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7 ways to have international experiences in Pittsburgh

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It might be summertime, but few of us actually get the chance to pack up and travel the world. Fortunately, you don’t have to leave Pittsburgh to experience international cultures. Here are some activities that will make you forget — if only for a couple of hours — that you haven’t left the country.

Catch a Bollywood picture at AMC Loews
Nothing beats whiling away the hours in an air-conditioned movie theater on a hot summer day. In addition to the usual movie picks, AMC Loews at the Waterfront also screens the latest Bollywood films. Bollywood movies are highly popular Hindi language films (subtitles are included). Lose yourself in a dramatic tale of love, friendship and/or heartbreak that takes place in some colorful locale of India, the U.K. or sometimes even the U.S. If you love musicals, then you’ll probably love the random scenes of song and dance that Bollywood films are known for.

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Let your hair down at Sphinx Café
Stepping into Sphinx Café from the streets of South Oakland is an experience in itself. Sphinx Café is a large Egyptian style hookah bar complete with colorful Egyptian decor, comfy cushions and a muted television screening Egyptian soaps. Music of various genres plays in the background, but even that can’t break the peaceful atmosphere this hookah bar has managed to create. There is a full menu of shisha flavors, and customers can also order Middle Eastern food, fruit juices or teas. Go with a good group of friends because Hookah is best enjoyed with good company and conversation — but don’t make it a regular habit because according to the CDC, hookah isn’t a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes.

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Browse through the goodies at Kawaii Gifts
Buried within the clothing retailers and restaurants on Walnut Street is this small gem of a shop. Kawaii means cute in Japanese, and as the name suggests, Kawaii Gifts is stocked to the brim with cute items — most of which are imported from Japan where Kawaii culture is huge. The store sells a variety of goods from stationary to miniatures. They also feature brands and characters that are popular in Japan such as Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma and Sentimental Circus.

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Exercise your pipes at Kbox
If shopping isn’t really your thing, but you still want to get a taste of Japan and other Asian countries, Kbox Karaoke House has you covered. Kbox is an Asian Style Karaoke bar that was founded by a group of Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh students and alumnus. Karaoke originated in Japan, and is still a highly popular pastime in Asian countries. Don’t worry about getting stage fright, because at K-box, it’s just you and your friends in your own private room. Make it an intimate gathering in a mini room with up to four people or go wild with up to 16 in a VIP room. With a database containing over 100,000 tunes, you can choose from popular English, Chinese, Japanese or Korean songs.

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Eat an authentic French meal at Paris 66
If you’re wondering what’s for dinner, Paris 66 is ready to fill your belly with an appetizing French meal. Upon entering this cozy French bistro, you might think you’ve stumbled into Paris. The owners and chefs are French, the meals are French, the menu items are in French and the postcards imbedded in the tabletops are of Paris. Forget the hamburgers; feast on a croque monsieur or a filet Mignon instead! There is also an extensive wine and cocktail menu, and you can finish off your meal with a tasty dessert or coffee.

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Go salsa dancing at Los Sabrosos
Skip the club this Saturday and go Salsa Dancing at Los Sabroso dance studio. For $7, you can salsa from 9:30 p.m. way into the early morning. The DJ switches up the music pretty often, so you can practice all of your Latin dance moves from merengue to bachata. No partner necessary, as you can find one when you get there. There is salsa somewhere in Pittsburgh every day of the week. If you can’t make it to Los Sabrosos, check out Salsa Pittsburgh for more times and venues. Hint: Cabaret at Theater Square has salsa dancing on Fridays (pictured below).

Salsa at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown, on Friday nights.

Take up a new hobby with Timbeleza
Timbeleza is a percussion band that plays a form of Brazilian music called batucada. Batucada can accompany samba dancers or capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. Timbeleza holds weekly practices, and on certain summer days, you can hear the sounds of their percussive instruments cranking out cool beats at Flagstaff Hill in Oakland. Timbeleza also holds performances around the city and at events where they sometimes collaborate with samba dancers, break dancers or capoeiristas. For those interested in joining Timbeleza, email Kevin Seklecki or Siamak Malek at sambapittsburgh@gmail.com. Musical experience is preferred, but an instrument will be provided. If you’re not musically inclined, but would still like to experience batucada, Timbeleza will be playing at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater on Aug. 2.

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Photo Credits: Stephanie Strasburg, Kitoko Chargois, Jasmine Goldband, Timbeleza

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