On Saturday, March 4 the International Students of Lewis and Clark (ISLC) held the college’s 52nd International Fair. The theme of the fair was “Spring Festivity.” The fair was organized largely by Kodai Kubota ’19, along with the help of Bridgette Flaherty and students who served as region chairs. The planning for the event had been in the works for months, along with weekly (sometimes bi and tri weekly) rehearsals for the past seven weeks.
Kubata, the Vice President of the ISLC and the coordinator of the International Fair, said “The International Fair is a chance for all of the international students here to represent their countries and showcase what they have to bring from each region.”
Kubata continued, “[International students] are a minority here and sometimes we feel that. But the event is a way for us to show ‘this is where we’re from, this is our culture, it’d be great if you could get involved with us.’ To have people that are really engaged into your own culture. That’s something really satisfying.”
Flaherty, the ISLC Advisor and Associate Director of International Students and Scholars, said, “Outside of academics, for international culture this is the biggest event on campus.”
Twelve major regions were represented in Stamm: Eastern Europe, Japan, North America, the Middle East, South Korea, Latin America, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Mediterranean, South Asia and Western Europe. There were both food and culture tables. The paper dishes in students’ hands were piled high with Japanese Okonomiyaki, Korean Bulgogi, Nigerian chicken jollof rice, Congolese Macedoine, Chinese potbelly, savory and sweet tamales, chicken and rice from Singapore, papaya salad from Thailand, Taiwanese braised pork and rice, and Middle Eastern kabsah. Their fingers were sticky with Royal Polish Mazurek, American cheesecake, South Asian rice pudding, Mediterranean Galaktompoureko and Western European Kaiserschmarrn.
The cultural tables were decked with colorful cloth, Mardi Gras beads, Mexican candy, traditional Korean attire (Hanbok), matcha, South Asian travel brochures and Ukrainian eggs. The Chinese cultural table even had a line of people curiously inspecting the creases in their own hands as they waited to get their palms read by their student peers.
Alumnus Michael Schmitt ’92, said, “I like the community spirit of it. That it enables alumni but also community to mix with the students here and be able to taste food from all over the country/world, and be able to expose our kids to that. It’s cool.”
His 11-year-old son Gavin chimed in as they both said with excitement that they “love the Korean sweet beef!”
The performance part of the fair opened with beautiful Eastern outfits and cautious clapping from the audience. The J-pop song “Koi” by Gen Hoshino played while the students representing Japan danced, splitting each face with an irresistible smile. A father exuberantly bounced up and down with his baby perched on his head to North America’s “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. Salman Alabdulmunim, an international student from Saudi Arabia, sang “Seni Yakacaklar” for the Middle East and held a shaking paper, which betrayed his incredibly powerful voice that stepped easily over well-rehearsed notes.
The mid-performance fashion show was incredibly polished. The models walked with confidence and poise. Latin America resumed with a series of dances that left the audience on their last breath waiting for more. The dance to the song “Somos Sur” stirred up rebellion in the belly.
China’s song “The Brightest Star in the Sky” indubitably gave all in the audience goosebumps with its powerful harmonizing, strong cello, measured piano and striking violin. Southeast Asia’s dances facilitated rhythm and stunned the audience with a maneuver in which they seemed to be endlessly appearing from under each other’s’ arms.
Africa’s dance entailed superb hip shaking and the body rolls. The crowed finally found the confidence to participate in the rhythm, as the attendees clapped along to the belly dancing and tambourine dances of the Mediterranean. Finally South Asia provided a fun and unique way to highlight the changes within Indian music and dance through the ages.
Russian Language Assistant Olga Goltyapina said that sewing the skirts for the Eastern European performances took 9.5 hours, and could not have been done without the help of Ronan Hall ’19 who heard she needed help and instantly obliged. Goltyapina estimated that, along with planning meetings and dance rehearsals, the performers had spent about 18 hours rehearsing. Rachel Applebaum ’19, who was in four dances and was the North American region leader, estimated that she has spent 30 hours attending meetings and rehearsals.
However, the International Fair brings up a deeper point of reflection and contention at LC. Students questioned the presence of a “North America” region and asked whether the International Fair truly makes LC more multicultural. Some students were concerned that the event creates a condescending cultural spectacle.
Emma Franco ’20, one of the leaders of the Latin American region, said, “We want to celebrate this part of our culture, and we have the space to do so. This kind of empowers us in a certain way. So I think that yes of course I don’t want people to look at me dancing and think ‘Oh this is Mexico,’ but I do think that it’s definitely a part of my culture that I am very happy about sharing.”
Valcourt Honore ’17, an international student from Haiti, perhaps epitomizes the idea of the fair. Honore said, “I’m helping to represent the Mediterranean this year because the past three years I’ve been helping in regions that I already have knowledge about, so I thought this year would be nice to be part of something that I don’t know at all and to learn about it and be able to share with people.”
He believes he has learned a lot about the Mediterranean from helping organize the region’s role in the fair. “In fact, I’ve learned how to make a Greek dessert,” he said enthusiastically, then gestured to a pair of speakers, “The music- I actually love the music. That’s the Mediterranean music that you’re listening to right now.”
At the close of the event, Kubota said resolutely, “Everything turned out absolutely great.”