Article By: Amanda Stein
Students, families and visitors from around the world gathered to celebrate the diversity of the NPS community for International Day 2010. On May 1, over 20 countries were represented with food, brightly colored decorations and cultural performances in the courtyard of Root Hall. The annual event provided students with an opportunity to not only share their cultures with the campus and surrounding community, but to showcase the unique partnerships created at NPS.
Organized by the International Executive Committee, International Day featured booths serving food, displaying pictures and providing information about 20 countries around the world. Children joined in as dancers from Greece, Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan dressed in traditional wears used the lawn as a stage for the dozens of spectators filling the courtyard. Each booth featured some of the countries’ most popular dishes, including German sausage, baklava, arepas, Turkish coffee, and karkade.
Africano Mande, a Lt. Col. in the Sudan People Liberation Army, worked with fellow countryman Thon Ayiei to put together the Southern Sudan booth, which featured photos, maps, trinkets and spices from Southern Sudan. The pair reached out to the local Sudanese community, many of whom work for DLI, to search for relevant cultural pieces to contribute to the booth. They also got help with cooking the three traditional Sudanese dishes that they served: tamiya, kufta, and salata aswad.
Not only did International Day give them an opportunity to showcase a small piece of their culture, it also allowed them to show pride for their homeland while here in the U.S. as the first Southern Sudanese officers studying at NPS. “We are the pioneers,” said Mande, “so we actually felt that International Day was perhaps the perfect opportunity for us to also show to the Monterey community as well as to NPS colleagues that we are also here. It gives us an opportunity to fall back to our country, and to the feelings of our country. It shows to us that even in the middle of the U.S. we can still put our flag out and say, ‘This is who we are.’”
As a group, the countries represented the international partnerships and collaborative role that NPS takes in educating military leaders from across the globe. As individuals, countries were able to showcase their pride for their homeland, and the cultural diversity in terms of food, music, art, history and experience that each student brings to the NPS community.
It was also a chance to highlight the relationships being forged at NPS as military leaders from around the world contribute to a united front on issues of global security. Lt. Col. Mande and his colleagues are proof of the unique and ever-developing relations that NPS develops with countries around the world.
“It’s important for people to know that other than the State Department interactions with other countries, the military is also doing similar interactions. The military is engaging in international partnerships and interactions, and this is reflected by our presence here. So the International Day is proof that the military is an open system, capable of interacting with other countries,” said Mande. “We are all aware that security issues are no longer distinct to particular countries. They transcend international boundaries. So in order to meet those challenges, militaries around the world have to interact. They have to know each other.”
The International Executive Committee supports international students and their families as they try to adapt to American life and culture. They also work to promote good relations and cultural understanding between the U.S. and international students through events like International Day.