Rendezvous brings Cambodian culture to campus

Rendezvous brings Cambodian culture to campus
Audience members raise their hands and answer a quiz question asked by speaker Panharith Sun during the Cambodian Rendezvous. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

A string of flags was wrapped tightly around the entrance to the Back Alley. The colorful shapes were stuck along both sides of the wall leading back to the stage, where a large blue and red flag was draped around a speaker’s podium.

“It is the only flag in the world with a building on it,” the speaker said.

Panharith Sun stood behind the podium, gesturing to the projector screen that  showed an animated sticker of the Cambodian flag.

“The white here represents religion, and Cambodia is a primarily Buddhist country, so it represents our religion and peace,” Sun said. “The blue represents the royalty in our country, so our king and queen, and also the red represents the nation, which is the land and our citizens.”

Sun, an international student from Cambodia, is only here for one semester. As a part of his abroad program, he has to share his culture and his country with U.S. students. The Friday, Sept. 30, rendezvous event hosted by the International Programs Office and the Augustana International Club was the ideal place to share, club co-president Liz Fossum said.

International student Panharith Sun presents at the Cambodian rendezvous. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

“We have such a large international student population,” Fossum said. “It’s a great way for U.S. students to learn a little bit more about culture abroad and also for our international students to be able to present about their home culture.”

Sun started his presentation with a clip of the 2001 movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and said Angelina Jolie is now one of the favorite actresses among people in Cambodia.

“This film introduced Cambodia to the entire world, and since it was released, our country received many tourists annually,” Sun said. “It went from a few thousand to millions of visitors coming every year.”

Sun showed examples of just a few of the over 4,000 temples in Cambodia, some of which were used in the movie. After sharing a few more jokes and handing out key chain prizes to the audience, Sun talked about the monarchy in Cambodia and the periods of intense growth followed by political unrest in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge introduced a dictatorship.

“People died from executions, starvation, disease and more from overworking,” Sun said. “I would say that my family, like my parents and their family members, are survivors from this regime.”

Sun said that after the dictatorship ended, the country began to flourish again. He shared pictures and videos of his favorite foods from Cambodia, which he said are always served with rice. He also showed videos of traditional dancing, like the Apsara dancers.

“It is the Cambodian most precious art form because it requires the command of different techniques and also it requires flexibility, accuracy and also precise control of movements,” Sun said.

Sun finished his presentation by teaching the audience the word “akun,” or “thank you.”

“So ‘akun’ everyone for today, and thank you for joining the rendezvous with Cambodia,” Sun said.

International students Francis Rahil and Hanvee Reddy Mamidi said they enjoyed learning about the different temples and foods in Cambodia.

“I really like the concept of the rendezvous because we don’t know much about other countries, and even if we Google or somehow get to know about it, it’s always better to listen to it directly from the people of that country,” Reddy Mamidi said.

The next international rendezvous will be Friday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. in the Back Alley. Reddy Mamidi will present on her home country of India.