On May 23, the Taiwan Fair was held in room 5005 of the John M. Pfau Library. Students and staff on campus showed up to immerse themselves in the knowledge and activities provided at the event.
The Taiwan Fair was put together by the Department of World Languages and Literatures, and in this second annual gathering has seen an increase in attendees. The purpose of the fair is to bring awareness about Chinese culture and language to campus and to also celebrate the school’s Chinese language classes and students.
Volunteers from Los Angeles came to help with the event by providing activity stations that help celebrate The Dragon Boat Festival. This is a Chinese festival held on May 5 and goes back thousands of years to honor Qu Yuan, who was a Chinese poet.
The story of the Dragon Boat Festival is about a great despondent Chinese poet who killed himself, says Professor Thomas McGovern, the Interim Chair for the Department of World Languages and Literatures.
“All these people rushed out into the water where he had committed suicide and threw these rice balls into the water to try to basically prevent the fish from eating his body,” said Professor McGovern.
To remember this act, dragon boat races have become tradition, along with the eating of rice balls.
The cultural stations available at the fair included a paper zongzi station. Zongzi is a traditional food made of rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves that are eaten during the festival. For the fair, a paper version was made.
“My own personal goal is I would love to have lots of food next year,” Professor McGovern said. “Traditional Chinese food, and maybe have us all make those little rice balls so we can eat them.”
A yoyo station was also available; the yoyo consists of an hourglass-shaped object that is maneuvered by a long string attached to two sticks held by the player. By the pulling and moving of the sticks, the yoyo is spun.
Arelia Lewis is a second-year student at CSUSB, and a human resources major.
“This is the first time that I am experiencing anything related to Taiwan,” Lewis said.
One of the stations that caught her attention the most was the yoyo station.
“It’s not your typical yoyo. It’s not what I was expecting,” said Lewis.
Over a hundred people attended the Taiwan fair. One of the most striking things about the event was the diversity of the people who attended.
“I’m actually shocked. I did not think we would have a big turnout because of the rain,” Lewis said. “I was expecting only like 10 people, but we’re doing pretty good. And everyone seems to be into it.”
David Lopez is a senior pursuing a degree in Biopsychology, and an attendee of the fair. He says that growing up in California, you are always exposed to many different cultures, so he wanted to attend the Taiwan Fair to get more knowledge about this specific culture. He was also impressed with the turnout.
“It’s fabulous that it’s a very diverse event,” Lopez said. “It’s very awesome to see that. We’re building more of an interconnected campus, which is really good.”
Lopez participated in the calligraphy station and the traditional clothing station where he got to try on different garments.
“All the activities are giving us not just an insight into the culture, but actually how to participate in it,” said Lopez.
Mary Martinez is a STEM Advisor with the College of Math and Science and attended the fair. As she works in the paper zongzi station, she says the activities provided really help people understand the Chinese culture, and that she really enjoyed learning the background of the Dragon Boat Festival.
With summer on the horizon, Martinez is glad to see the CSUSB community come together and learn about a different culture as they consider options such as studying abroad and possible vacation destinations.
“It’s good to expose different cultures to them so they can see that there’s far more than just the US.”
Jean Chu is one of the volunteers that came from LA and says this is her second time participating in the Taiwan Fair. She says that for someone to learn a second language, immersing yourself in the culture is imperative to fully understand what you’re learning.
When they first learned English, they would hear good morning, and not understand what it meant she explains. Or like when they heard the word study, “we don’t know what that is. So, we try to memorize study, how to spell study.” It wasn’t until she could see someone reading a book that she fully understood what study meant.
Culture is not just about food, says Chu. “Culture comes with our life.” This festival is about summer, and with it comes the dragon races because of the story of the poet Qu Yuan.
For the students that were not able to make it this year’s Taiwan Fair, Professor McGovern wants them to know that learning a second language can be an incredible asset in life.
“Most of us have one language. As Americans, we grow up with English, and that’s what most of us know,” Professor McGovern said. “Culture leads to language, and language leads to culture. And, we also understand that learning another language makes you smarter and increases your IQ.”