The first day of International Week (I-Week) was met with what could have been a disastrous disruption when two members of the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO) were rear-ended while driving to pick up the food they ordered for Latin America and Caribbean night.
COISO Treasurer Jili Zhou and Vice President-elect Celeste Lim were driving on U.S. 1 toward Isle Caribbean, the restaurant that prepared the Caribbean food to be served to 500 people at the Lakeside Patio. Zhou, who was driving, said he checked his mirrors to turn left and saw he had an open space, maneuvered his 12-year-old Chrysler Pacifica into the left lane and waited for the light to turn green.
Moments later, Zhou and Lim were jolted forward by an intense blow. They said a black Dodge pickup truck rammed into the back of Zhou’s car, propelling both of them forward, almost hitting the front window. Zhou’s car was thrust forward, fortunately into an open space where there was no car in front. Their safety belts kept them in place, but the wind was knocked out of them.
“We just stared at each other and couldn’t believe what happened. There was no car behind when we turned into the lane,” Lim said.
The back of Zhou’s car was badly damaged and the trunk could not be opened. There was some damage to the passenger-side doors, but neither of the students said they sustained injuries.
“The police told me if it was a motorcycle in our position, the impact would have killed the motorcyclist,” Zhou said.
After 45 minutes of waiting for a police report to be filed, Zhou and Lim set out to finish what they had originally planned to do: get the food for the event. Zhou’s car was damaged, but could still be driven.
“Since his car was okay to be driven, we drove to the place to get to the food,” Lim said. “The night had to go on. It had to be done.”
Both of Zhou and Lim were shaken up, but they got the food for COISO’s annual event to showcase the multitude of cultures at UM.
There were tent activities showcasing Latin and Caribbean traditions. Attendees kept busy by making rain sticks and Junkanoo instruments, a Bahamian tradition that is more than 500 years old. But I-Week Chair Aalekhya Reddam knew Zhou and Lim needed more time.
“These people are among my closest friends and I was hoping they would be okay and that they were doing fine,” Reddam said. “Once I heard that they were determined to still get the food, we decided to push the performance back by 20 minutes.”
The plan worked, and Zhou and Lim arrived with the food just as the performances ended. While the attendees clamored for the free food, they didn’t know of the events that happened.
Andres Morfin, a COISO alumnus, returns to campus for the annual I-Week whenever he can and praised the food as a highlight of the evening.
“The chicken was tasty and there was different variety with great flavors,” Morfin said. “I-Week is always the best place to try out different food and it teaches others about different cultures, especially what they eat.”