Familiar cultural delights of the Asian diaspora, from the physically digestible to the visually digestible, hosted over 300 students who were in attendance for Asian American Student Union’s (AASU) Night Market last Saturday.
Reminiscent of the prominent street food culture in Asia, various Asian clubs employed their tables’ surfaces to remind Asian attendees of their proximity to Asian culture despite the physical disconnection from home. Packaged delicacies like Haw Flakes and Mango Jelly enveloped the blank, gray surfaces of the tables with strong hues of oranges, yellows and reds.
Mogu-Mogu, the bottled fruit juice of such effervescent colors, is an object of affection for senior business administration student and Singapore Student Association (SGSA) President Jonathan Lam, as he drank it often while attending secondary school in Singapore. For SGSA’s Vice President ShiJey Chan, she found Indomie noodles to be a source of communal comfort because of her family’s inclination to cook it as a meal instead of eating out.
Representing these cultural attachments was especially crucial for Lam and Chan after the number of members in SGSA “dwindled” following COVID. Joan Liu, a sophomore biochemistry major and President of Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA), observed a similar decline as well. The event posed an opportunity to develop connections with other clubs and potential members.
“There are significant amounts of international students that come from Hong Kong or were born in Hong Kong, and especially with the political climate in Hong Kong,” Liu said. “I know it can be really stressful to find people with the identity and be comfortable.”
AASU Night Market ensured an atmosphere of comfort with the familiar and unfamiliar, as it hosted a diverse 18 organizations to help strengthen relationships between people and their cultural identities. Guests were also encouraged to learn more about other cultures through conversations and the exchange of cultural customs.
This is important as many young students gravitate toward the club most closely associated with their ethnic background, failing to explore other traditions.
“Coming into college, a lot of people, if they’re Filipino, will go straight to the Filipino American Student Association. They won’t necessarily explore other clubs,” Jacky Li, political chair of AASU and a senior computer science major, said.
Although booking conflicts with the Engagement Center prevented AASU’s original intention to host the market in the SU Lobby and Theatre, the single, open space allowed for the harmonious exchanges of words, treats and customs.
Members of UB Kickline and STEP Troupe, groups of dancers on campus, captivated the attention of attendees with rhythmic movements and dynamic motion.
But the sudden emergence of tall bamboo sticks in everyone’s visual fields prompted an anticipation toward how the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) would maneuver their bodies around an unexpected item, restoring the initial level of enthusiasm from the beginning of the event.
Sam Uzirra, the President of FASA and a nursing student in his junior year, explained that in Tinikling — a traditional Philippines folk dance — the sticks are representative of how rice farmers would catch the tikling birds by baiting them with rice.
FASA’s exhilarating movement garnered an unforgettable reverberation of applause and cheers from the audience.
The audience remained in awe of the performers as hip-hop and k-pop dance teams including the likes of AASU Vibe, KASANOVA and AASU’s e-board concluded the market with their synchronized dance to the cadence of Nicki Minaj, G-IDLE and Jay Park..
The crowd’s collective movement in their directed attention, enthusiastic exchanges and overwhelming support reflected a synchronicity even in the absence of music.
Long after half of the room emptied out, the sustained passion in the conversations that lingered assured that AASU’s Night Market reinstated the longing for community on campus.
Tenzin Wodhean is the fact checker and can be reached at email@example.com