April 2, 2007

C.U. Enjoys Foreign Flavor

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Dancers whirl onstage to exotic music while others mill about putting final touches on their vivid costumes. Observers stroll between displays playing games, tasting food and taking pictures. Reminiscent of colorful street fair, the scene on Saturday at the Cornell World’s Fair 2007 brought students together to share their rich array of cultures and interests in celebration of Cornell’s diversity.

Students hoping to take full advantage of the international offerings began their night at the International Cuisine Tasting in Statler Hall, hosted by Hospitality Students International. HSI aims to encourage Americans to work in overseas hospitality, as well as open student’s eyes to different tastes, according to David Alexander ’08, a coordinator of the event who has spent a number of years abroad.

“It’s an introduction to culture through cuisine,” said Alexander, adding, “It’s also an opportunity to show off the level of the [Hotel] School. It’s 100 percent teamwork.”

At the tasting students dipped into a variety of indigenous foods representing cultures outside of North America, including Sinaporean tauhu goneng, a dish of rich fried tofu cut by a sweet cucumber slaw, street foods like shashuka, a savory vegetable stew from Tunisia and the sweet sticky rice with coconut and mango ubiquitous in East Asia.

Appetites sated, many students moved to Bartels Hall to indulge the rest of their senses at the World’s Fair, where 52 cultural awareness groups set up exhibits representing their culture or cause.

In the case of the Columbian Student’s Association such exhibits included books by Columbian author and activist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in literature, and local foods like a cheese bread called pandebono and sweet and deeply flavored dulce de leche.

“This is to show people about our food, our culture [like] the very typical arroz con leche (milk rice) and the most popular pandebono,” said Vice President John Diaz grad.

A number of human rights groups were there as well to raise consciousness about global issues like hunger and irresponsible trade practices. These groups reminded fair-goers that even as they enjoyed the culture and products of other countries, many of those same countries are still struggling with social and economic issues.

Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) displayed facts on world hunger and poverty and promoted its current fundraising effort, in which members are sponsored to fast for one day each in recognition of the 24,000 deaths each year from hunger.

“Our current campaign is raising money to build a primary school in Kenya in association with Project BUILD,” said Christina Yi ’09.

The Cornell Fair Trade Association distributed examples of fair trade goods like chocolate, coffee and bananas, and music and dance took center stage with performances by a number of groups including the Teszia Belly Dance Troupe, who gathered a crowd for their vibrant and upbeat routine.

“You get involved because there are so many interesting things, like how it’s started and where it’s ended in different cultures. [Events like these] help turn people’s perspectives around and show them that it really is an art form,” said Teszia member Kaitlin Torp ’09.

“We just love to dance!” said Shu Zhu grad, a member of the Amber dance troupe who showcased elegant Chinese folk dance in traditional bright red outfits.

Overall, the large number of students that attended the event seemed to be absorbed by the lively atmosphere, and many took the time to stop and talk with the groups and performers.

“It’s my first time here. I came for my friends, and I’ve had a lot of fun seeing the performances and tasting the food,” said Violeta Beza ’07.

“This is a great chance to bring together many cultures in one event, as opposed to a lot of smaller ones. It lets so many students experience it,” said Kara Tappen, treasurer for the Class of 2007.

Saturday’s events were planned by the Cornell Class Councils as well as by organizations including the African, Latino and Native American program, Black Students United and the International Students Programming Board. The events were funded by donations from numerous campus groups and departments, as well as by the clubs themselves.