Hello and welcome,
First off, welcome to the Family Unity World Tour. The purpose of this writing is to explain how this came to be. We live in Western North Carolina, and like for most, 2020 was a very difficult year. Two weeks before Covid school closings started in our area, my wife and I adopted a daughter and took in two foster children. Both were something we had worked towards for over two years. During the lockdowns my wife and I both continued to work full-time, but found ourselves having much extra time with the kids due to the lack of social activities, sports, school, and even seeing other members of our extended family. One of our top desires in taking on fostering, and even adopting our own, was to give them opportunities and experiences that they would most likely never get otherwise.
Our situation gave us a low threshold as two of the three kids had not experienced any inside dining during their 8 and 7 year lives. The first time we took them to a place to eat was fast food, and things were very intense. Next, we took them to one of our favorite spots for burgers, which is a much more crowded location, and the intensity increased. Shortly after that, all of the restaurants either closed or became so restrictive we stopped trying. We began attempting to expand their palettes at home, but were met with resistance. However, we did notice that they were more willing to try something new if the experience was new.
Challenges equally persisted within the realm of new experiences as well. Many people were not comfortable being exposed during a pandemic, and no one was certain at that time where we all stood in regards to children being able to get infected, and if so could they pass it on with no symptoms. We tried more isolated routes like camping or renting a cabin, but any time we are away from home for an extended amount of time, or leave the state, we would have to acquire permission from the biological parents and the Department of Social Services. Needless to say, bureaucracy and red tape are not my forte, and we searched for other ways to navigate these waters, while still offering memorable and unique experiences.
One thing that seemed persistent throughout this all was the desire of the kids to hear a good story, and to feel like they knew something other kids may not. Connecting the dots between trying new foods, experience, and novelty led me to this project. In addition, I sold my wife on the extra work by focusing the countries around wine regions so we all had something to gain. Each month a different kid gets to help choose and prepare the menu for a country they usually have never heard of, which offers hands-on learning. The emphasis we place on the meal, along with the guests who have been excited to join, sell the experience and get them in the mood to try new things. The food itself expands their horizons and lets them physically try the differences the world has to offer. The presentations give them the opportunity to know random facts and repeat them back to me at the end for a reward (dessert), while also visually seeing the landscapes, foods, and unique offerings each country has to offer. Lastly, the film allows them to be entertained, while also hearing about and seeing the country in play.
This project has offered so much more than I could have ever anticipated. We have had the opportunity to bond through learning, cooking, listening to music, hearing stories, and tasting foods from all over the world. The idea has allowed us to travel the world without a single permission slip being signed, flight booked, hotel paid for, or any of the other things we would have never thought about prior to 2020. The creativity that is sparked is worth more than all the amusement park trips we could have taken, and I cannot wait to try our future country challenges. I would like to thank each and every one of you for embarking on this journey, I hope that your family will find the pleasure we have derived from it. Finally, I also hope you will find a lasting balance between family life and the fast-paced world we live in.
Matthew T. Buchanan