CSA New Year Extravaganza

Last Friday, the Chinese Student Association (CSA) hosted their New Year Extravaganza around the black chairs of the Cohon University Center to welcome the “Year of the Pig” of the lunar calendar. The entire event was well balanced between hyped performances and intermittent food breaks, allowing the attendees to enjoy exciting performances while tasting indigenous Asian night-market food provided by different student organizations, such as the Japanese Student Association (JSA), the Korean American Students’ Association (KASA), and the Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture Organization (ARCC).

I attended the event as one of the dancers representing KASA dance. However, it was a total situational irony that led me to the event. Even though I am Chinese, I did not plan to go because of a potential time conflict. But, as a member of KASA dance, I was invited back to the event as a performer, dancing in front of my Chinese friends while wearing colors representing Korea. Korea! I thought in disbelief. It took me a while to internalize the turn of the event without feeling weird. For those who are acquainted with the cultural hot pot of America, this probably would only merit a shrug, a “Yeah, so what?” But as one of the Chinese international students coming from a homogeneous society, where everything about New Year is patriotic and strictly emphasizes China, seeing outside cultural elements dominating the center stage was a brand new experience for me.

I noticed the mentality difference when our KASA dance choreographer, Christine, proposed that during our performance we can wear shirts with “Korea” spelled in large letters in the front. Out of reflex, I immediately uttered a jammed “no, no, no” in response to her proposal. For a second, she frowned and looked at me in confusion. At that moment, I realized that I could never properly translate my previous eighteen years of Chinese New Years’ experience, but can only change my mindset to accept and discover the beauty in what used to be utterly unimaginable, yet is now a different kind of reality.

I remember standing on the second floor of the UC, overlooking the crowd, seeing a variety of people converging at the food stands, then forming a semi-circle to view the performance, amazed by how intercultural and welcoming CSA had made this event to be. Each body feeling the beats in their own rhythm, each mind taking in this occasion through their own lenses, each person contributing a little something unique and taking away a little something unique — just like how they also transformed my Chinese New Year from family reunions, firecrackers, red decor, and traditional Chinese customs to now, food from all over Asia, people from all over the world and a new reality that shines in the beaming beauty of intercultural experience.