The thought of Asiatic culture often brings China and Japan to mind. Thailand is a small, but culturally rich country and the Thai Student Association held their second annual Thai Festival in the ECM building on Saturday.
The evening began with a traditional Thai meal. Served buffet style, the meal allowed guests a sample of the familiar as well as the unfamiliar. The meal which consisted of rice, egg noodles, papaya salad, chicken and vegetable curry, soup and Thai sweet tea, an extremely sweet iced tea served with crushed tamarind seed.
The event was diversely attended playing host to a large number of Asian students, many other students and Manhattan area residents. Among those in attendance was Chairat Chuwonganant, professor of business administration.
“It’s a great event,” Chuwonganant said. “The food is really good.”
Chuwonganant, originally from Thailand, said that he attended the event last year after hearing about it from students in the Thai Student Association and is glad to see Thai culture shared with the university students and Manhattan residents.
The event was staffed by members of the organization and Thai community. The staff wore traditional ceremonial dress from the modern era as well as from various periods spanning as far back as 700 years. A video with accompanying music was shown depicting Thai music and dance. Adding to the atmosphere were numerous stands sporting “souvenirs” for purchase which displayed various portraits of Thai culture.
Karnnalin Theerarattananoon, a graduate student in biological & agricultural engineering, was one of the Thai students staffing a booth at the event. She explained that she worked at the event last year and thought it was “a great way to help students learn about Thai culture.” She also commented on the diverse representation of students at the event and thought it was good to see such reception to the event.
The Thai Student Association is among 24 student groups at the university which represent various world and national cultures. Many of the students in these organizations are foreign exchange students or students who recently moved to the United States.
Hira Munaf, junior in electrical engineering, is here for the semester as a foreign exchange student from Pakistan. Munaf said she first heard about the Thai Festival in an email sent to international students which identifies upcoming, cultural events. Though this was her first time in America, Munaf shared that she was had previously been to Malaysia and had enjoyed the Thai food there and was therefore intrigued to attend the event on Saturday. She added that while she was here, afforded so many opportunities to do so at the university, she wanted “to learn as much about other cultures as possible.”
Following the meal, Sarinya Sungkatavat, graduate student in human ecology, the president of the Thai Student Association greeted the approximately 100 guests in attendance. The guests were led in a traditional Thai greeting which involved wishing each other good luck and sharing a loop of string, a bracelet, which signifies the luck. After the greeting, one of the group’s members performed a traditional ceremonial dance.
Guests were then treated to a game of “Thai BINGO.” In the game, the announcer first displayed the numbers in Thai and the speaker taught the various characteristics of each number. Prizes like Thai themed clothing were given away. After the game, guests were selected for various food challenges, which ranged from eating Crocodile curry puff to fried worms. As each challenge was initiated, an explanation of the food’s cultural significance was provided. Following the food challenges, the speaker taught the audience a traditional dance and song used to close a formal gathering. Following the demonstration the guests were invited to participate in the dance. At the end of the evening, each guest was given a small “souvenir” in honor of their attendance.