A chorus of “Namaste” greeted each visitor to Taste of Nepal upon entering the International Ballroom of the Bruce Pitman Center Sunday. The sold-out event marked the 15th Taste of Nepal event at the University of Idaho and celebrated Nepali culture through music, dance and food.
A vintage film countdown started the Nepali Students’ Association’s (NSA) introductory video to their event. The video showed clips from all over Nepal, including everything from bungee jumping to snorkeling. Following the video, the audience rose for both the Nepali and United States national anthems.
After an opening musical performance featuring the Nepali national instrument, the madal drum, UI entomologist Luc Leblanc gave a presentation on his experience conducting research in Nepal.
“We went to different agricultural stations throughout the country to do surveys,” Leblanc said. For Leblanc, the chance to travel off the beaten path of tourism and live in rural Nepali homes provided a glimpse into their culture he was eager to share in his presentation.
“The organizer (of Taste of Nepal) is a graduate student in my department,” Leblanc said. “He just asked me two weeks ago if I wanted to do it.”
Leblanc said he hoped his story might help audience members see the allure of international travel.
“It’s good to see (the) perspective of foreigners going to Nepal, making friends with Nepalis… and really absorbing the culture,” Leblanc said.
After Leblanc’s presentation, the performance section of the evening unfolded. NSA members told the history of the unification of Nepal’s three regions through a series of dance pieces highlighting specific regional traditions. The dances were interspersed with a raffle and trivia questions about Nepal’s Himalayas, hills and plains. With each dance performance, a piece of a cardboard map of Nepal was removed until nothing remained.
After the plains dance and the removal of the final piece of the map, the lights stayed off. Following a dramatic pause, a voice came over the speaker system to ask, “What if this was real?”
As the stage lights came on again, the speaker explained that Nepali youth today have a responsibility to celebrate the many ethnic groups of their country. “We should celebrate how lucky we are, we get to live and experience this diverse culture.”
The dance performances then ended with a unification piece featuring dancers in traditional regalia from all three regions. Finishing their performance under the waving Nepali flag, the dancers bore a sign that read “United we stand, divided we fall.”
This message of unity rang true with many members of the audience.
“It’s important to have these kinds of event to get involved in the community and also to learn about different cultures that you’re not super exposed to,” UI freshman Kailyn Eagy said. For Eagy, the event was an opportunity to see “fun Nepali dances” with friends.
For Pullman resident Linda Cook, Taste of Nepal is a time-honored family tradition.
“This is my fourth year,” Cook said, adding that the best part of the event for her was “coming with 28 of (her) closest friends.” Her family started attending Taste of Nepal to watch family friends performing in the event.
“We first started coming because they were dancing,” Cook said. “Now we just come because we love it.”
The event ended with a display of the Nepali clothing worn by NSA members in the event and a dinner featuring traditional Nepali foods, including several varieties of curry and carrot pudding.
As guests started to leave, NSA member Samragyee Gautam said it felt “kind of sad.”
“I’m definitely going to miss all the performance days,” Gautam said.
For Gautam, the extra hours practicing and planning for Taste of Nepal were a burden worth taking on.
“I felt like all the hard work we did was worth it,” Gautam said. “I’m proud that I can represent my country and celebrate our culture.”
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org