A Taste of the World on 1st Groton Cultural Day

Groton’s giant melting pot spilled beautifully into the Sackett Forum on Saturday, January 28, coloring the Schoolhouse with flags, food, music, dance, and games from the countries represented within the school’s student body.

Christopher Ye ’17, from China, called the first annual Groton Cultural Day “a boiling pot of cultures. I felt I was simultaneously traveling the streets of southern France, the hutongs of rural China, and the markets of Mexico. It was a surreal experience." 
 
Students had set up tables with food and games from Canada, the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica), China, England, Egypt, Finland, France, Hong Kong, India and Pakistan, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand. The result was a vibrant cornucopia of tastes, smells, and excitement.  
 
Students and faculty roamed from table to table and country to country, tasting Indian samosas, rice and beans from the Caribbean, matcha pudding from Japan, Vietnamese spring rolls, South African fried dough known as amagwinya, French crepes, and British crumpets and candies. They chowed down on nearly one hundred Korea scallion pancakes (made by music teacher Soo Lee Martone) and enjoyed Mexican tacos, guacamole, and flan. But the food was just the beginning. Curious students tried out games they had never seen, such as Chinese shuttlecock and South African upuca, a game with stones.
 
Various cultures introduced themselves through music as well. A traditional dragon dance, celebrating the Chinese New Year, kicked off the festivities. Students cheered as Spanish teachers Fanny Vera de Viacava and Luis Viacava danced the marinera, a folkloric dance from their native Peru. (Sra. Vera de Viacava has won several Peruvian national titles in the dance). The rhythm changed repeatedly as one parent volunteer offered Caribbean salsa lessons and another demonstrated bharat natyam, a dance from India (enlivened with Bollywood tunes). In another nod to the Caribbean, numerous students and faculty lined up for a rousing limbo—bending over backward to pass beneath an ever-lowering stick.

Groton Cultural Day took root after last year’s successful Chinese New Year’s celebration. “Ms. [Shannon] Jin and Ms. [Renee] Bai had organized a wonderful Chinese New Year celebration last year in the Forum, and the idea just took off from there," said Director of Diversity and Inclusion Sravani Sen Das. "We felt that the Forum lent itself to an event of this type.”
 
Groton Cultural Day was a joint effort by the Student Activities Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Group, along with various other campus cultural groups. Despite the adult guidance, Director of Student Activities Tim LeRoy stressed that the credit belongs to the students. “It was so successful because of the students’ participation and excitement,” said Mr. LeRoy. “They should get all the credit for their hard work and hours spent shopping, decorating, and preparing dishes from their countries.”
 
Students noticed how much work went into the event. "It was amazing,” said Yuno Iwasaki ’19, of Japan. “I was impressed by the effort people put into it."
 
Saturday's success has ensured there will be a 2nd Annual Groton Cultural Day—and Mr. LeRoy and Ms. Sen Das hope to involve even more countries and cultures. “I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” Mr. LeRoy said, “and I’ve already added Groton Cultural Day to next winter’s weekend schedule.”

See photos from Groton Cultural Day.

Hanna Kim '17 contributed to the reporting for this story.
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Groton School is recognized as one of America's top boarding schools. It prepares students in grades 8-12 for the "active work of life."