The international festival organized by MIFA is an event that I look forward to every year. I guess, the most important reason is the food; embassies from around the world set-up booths selling traditional ornaments as well as homemade snacks based on traditional recipes. Scouting the booths of northern Africa countries is one of the rare chances that I get to taste flavors that remind me of home. This time I was positively impressed by a pumpkin pie from Algeria, that I could swear was the same as grandma’s homemade pie if you ignored the onion.
The other reason is the cultural exchange. I volunteer teaching people how to write the Greek alphabet and people help me learn calligraphy and wear a kimono instead. I have to admit that Greek letters are not as fancy as let’s say Myanmar’s, but they still hold a certain charm, mainly due to Greece’s long history. A lot of people commented on how similar Greek is to English. Well there is a valid reason behind the similarities and a reason why alphabet is called “alphabet”. This wonderful chart from Matt Baker of usefulcharts, sums it up compactly.
Lastly is the kimono. This year I tried on a vivid, brilliant green furisode kimono type. A furisode kimono has long sleeves and is usually worn by young girls for the occasion of their coming of age ceremony. Coincidentally, this year’s ceremony was held just a week ago. The green hue of the main garment looked almost like neon green at times. The obi belt was mainly golden, with orange, black and dark green details and the matching rope-like ribbon was a bright purple, a quite unusual combination as I learned. The hair accessories were a red comb with black details and a simple red clip. In the picture below, you can clearly see the difference between kimonos made for young girls and those of older ladies. The brighter the color, the younger the wearer. Although, I felt awkward wearing a kimono due to my big size relatively to the Asian body type, a kind Japanese lady reassured me that “the bigger the size, the better the kimono pattern is displayed”. If that’s the case, I guess I became a pretty good exhibit. Wearing a kimono by itself is not worth it if you don’t show off, so we appeared on stage as models for an amateur fashion show. We had to walk across the stage, bow deeply to the crowd, turn around delicately while holding the kimono sleeves so as to present both the intricate patterns of the silk cloth as well as how the obi was tied. My dad’s comment when seeing the pictures was “damn, why on earth do they like wearing socks with sandals”, and I dare to say I agree. It is not only that usually there is no available zori (sandals) in size bigger that 22cm, even if you manage to fit in a smaller size, so much pressure is applied to the front of the foot, that I almost lost my balance from that uncomfortable feeling. BUT I didn’t fell on stage and I didn’t look like the German tourist in summer vacation stereotype, so I guess it’s something. Oftentimes I think about owning a kimono myself. Unfortunately, soon afterwards I remember that there is actually not a single occasion for me to year it. So if you ever get the chance to try on a kimono in a similar event, please do!