My brown eyes must have looked as big as the giant stone heads towering in front of me. On top of each head, a circle of fire danced in the early evening light. Stern eyes, sunk above wide nostrils, watched us approach the massive wooden doors they were guarding. A haunting chant of deep voices and drums pulsed from within.
At eight years old in Ohio, my world never included anything like this. My sister Janet and her fiancé Shep promised me that dinner that evening would be "exotic" - whatever that was. Excited anticipation filled the car as we were driving to Columbus, but no clues were offered, just smiles and winks and "wait and see."
Shep turned into a parking lot and proclaimed, "Here we are!”
I looked and blinked and looked again at an unexpected wonder rising from the urban landscape: a mammoth jungle bungalow. Jagged patterns of color decorated the roof. Its long center spine sloped suddenly upward and beyond the front wall, then split from a sharp point, extending a sheltering entryway, like tent flaps dropping from forty feet in the air.
Now in front of those giant heads, I took a deep breath and hurried past as Shep held open the door.
We were inside. Or were we? Before us stone pathways led through what looked like a tribal village in a Tarzan movie. Thatched roofs sheltered groupings of tables and chairs. Tropical blooms of amazing color and structure highlighted lush greenery. Each hut-like seating area displayed its own collection of seemingly primitive art. Masks, pottery, weavings, lanterns, and even ceremonial weapons vied for the attention of diners.
A beautiful woman with dark features, a giant flower in her hair and a real grass skirt greeted us and led us to our place in this jungle village. It is my first remembrance of experiencing a restaurant not lit with the wattage of a family diner. Dark and mysterious, the restaurant's glowing torches set off brilliant hues among the shadows. It was like eating at a camp site in a jungle, except we were all dressed up.
An aquarium teaming with tropical sea creatures provided living scenery at the end of our table. Delighted at such close vantage, my eyes could barely turn away from the fanciful fins gracefully floating past my face - until my beverage arrived.
Pieces of pineapple and cherries, skewered on a miniature totem pole, garnished a frothy, fruity concoction served in a coconut shell!
The multi-sensory memories of that evening remain with me, nearly 50 years later. If ever there was a way to be introduced to the concept of exotic, dining at the Kahiki Supper Club in Columbus, Ohio, was it.
Today, technology brings incredible life-like images and sounds to little screens we hold in our hands. With real and imagined universes transmitted so easily, perhaps the concept of exotic is becoming passé. What will seem strikingly unusual or strange and mysterious to my grandchildren? Will they have seen it all before they are eight years old?
Let us be intentional about providing children exotic experiences of wonderment. A performance by a live orchestra, a home grown tomato, a spider web, or a fruity drink in a coconut shell come to mind.
Dear God, help us teach our children of your loving hand in all things real and digital, tame and exotic, so they can know the wonder of your love and provision.
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