Last week, Carnegie Mellon’s University Center was turned into a world of international exploration—with a free lunch included. Running from Thursday to Saturday, the 16th annual International Festival “Body, Mind, and Spirit: Prescriptions for Global Health” exposed students to dozens of cultures with over 40 campus events.
Emily Half, associate dean of Student Affairs, said the festival takes a full year to plan. The organizing committee starts soliciting topics for the annual November festival in the previous December.
The keynote speaker was Richard Heinzl, founder of the internationally acclaimed organization Doctors Without Borders.
“I think travel should be a part of everyone’s education,” he told a full house of students, faculty, and staff in Rangos Ballroom last Friday. He addressed issues in many of the countries whose flags adorned Rangos’ walls.
Heinzl spoke about the Internet’s effect on small villages, the biggest health problems affecting developing nations today, and his unique medical education at McCallister University in Canada.
His speech was optimistic. He said 4 million people in the world have never made a phone call, but countered this stat with several stories of advancements in quality of life and emergency care that the Internet has catalyzed.
Heinzl’s speech drew a large crowd. Half, who has also been the head coordinator of the festival for seven years, estimated that 250 people attended Heinzl’s speech.
“I’ve been at the university for seven years, and this year is the biggest turnout since I’ve been here,” Half said.
She suspects that the lecture’s move from Thursday night to Friday at lunchtime contributed to the increased attendance.
Other speakers at the festival included Reverend Kyoki Roberts, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and founding member of the Order of the Prairie Wind; Khadra Mohammed, director of the Pittsburgh Refugee Center; Kevin Henry, a drum circle facilitator and Udu drum expert; and several Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh faculty and staff members who spoke about psychology, history, medicine, and theater.
On Friday, students could view the recently acclaimed film The Lost Boys of Sudan, a movie about two young Darfur refugees adapting to the American suburbs. Saturday featured Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth on McConomy Auditorium’s big screen.
Students also had the opportunity to take workshops on the Astanga yoga breathing technique, Latin-fusion and African-Caribbean dance, acupuncture, shiatsu, aikido, and Zen meditation.
The arts also played a role in the weekend, with an exhibit in the University Art Gallery titled “Art as Therapy” and a reading of School of Drama graduate playwright France-Luce Benson’s Silence of the Mambo.
The reading told the story of a Haitian woman with a haunting past and was set in 1986 Haiti. It was a psychological Jekyll-and-Hyde affair featuring performances by barefoot players thrusting shoulders and bobbing hips to the beat of an offstage hand drum.
For international explorers looking for lighter fare, there were several opportunities to gorge. Pi Delta Psi’s scallion pancakes highlighted Friday’s “Student Cultural Food Fair: Health Food” event, held in the UC’s Wean Commons.
“People just kind of swept in and ate everything in only 20 minutes,” said sophomore industrial design major Kate Edgar.
On Saturday, the International Bazaar and Marketplace brought together outside vendors to share an even wider variety of international meals. Customers paid a small fee for culinary delights from the Phillipines, Hawaii, Croatia, Spain, India, and the Middle East.
Planning for next year’s International Festival begins next week.