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International Flair

CHESAPEAKE — It was only six months ago that Engin Aksoy came to the campus of Marshall University from Turkey with more passion to learn English than he knew actual words. Deyanira Miller came to the United States 20 years ago, yet her desire to honor the culture of her Costa Rican homeland still burns bright.

Both took their love of learning and adventure and joined other nationals sharing knowledge of the ways of their respective countries with students at Chesapeake Elementary School Tuesday.

At one end of the gym were Spanish dancers beating out a tattoo with maracas to the other where a whimsical, magenta dragon was brought to life over and over again by giggling youngsters as they pretended they were part of a Vietnamese holiday fete.

It was all part of the annual International Day at the school.

“This is a fun, interactive way to get the building involved,” Jackie Hutchison, first-grade teacher and event organizer, said.

The international students were from Marshall’s LEAP or Learning English for Academic Purposes program along with advanced Spanish students from Chesapeake High. The students are at Marshall to master the language before going on with their academic career or advance in a chosen profession.

Countries at the event ranged from China to Turkey to Vietnam to Tunisa.

“This is to show others about their country and language,” Nikki Thacker, an English as a Second Language instructor, said. “It is a great opportunity for them to practice English.”

Aaron Donahue and Gabriel Freyre, both from the high school, came up with an eye-hand coordination game whereby Easter eggs could be pursued with poles decked out in oversized magnets. Their goal was to teach the youngsters about fishing in Puerto Rico.

“We were trying to think of what little kids would like,” Freyre said.

Deyanira Miller was joined by her children, Lance and Vince Miller, 8-year-old twins, and Ashley Miller, 12, as she showed off a variety of crafts from Costa Rica that form part of the tourist industry there. Feathers become canvases for paintings and discarded coconut shells are turned into coin purses.

“We recycle everything,” Miller said.

As she watched her daughter explain some of the items in front of them, Miller said, “I want to preserve my culture and this is one way to preserve my culture and for them to learn.”

After each group of students went through the various displays in the gym, they got to sample some basic foods from the different countries such as black beans and tortillas, Tunisian olives and German pumpernickel.

“The parents donated all this,” Hutchison said. “I asked if any parents were willing to donate or to volunteer and 120 people stepped forward. We had an abundance of people willing to help.”