Cultures Converge At 40th International Festival


A girl with blue and black face paint smiles
Tumisang Mosedame CM ’21 poses for a quick shot while working the South Africa booth. (Maya Jotwani • The Student Life)

People buzzed around the numerous stalls, holding Thai boba tea in one hand and beef empanadas in the second. Others crowded around the stalls, where festival-goers found their fortune with Japanese omikuji and learned new Swahili words at Kenya’s stall.

Held Saturday April 14 at Claremont McKenna College’s North Mall, the 40th International Festival was hosted by International Place of The Claremont Colleges (also known as I-Place) and attracted students and families alike.

I made my way around the 22 cultural booths, impressed by the range of nationalities and countries represented (though my home city of Hong Kong was sadly missing).

At the Indonesian stall, student representatives donned clothes of traditional batik, a textile technique that uses wax-resist dyeing to create patterns on cloth. Those running the France stall embraced their globalized image by wearing berets and red scarves.

The food presented at each stall was just as diverse. The Japanese stall offered four mochi flavors, while the Italy stall offered authentic tiramisu.

Alongside each food was an activity at play.

At the South Korea stall, my friend and I learned how to fold and play ddakji, a traditional South Korean game that uses folded paper tiles. We each took turns throwing our own tile on the table to try and make the other tile flip over, though we were not successful unfortunately.

We also tried our hand at writing our names in Bhutanese and received Henna tattoos at India’s stall.

“In my high school, we used to have International Day. … The India booth always had henna going, so I would get it every year,” said Mimi Thompson CM ’21. “And then knowing that the International Festival would be here, obviously I was excited to continue the tradition.”

At the Thailand booth, people sprayed water at each other, emulating Songkran, a Thai water festival.

“It’s an April festival where everyone goes out into the streets and throws water at each other,” said Thompson, who helped organize the booth. “It’s traditionally [done] to wash away the bad spirits and negativity, because Songkran is the Thai New Year.”

On the front stage, a range of entertainment took place. The Vietnamese Student Association performed a Vietnamese fan dance, while the Shogo Taiko group drummed their way through three strong routines. The Umzwilili (meaning to chirp or tweet in Zulu) group also sang for the audience, displaying their beautiful voices to the Claremont community.

The event was lively and busy, and I was pleasantly surprised by the feeling of hospitality present in all the stalls. Even as people began packing up, representatives were still gracious in sharing their international delights.

The Taiwan stall offered free samples of herbal jelly, while one member of the Saudi Arabia stall offered dates to everyone.

This type of camaraderie is what makes the International Festival a continually successful event.

“[At] every International Festival, I’ve learned a lot more about working with people,” said Emily Khouw SC ’20, who helped managed the Indonesia booth.

Before we left, my suitemate discovered that the drink stall was selling her favorite Brazilian drink, Guaraná Antarctica, and proceeded to buy three cans.

Her excitement is reflective of why international cultures and events like the International Festival must continue to be represented.

“I think that the international student community at The Claremont Colleges is a very active community, but it is sometimes an invisible community,” Program Coordinator of I-Place Jenna Bustamante said. “So I think it’s important to give students an opportunity to show how proud they are of where they come from, and their cultures.”

After all, people enjoy learning about cultures aside from their own, and I know that I will be definitely be back next year, boba tea in hand.

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