In the jungle, the real jungle
International students from African countries, share their culture, customs
| Robin Siteneski reporter |
| Audrey Dighans copy editor |
About 420 international students are enrolled at Pitt State this semester. Of that number, 30 celebrated their countries’ heritage at this year’s African Day, held Friday, April 11.
About 150 students and residents attended the event celebrating the cultures of the African continent. Traditional food, dances, theater performances and a fashion show were showcased by PSU’s current international students who are from seven countries on the continent: Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Kenya.
Even if Americans have never heard of this country, they’ve probably enjoyed the guilty pleasure of its main export. About 198 square miles, the French-speaking country of Ivory Coast is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate. It is expected to produce 630,000 metric tons this year.
VaNsah Aimee, graduate student in accounting, says she wishes people knew more about her home country.
“We have beautiful places to see, especially beaches and nice dancing,” she said.
Aissa Barro, sophomore in international studies, says she usually doesn’t say the name of her country when Americans ask her where she is from.
“If I say Burkina Faso, they ask, ‘Where is that?’ So I usually just say West Africa,” she said.
Slightly larger than Colorado, Burkina Faso is a landlocked West African country which borders Ivory Coast and five other countries.
The United Nations rates Burkina Faso as the world’s third-poorest country. While it has the largest gold reserves in the world, its main export is cotton.
Esther Thuo, graduate student in math, says most people visit her country to tour the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves.
“It’s a beautiful country,” Thuo said. “It’s very exciting for foreigners because it’s completely different from America, for instance.”
The Republic of Kenya has a population of 45 million and two official languages: English and Kiswahili.
The Maasai Mara is part of the northern section of the Serengeti National Park, located in Tanzania. Maasai Mara is home to one of the highest lion densities, and nearly 2 million wildebeest, zebra and Thomsons gazelle migrate across it annually.
Mummies and pyramids aside, Egypt is one of the most widely known African countries because of its thousands of years of history. Though the terrain is more desert than jungle, millions of tourists flock to Egypt every year for a number of reasons.
Markwan Shagar, graduate student in mechanical engineering, says he introduces himself by saying, “I am from Egypt and, yes, I have seen the pyramids.”
The Great Pyramid at Giza is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. According to www.egypt.travel the best time of the year to visit is between the months of September and October, and April and May.
Egypt is also famous as one of the starting places of the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions that began in December 2010, and still keeps the country far from political stability.
Shagar says political violence is now directed toward both Christian and Muslim communities, which many people are unaware of when others come to talk to him about his country’s affairs.