THE MOBILE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
The Mobile International Festival has been bringing cultures together for three decades. Alongside others, I have been growing closer to my own Ukrainian heritage through the participation in the festival for six years.
Moving to America as a child, I quickly became absorbed into the different culture. As most foreigners would agree, the American culture is like no other. This culture is the union of different cultures in one. While every person is different, all the diversities simultaneously are united by one country. Similarly, while every culture and food booth at International Festival is different, the different people participating in the festival are united under a single community and a common love for culture. The festival taught me that becoming a part of a different culture doesn’t mean losing my original Ukrainian culture and customs.
It is easy to forget the language and customs that were once common if there is not desire to keep them alive. Every year I see new faces at the festival that speak Ukrainian. My heart flutters with excitement as they ask about my experience in Ukraine and America. They share their stories of visiting the country or about their distant relatives who lived in the country. The interest of people in other cultures allows me and others to take pride in our own culture. Pride allows me to embrace all the different parts of my culture. I do not feel judged for being different. I only feel curiosity from others unlike me to learn and appreciate my culture.
Pursuing my education, I have not had the opportunity to visit my relatives in Ukrained in over fourt years. Every year around the festival time in November, our family takes time out of our daily routine to cook and prepare for our food booth. Spending this quality time with my family allows me to feel like I am back in Ukraine speaking the language and cooking authentic Ukrainian dishes. My dad, as the main chef in the kitchen, shows the rest of the family how to create Ukrainian dishes. Over the past years, learning to cook Ukrainian food for the festival has helped me feel closer to my heritage. The long nights of cooking for hundreds of people help seal the bond with my parents. I practice the recipes that have been used in generations after generations and listen to my parents telling stories about our grandparents and relatives. The sories and food that my family shares with me for the festival enable me to feel part of the Ukrainian culture while thriving in the American culture. Because it is easy to get absorbed in the routine of every day life, it is a moment like this when my family and I prepare for the festival that enables us to feel closer to one another and closer to our Ukrainian heritage.
Without the community that the Mobile International Festival has created, I would feel a void in my heart. In daily life most individuals do not take interest in other peoples cultures simply because they are too caught up in their routines. The festival provides an experience unlike any other in the community that allows an open friendly space for people to embrace, learn, and enjoy different customs, believes, and cultures. I am able to take pride and embrace my Ukrainian culture through the closeness that I have developed with my family and the community through the festival. As Robert Alan, a famous American writer once said, “Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.”