Prague, AIPES, American Institute on Political and Economic Systems, The Fund for American Studies, TFAS

Monday, July 31, 2006

Country Presentations Dinner

(Originally posted on 7/23/06)

Yesterday was a busy day. It started with a legislative simulation from 10 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m. It was followed by the annual country presentations dinner, which is the biggest event of the program. 110 students from the 25 countries had 3 minutes to present about their respective countries--and I had to MC. It was actually a lot of fun to be the MC. It turned out to be the most AMAZING night. I don't think another night here could possibly top it.

The first notable thing is how much alcohol was consumed. At the restaurant, when we walked in, there were these shots of this Czech liqueur on the table waiting for each of us. So we all started the night with a shot. Then there were like 5 servers with a jug of white wine on one shoulder and a jug of red wine on their other shoulder. (Note: I have to put the pictures in a separate post because of the size of this entry.)

Extending from each of the jugs is a hose and they use their fingers to plug the hose. They ask which you want and they just move their finger to release the wine from this hose directly into your glass. So basically they walked around filling everyone's glasses all night. Meanwhile, for the actual presentations a lot of the students brought alcohol from their countries and were pouring shots and samples all night.

After dinner, we started the country presentations. The energy was really positive and everyone was SO into it, which made it easy to MC because I didn't have to try to get the 125 or so people engaged. It was so much fun--people were just so supportive of each other, cheering each other on. My favorite was this guy named Shun. He's from Singapore, but studies at Penn State or UPenn. He is JUST SO COOL. He's one of those people who always laughs--every time he talks or you ask him a question he just smiles and beams. (He's just SO nice!!) Anyway, he is the only guy from Singapore, so he had to present by himself. But it turned out that he is a natural born performer!!! He's kind of flown under the radar for the first two weeks; he was very nice but kind of quiet in class and stuff. Then, he stole the show at the dinner. He had to perform all by himself because he was the only person from Singapore. He started his presentation by coming out and beatboxing--and he was SO, SO good!!! So then he laughs and says how that's not really a Singapore custom, so he sang the national anthem by himself and he was also an awesome singer!!!! Then later on, this other guy named Dias had to perform by himself, so he started singing the national anthem for Kazakhstan. After the first verse, Shun comes out with another mic and starts beatboxing while Dias sang the national anthem and it was SO cool! I wish I had a video!!!

I have to say that a noteworthy group was the American group. I suspect that to the Europeans, the Americans may initially have come across as kind of arrogant. At least that was my concern. But I really have a new respect for them after their skit. Their skit was basically like a top 10 list of statements starting "If Europe was the 51st state...." so they said stuff like:

"If Europe was the 51st state... we would finally have a decent football team."
"If Europe was the 51st state... just one word: Amsterdam."
"If Europe was the 51st state... we would get to hear President Bush try to pronounce names like Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan."
And the last one was, "If Europe was the 51st state, we, AIPES, would all be countrymen."

It was actually quite touching. I felt REALLY proud of them for the first time in the program.

The dinner ended on the highest note possible... There's a group of 18 Georgians. They are the largest group in the AIPES program and they have SO MUCH national pride. They hang out together and they are just totally this unified group because of how much they love their country. They're very good natured and funny. So I put them last because I knew they wanted extra time to perform. So they did these national folk dances in full costumes and everything. One girl (with an amazing voice) sang the Georgian national anthem. And then they did more dancing--really amazing choreography and everything.Then once they were done, everyone was just so pumped because the Georgians had really gotten everyone totally excited. So we just started playing all kinds of music and everyone was dancing together. Then we all went to this club downtown together. It was just an amazing night. More than anything else, this is what AIPES is about. I am so glad that I came!!


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