What would you do if you wanted to decorate a new restaurant or bar? Where would you go for inspiration or materials? In Budapest, you might look to Szimpla Kert, the original “ruin bar.” While ruin bars are a phenomenon, Szimpla Kert was the first. One website described the interior as “look[ing] as though it was put together from the selection of a secondhand shop selling electronic devices, prehistoric toys, old bikes, and even vintage Russian cars.” Even as a non-drinker visiting during the daytime (when, as you can imagine, the atmosphere was much less exciting), I found the place fascinating. Every place I looked was something new. A room lit by dated electronics. Buckets serving as light fixtures. A Russian car transformed into a table. It was dizzying and fascinating and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen (except perhaps one memorable mosaic studio!)
It reminded me, yet again, of why I love to travel. It forces me to think about things I hadn’t before. It helps me see the world with new eyes. And it helps me be more creative. There is research as well as common sense behind that notion. I’ve written before about research that suggests time in another culture—or even relatively brief multicultural experiences—can enhance creativity. Perhaps now more than ever, as so much of our world seems split into camps of “us” and “them,” we need to think about many ways of living and thinking.
All this poses challenges for parents and educators, who rarely have the chance to take young people to distant countries. We can take them to experience other cultures nearby—a heritage festival, a museum, a cultural center, or even a new and different restaurant. We can teach them about different parts of the world. But doing so without reinforcing stereotypes and the notion of “other” is a daunting task. I’d love to hear how you think about it. How do we teach students about different ways of being so that they view them as different, interesting, and important rather than different, odd, and not-like-us? What do you do? What do you think? How can we do it better?
That may be one of our key creative challenges for the upcoming days and years.