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ON THE SCENE: KCS international students cook up a storm

April 13, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Schools around the region have sought and welcomed international students for needed revenue, and, in many respects, have benefited far greater from the energy and diversity of cultural experiences they bring.

Keene Central School is no exception. This year, seven students from such diverse locales as Thailand, Japan, Spain, Russia, Austria and England joined the school. On Thursday evening, April 6, they showcased their cooking talents and gave slide presentations of their home countries, communities and families.

The kids live with host families, developing strong bonds. Here they gain life experience radically different than their own, as most come from major metropolitan environments. Imagine growing up in Tokyo, Madrid or St. Petersburg and moving to Keene. Aside from having mountains, brooks and deer out back instead of skyscrapers, the biggest difference is our dependence on cars. Back home, everyone walks or uses public transportation, and here it is a challenge to get anywhere without being driven.

Article Photos

Keene Central School international students stand together Thursday, April 6, during a food celebration. From left are Ariane of Austria, Henry of England, Alvaro and Sofia of Spain, Mook of Thailand, Akina of Russia and Soya of Japan.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Another difference they cited is our school days are longer, classes much shorter, and the array of athletic and social activities provided far greater.

"I have school until half past one in Austria," said Ariane. "We start at a quarter to eight and have six periods a day, but they are 50 minutes. We don't have lunch at school, but at home. Here activities like football (soccer) are handled by the school. In Austria, you have to do that by yourself. There, I have karate twice a week, am a member of a math club, and other activities (one of her favorite being skiing)."

For dinner, Ariane made kaiserschmarrn, also known as the "Emperor's Mess," shredded pancakes flavored with a bit of vanilla, which has raisins mixed in and been dusted with confectioners' sugar. She enjoys cooking, which she learned through assisting her mother. She said in general, though Austrians love sweets like kaiserschmarrn, they eat much healthier than Americans, though she praised the healthy food served at Keene Central.

"In Austria and Germany, almost nobody knows the 'Sound of Music,'" she added. "People know it here, in South America, and even Asia, but not in my home country. I loved seeing the video, the music, and the story is true!"

Soya lives in a high-rise in Tokyo, a building that probably contains more people than there are residents in the town of Keene. On a clear day, he can see Mount Fuji out his window. "Tokyo is a big city with lots of tall buildings but not much nature," said Soya. "I love all the mountains, streams and rivers in Keene."

His other love is meeting kids from the United States and the other countries.

For dinner, Soya served a Japanese curry dish called oyakodon nasunohasmiage, which was well-liked by his classmates. For him, the big difference is back home he goes to school by train (a 20-minute ride) and in Keene by school bus, and like Ariane, they have fewer but longer classes. He's not sure about a future career, but as he loves science, he's exploring that field.

"People here are very friendly, opened-minded, and kind to me," said Akina, who comes from St. Petersburg. "They are very open for communication. The difference in education is huge. Here you can choose your courses, but in Russia, they tell you what course you will take. We don't have study halls, our lessons are longer, and we don't have a break for lunch."

Akina said that Americans are more open to talking with people and being here has made her more self-confident. For dinner, she made pelmeni, a popular dish throughout Russia. It's a meat-filled dumpling that in western Russia they tend to fry while in Buryatia (eastern Russia) it is steamed. Her slideshow of St. Petersburg was quite stunning with all its palaces, parks and beautiful buildings.

Sofia and Alvaro, both from Madrid, met on the plane to America, surprised to learn they were coming to the same small village. "It's very pretty outside," said Sofia. "I've never had nature like this all around me. I love the snow. We don't have snow in Madrid. The people here are super nice."

One big difference between their country and here is when many Americans are going to bed the Spanish are sitting down at the dinner table.

Sofia created a tortilla de patata, along the lines of a potato-onion-garlic omelet, and Alvaro created a large pot of gazpacho a cold soup made of raw vegetables. In a slight twist, he served it with chopped hard-boiled egg on top, which I recommend.

"I wanted to be in a small town," said Alvaro. "I like adventures. I wanted something very different than Madrid. I thought it would be easier integrating into a small school and it was! Everyone here is so great!" In his presentation, he provided an overview of Spain focusing on several important regions and cities, while Sofia introduced Madrid and its cultural assets.

Mook, who comes from Thailand, served up fried bananas and curried chicken as mild as she could make it, way below the norm in her home country.

Henry served up fish and chips, a favorite of the Brits along with a brutal commentary on his countrymen's accomplishments in such national sports as cricket, rugby and soccer. He may need to apply for political asylum.

"If they can't cook, they can't come," said Joy McCabe who leads the international program. That's not accurate, of course, but year after year the kids have done a knockout job of introducing favorite examples of their national cuisine and serving as terrific ambassadors of their countries, home cities and families. The school is always looking for host families, and those who have done so rave about the experience.

"Alvaro is the third international student who has stayed with us," said Scott Smith. "He's our first boy. He's fun, active in sports, skiing, and stuff like that. I think he enjoys being in a small town."

"Alvaro mentioned that when his mother finds out that he cooked while he was here, she might want him to do that when he gets back home," said Hannah Smith. "I've enjoyed having an extra child in the house. I'll be sad to see him go."

"Having Akina stay with us is a very great experience," said Sheryl Quinn, a first-time host. "We've told Joy we'd most definitely welcome another student."

 
 

 

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