Bizarre: markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements; outrageously or whimsically strange; odd.
Bazaar: a marketplace or shopping quarter, especially one in the Middle East. A sale of miscellaneous contributed articles to benefit some charity, cause, organization, etc. A store in which many kinds of goods are offered for sale; department store.
A few weeks ago the UN Women’s Guild held its annual International Bazaar. An event that is looked forward to with great anticipation by many people in both the UN community and the city of Vienna. As there were fliers everywhere advertising the event I began to think about how weird of a word bazaar was. As my mind is a rather funny place I began to also think about how weird the word bizarre was too. Now I know that the words bazaar and bizarre are pronounced differently and obviously mean totally different things but as my thoughts wandered around these two words I began to repeat to myself, “bizarre-bazaar, bizarre-bazaar.” I know I am weird but come on you have to admit that both words are crazy and deserve to be paired with each other.
The day of the International Bazaar was finally upon us and let me tell you, my mind was vindicated as soon as I walked into the Bazaar! NEVER have I seen such a bizarre site in my life! I am sure you are thinking, “What is so bizarre about a bazaar?” As defined above bizarre means something that is markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character; outrageously or whimsically strange. Bizarre is the BEST way to possibly describe the scene set before me. Never have I seen so many people from so many different countries in the world proudly displaying things from their home countries, while others flocked around booths to try and scoop up as many international wares as possible! It was truly an unusual site to behold. As my friend and I began to walk around the room I was amazed at what I saw. Fresh flowers from South Africa were being sold next to woolen mittens, hats and slippers made in Norway. Across the aisle were people from Ghana selling carved wooden sculptures. While rounding the corner I saw people from Japan selling tea pots and fans, next to them was a tent set up with tea from India being served and sold. Shoved in and around all of these booths were thousands of people, mostly from Vienna, but also a sprinkling of internationals that were there to see what these far off places had to offer. Never have I seen so many people so excited to show what their country had to offer, nor shoppers so happy to buy things from far off lands… And that was just the first floor!
A short ride down the escalator would open up a whole different aspect to this Bizarre-Bazaar. Downstairs was where all of the food stands were. While riding the escalator you could see stands from Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Greece, the Netherlands, and the UK, just to name a few. Among all of the food stands were stages for people to perform on. In one corner a Brazilian drum line was getting the crowed going while a lady dressed in a traditional Carnival costume was dancing the samba. The people working in the Brazilian booth were joining in the samba action and a party was quickly erupting through the entire place! As we walked around the room we noticed a mariachi band getting ready to perform. We continued to walk through this massive complex and came across more tables selling arts and craft type items, even more food vendors and several other bands and performers getting ready to entertain the mass of people. While walking around one of the best things to behold was the number of languages being spoken and the infinite number of smiles that could be seen on faces young and old.
I found out later that the Bazaar is used as a fundraiser by the UN Women’s Guild. Last year the event saw almost 20,000 people attend the single day event, which raised several million euros, to be donated to charities supported by the Guild.
Of course I think that this effort that is supported by the Women’s Guild is amazing and I obviously fully support it, but the above facts and figures and good will was not my favorite part of this Bazaar. To be honest, the amazing items being sold from all over the world and the delicious food were also not my favorite parts of this event. My favorite part was being able to see the interaction of all the different people. It is a rare occurrence that there are thousands of people from literally every corner of the earth coming together to simply share their culture and heritage with one another. Rarely are people so open to learning and seeing what other places and people have to offer. There was not a single person who looked like they were not having a great time. To me, it was a glimpse of what the world could be like if we all simply began to look past our differences and instead of being fearful of what we don’t understand, became excited to simply learn what else is out there to experience. Being exposed to such a diverse, eclectic grouping in such close quarters makes me realize that it is possible for us all to get along. It makes me wonder when we will stop looking at others with fear, confusion and mistrust and instead look to see what others have to offer and what we can learn from their culture and tradition.
How whimsically strange would this world be if we could expand the unusual atmosphere that was seen at the International Bazaar to the global community? I myself would love for such a bizarre event to take place. But until that happens I guess I will just be grateful for the opportunity to share in such a special event – The International Bazaar!