The Section Club Introduces Thanksgiving to Members of Our International Community
by Fernando Quintero
Two-year-old Tatiana Lamparter of Germany surveyed the roast turkey, cranberries, candied yams, and other foods that to her were foreign substances.
After a thorough review of the holiday fare, Tatiana opted for a tiny handful of animal crackers from the coffee and cookies table.
The traditional American Thanksgiving dinner was served up by the Foreign Student Committee of the Section Club, a organization for faculty spouses and staff.
Mulling over a mouthful of turkey and candied yams, Ildiko Kozek of Hungary said she found the combination of sweet and salty tastes peculiar.
"It's a little strange, but I like it," she said.
Introducing the families of visiting foreign scholars to American foods and traditions is just one of several programs offered at The Centre, one of three services sponsored by the Foreign Student Committee.
The committee's housing office is open for three weeks in August at International House to assist foreign students and scholar visitors in finding housing. The Equipment Loan Center, located between Telegraph and Bowditch streets, offers household items such as bedding and small kitchen appliances on loan.
Since 1977, The Centre, which is also supported by International House and the Berkeley YWCA, has provided social and learning opportunities for foreign visitors to adjust to campus life in a new country. Last year, more than 189 scholars and their families from 39 countries enjoyed the informal atmosphere of The Centre.
Each week, it features a special program that focuses on music, art, dance, and international cultures and issues. Special field trips to galleries, museums, and other places of interest are also offered during the year. A children's play corner is set up where young mothers can meet. And a lending library provides travel and cook books.
By far, the most popular activities are the traditional holiday and "food fun" programs offered each month.
For Thanksgiving dinner, which was actually Thanksgiving brunch (The Centre meets each Thursday between at the University YWCA from 9:30 am to noon), every traditional holiday dish was available for sampling.
Dessert included pumpkin, mincemeat, and sweet-potato pies. For that extra special touch of Americana, there was an open tub of Cool Whip.
Darja Kovac of Slovenia liked the pumpkin pie the best.
"We don't bake pies with pumpkin," she said. "We just eat the seeds and use the oil for cooking and in salads. It's really good."
Attendance for events like the food programs average more than 100 people, said Kathy Grayburn, a committee member.
"We're meeting a real need," she said. "There is a such a diverse international community here at Berkeley. It's nice to have a place where people from other lands can feel comfortable and welcome."
Marjorie Sauer, committee chair, said she hopes programs like The Centre have a ripple effect.
"It's so hard to be a stranger in a foreign country. We hope these women go back to their countries and create the same kind of programs at colleges and universities where a stranger can find a friendly face."