In the fastest commercial plane, a non-stop trip around the world would take nearly two full days to complete. For those with a little less time and money on their hands, the Cruise the World event provided a convenient alternative, bringing together 32 international and cultural student organizations last week in the International Ballroom of the University of Idaho’s Bruce Pitman Center.
The event was set up with booths loosely organized by global region. Central and South American nations lined the east wall of the ballroom opposite rows of Asian and Middle Eastern booths.
Geographical and social boundaries were shattered across the room — the Nigerian table sat alongside the team representing Panama. The Isle of Man set up shop next to a Chinese booth and the Muslim Student Association of UI table faced the Indian booth. The event featured a wide variety of nationalities and cultures, but still managed to celebrate each individually.
For the first time, Cruise the World was offered to the public as a free event. In the past, organizers have charged admission fees. Morgan Gardner, outreach coordinator for the UI International Programs Office, said she hoped the change would enable visitors to spend their money on food and crafts at cultural booths.
“I think the intention of it being free is that more people will come inside and purchase food,” Gardner said.
Gardner also said she hoped not charging admission would attract more visitors to explore the diversity offered at Cruise the World.
“Everybody seems to love this event, so it’s pretty easy to get people involved,” Gardner said.
This year, Gardner used social media to promote the event and reach vendors and performers on the Palouse.
“We have 15 performers this year, which is crazy because the event is one hour shorter,” Gardner said.
Throughout the event, the main stage played host to a variety of musical performances and cultural presentations, from a Bangladeshi lyrical solo, to a martial arts demonstration, to the UI Korean Student Association’s “Super Spicy Noodle Challenge”.
UI freshman Tanner Reathaford responded to a call put out on social media for the event.
“I saw a Facebook post asking for performers and I asked to perform,” Reathaford said. Reathaford played some blues charts on his guitar for visitors and said he hopes to continue performing at future Cruise the World events.
“It’s awesome to see the international community here,” Reathaford said. “I definitely will come back next year.”
In between featured performances, eventgoers had the opportunity to meet and learn from representatives at each of the cultural booths. Many of the represented countries displayed traditional clothing and food, in addition to national currency, art forms and religious symbols.
Attendees could try a cup of Arabic coffee from the Saudi Arabian table, receive authentic henna body artwork at the Indian booth, see traditional stitched art from the Guna people of Panama or make a simple origami creation with guidance from representatives of Japan.“It’s a lot of fun,” UI senior Jaime Shaffer said.
Shaffer spent her time at Cruise the World volunteering with the Japanese booth.
“I’m really happy that we can share this with everybody,” she said.
Shaffer said the event provided the chance for the Moscow community experience cultures from around the world. Visitors to the Japanese booth were openly curious about the country, according to Shaffer.
“We’ve had questions about culture, food… we had a question earlier about Japanese history,” Shaffer said.
Cruise the World had opportunities for visitors to experience cultures from around the world with food and activities they might not be able to try anywhere else in Moscow.
“The tea at the Nepal booth is so good,” Patrick Determan said.
A member of the UI faculty, Determan had been to past Cruise the World events, and remembered asking for the recipe for the Nepali beverage last year.
“It’s pretty exciting to see how many people there are (here) this year,” Determan said.
Reaching out to more members of the Moscow community may be a vital step to the event’s continued success in celebrating diversity and multiculturalism.
“I think it is just really great to see all of these cultures from around the world,” Determan said. “It makes the world feel like a really inviting place.”
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org