Written by Tali Fish, Central High School (OU 2009)
When I first found out the OU trip was going to be domestic, I was a little disappointed. I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about the African American culture and more about my own culture; however the thought of travelling within the US had much less appeal. Although I had never been to any Southern state, (well…except for Florida) I found myself thinking, How different could it be?
I have since then changed my opinions drastically. Yes, we are travelling by a bus instead of a plane, but the culture down South is completely unlike the culture I am used to in Philadelphia. For me, Southern culture can be largely split into two categories: the food and the hospitality. Every restaurant we go to, each group member is allowed to order a meat and two sides (better known in the South as ‘a meat and two’). Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, yams, mac and cheese…in the South every meal feels like Thanksgiving! But what makes my experiences in the South the most enjoyable is the hospitality given to our group everywhere we go. Each person we meet greets us with a warm smile and seems genuinely interested to learn more about our program and the OU mission.
The best example of Southern hospitality I can think of took place in Atlanta at Mary Mac’s Tea House. We were eating our dinner alongside members from the American Jewish Committee’s Black-Jewish Coalition and they were allowing us to ask them any question we had about life in the South. In the middle our discussion, a Southern lady who appeared to be in her 60’s came into the room we were sitting in and started giving a boy on our trip a very platonic backrub. She introduced herself as Jo and talked with the best Southern accent I had ever heard. For the next 10 minutes Jo spoke to us with such pride for the city she grew up in, passed out her business card, and I can honestly say she was one of the friendliest people I’ve met. As we were leaving to get dessert at the Krispey Kream store…we all received the Southern “Yall come back now!” I think I speak for each group member when I say that hospitality we encountered heightened our excitement to travel even further South. And so far we have not been disappointed!