed in serenity and tradition. Amidst stone lanterns and weeping cherry trees, discover the Awa SaginawAn Tea House, constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan.
1. The gardens and tea house are open April – October, Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 4 p.m. The 3-acre Japanese Gardens may be enjoyed for free.
2. Tea & Tour: Explore the tea house with a trained docent (teacher), learn the storied creation of the sukiya (rustic) structure with Japanese hand tools and enjoy green tea and sweets, traditionally and beautifully presented, for just $3 during business hours.
3. Traditional Tea Ceremony (Chanoyu): Witness celebrants in traditional kimono perform the 400-year-old ritual of serving tea at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Take photos, ask questions and enjoy tea and sweets for $8.
Go Global Bonus: Try your hand at Japanese calligraphy at the annual Japan Festival, 1 – 4 p.m., September 13, 2015. Taste sushi, witness Japanese performing arts and cultural demonstrations and maybe even play a traditional Japanese game or two! Entrance to the festival is free.
Try Tai Chi
An ancient Chinese form of martial arts, Tai Chi is practiced for its health-giving and spiritual benefits – one hour of tai chi burns more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing!
1. The word Tai translates to “big” or “great”; Chi, “ultimate energy”. It is non-competitive, deliberately slow-paced exercise.
2. Experience “Tai Chi at The Crow”, led by Jim Bush, at Saginaw’s The White Crow Conservatory of Music. Wear comfortable clothes; drop-in fee is $5.
Sample Asian Fare
Dine in, take out, or test your culinary skills at home – but certainly taste the Orient. Options are vast to enjoy authentic Asian, Asian-American and Asian fusion fare right in our region!
1. Visit Pasong’s Café in Saginaw for locally-famous spring rolls served with made- fresh-daily sweet and sour sauce, a bowl of life-changing Pho (soup of Vietnamese origin) or Pad Thai, and Thai Tea, a creamy, orange beverage served cold. Interested in discussing foods, flavors, and culture? Owner Tina Saycosie, originally from None Khô, Savannakhet, Laos, is a living wealth of information, worth a listen.
2. Asian Noodle in Bay City specializes in Filipino food, and also offers dishes with Singaporean, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian and Chinese influences. Soup of the day varies, but Tinolang Manok, a fragrant soup with ginger, vegetables, green papaya, is popular, and locals rave about the Halo-Halo dessert.
3. Head to Basil Thai Bistro in Midland to sample authentic, northern Thai cuisine. Be prepared to enjoy your meal served family style, and don’t leave without trying the Som Tum (papaya salad) stirred with pickled crab in a lime fish sauce.
Go Global Bonus: Peruse Pinterest for Asian recipes, and head to Saginaw’s Asian Market to stock up on oriental food items, spices, drinks (and perhaps green tea or purple yam-flavored ice cream for dessert)!
Explore the Arts
This Summer, enjoy unique opportunities to further explore Asian culture thanks to community collaboration between the Saginaw Art Museum, Japanese Cultural Center and Saginaw Valley State University.
1. “Preserving and Persevering: A Japanese Community Collaboration”, June 11 – July 11. Behold a collection of 14 Japanese wood cuts and elegant, authentic Japanese quilts (on loan from the Japanese Cultural Center) on display at the Saginaw Art Museum.
2. “Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams”, May 22 – August 29, an exhibit at SVSU’s Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum featuring fifty photographs by Ansel Adams of the Japanese American relocation camp in Manzanar, Cali., during World War II.
Want to take your global experience even further? Follow us at the Go Great Blog for more posts in the “Go Global in the Great Lakes Bay” series and discover opportunities to experience far-off lands, close to home.
Jen Wainwright is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Michigan. She specializes in marketing communications copy, feature articles and compelling content/blog posts. Jen enjoys experiencing multicultural opportunities in the Great Lakes Bay Region with her family, camping and laughing. You can find her at www.jenwainwright.com.