Fusion- Ticket to the World

Written by
Shakeer Majid
Oops! Writer  

Photographs by
Justin Yeo
Oops! Photographer 

Cultural Crossovers at FUSION!

Guten Tag! Ni Hao! Bonjour! Ohayo Gozaimasu! Ahn Nyeong!

It’s simply incredible that there are so many ways to say ‘Hello’ in the world, and on the 26th of September, a little part of the world set up shop outside Singapore Polytechnic’s Main Library. Enter Fusion, a vibrant Cultural Fair organized by students and lecturers from the Foreign Language Learning Center (FLLC) to increase the cultural awareness of SP students, displaying five cultures and languages offered by the Department of Language and Communication.

Booths of happiness

The happy, smiling faces

Our writer with Lee Yee, an LC lecturer

The cultures and languages were well represented thanks to the hard work and dedication of both students and lecturers whom presented Malay, Korean, Chinese, French, German and Japanese cultures with the help of traditional games, food (a major highlight) and costumes. No later than 2.30pm the booths set up were already attracting a crowd as students passing by the library found themselves attracted to the sights, sounds and smells (of the food) prompting the organizers to start the festivities a little earlier than planned.

Lydia, our pretty MC!

With the charismatic MC Lydia at the microphone, Fusion began in earnest. Students were invited to participate in a number of quizzes and games which had them listening intently to the presentations of language students who happily provided hints for the right answers as over a thousand dollars worth of prizes were up for grabs in the Cultural Fair’s Lucky Draw. But, they had to get the right answers from each and every booth, in fact the completion of a cultural learning journey was undoubtedly the objective of the fair.

First stop, a culture that is no stranger to any Singaporean. The Malay booth, headed by Malay language teacher Mr. Anuwar went back to basics with his presentation of Singapore’s oldest culture by reintroducing schoolyard favourite games such as Chapteh, Batu Serembat (Five Stones) and of course the classic Gasing in all its solid wooden glory. No sooner did the Fair start; male students had begun trying out the bright feathered Chaptehs provided by the Malay booth, playing the simple yet addictive traditional game which no doubt brought back memories from their primary and secondary school days. Yes even Justin and I found ourselves distracted from our assignment as we tried to show off our mad ‘skillz’ but ended up looking like total “dweebs” as we kept kicking the Chaptehs away. As the Malays would say we pretty much ‘Tak boleh angkat!’ (Direct translation: ‘Cannot carry!’). Malay Kueh was sadly absent from the event but with the month of Ramadan in full swing, one could say that its absence was part of the Malay culture. The Gasing was pretty cool though.

Enjoy the Chapteh at the Malay booth

Never too old to begin!                        The Chapteh junkie!

Watch your step……

The Korean Wave was in full swing with students crowding around the Korean booth to partake in some Korean delicacies such as the sticky Tteokbokki made of sliced fish cake, the recognizable Kimchi and some Korean Ginseng tea to wash it down. With the booth’s two lovely Korean teachers dressed in the colourful Hanbok costumes and a chance to be dressed in one, it seemed only natural that the Korean section got as much patronage as it did. I took the opportunity to ask one of the students, Zi Yin about the popularity of Korean culture as well as the large number of students learning Korean. “Basically one of the main reasons many students took Korean is because of the increasingly popular Korean dramas and the unique culture,” she offered, referring to hit shows like Winter Sonata and A Jewel in the Palace, which have taken most of by storm. With the rise of K-Pop and other aspects of Korean culture, the Korean language course boasts a full 40-student cohort that is still growing, rivaling the once Japanese dominated TV drama culture.

Scenery in disguise?

Jewels in SP?

Speaking of the Japanese, the Japanese students spared no expense at decorating their booth with classic Japanese lacquerware such as Japanese teacups, paper fans and presented the unusual Kendama, an old Japanese toy that is similar to Paddleball. With Sensei and Deshi (‘teacher’ and ‘pupil’) both decked in traditional Kimonos, the Japanese booth attracted a crowd that proved that the popularity of Japanese culture among SP students had not diminished. Simple quizzes and games based on Japanese culture were played. The event’s Lucky Draw which tested the students’ understanding of Japanese etiquette was also a huge hit. You wouldn’t believe how many steps it take to make a cup of Japanese tea, each step rich in ritual and symbolism. It makes preparing ‘Teh Tarik’ look simple in comparison.

Konichiwa Ohayo!

Advertising at its best!

European Language students who ended up sharing a booth did well to represent their chosen languages – French and German, by decorating their booths with fact sheets, posters of French and German landmarks. Alas, traditional costumes were sorely lacking on the European front but the students made up for it with their friendly manner, willingness to answer questions and the invitation to taste simple delicacies such as French chocolates, biscuits and German sausages. There is however a stark difference in the two languages in a sense that French students far outnumber the German students whom are more career driven whilst French students leaned more to a Francophile attitude towards their chosen language. Either way the students showed great commitment to their language courses and did well to make the event fun and successful.

Our final stop, the Mandarin section, headed by Taiwanese-born lecturer Madam Chang whom along with her students decorated her booth with posters of old Chinese stories and poems. With the Mid-Autumn Festival having concluded a day earlier, Madam Chang decided to make the Moon Cake Festival one of her main themes, offering moon cakes and other Chinese sweets for her visitors. When asked about whether Singaporean Chinese students could compete with Chinese students in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Madam Chang replied that Singaporean Chinese were hampered down by local dialects and the key use of English. Still, our Chinese counterparts made a good show by participating in the Mandarin booth’s game, which was a flash card game of ‘Name that Character!’ where students had to identify the Chinese character flashed on cards. No easy task, especially when one fine stroke made the difference between two characters. Still, many managed to complete the booths’ many games to participate in the event’s lucky draw.

A taste of China

An Eastern interview with Madam Chang

Also present was a makeshift ‘Neo-Print’ stall where student could superimposed their likeliness onto pictures of traditional outfits from several countries at a low price of $3. The stall received much patronage after some advertising by Lydia, where students got their pictures taken with a Digital camera which were then Photoshop-ed. Many went home that day with Neo-prints that would have cost them $7 to $8 elsewhere.

As the stalls were buzzing, MC Lydia was busy recruiting people to participate in Fusion’s other two contests: The Fashion Parade and a Singing Contest. With a smile that is impossible to say no to, Lydia managed to snare 5 brave competitors for the Singing Contest, which turned out to be pretty entertaining as competitors chose which language they would sing in. First up was Aung Thum Moe, a Burmese student who decided to go with a song from his home country of Myanmar. Singing in an upbeat manner, Aung made a lasting impression on the crowd, most of which had never heard a Burmese song before. Next up was suave French student Dannel George who stepped up to the plate with a rendition of Farrer Jacques for about a stanza but still qualified since it was in French. Ever confident, when asked the meaning of the song, Dannel simply replied: “I’ll tell you when I win.” Following Dannel’s performance came William who picked things up with a familiar Chinese folksong that had the crowd clapping to his tune. Concluding the contest was the team of Kim Jun and Amanda who decided on a Korean song but the girls’ shyness was a major blow to their audibility and performance.

Students in full force at Fusion

All had a fun time and as the judges went to determine the winners, the recruitment for the Fashion Parade continued. Moments later, the judges had their results. In 3rd place was Dannel George whom true to his word (in a sense) did NOT tell us what his song meant. Aung was placed 2nd with his unique Burmese folksong but it would be William who would be crowned King of the Singing Contest. With the crowd’s approval, the competitors were handed their prizes and the judges prepared for the next competition.

                    Aung Thum Moe                  William with his Chinese folksong – the WINNER

The ‘French’ singer

The Fashion Parade saw the ‘return’ of Aung Thum Moe and Dannel George, the latter entering the contest dressed in questionable ‘Eurasian’ costume. Kimono-clad Sin Han from the Japanese booth joined in along with the Hanbok-dressed pair of Marilyn and Siew Boon. The rules were simple enough, ‘Sashay along the entrance of the Library before the panel of judges and the crowd as coolly and fashionably as possible’. Being sporting as before, Aung Thum Moe was up first as he strutted his stuff in a fusion fashion of a white shirt and a Burmese sarong adorned with small Buddhist swastikas, bowing to the judges with respect as he ended his run. Dannel George, confident as ever was next up dressed in…well…t-Shirt and jeans. Still, he made an impact as he sashayed before the judges, gaining some points with a few handshakes to the judges. Would that little touch earn him first place though? Marilyn and Siew Boon were up next, dressed in brightly coloured Korean Hanboks paraded before the judges with seemingly ceremonial grace. Finally, Sin Han displayed his costume, bowing formally towards the judges to end his run, perhaps a little too quickly in his manner. This time the judges took a little more time to decide the winners. As the judges finalized their decisions, the event began to die down. Lydia announced that the Lucky Draw was officially closed and the results were to be announced soon. Moments later, the judges came back with their results: In 3rd place, Sin Han of the Japanese Language booth. Aung captured 2nd place yet again gaining a ‘Double Silver’ and in first place was the team of Marilyn and Siew Boon in their traditional Korean garb. Dannel George took this defeat rather well as he accepted a consolation prize.

A plethora of costumes at the Fashion Parade

With the contests over, the organizers prepared for their main event: the Lucky Draw. Along with the three top prizes, nine consolation prizes were up for grabs. However, as Lydia announced the winners, some of the Lucky Draw participants had decided to forgo the event and thus forfeited their winnings with a prompt “Going once, going twice? Gone!” After a number of forfeits, the 9 consolation winners had been chosen thus the remaining entries were eligible for the top three prizes. 3rd place went to Fashion parade winner Marilyn, proving that some people have all the luck, winning a gift voucher of $50. 2nd place went to Tan Ju Hong who walked away with another prize voucher and one Zhang Wen Jie won first place, winning a gift voucher worth $100. 

With that, Fusion came to an end with organizers thanking the students and lecturers involved with the event’s preparation as well as the students who had taken the time to participate in the event. As the crowd began to dissipate, I caught up with one of the organizers, a Language and Communication lecturer, Mdm Helen Mok, energetic and classy as usual, for a comment but shrewdly diverted us towards Mdm Raquel Gochioco, Section Head of the FLLC and one of the main organizers of the event. When asked if she felt that Fusion was a success, Mdm Gochioco caught us by surprise with a question of her own: “I don’t know. Do you think it was a success?” which had Justin and myself noting the good crowd reaction, taking into consideration that the CCA fair was also going on at the same time. Mdm Gochioco stated she was still pleased with the level of student participation as well as reminding us that the main objective of the fair was to promote cultural awareness. When asked if we would see another Fusion event in the near future, Mdm Gochioco replied with a laugh which hinted a ‘We’ll see!’ more than anything else. Thanking the students, lecturers, the Main Library’s managers and us Oops! writers for covering the event, Mdm Gochioco went to join her fellow Fusion organizers in a much-deserved buffet.

Raquel Gochioco and Helen Mok, hard at work

Happy faces at FUSION!

Having spent the afternoon in the presence of so many cultures, I decided to borrow a French movie called The Challenge from the library. Popping it into my DVD, I eagerly awaited for some pretty French girls to speak in their alluring language in some saucy scenes. Imagine my surprise when the movie started with some Chinese triad guys speaking French as a couple of French speaking Ninjas stole a Golden statue of sorts. It’s symbolic in a sense: language barriers are falling thanks to foreign cultures making their way here through Music, Movies and Television shows. We see movies like Rush Hour where Chinese and English are being spoken side by side and in J Pop and K Pop, which have gained huge followings here in Singapore as well as around the world. Through the Internet we can search for foreign swear words to add to our ever-increasing vocabulary. It’s quite an undertaking of course, learning another language, but seeing how it opens up your life to a number of possibilities: from meeting new friends to gaining better employment prospects, it’s worth the effort.

With that, I bid you Selamat tinggal (Goodbye in Malay) and till next time!

Pretty faces at the Fair!


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