The Middle-East-South-Asian Cultural Evening was a blast. It was simply awesome! As always, it started with a delicious dinner in the canteen at 6pm, and indeed everybody came dressed up. I had spent the last two hours before the dinner sewing a dress for my roommate, helping other students with costume ideas and getting into my own dress. I had borrowed a sari, the typical South-Asian dress costume for women, from Kalpana, our Economics teacher and university counselor. It was green and blue, with yellow flowers printed all over – and in total six meters long! There was quite some hard work involved when I tried to wrap it all around myself – but eventually it worked out quite well. My roommate Catherine wore the national dress from Bhutan, that she had borrowed from Namgyal, our first year roommate. Our whole room looked simply stunning, didn’t it!
The dinner was heartwarming and simply extremely delicious. There was no pork, but chicken, lamb, spicy sauces, egg in tomato, fresh salads with yoghurt, cinnamon-honey-cakes, different sorts of rice and much more. The students had all dressed up in very creative ways. Of course, the students from the Middle-East and South-Asian region had an easy choice, but they also lent a lot of their clothes to others. Yet, one could still see an amazing variety of ways to wear towels, curtains and bed sheets: they were used for gandhi-costumes, turbans and hijab. After all, of course, the national costumes were the most beautiful ones:
The dinner lasted for one hour – seemingly far too short to taste all the wonderful dishes and to take pictures with everybody and their gorgeous outfits. However, the show was waiting and everybody was much too excited for it, than they would waste their time on moaning. The courtyard quickly filled up, many did not even want to loose time by changing and took their seats still in their costumes. 7.30 sharp, the curtains opened, and while the stage slowly lit up and our MESA-students, all dressed in black, silently ran onto stage, the show began.
The whole story was based on the show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” from the British drama ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Bilal, our firstyear from Pakistan, played Jamal, the poor guy answering all questions simply by remembering related stories and moments of his life; and Arshia, my co-year from Iran, was the moderator. Of course, as this was MESA, all questions addressed issues in the Middle-East-South-Asian region. Jamal, alias Bilal, then always ‘told’ a story before answering the questions, which was acted out in a scene or dance. Sarcasm was by far not the least used device..! One of the questions was: “Which of the former or current world leaders attended school together?” Options were (A) Merkel and Sarkozy, (B) Obama and Chavez, (C) Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu, and (D) Lee Myung-bak and Kim Jong-Il. The scene was obviously located in a school – in a drawing class, to be exact.
All ‘students’ sit on their chairs, listening more or less attentively to their teacher, when a new student enters and is presented to the rest of the class: Benjamin, from Israel. The teacher asks him about his drawing skills and, proud to be able to show off his skills, Benjamin unfolds a sheet of paper. “Benjamin, that looks wonderful! Tell us, what is it?”, asks the teacher. Benjamin shows the picture around, making sure everybody can see. “It’s a bomb,” he replies. The teacher appreciates Benjamin’s drawing skills and let’s him look for a place. “You must know, Benjamin used to be in this class some years ago, but then he left for the USA for some years … however, now we’re glad to have him back! Benjamin, do you remember, where your seat was?” Of course Benjamin does. He points to the student from Palestine. “There. Look, it even says: Benjamin was here. 1780!” While the two students fight over the chair, the lights slowly blend out and the stage darkens… Jamal can answer his question now.
There were several scenes about love, marriage and curtesy traditions, that often linked to the other religious or political parodies that were performed. Of course, non of them was meant to be insulting and the MESA students did a great job in drawing a line between offense and humor – even when it came to difficult topics like Iran’s nuclear program, women’s rights, the use of the burka and – as I wrote above –
Israel. As a matter of fact, Israel and Jews were apparently a very common topic in the Cultural Evening. Not only was there a whole scene about an American girl coming to Israel to learn ‘how to be Jewish’, but also two small sketch-dances featuring “I’m Jewish and I know it!” and “Jewish Style” – and, as traditional dance, a performance of the Israeli horah.
A very small yet touching moment I experienced at the side of the show was when the rabbi appeared in the ‘Jewish Scene’ and the young boy of one of our teachers jumped up and down in excitement, pointed at the student dressed as rabbi and told his friend, another teacher’s child: “Look, that’s a kippah! That’s what I have as well!” I found it awesome how the boy was so eager to explain his religion to a friend, trying to share his knowledge with another child. Clearly some UWC influence there, I would say!
Another performance I want to mention is the absolutely stunning belly dance:
The whole evening was a huge success. Our MESA community made it a perfect combination of dance and sketch, humor and explosive topics. There was a lot to laugh, learn and applaud to – in two words: Pure entertainment! “Congrats MESA. What an excellent performance. It was really awesome,” wrote a firstyear to the whole school after the show. I really sums up the impression they gave. This was a wonderful first Cultural Evening to start the year with. I’m sure the next one in December will be just as great and inspiring! The videos of all performances can be found, as always, on my Youtube-Channel. Enjoy!