Clamato juice. Kangaroo meat. Moose sausage. Vegemite. ANZAC biscuits.
You couldn’t have convinced my mom I’d ever be this adventurous.
In kindergarten, she bought my lunch ticket in August.
In June, they sent her a check for most of it because I was too picky to eat school food.
Several years ago colleagues convinced me I needed a vacation. Once I decided to do it, I realized I needed to fully embrace this break from the norm.
I booked a ticket on Air Canada to visit my friend in Newfoundland and packed my bags.
My first flight was a small jet from Atlanta to Toronto. My seatmate in the front row was returning to his home in western Canada.
We chatted about Atlanta traffic and time change, then the flight attendant arrived with drinks.
She told me they had apple, orange and clamato juice.
Clamato? Must be some exotic Canadian fruit, I thought.
The flight attendant and my seatmate gave me a strange look, which only strengthened my resolve.
They watched me closely as I took my first sip.
It. Was. Disgusting.
In the years since, clamato has shown up more frequently in local grocery stores, so you may know by now that it is tomato and clam juice.
It is a flavor you can’t get out of your mouth for days and I really don’t want to know how you get clam juice.
Thankfully it didn’t thwart my new resolve to be adventurous, though, because within a few days I’d eaten lobster, moose sausage, toutons with molasses, rabbit pizza, Jiggs’ dinner and bakeapple jelly.
The food was just one part of the adventure. Staying with friends meant I was able to meet more people, better understand the local culture, visit places no tourist would think to see, and truly learn more about some of our northern neighbors.
Don’t worry, I also took plenty of moon pies, fig preserves and grits for my friend’s family.
Throughout my visit, my friend and I talked about how fun it is to see your own neighborhood through a tourist’s eyes. My research found local festivals and museums she either had never visited or had not seen since school field trip days.
I still embrace the chance to travel to new places and eat things like Australia’s fairy bread and Vegemite, but it also reminded me that adventure also awaits right here in Georgia.
In college it was easy to make friends from Israel, Congo, Kenya or Japan. But back here at home it can be a bit more challenging.
So I’m challenging you to look a little deeper.
At first glance, you’d think my neighbors look like they’ve always lived here. But a few seconds after speaking, you know their accents are quite different.
I imagine most people at the Oxford potluck had no idea they were eating ANZAC biscuits (cookies named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), since they disguised them with red, white and blue icing to make them sweeter. But this family from New Zealand enjoys making them for a taste from back home.
Their children were probably the only guests we’ll ever have at Audrey’s birthday parties who already knew about fairy bread.
Another friend in Covington tells me she and her husband don’t readily tell people they’re Jewish.
She’s not ashamed of her faith, but she’s seen too many people react negatively simply because they don’t understand.
It’s a sad reminder to me of how scary it can be to admit our differences, even as adults.
Working with 4-H’ers, I know we have every race and religion imaginable right here in our own community. We have people who immigrated hundreds of years ago and others who immigrated last week.
I learn so much from each of these new friends, both about how much we’re different and how very much we’re the same.
Just a few hundred years ago, none of us lived here. But as our families each arrived, we’ve become an important part of the community that makes up Newton County.
So here’s my challenge: get to know someone new, especially if they seem a little different.
I’d love to hear about what you learn.
Embrace the adventure.
Terri Fullerton is a County Extension Agent in 4-H Youth with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.