By Erin von Tersch
Headquarters Public Information Officer
On Oct. 4, Caltrans employees sampled food from Pakistan, Korea, Mexico, and more as a Chinese Dragon and Korean dancers performed in the Caltrans Sacramento TransLab yard.
Caltrans Discrimination Complaint Investigator George Vasiliou said, “I like how everyone can come together at the Caltrans Diversity and Disability Awareness Day and show a little bit of their culture.”
The event included booths representing nine different cultures, the Department of Rehabilitation, the Caltrans Disability Advisory Committee, Northern California Hearing Center, the Professional Engineers in California Government and more. Last year, employees paid for lunch at private food truck vendors, but this year Caltrans booth volunteers provided native dishes.
Caltrans Branch Chief Steve Lee, also President of the Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association, was one of many manning the Korean booth. He said he was born in South Korea and moved to America when he was 8, but he still eats Korean food almost every day because it’s his favorite. The booth offered kimchee (spicy cabbage) fried rice, bulgogi (beef), jabchae (mixed vegetables with noodles made from sweet potato) and more.
Caltrans Senior Equipment Engineer Jeremy Matsuo said he especially liked the variety of information and food at the Korean and Indian booths.
Caltrans Transportation Engineer Dena Joseph chaired the three-tabled booth for India, displaying artifacts, maps, traditional clothing and more.
“For the longest time, no one put together a booth for India,” said Joseph. She said about three weeks before the event, a group of Caltrans employees pulled together to represent India. Associate Governmental Program Analyst Harbinder Dhillon, Senior Librarian Shubhangi Kelekar, Transportation Planner Shalini Chandra, and Transportation Engineers Gagandeep Bains, Danny Uppal and Harvin Singh, and Aishwarya Ravi from Information Technology each brought something to represent their culture. They provided rice, butter chicken, chana masala and pakora. With the recent addition of the state of Telangana, they realized that no one had a current map of India so they printed one to show all 29 states in India. Joseph emphasized that almost every state has its own language with its own script: Malayalam in Kerala, Punjabi in Punjab, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Telugu in Telangana, etc.
“India is such a diverse country. I don’t think people realize how many languages and religions are in India so we are trying to highlight some of the diversity and cultural richness,” Joseph said.
Caltrans Sustainability Manager Jeanie Ward-Waller, who recently came from the California Bicycle Coalition said, “It’s amazing being in a department that has so much diversity.”