On a more positive note, Saturday was MELA at Woodstock School. MELA is an annual food and shopping event that is basically like a big cultural art fair, with all the proceeds going to a scholarship fund. It takes place in the Quad and there are stalls set up outside and in the dining hall. The Development Office even set up a little “café” on one of the balconies overlooking the Quad, complete with tables for two and coffee. This year’s theme was Rainbow Nation so multicolored pennants and streamers adorned the balconies and railings and flags representing all the students of Woodstock were strung between the buildings.
Many of the shopping opportunities come from NGOs from around India who sell handmade goods and it’s that much easier to spend your money when you know that the necklace you’re buying is supporting a Garwhali women’s shelter or a leprosy mission. A few of the merchants from the local Bazaar were there too, like the Tibetan ladies who sell fun jewelry made of huge glass beads or hand-worked silver. I was seduced by a fantastic bracelet/ring combo—the kind with a bracelet that is attached to a ring by fine chain/bead strands. I imagine it’s the kind of thing that a princess would wear.
And there’s always plenty to eat. Local restaurants set up food stalls and hawk biryani, momos and kebabs while the students man booths selling ethnic food. The Japanese kids had flavored ice slushies and the Koreans sold their equivalent of sushi, called kim-bap. The 9th graders opted for a hot dog stand and walked around with trays of dogs, shouting like baseball stadium pros.
Then there is dancing, again a chance for the students to showcase their cultural heritage. The Korean girls performed a dance with fans and groups of Indian and Bhutanese students each put on quite a show. Even the elementary school kids got involved with a dance of their own which was incredibly cute—wee people from a variety of backgrounds prancing around self-consciously in full Indian apparel.
The clothing is probably what I enjoyed most about the day. The students were encouraged to wear “national dress” for the MELA and they did so with wild abandon. This is what is so great about working at an international school—students who normally blend together in a sea of jeans and t-shirts at school suddenly transform into icons of their cultures. The Japanese girls wore kimonos and the boys had gorgeous robes. There were beautiful saris and flashy salwar kameez. At least one German girl donned a dirndl and our Russian student, Boris, even sported a military-style jacket and tall hat.