by Trinity Tran
7 February 2018
“I liked how my family and I were able to give other people a chance to experience a bit of Chinese culture through these dishes,” Kiana Kong said. Photo by Trinity Tran.
The experiencing of traveling to a different country, a different city, a different town, is an experience unlike any other.
Ordinarily, people don’t often get to taste decadent chocolate from Germany, creamy carlota from Mexico, and fried turon from the Philippines all within one night.
On February 2nd they did.
For one night a year, Oswego East provides the community an opportunity for this experience to “travel” and immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures and foreign heritages just within the hallways of OE.
MOSAIC members and fellow volunteers worked together to transcend physical barriers as they brought a small piece of their country to commons area. The rich aromas of foreign desserts greeted friends, family, and staff as they began on their journey around the world.
Upon immediate entry, they were given a small, fluorescent blue piece of paper that represented their passport. This passport had several boxes waiting to be checked as each visitor would receive a small taste of each individual country.
This year’s International Fest “Sweet Connections” took place on Friday evening, February 2nd, in the Performing Arts Center and the school’s commons area.
International Fest is an outlet for volunteers to educate others about their backgrounds while increasing the understanding between cultures.
Unlike previous years, this fest centered around ethnic desserts and those volunteering were asked to bring a common dessert from the country they were representing.
Laminated flags hung from each table, representing the country and host of the table, while volunteers awaited the guests who would sample the abundance of sweets stacked before them.
Some of the volunteers were experienced as they participated in International Fest years prior, but several were experiencing the night for the first time.
“We actually never did International Fest before today and we learned about this event through mutual friends,” senior Kiana Kong said. “I’m here representing China with my family.”
Though it was the Kong’s first time, the entire Kong family had nothing but praise for International Fest. Like all the other tables, the Kongs brought their own desserts that they eat commonly at home such as sesame balls– a type of fried Chinese pastry made from rice flour coated with sesame seeds.
“I love that International Fest allows people in our community to try different cuisines and see different cultures. I like that they have the chance to try something new and even if they end up not liking it, at least they can say that they tried it.”
“Meeting all the people and see all the cultures come together was my favorite part of International Fest,” Kong said. “I definitely recommend people to come to International Fest. I had a great time.”
Clubs such as ASA (Asian Student Association) and BSA (Black Student Association) similarly brought their own desserts and had posters alongside bringing awareness to their individual diverse cultures and traditions.
Along with the reception in the commons, MOSAIC held approximately an hour of cultural performances in the Performing Arts Center where volunteers could perform an act that represented their background.
MOSAIC sponsor Dianna Palumbo has hosted International Fest for the past 10 years. This year’s celebration marked the 10th anniversary of the event.
“International Fest is a way to celebrate diversity in all kinds of ways. We start with performances followed by a reception in the commons that encompasses anybody and anyone,” Palumbo explained.
Performances ranged from dances from OE’s Step Team and Diversity ( a dance team consisting of students from both Aurora high schools) along with singing followed by a Taekwono act.
“Watching the performances was so fun because not only did I get to learn a lot about different cultures, but I got to see how my own culture is similar to other cultures and found common ground,” Kong said.
The turnout for International Fest surprasses previous years, making it a large success for MOSAIC.
“There’s more awareness of International Fest this year. In previous years, I felt that there wasn’t enough preparation for a lot of people to know about it. I think that this year is our largest turnout because we got a longer amount of time to plan it. We also have more club members to spread the word,” senior Victoria Cazares said.
Victoria Cazares is a member of MOSAIC and has participated in International Fest since her sophomore year. She, along with the others members of MOSAIC, spent a month planning the fest by meeting two days a week.
“Initially, we didn’t even know if we were going to have the Fest this year because there weren’t enough volunteers,” senior MC Jocelin Lopez said, “However, in the previous month so many people started coming up to us and saying how much they wanted to be a part of the fest because of how much they loved it last year.”
She went on further to explain that she believed that this year was even better than last year, also due to the fact that it landed on a Friday night. The availability of it falling on a weekend allowed for families and friends to be able to come rather than it being on a weekday.
“Being able to have a Friday date definitely allowed for this to be more successful. I hope our success continues to grow,” Palumbo said. “I love that International Fest allows people in our community to try different cuisines and see different cultures. I like that they have the chance to try something new and even if they end up not liking it, at least they can say that they tried it.”
MOSAIC meet Thursdays from 2:35-3:35 in J204.
Trinity Tran is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL