A year ago, if I had walked onto Bowman Field during the International Festival, I wouldn’t have known a single person there. Of course, a year ago, no one would have told me about it, and even if they had, I’d have been too chicken to go amongst all the college students, by myself. And probably, some smart aleck is going to tell me that this discussion is moot, because one year ago, I was still in Australia. Let’s not be picky, whoever you are. But since you mentioned it, there wasn’t an Aussie table at this festival, so I didn’t get any pavlova. Le sigh.
But this year has been different. I know quite a number of Clemson grad students who are from a range of countries, and one of them was nice enough to tell me about this festival, and suggest that I come. After that, several other students told me about it, and I figured it was a good weekend to attend two festivals, one in Pendleton (Spring Jubilee), and one in Clemson. And it was a gorgeous weekend for both!
When I first arrived, I did quite a bit of wandering, checking to see what countries were represented, but not really sure what I should try. Eventually, my problem was solved when I started running into people that I knew. After asking for a recommendation, my first friend suggested that I try something that he made, called dhal vadai. Yes, I made sure I took pictures of the descriptions, as well as the foods, because you can be sure that I would never remember their names, later.
After Duminda promised me it wasn’t spicy (I still looked at him askance, because my siblings and I don’t agree on what counts as “spicy”), I tried one. And I’ve been looking up all these foods on Wikipedia (just so you know), to make sure I don’t say anything COMPLETELY ridiculous about them. This one was savory and shaped like a fritter, and really good. If the paper hadn’t listed lentils as an ingredient, I would have guessed it had corn in it. And he didn’t lead me on, it wasn’t overly spicy, so I survived (don’t laugh, ask me some other time about how Indonesian spices and I got along, many years ago).
I did stop to look at the Libya booth, but didn’t see my acquaintance from there, so I kept wandering. And found several people I knew at the Nepalese booth. Naresh promptly asked me if I wanted to try something with peppers in it, and I demurred, so he suggested that I try a samosa dumpling, and then for dessert, lal mohan.
While I was eating the dumpling, I talked to another friend and tried to make small talk with her toddler, but he just frowned at me. Too bad we didn’t have more time, toddlers and I usually get along really well. I think it was past his naptime. I wish I had taken a picture, though, he was too cute.
I told Sabina that the samosa tasted a bit like chick peas, but I hadn’t recollected that the sign didn’t have chick peas (garbanzo beans) listed on it. It had a flavor like the white chili my family makes, which has cumin in it. I should’ve asked if they put any in it. But maybe the cilantro combined with the peanuts tricked me into thinking there were chick peas in it, because it did have a bit of crunch to it, and a great flavor.
The lal mohan looked a bit like a doughnut hole, and IS made of a deep fried dough (different type of dough, or so I’ve read), and soaked in a sugary syrup. It might have had cardamom in the syrup, as I think it had some spice to it. I love cardamom in my tea and fruitcake, so this is a good spice for me. : ) It was VERY sweet, but a nice contrast after the dumpling.
There was a mile-long line for the kabobs at the Turkish tent, and though I would eventually come back to the dessert, for the time being, I kept going. I found someone else I knew at the next table, where they offered me a beef burek. This was a meat-filled pastry, and tasted wonderful. I should’ve gone back for another. But when I remembered to take a picture of the label, one of the guys commented on how I should have pictures of people, and not just the food. I asked if he wanted me to take one of them, and he backpedaled.
But as I walked away, I took one anyway. I’m just not very good at making people pose for pictures, especially if I don’t know them very well. I think he saw me do it, though his buddies didn’t notice. I think it came out well, because this booth didn’t have a tent over it. The rest of the tents didn’t let in a lot of light, so you couldn’t really see anyone at work over the food or their pots and grills. Wonderful sunshine-y day, great for photos… have I mentioned that yet?
Oh, I couldn’t figure out which country this booth was for, because they didn’t have a sign. Somebody suggested it might be Bosnia, but I wasn’t sure. But you know what? Photos are wonderful things. While going through them, I discovered that their table had a flag on the front of it (two pictures above this). Just have to match the flag, and that would make this the table representing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This was a day for figuring out where several other acquaintances of mine were from, for the first time. Some of them were surprised to find I didn’t know they were from Sri Lanka or Nepal. But even if I know most of their names, I still don’t immediately ask for their country of origin. That would be nosy and/or unnecessary. They might as well ask me the same question, and then I can tell them my cousin’s rigmarole about a German pirate and an Irish chick. Or was it an Irish pirate and a German chick? I’ll have to ask him.
Back to the Turkish tent, I was confronted by four or five dessert choices, and had no idea what to choose. I didn’t think I needed excessive amounts of dessert, so I just picked one. So, I received a small plate of semolina pudding. Now, while it resembled apple sauce (though it was too thick for that), and the coloring of it looked like it could be just solid brown sugar, it wasn’t like either of those.
Semolina is a wheat byproduct, from milling durum wheat, which has a texture similar to American grits. I can attest to that, because I had expected something softer, but semolina gives you more to chew on (as does grits). In a good way, before any of you remember my opinion on grits. : ) This was very sweet and rich… and I was stuffed, when I had finished it. As much as I would have loved to try some more food, I didn’t have any room left, so I didn’t end up using all my tickets.
At this point, some of the dancing began. Some of my acquaintances among the grad students are from Nepal, so they were all front and center to watch their friends do a Nepalese dance. I missed the introduction to this one, so I can’t be more specific than that. It just looked like a lot of fun, and both the dancers and the viewers were really enjoying themselves.
By the way, I really did try to cut back on the dancing photos, but I liked so many of them! They were having such fun, and despite that pole being in my way, I think a lot of them turned out well. Such a sunny day meant I could take dancing photos with no blur! Hooray!
When the first dances were done, I went a-wandering for a while, and checked out the flags that were planted all along the side of Bowman Field. I did go even further than that, going into the Carillon Garden, but those pictures can wait for another time.
When the African Dance and Drum Troupe (I can’t remember the correct name of the group, sorry!) began to play, a little blonde boy (look for him in the green shirt, overalls, and bucket hat) kept running up to examine the drums… and then he would get intimidated by all the close-range drumming, and run back to his parents. But later, when audience participation was requested, and everyone began to clap, he joined in, and did a great job of it.
The drumming went on for quite a time before the dancers joined in, and then they really got things moving. I saw any number of people in the audience, from all different countries, that couldn’t stand still, because of the music. These all seemed to be countries where lively cultural dances seem to be the norm. I wouldn’t call American dancing particularly cultural, you know. And I’m mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, so I don’t think we have much of a rhythm gene. : )
But before long, one of the audience members couldn’t bear to sit out the dancing, any longer, and joined in with gusto! I’m not sure exactly where he’s from, nor do I know who he is… but I know who he was sitting with and talking to, so I’m going to find out. This gentleman brought the house down, and it was a joy to watch.
And boy, did those drummers enjoy having another dancer up there. The girls were out in the audience, trying to search out volunteers. They even tried to drag one of the grad students up there, but he wasn’t having any of it. : ) They found some others, before long, though. Until then, they joined in with the gentleman dancer, and had a high old time of it.
After the dancing was over for a while, some more people went up to try out the drums, some of whom I know. It was a beautiful day and everyone was having a great time. There were a few other small dances, with music from other countries, but I didn’t take any more pictures of them.
For a multicultural festival, this was a fun one, even if I didn’t have a group of friends to wander around with, this time. The last one I attended was in Australia, so I’ll try not to think about it, or I’ll get homesick. But there is something to be said for having some acquaintances on campus, to make you feel like you belong (somewhat). I suppose it’s another step towards getting to know the Clemson campus better than I ever did when I was growing up around here.
I keep finding the new (to me) and interesting side of things at Clemson, and sometimes, others help me to see it. So, I’m glad someone told me about it, and that I got to attend Clemson’s International Festival!
P.S. If any international blog readers or Clemson students notice anything incorrect that I’ve said about the dancing, the people, or the food, please feel free to correct me! I don’t want to leave any really obvious inaccuracies on here, you know. : )