Festival of fun

Erik Ebsen

Erik Ebsen

Sanjay Mishra’s opinion of snow has changed over the years.

“The very first year, I really enjoyed the snow,” says the Nepal native, “now not so much.” Mishra came to Brookings from Katmandu in December 2003.

While most students understand Mishra’s opinion all too well, not everyone may understand his cultural background.

SDSU’s Festival of Cultures, held Friday in Frost Arena, aims to change that. The annual event brings together the various ethnic groups represented at SDSU and allows them to demonstrate their culture. In addition to simply watching and speaking with vendors, onlookers also could find plenty of little trinkets and cultural items for display or sale.

Ever seen the name “David” or “Susan” written in Chinese? Zhenqing Chen could show you. Chen graduated from SDSU in 2001. Her daughter explained that Chinese characters don’t stay the same. Variations in the word’s design change its meaning.

Since words don’t transfer to stone very easily, ancient Egyptians preferred to use papyrus. Mary and Danny Andrawis offered authentic pieces of the forerunner to paper in the form of bookmarks. A hand-painted graphic of the Egyptian goddess Nut adorned one. Her back holds up the sky in order to allow civilization to exist beneath, Mary said.

Every religion, including Christianity, has had important figures and stories to go with them. Hindu is no different. It is the national religion in Mishra’s native country of Nepal and he is familiar with his religion’s folklore. Although here there are no Hindu temples, he says practicing in Brookings is not difficult.

Besides the snowfall, Mishra says he enjoys this area. Local residents “always smile,” he said. “I can always say hello.”

Mishra moved to Brookings more than two years ago, shortly after being married, to pursue a graduate degree in computer science. His wife followed him here a year ago to study microbiology. When asked whether being separated was difficult, Mishra looked around a bit and responded, “Its part of life, waiting.”

Last January, Mishra was able to return to his family in Katmandu, Nepal’s capital, for more than a month. Nepal boasts a landscape that varies from plains in the south to a mountain range in the north that contains eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world, including Mt. Everest.

The Festival of Cultures also attracts vendors from places not nearly so remote. Dave Huebner’s hands sculpted a small figurine from clay as he told how back in ’63 he’d hopped a one-way bus ticket to here from Orlando, Fla. His father had wanted him to go to SDSU, and Huebner painted billboards to pay his way through.

He’s worked as a potter in Bushnell, just east of Brookings, for 40 years. Many of his ideas come from history shows. “You’re only limited in clay by imagination. … But,” he adds, without looking up from the rabbit now forming between his hands, “frogs and turtles get kids’attention.”

The Festival of Cultures is put on each year by the Office for Diversity Enhancement and the International Relations Club. More than 40 student organizations and cultural groups set up displays. Patrons could also try any of the 23 different ethnic foods available for sale.