There’s a tradition at UWC Mostar called “Cultural Week,” which as the name suggests, is a week dedicated to sharing one’s home country’s culture. The countries are split up into different groups based on geography/similar cultural background usually, but taking into account how many people would be in the week. Some are more limited in geographical scope than others – there’s a Balkan Cultural Week, which includes all the Balkan countries except BiH, but there’s also a Middle Eastern-African-Asian Cultural Week because we have so few students from those regions.
The US is part of the North American-Latin American-Nordic Cultural Week, which also includes Brazil, Norway, and Finland predominately. There were extra students who joined our week that had strong ties to places like Bolivia and Denmark, but the four countries I mentioned first are the only “official” ones – countries that have national committees that send students to our UWC.
This year’s North American-Latin American-Nordic Cultural Week went from November 26-December 1. This was the promotional video (made by the incredible Sofia) that we sent out before the week started to get students excited:
Throughout the week, we planned a wide range of fun activities. Here’s the schedule from this year:
The American-inspired activities were the bonfire, “NRA paintball,” making rock candy inspired by the thing they make on the show Breaking Bad, and baseball. Of these things, I only went to the bonfire, considering that baseball had to be canceled due to the crazy winds blowing through Mostar at the time, and I was busy during the other two activities… But the bonfire was really nice! We actually had it in an abandoned building, in an attempt to shelter it from the aforementioned winds, and I brought along the Jiffy marshmallows I packed with my stuff when I came in August so we could make smores.
The other highlight (for me) of Cultural Week was the Feast. Every Week organizes one, but ours is particularly special because it’s on Thanksgiving! It’s a lovely evening, where we get to share the greatness that is Thanksgiving with non-Americans, but with a multicultural element of including food from the other Cultural Week countries. We decorate the big assembly room in the school called the Spanish Room, cook a bunch of food, and generally run around stressed all day while preparing. The joke among the Americans afterwards is that now hosting any regular Thanksgiving gathering will be easy, because we’ve done it for ~150 people.
Here’s the room before, when the tables were set nicely, and after, when the room was filled with the people who have become my second family:
At the feast, we presented our Cultural Week video, which mocks stereotypes and other funny things that are particular to our cultures.
A couple nights later, I was excited to welcome back a second year! André/Andrew/Andy (he goes by many names) graduated last year, but is taking a gap year this year, and decided to visit Mostar for about a week. Anita, Rhea, and I were good friends with him, so on Saturday night we went to his apartment to cook dinner – a stir fry of sorts, comprised of vegetables, chicken, and yummy sauce that André brought from the UK. We played Christmas music and shared stories about our lives since he graduated. It was a little surreal to think that in just a year, we will be in the same position, and then to think that I don’t even know when I’ll come to Mostar again. Regardless, it was so nice to be reunited with him.
The next day, Anita was the main organizer of our final Cultural Week event: Advent decoration. We never did much to celebrate Advent back home, but for Anita, it was a key part of holiday festivities. She got four candles, one of which is lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas, and taught people how to decorate the plate they are placed on. She also shared traditional Norwegian Christmas stories and songs. We also made cinnamon rolls, which were yummy and made the residence smell nice. Also adding to the amazing holiday scents were the oranges pricked with cloves.