Carol Kibicho of Kenya, Nadine Aboul-Magd of Egypt, Albert Oko of Nigeria, Sachi Imuta of Japan, Sandra Liu of Taiwan and Chondamma Gummatira of India were among hundreds who jammed the University Center Friday afternoon for a show-and-tell-athon about different cultures represented at Southeast Missouri State University.
The International Festival was a combination food-tasting and fashion show that also offered Chinese and Japanese calligraphy demonstrations, henna tattoos and plenty of opportunities to ask anything you wanted to know about someone else's culture.
The festival was sponsored by Friends without Borders, student government and international programs groups at Southeast. Friends without Borders is an organization whose goal is to foster understanding between students from different cultures. Other events are planned through Friday as part of SEMO's International Education Week.
Malaysian students prepared a dish called keropok, a cracker made from shrimp. From Bulgaria there was damencake, a dessert made from meal, yogurt oil, walnuts, eggs, coconut and sugar.
Among the Kenyan items Kibicho brought to the event were a Masai mask; a shisha, which is a smoking device also known as a hookah; and chapati, a fried bread made of flour and salt.
"Chapati is one of the first things you will be offered if you go to Kenya," she said.
Long lines proclaimed two untraditional offerings -- bubble tea from Taiwan and Japanese-style corn pizza -- the culinary hits of the festival. Bubble tea was introduced in Taiwan in 1985 and can be made in a variety of ways. The bubble tea Marianne Teresa Chong served Friday was made from iced jasmine tea to which honey, milk or flavoring such as melon could be added.
Tapioca pearls are the crucial ingredient in bubble tea. The pearls swell and become soft in the liquid. The tea is sipped through special straws fat enough to accommodate the tapioca pearls.
Japanese-style pizza is made from the same ingredients as traditional pizza with the addition of kernels of corn sprinkled on top. Every pizzeria in Japan offers corn pizza, Imuta said.
Jill Venezian, coordinator of international community programs at Southeast, estimated that 14 countries were represented by students with booths at the festival. "They really want people to see what their country is like," she said. "This really is their gift to the community."
George Dordoni, an adviser to international students, entertained during the event by playing the sitar.
Aboul-Magd brought artifacts from Egypt to the festival even though she is not a student at Southeast. The Central High School junior displayed stone chips taken from inside a pyramid and a belly-dancing costume.
In Egypt, women grow up with an appreciation of belly dancing, she said. Her lack of appreciation was apparent when people danced at a relative's recent wedding, she said. "Everybody said I was too stiff."
Katrina Hebron had a sun-shaped henna tattoo applied to her hand Friday. The removable tattoos are an Indian custom. Hebron, a mental health case worker, is not an international student but often is a host for Japanese students attending Southeast.
She has been interested in international cultures since her own college days. "I always hung out with international students because I came from a small, hick town where everybody knew everybody else," she said.
Oko, a prince of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, wore a black-and-gold embroidered costume traditionally worn by royalty. The material had the Nigerian coat of arms, a horse and eagle. He carried a horse-hair staff, a symbol of authority. He is a graduate student in geosciences.
Like Chong and Liu, a number of the international student are pursuing degrees in TESOL: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Gummatira, who is working on a master's degree in business administration, brought examples of everyday dress -- batiks -- and more formal clothing. She also prepared an Indian fried sweet called gulab jamun, which is made of flour, sugar, cream and cardamon.
Umuta wore a kimono, the traditional Japanese dress now worn only worn on special occasions. She is working on a degree in communication disorders. Learning about other people's cultures is enjoyable, she said, adding "It's really good that we can taste it."
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