Friday, April 17, 2009

World Tour

It's Global Awareness Month, and our university is offering lots of events to celebrate the diversity of our student body and honor the many cultures from across the globe that are represented by our students. Tonight Susan and I took the girls to World Tour, a culture fair and talent show held in the Student Center ballrooms. One ballroom had tables lining the perimeter, each table representing one nation and staffed by students from that country. The students were in native garb and had lain out on their tables clothes, jewelry, games, currency and coins, flags, books, slideshows on laptops, etc., to offer some insight into life "back home." Behind each table was the appropriate flag for that particular country. We took our time strolling from one table to the next, hearing the students' explanations of the artifacts laid out on the tables, asking questions, and taking it all in.

The other ballroom was set up with a stage area and several rows of chairs for spectators. The talent show featured actual talent (snotty, yes, but so often the people who sign up for a talent show are blissfully unaware of their underqualifications for such an event--but not so tonight) from singing to playing guitar or piano to dancing to caligraphy. They served cheese and crackers, lemonade, and coffee, so we got treats, and Susan and the girls took seats to watch while I stood in the back and chatted with colleagues. It ended with a fashion show during which students paraded in their traditional clothes and then explained what each clothing item was called, why and when it would be worn at home, and so on.

For some reason, the girls were a big hit; each time we approached another table, someone else popped up to snap photos of the girls as they talked to the university students and pawed the objects on the table. Maybe the international students just want to have photographic proof to send home of what stereotpyical North Dakotans look like. I can just imagine "the folks" back home in Nepal and Mongolia and Nigeria and Zimbabwe and Kenya and Ghana and Brazil and France and China and Russia checking their e-mail inboxes in the morning and finding pics of three intensely blue-eyed blondes staring back at them.

The girls impressed the French student with their good pronunciation of the French words ("Thank you, Daddy!") that she taught them at her table. And Hillary managed to snag a ten-rupee note from the Nepali table. The men staffing that table did a great job of explaining to us their display, which included quite a variety of coins and currency. Some of the bills were paper-ish, like American bills; others looked the same as their paper counterparts but were plasticized somehow, as though they'd been laminated. One of the men explained that this is done during the printing process so that the money, if soiled, can be wiped clean easily with no damage done to the bill. Hillary's face lit up with such obvious delight in the concept of wipe-clean-able money that they told her to take the ten-rupee note. I urged her to politely decline, but as it turns out, it's equivalent to about ten cents in American currency--so maybe it was no big deal to them to let it go.

Next week: Taste of Nations (buffet of foods from around the world--our international students' favorite recipes) and Nepali New Year (it's the year 2066, according to the Nepali calendar--we're wa-a-a-ay behind in our celebrating!).

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