A closer look at Thailand, Northern Cypress

By On July 24, 2018

A closer look at Thailand, Northern Cypress

Folkmoot fun

International visitors at Folkmoot USA enjoyed a rousing game of volleyball at the Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Maggie Valley.

Volleyball the international way

Northern Cyprus dancers Demet Apakgun, Asena and Hicvan pause for a photo during at outing to Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm.

Mos Mathura, 26, sat on a plane with the rest of the Thailand dance troupe bound for the United States with nervousness filling his gut. He had never been to America and didn’t know what to expect.

Upomsak Sakmunwong, 65, is also on the plane, but is instead filled with excitement. He can’t wait for these young adults to experience America in the same way he has many times before.

Mathura and Sakmunwong are part of the Folkmoot USA, an annual international folk dance festival that comes to Waynesville and the surrou nding area each July.

“I joined these performers to spread Thai culture,” Mathura explained, using Sakmunwong as a translator. “I wanted people to see Thailand’s performance, and hear Thailand’s music.”

However, the dance that Thailand performs is more than just a dance. Sakmunwong said it shows the audience how the citizens of Thailand live.

“The most important thing that we wanted to show to the world is the way of life of the Thai people,” he said, explaining life in Thailand can be seen through the performance. “Thailand is divided up into four separate regions. Our group and our dance represent all regions.”

One good example of this can be seen in the difference between how Americans view themselves versus how Thai people view themselves. American culture is very individualistic and Americans value privacy and their own personal rights.

The Thai culture tends to be more col lective, with the individual people of Thailand seeing themselves as one small part of a greater whole, and this is reflected in Thailand’s performance at Folkmoot.

“Thailand is divided up into four separate regions,” Sakmunwong said. “Our group and our dance represents all regions.”

Sakmunwong said he understands that cultural exchange is a two-way street and knows that Haywood County will have its own impact on Mathura and the other performers.

Northern Cyprus

Demet Apakgun, 30, and some of her fellow performers are standing outside at a barbecue on a cloudy midday Monday, waiting for in line for food. This is the group’s first time to relax in six days, and they are thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather and the free food without the hassle of having any performances lined up for the day.

Apakgun is part of the dance troupe from Northern Cyprus in the county for Folkmoot USA. While the pe rformers are highly experienced, with most having between 10 and 20 years of dancing under their belt, Folkmoot is far different than they expected.

One of the main surprises Apakgun found was how different the Waynesville lifestyle was compared to how she always envisioned America.

“In the media, you always see that American life is so fast,” Apakgun said. “But here in this part it is not. It’s much slower and calm.”

That’s not the only thing that surprised Apakgun. She was expecting large cities with millions of people, an image that doesn’t fit the Haywood County at all.

“There are no tall buildings here,” she said. “It is so much different than what I imagined.”

One thing that Apakgun is grateful about is the weather. What many view as hot and muggy weather, she views as a paradise.

“The weather here is lovely,” she said. “In Northern Cyprus, it reaches temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius (that’s 122 Fahrenheit). ”

For Apakgun and the other dancers, the hardest part about participating in Folkmoot was getting here.

“It takes us an hour to fly from Northern Cyprus to Turkey, and then a 12- hour flight to fly from Turkey to the United States,” she said.

Like Haywood Northern Cyprus has a strong tourism economy, with a recent growth in casino tourism. Natives speak Turkish, but English is the most widely used second language. The nation’s population of under 300,000 places a strong emphasis on cultural dance and music and is home to numerous festivals celebrating both.

But, even though her expectations are different from the festival realities, Apakgun and her troupe members are determined to accomplish a mission.

“It’s all about our culture,” Apakgun said. “[Northern Cyprus] is not a very well-known country, and [our dance] is what we feel like we want people to know about it.”

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