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Students Boast Cultures At International Fair

By May K. Tse
Associate News Editor

On Friday, more than 40 clubs joined hands to take part in the annual International Fair, themed "Bringing the World Together," hosted by the International Students Association.

Many international clubs set up booths with food, informational pamphlets, and pictures in Kresge Oval. Cultural performances and a fashion show of traditional dress were held on the Student Center steps during the event, popularly referred to as I-Fair.

"I-Fair has always been the most important event for ISA, just as much as it is for many international clubs on campus. It's by far the largest event, and it really fulfills the goal of ISA, which is to bring closer together the different cultures represented in MIT," said Manolis E.I. Kamvysselis '99, president of ISA.

"I-Fair was a huge success this year. It's been the biggest I-Fair we've had so far," Kamvysselis said. About 2,000 people dropped by the event, and over 118 countries were represented. A record number of 43 clubs hosted booths and 27 groups put on performances, he said.

"Ithink it was flawless this year; the spirit was there. The people love it because they see many clubs; clubs love it because they get a chance to perform," Kamvysselis said.

"The I-Fair is a great opportunity for the clubs at MIT to display their traditional cultures through dance, food, and music. This year's show went really well, we had a lot of people who came who aren't from MIT, such as Harvard [University] and Boston College," said Manas D. Ratha '99, treasurer of the ISA.

While some expressed concern about the chilly weather, it was not enough to the keep people from turning out for the fair. "The weather could have been a bit warmer and sunnier, but it cooperated quite well, considering" that weather services had forecasted rain that day,Kamvysselis said.

Groups prepared extensively

Preparation for the fair began about a month and a half ago, since the new ISAexecutive committee was elected. "It's been a lot of work, a lot of people have put in a lot of effort. Once you get down to it, you can't believe it,"said H. Sanith Wijesinghe G, ISAliaison to the clubs.

"I've been busy all day, but people seem happy,"said Loreto P. Ansaldo '00, another ISAliaison. "I'm tired, but this is for MITto enjoy and it's been worth it."

The individual clubs also worked to educate the MITcommunity about their respective cultures. "We started requesting brochures from the different consulates about three weeks ago," said Nicolas Pujet G, president of the European Club.

Ania W. Mierzejewska '98 spent the day wearing a traditional costume from southern Poland, including a vest that was more than a hundred years old. "Igot this from a friend, who brought it from home. It's been in her family for quite a while."

P. Daf Ogagan '97, social chair of the African Students Association, wore a handwoven sheath, called an "agbada" from Nigeria. "This is something you'd wear for a wedding or a special occasion," he said.

Students sample cultural items

I-Fair also gave people the chance to sample other cultures' foods. The Canadian Club featured Nanaimo bars, a dessert of butter, sugar, and chocolate that was invented in the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia. "Canada is a country of immigrants, just like America, so we don't have official Canadian food,"said Mark P. Ottensmeyer G, minister of finance for the Canadian Club. "Next year, we're going to have some food from Quebec."

"We've had quite a few people outside of MIT coming up to us," said Arjuna C. Wijeyekoon '99, publicity chair of the Sri Lankan Students Association, who helped make Sri Lankan tea for visitors to try. "What I like the best is the feeling that there's so much culture around us."

"The food is great. It's a chance to show off your culture and to experience other people's cultures,"Ogagan said. "It allows you to eat food, be merry, and interact with people you normally wouldn't talk to."

"People don't realize that they're learning about culture. It's a very nice alternative, we are learning about the beauty of a culture through a five-minute dance," said Sharon D. Mussalli, a Tufts University junior who performed with the Arab Student Organization. "You learn about their clothes, music, how they look and act; it's the Cliffs Notes' of Arabic culture in five minutes."

Besides the spring I-Fair, ISAalso hosts a "mini I-Fair" in the fall, but "we don't want to make it as big as I-Fair. I-Fair originated in the spring, when the good weather begins; it's sunny, and people have more time to perform," Kamvysselis said.

"I-Fair is an event unique in the life of MITstudents. It's the one and only event that brings together so many students from so many different backgrounds and interests and lets them participate actively in the event, [giving] them a chance to show a bit of themselves to such a wide and diverse public," Kamvysselis said.