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East Ventura County Focus

THOUSAND OAKS : Students Share Their Native Cultures at Fair

May 28, 1993|BRENDA DAY

Recent immigrants taking English courses at an adult school in Thousand Oaks took a break Thursday from trying to assimilate into the United States to share their native cultures with each other.

The international fair brought together dozens of students representing 20 countries for free food, performances and conversation, teachers said. The students organize and pay for the event.

"It's a chance for them to show who they are," said Debbie Hamer, the English as a Second Language coordinator at the adult school in the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

The students, some wearing native costumes, roamed the crowded adult school auditorium sampling food from Argentina, Korea, Guatemala, Iran, China and Eastern Europe as entertainers sang and danced on stage.

"The most important thing I can share is my culture," said Helen Shih, 35, who came to the United States from Taiwan five years ago. "The Chinese are not always quiet. We are acting sometimes, too."

Not all students could yet converse in English. Others did their best after just a few months of instruction.

"I like the people, the food," said Ana Reyes, 25, a Guatemalan immigrant who wants to be a lawyer.

The fair inevitably leads to some unusual cultural couplings, said Ganne Wilmanns, an adult school instructor. This year, students from Eastern Europe learned a Spanish flamenco dance to perform on stage.

And after singing "It's a Small World," several Japanese students had fun drilling classmates from China and Central America in Japanese language instruction on stage.

"It's the biggest day of the year here," Wilmanns said.

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