Saturday, September 25, 2010

Preguntas Eviticas

So I was thinking the other day that I´ve come into contact with a lot of people doing interesting things, working on interesting projects, and who additionally are in the middle of a migratory process.  I wanted to do something to preserve some of this, some of these temporary and changing times, what many of us are living right now in some way or another, and so I decided to do interviews (as if I don't do enough interviews in my normal job) with some of these people.  The questions I put together are a combination of a variety of sources-- I had in mind many of the typical conversations long-term travelers and immigrants tend to have as well as the well-known Proust Vanity Fair interview, which I´ve always loved.  My mother has been conducting an informal survey for many years and I´ve included her questions here as well, though you´ll have to guess which are hers (though if you know her it shouldn´t be too hard...)

Karol is a friend of mine from Cali, Colombia.  She´s a singer with classical and jazz training who currently sings with one of the state choirs as well as several jazz groups.  She's also a fantastic salsa singer and dancer (and a really good cook). She´s been in Buenos Aires for a couple of years, and next year she's moving to Santa Fe, a smaller city 6 hours from Buenos Aires, with her boyfriend, a native Santa Fean, where she´ll sing in the state choir and work on other projects, which she talks about a bit below.

Where were you born?
Cali, Colombia

Where do you feel most at home?
It´s difficult, because up until very recently I never felt really at home anywhere, but I´ve realized, given my memories from childhood and growing up there, I know that Cali is my home, it´s what made me...the climate, the people, it´s who I am, it´s my home not only because I was born there but because I am, here in Argentina, an extension of Cali.

What do you miss least when you´re not there?
The frivolity of Cali, the typical culture of Cali, all the partying, the drinking...I like dancing and going out and all but I think that an excess of that makes us end up very empty-headed.

What do you try to bring with you when you´re away?
I think there are several things, I say that I don´t want to lose my accent for example...I think that in many circumstances I bring things from my background to situations, like the characteristic of patience or of being able to calm down, or other things that I learned growing up there that are characteristic of us as a community.

What does a perfect day include for you?
A river that has pools to wade in, a clean one of course. (laughs)

When you have people over for dinner, what do you like to cook for them?
I like making things that involve traditional processes...making arepas, for example...I like sharing our traditions with others.

What´s the biggest culture shock you´ve ever experienced?
You know, in Cali people are starting more and more to lead more hectic lives, but I think for me, both in Bogotá and here in Buenos Aires where people don't relate to each other, everyone is so wrapped up in their own thing and in such a rush, it was really strange for get to a time when it seems normal to you to not interact with the person next to Cali this doesn´t happen, if someone is doubled over in the street, people will stop to ask what´s wrong, if they can help...

Chocolate or vanilla?

What do you look for in a partner?
I think it´s something that changes over the years, when I was 18 I just wanted someone I could make out with, but now I look more someone who I can share my life with, who I can live my life with, though I think it´s very important that neither person stops living his/her own life. I don´t mean the feminist concept of "I need my own space, I need air", I don´t believe in that, I mean more the idea of being able to accompany each other in an honest fashion, each one continuing to explore his/her own path.

What qualities do you consider overrated?
Beauty, competitiveness, the idea that if you have a lot of academic titles or if you have read a lot of book you know a lot.

3 desert island foods?
Arepas, beans, mangos

How do you identify yourself?
As a believer in God

What customs have you adopted from another culture that you most like?
Getting together with friends on a more individual Cali everyone sets a meeting point, ad we all go out together, but something I've picked up here is the custom of having a couple of friends over, the idea of being able to have time with your friends in a more intimate context.
In 2000 I took a trip and got to know a lot of people involved in a movement, a lot of indigenous people who have begun to get together to try to preserve their way of doing things, and from them I began thinking a lot about the idea of processing and cooking everything I eat myself, taking a more active role in that process...

What percentage of your time do you spend in self reflection?
I wish it were more but I think around 60%

If your partner had a sex change, would you stay with them?

What was the most traumatic thing about leaving home, and how old were you?
I don't think anything because I really really wanted to leave.  At 17 I left for Bogotá.

Current projects?
A funk band with my own music...the idea is to write things to inspire people to do things other than be lazy, than be complacent.  I would like for my project to generate other types of things.

What would you like to be remembered for?
To have helped someone, be it in their thinking process or in that I could lend a hand to someone when they were going through a difficult time

Any concrete future plans?
To have my own garden and generate solar energy.

Where do you see yourself getting old?
In the country.

Last words?
Look in your heart for God

Karol making arepas

You know when you ask people how they make something that you know they make really well, and they tell you it's really simple and only involves a couple of ingredients...and then you try to make it and it never comes out?  And then you watch them do it and they have a million little tricks which is why their version comes out so much better than your sad attempt did.  These potatoes are like that.  I tried them once when Karol had some leftovers lying around and they were great and when I asked her what she said, she said, oh, you know, potatoes, guiso,'s really basic. When I tried, my version wasn't bad, but it lacked the addictive quality that is the reason I have been hounding Karol for the past year to teach me how to make them.  When we finally got around to it the other day...ha, the amount of tricks this girl has up her sleeve, all of which I tried to annotate as faithfully as possible.  Here we go:

Papas Chorreadas (Literally, "Dripping Potatoes")

1.5 kilos (about 3 lbs.) potatoes (russets or other starchy potatoes)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (we use sunflower oil)
1 med. yellow or white onion
1/4 kilo (about 1/2 lb. or a big bunch) green onions
1/2 kilo (about 1 lb.) roma tomatoes
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
handful cilantro
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Scrub the potatoes well and cut large ones in half.  Remove any potato eyes and green parts but leave the rest of the skin on.  Put the potatoes in a large pot and add in water just to cover.  Cut off the upper half of the dark green off the green onion and throw them in the pot with the potatoes.  Add in 2 Tbsp. salt and 4 sprigs of cilantro.  Turn the heat on and boil the potatoes until just tender when you stick a fork in them.
Finely chop the onion and the green onions. Place a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Throw in the oil and the onions.  Sprinkle them lightly with salt and add in the thyme. Separate the tomates into two equal piles.  Chop one of your piles of tomatoes finely. When the onions are translucent, put in the chopped tomatoes and stir. Using a large-hold grater, grate the other pile of tomatoes into the pan, leaving as much of the skin out as possible. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until the tomatoes are cooked through but the mixture is still very moist. With the heat still on, chop a handful of cilantro finely and stir it into the mixture along with a small squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste for salt-- the mixture should be well seasoned.
When the potatoes are just tender, leaving them in their pot, pour out almost all of the water but leave a good 1/2 in. at the bottom. Remove the green onion tops. Now, add in the tomato-onion mixture and put the pot back over low heat, stirring to mix, though you want to try to avoid the potatoes falling apart, which may happen if you've overcooked them a bit. After a couple of minutes of letting the potatoes get real friendly with the guiso, taste the mixture for salt.  If it tastes a bit flat add some more-- sometimes potatoes need a bit more than you would expect due to all their starch. Eat warm, although they're pretty delicious room temperature too.

El otro día me quede pensando que he tenido la suerte de haberme encontrado con mucha gente haciendo muchas cosas interesantes, y, debido al hecho de que muchos de nosotros aquí estamos viviendo procesos migratorios, estamos en etapas muy fluyentes.  Quería preservar algo de eso, lo que estamos viviendo todos ahora en una manera u otra, entonces decidí realizar entrevistas con algunas de estas personas.  Las preguntas vienen de una combinación de fuentes-- tenía en cuenta tanto las conversaciones típicas que viajeros de mucha experiencia e inmigrantes suelen tener como tambien la encuesta conocida de Vanity Fair (una revista gringa) que es originalmente de Marcel Proust, y siempre me ha encantado. Mi madre ha realizado una encuesta informal desde siempre de un par de preguntas y he incluido aquellas preguntas aquí tambien, tendrás que adivinar cuales son de ella (aunque si la conoces no debería ser tan difícil...)

Karol es una amiga mia de Cali, Colombia.  Es cantante con formación en musica clasica y jazz y actualmente canta con un coro del estado y con varios grupos de jazz. Tambien es cantante y bailarina increible de salsa (y cocina riquísimo). Hace un par de años esta en Buenos Aires, y al fin del año se va para Santa Fe, una ciudad mas chiquita a 6 horas de Buenos Aires, con el novio, un Santafesino, donde cantará en otro coro del estado y trabajará en otros proyectos, de los cuales habla un poco  seguidamente abajo.

Donde naciste?
Cali, Colombia

Donde te sentis realmente en casa? 
Es difícil, porque hasta hace un tiempo, cuando llegue a Argentina senti que en ningun lugar me sentia en casa, pero segun los recuerdos de mi niñez, se que Cali es mi casa, es de lo que estoy hecha...el clima, la gente, esa soy yo; esa es mi casa, no solamente porque naci alli sino porque siento que soy, estando aquí, una parte de cali extendida.

Que cosa te hace menos falta cuando no estas allí?
La frivolidad de Cali, todo ese proceso de Cali, de rumba, de tomar.  Me gusta bailar etc., pero me parece que el exceso de eso hace que nuestros cerebros se vuelven muy huecos.

Que tratas de llevar contigo cuando no estas allí?
Creo que son varias cosas, como te dije lo del arraigo, no me gustaría perder mi acento.  Digamos que en cada circunstancia saco algo, sea calmarme, sacar el aguante, u otras cosas que aprendi alla y que nos identifica como pueblo.

Que incluye un día perfecto para ti? 
Un rio que tenga charcos, limpio por supuesto.

Si viene gente a casa a comer, que te gusta cocinar para ellos? 
Me gusta todo lo que tiene procesos tradicionales...por ejemplo las arepas.

Cual es el choque cultural mas grave que te ha pasado? 
Mira, en Cali se ve que la gente esta empezando a tener una rutina mas agitada....pero creo que tanto aquí en Buenos Aires como en Bogotá la gente no se relaciona con el otro, todo el mundo esta en lo suyo, para mi fue muy raro ver eso...tambien que llega un momento en que te parece normal no relacionarte con el otro...en Cali no te pasa eso, si ves a alguien tirado en la calle la gente para y pregunta: que pasa, estas bien?

Chocolate o vainilla? 

Que buscas en una pareja? 
Creo que esta cambia con los años, cuando tenía 18 años simplemente quería alguien que me diera besitos, pero ahora busco alguien con quien compartir mi vida. Me parece muy importante que ninguno de los dos deje de hacer su proceso individual, no es esta cosa de: "necesito aire", no creo en eso, si no de acompañarse honestamente.

Que cualidades consideras que son sobrevaloradas? 
La belleza, la competencia, el entrenamiento academico, conocimiento de libros.

Si estuvieras en una isla desierta, cuales 3 comidas preferirias? 
Arepas, frijoles, mango

Como te identificas? 
Creyente en Dios

Que costumbres has adoptado de otras culturas que te gustan? 
Lo de juntarse con amigos distintos...en Cali uno se junta, sale con todos los amigos...Aqui se da esa cosa de dar espacios especiales a amigos especificos...tambien lo de cocinar yo misma los alimentos para compartir, es algo que aprendi observando a algunas comunidades indigenas...hice un viaje en el 2000 y conoci originarios que están haciendo jornadas con gente de toda America para preservar nuestras costumbres tradicionales, empece a pensar mucho en el proceso de alimentarse uno y a tomar un rol mas activo en este proceso...

Que porcentaje de tu tiempo pasas en auto-reflexión? 
Quisiera que fuera mas, pero creo que un 60%

En que crees?
En Dios

Si tu pareja se hiciera un cambio de sexo, te quedarias con esa persona? 

Que fue la cosa mas traumatica para ti en salir de tu casa, y cuantos años tenias? 
No creo que haya ninguna cosa porque me quise ir, a los 17 años, a Bogotá.

Proyectos actuales? 
Una banda de funk con música propia. La idea es escribir música que propicie en la gente cosas que no sean la laxitud, la inconciencia. 

Por que te gusta que te recuerden? 
Por que pude ayudar a alguien, sea ayudandole a poder pensar o reflexionar en algo, o que le di una mano en un momento difícil.

Planes concretas para el futuro? 
Sembrar...tener una huerta propia y generar energia solar.             

Donde te imaginas envejeciendo? 
En el campo

Palabras finales? 
Buscar a Dios en el corazon


  1. hi from LDN. I just discovered your blog while researching Brazilian Christmas (randomly) and been immersed for about half an hour. It's great - really well written and interesting.

  2. Thank you! Haha, the internet definitely has a way of sucking you in, doesn´t it? I for one just spent the last 30 minutes reading about chestnut cream...(!?)