A big part of the study tour was getting a sense of the culture through the types of food that people ate. There were little things, like the breakfast buffets at the dormitories that contained things like potato and bacon so crispy you could snap it. Then there were bigger, organized group activities, like making the trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl.
The whole lot of us packed into the entire back half the restaurant, and practically every single person ordered the same thing – the original chili half-smoke. I couldn’t help but wish for a salad on the side, but it was awesome. The owners talked to us about how the restaurant was passed down through family and was more of an institution than a mere eatery. There were photos over every surface of all the famous people who had eaten there (including Obama), and the centerpiece was a big painting of all the major figures of the Civil Rights movement standing together. It was really special to be there, in such a historical spot, eating the same recipe that so many important people had eaten before me. I bought a fridge magnet and a bottle of hot sauce for Nathan before leaving.
Later, we went to the baseball. I had no ideas, no expectations about what it would be like, but knowing that I’m not exactly a sports fan, I will admit that I thought it would be a bit boring. I was so wrong. It was loads of fun. I loved the little race of the presidents before the game, and the little organ interludes. Our whole group stood up and sang the national anthem too (luckily the lyrics were on the big screen for us).
I loved it so much, and added it to the mental list of places that I have to take Nathan to, when I eventually get back to the US. I even bought a Washington Nationals baseball cap (they’re totally my team now, okay?).