Go International -- Without Leaving Town
Your folks will be spending the summer on a Serengeti safari. The roommates are gonna dance 'til dawn in the dapper discotheques of Ibiza. And your boss? He'll be slamming sake amid the hustle and flow of Tokyo.
Meanwhile, you'll be stuck wiling away your summer vacay at home. Sure, you've fantasized of flitting about far-flung foreign lands from June until August, but with that barren bank account, bub, the closest you'll get to international intrigue this summer is cramming curry chicken into your gob while watching Survivor reruns.
Take heart, wanna-be world warriors, as myriad multicultural merriments abound around town in the form of ethnic eateries, specialty shops, and cultural enclaves, allowing you to travel the Earth without leaving the Valley. It ain't the same as sipping champagne along the Champs Élysées, but think of it as a chance to broaden your horizons, treat your taste buds to a transcontinental trip, learn a new language, or even develop a new hobby.
For instance, learn how to kick it Kill Bill style at Arizona Shaolin Kenpo Academy (323 North Gilbert Road, Mesa, 480-649-8225; and 1058 North Higley Road, Mesa, 480-655-0129), where senseis Marlene and Jeff Harris teach the Japanese art of shinkendo (armed samurai combat) Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and Saturdays, 9 to 11 a.m., for $90 a month.
Asiaphiles who'd rather avoid accidental evisceration can still feel the beat with Fushicho Daiko (2217 North Dayton Street, 602-528-3490), a local Japanese taiko drumming troupe, who conduct workshops at their air-conditioned dojo on how to play the thunderous percussive instrument on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Fridays, 7 p.m.; and Sundays, 5 to 7 p.m., at $60 per month.
After wielding either daggers or drumsticks, visit the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center (668 North 44th Street, 602-275-8578) and sample a selection of Asian shops and eateries, as well as a self-guided tour of its meticulously maintained garden -- filled with koi ponds, Chinese landmarks and architecture, and a feng shui aesthetic -- which is open daily until 9 p.m.
No vacation is complete without souvenirs, so to get your mitts on genuine Russian tea sets without having to jet to Moscow, peep the porcelain goods available at European Gifts (7828 North 19th Avenue, 602-973-2003), where imported Lomonosov wares and other fine dishware fit for a czar are available. A few doors down is Russian Market, which supplies countless Russki consumables and other goods like Matryoshka dolls, and across the street is Restaurant Samarkand (7823 North 19th Avenue, 602-331-8991), serving up a mean bowl of borscht as well as deliciously meaty kebabs of beef, fish, lamb, or chicken.
If you're hankering for a trip down Mexico way and hate driving to Nogales, head for Guadalupe, where the quaint bodegas, quirky restaurants, farmers' markets, and Yaqui Indian religious ceremonies give the suburb a border-town feel. Peruse the Hispanic handicrafts of Mercado Mexico (8212 South Avenida del Yaqui, Guadalupe, 480-831-5925), including authentic wood furnishings, ceramic tchotchkes, and kooky cow skull art. The same plaza also boasts a boot store for would-be vaqueros and a tasty Mexican seafood joint.
Light on your feet and game for something more exotic than the fox trot? Pick up some high-energy dance moves from such African nations as Guinea and Zimbabwe at Eastlake Recreation Center (1549 East Jefferson Street, 602-262-6759) during free classes taught by the Kawambe-Omowale African Drum and Dance Theatre on Saturdays, 10:30 to 11:45 a.m.; and instructor Lendo Abdur-Rahman on Wednesdays, 7:30 to 9 p.m.
The Celtic cronies at the Irish Cultural Center (1106 North Central Avenue, 602-258-0109) will also lay down some fancy footwork during the center's monthly ceili from 7 to 10 p.m. on June 16, July 21, and August 18, with $6 admission. Pronounced "kay-lee," these traditional social events feature live music and Irish-style partner dancing with instructional sessions beforehand. The ICC also offers weekly workshops on Irish music and instruments, as well as courses on the Scottish, Gaelic, and Welsh languages, starting July 17, with fees of $90 per class. Stop by nearby George & Dragon (4240 North Central Avenue, 602-241-0018) for a pint of Guinness or Harp and a plate of bangers and mash for the full United Kingdom experience.
Hop on over to Down Under Wines (3305 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler, 480-705-7131) where a trio of Aussie entrepreneurs cooks up kangaroo meat at their bistro, either dishing out the meaty marsupial over salads as a part of their regular menu for $10.95 or in filet form during monthly barbecues for $55 per person. They also serve more than 300 Australian wines and alligator pot stickers, but refrain from making any Crocodile Dundee jokes.
Less cute and cuddly comestibles can be found at the Middle Eastern nightclub, hookah bar, and restaurant Layalena (1290 North Scottsdale Road, Tempe, 480-966-9116), where Mediterranean dishes like seasoned ma'anek sausage are on tap, and folk bands and Arabic DJs provide music during the weekends for the throng gathered on the dance floor.
And if you're seeking an adventure a bit more out of this world, the Challenger Space Center (21170 North 83rd Avenue, Peoria, 623-322-2001) blasts patrons into the cosmos with its "Rendezvous With a Comet" mission. Every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 20 through July 27), space cowboys of any age can help construct a special probe and pilot a shuttle into the final frontier. Just watch out for that reentry; it's a bit bumpy.
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