Yesterday we attended the very first outdoor festival, at the park scale, since we arrived at Tampa, if my memory serves me right, the operative words being park and outdoor. It was the inaugural Asia Pacific Rim Festival in Pinellas Park organized by the St. Petersburg International Folkfair Society. Promised to deliver food, culture, entertainment, arts and crafts, the event did not disappoint, in more ways than one as we shall see.
The event poster on the left; and the entrance portal and a glimpse of the tent stalls and the sea of visitors at noon to the right.
When we arrived around noon, the early birds were already hopping from tent to tent spread out around the England Brothers Bandshell Park, savoring the food and admiring the exquisite offering of apparel and handicrafts from each ethnic group featured in the poster.
Apart from enjoying the pageantry and the ambience of the occasion, we were also there to lend support to Yu Huei, who had set up a table among the Taiwanese cluster to feature Buddhism, next to the Tzuchi Foundation, the Buddhist Compassion Relief headquartered in Taiwan. The latter's presence was also at the behest of Yu Huei, coming as they were from Orlando to help propagate the virtuous act of giving and helping the unfortunates and the needy through the Bodhisattva's way.
Yu Huei's table was filled with introductory texts and brochures on Buddhism, in both Chinese and English. There were also pocket-sized cards containing words of wisdom, distilled from the thousands of years of Buddhist practice.
Yu Huei's and Tzuchi's tables from different angles: (from top left going clockwise) Yu Huei in animated discussion with a visitor; Wify momentarily manning the stall, the two hand-drawn posters by her adorning the table; the moral supporters taking a respite from the afternoon sun, observing life unfolding ...; the signature flag of the Tzuchi Foundation, in green and fluttering in the breeze.
Yu Huei had also prepared a couple of leaflets, one on a brief summary of salient points as regards Buddhism in the form of questions and answers couched in layman's terms. There are meant to pique the interest of the uninitiated who could then find out more about Buddhism from the many area-wide Buddhism-themed organizations contained in another leaflet.
From the moment we located Yu Huei's table, I noted a constant stream of visitors approaching her table: young, old, white, black, brown, yellow, a spectrum of age and skin color, but all drawn to her table all the same. She greeted each visitor with the same enthusiasm, like meeting a long-lost friend, her belief in Buddhism and eagerness to share Buddhist wisdom among the first-timers and neophytes manifesting in her self-assured and engaging demeanor. And her staying power is amazing. We left about 3pm, most of the time observing the ongoing in the shade of the lone big tree that stands guard over the Taiwanese Cluster, the choice of the strategic location being impeccable to say the least, while Yu Huei, though appearing slightly sweaty then, still stood her ground, her radiance patently unmistakable. It turned out that we, or at least I, only needed to offer moral support by our mere presence.
Wify did much more: preparing vegetarian fried rice together with Julie and Connie for the volunteers at Yu Huei's and Tzuchi's tables, and did the two posters for Yu Huei. And the combination of Yu Huei's delightfully exuberant personality and wify's artistic talent seemed to captivate the continuous throng of visitors to the table, not discounting the humanistic appeal of the wisdom enshrined in engaged Buddhism.
I learned at night that Yu Huei stayed on until the closing hours of 10.00pm, earning phrases from wify for a job well done, one that she enjoyed tremendously, and hence, excelled in comfortably.
I'm glad that Yu Huei has found her calling of sort, not merely mouthing it, but putting it into action, and the joy written all over her face while she was at it bears testimony to what Pearl S. Buck has said, which I have chanced upon while reading Les Parrot's 3 Seconds (pg. 59 - 60):
"The secret of joy in work is contained in one word -- excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it."
And that's the revelation of the day for me. But to complete the sights and sounds (may be not) of the day's festivity, here's a pictorial account of some selected highlights from my personal perspective. Enjoy!
(Left) The ever popular Dragon dance, showcasing the serpentine creature, a venerable symbol of Chinese mythology, careening in a chase of the pearl that always seems to stay several twists of the Dragon's spiralling motion ahead; (Right) Thai Buddhist monks solemnizing the start of the event at the entrance portal.
Four of the stalls by different ethnic groups: (from top left going clockwise) Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and the South Pacific Island group.
The central attraction, the dance performances: (top left going clockwise) A fan dance (I forgot the origin); Indian dance; Thai fashion (I chose this from the several shots that I have taken because the Emcee said the dresses incorporated the influence of Malaysia to the south: the ubiquitous sarong; a chinese dance performance to a tune sung in the local Taiwanese dialect (Hokkien/Mingnam), which precipitated some nostalgic flashbacks among us, including wify who knows the tune but from a Chinese song.