The SAN Banquet

Ashra Kolhatkar
Ashra Kolhatkar
Indian student Ashra Kolhatkar describes her journey from India to Canada to pursue a Biology degree at Mount Allison.

This Saturday was the annual SAN Banquet. SAN (the Society of All Nations) is a student group that I’ve been involved with ever since I came to Mount A. Last year I was the secretary of SAN and so, as part of the executive, I helped organise events through the year and the SAN Banquet in particular. This year there was no one else on campus who was particularly interested in taking on SAN again, and since I was on the exec last year, I agreed to do it.

Mount A students have developed the unfortunate reputation of being apathetic but what is often overlooked is the fact that there is an almost obscene wealth of things for students to do here. So while it’s occasionally difficult to find volunteers for some events, it seems that the only reason for it is because they’re involved in eight other things already. I think that’s the problem that SAN ran into this year. SAN has tagged itself as an organisation that aims to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and interaction … whatever that means. Ten years ago when SAN started, that might have been something that was needed at Mount A – today, SAN is almost obsolete. And that’s not a bad thing. There are so, so many groups on campus that in one way or another meet the needs of students who might otherwise be involved in SAN, and there just isn’t any interest.

But, people have grown accustomed to the annual Banquet and come second term, people start asking, “But who’s going to do the SAN Banquet this year?” Well … me, of course. So I rooted out two old SAN members to be on my exec and we started to plan the Banquet. The Banquet is dinner for about 300 people with food from around the world cooked by students and performances by students. It relies entirely on finding enough people who are willing and able to help. By Wednesday last week I was having kittens about how little interest we’d had from people wanting to volunteer, how few tickets we’d sold, and how late our posters had gone up. On Thursday I had a meeting for all the people who’d volunteered and an astounding 20 or 25 people showed up. These people turned out to be my angels.

On Friday I went to Jennings Hall, the university meal hall where we were going to cook all the food and hold the Banquet. I arrived just before my volunteers did at 7:00, and we started on what was to be a very, very long 28-odd hours of work verging occasionally on frenzy. From 7:00 to around 11:15 we chopped, peeled, diced, stirred, mixed, julienned… and when we left, most of the cooking for a 300 person dinner was done.

On Saturday afternoon I was back at Jennings at 2:00 and I didn’t leave till about 10:30 that night. My cooking volunteers showed up on time and while there was a short period when I was really worried things weren’t going to come together, it all worked out excellently. I haven’t ever seen such efficiency before. I guess I just lucked out and got a great group of people willing to help. They didn’t need prodding or anything further than preliminary instructions. They were totally together and organised and if it wasn’t for them, this event would have been a spectacular disaster.

Nathan and Noah, my roommates, graciously agreed to be the MCs for the night and they were great. They went with an awkward-is-funny approach to the whole thing that worked really well.

Most people had left by about 9:00, we were done cleaning at about 10:15, and I was out the door at 10:30 ish. I have never been so tired. I got home, waited for my roommates to take their excited, drunken selves out, and I went to sleep … for 12 solid hours.

It was quite the event, the SAN Banquet. Nathan kindly reminded me last night that while the memory of the stress might fade quickly, this isn’t something that I should do again. Trust me. It’s not. I think I’ve done my bit. Next year the Banquet can be someone elses problem. I can already feel the post-stress snivels coming. It’s almost like my body’s saying, “Oh, the Banquet’s over? Right. Here’s that cold you’ve been staving off for the past two weeks.”

It was definitely a good experience, though. I now know that I never want to go into logistics as a profession. I got nothing but compliments about how good the food was and how smoothly the event went. Even though we didn’t manage to publicise it as well as we usually do, we had lots of people come out. It was actually really, really good.

That’s all from me for now. Until the next post…

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