April 21, 2006


So my Spanish class had its Colombian Night Wednesday. It was . . . interesting. Made me rethink some things. Here are some of my "rethink" moments:

  • While the event was still being set up, a film about Colombia played, narrated in Spanish. I was trying to follow along as best I could when one student's mother sitting near me stage-whispered to her daughter, "I feel so bad for that country. Those poor people." My professor, proudly wearing a Colombian soccer team shirt, was busy assembling decorations on the other side of the room and did not hear her.

  • The first presentation of the evening was done by one of the students using PowerPoint. Here is what I learned about Colombia, going strictly off his slides: Colombia achieved independence from Spain in 1810. Then, they started selling the rest of the world drugs. Then, Pablo Escobar rose to prominence as a drug lord. Then Escobar was killed. This was presented as an overview of Colombian history en total.

  • My professor was helped in setting up this event by another Spanish professor, a very charming and frankly pretty sexy gentleman who is a native of New Mexico, of Mexican-American descent. He leaned down and said to me, "You know, somehow I think there might be more to that country than las drogas." I smiled and told him I thought he might be right. My own professor wore a blank expression that could not really be described. Wait, yes it could: "Poker face." With a dash, only a dash, of disappointment.

  • One student's food offering for the night: A bag of Tostitos and salsa.

  • Another student's food offering: Fettucine Alfredo.

  • I made sobrebarrigas, in case you were wondering; I started with the recipe on this page (scroll down) and then tricked it up just a little bit, based on other variants I found online. I'm going to make it again, because it was fantástico and the ingredients are muy baratos, and we need more food like that in this house.

  • The student's mother who "felt so bad" for Colombia struck again, this time at the other professor, the frankly sexy gentleman from New Mexico. "So she's from Colombia," chirped Señora Pie en Boca, "but where are you from?" "From here," he replied, smiling. "I know, but where are you from?" The smile faded. "From here," more grimly. "Yes, but--" "MEXICO," the other professor said shortly. "Oh!" beamed la señora, but the other professor had already turned away from her.

    This was a simple "cultural activity" for a simple class of about 25 college students. It had been planned for nearly a month. It took place within 100 miles of the Mexican-American border. The participants were largely natives of this area. They grew up here, including the student's mother with a fondness for the sweet sweet taste of her own foot (of course I asked her; did you really think I wouldn't?).

    Never tell me what a dread specter of oppression "multiculturalism" is in this country again, or I will smack you in the face with a bag of authentic Colombian Tostitos.

    UPDATE: The boyfriend reminded me of one I'd forgot. I can't believe I forgot this; with any luck you'll understand why I can't believe I forgot it in a moment:

    A student we'll call "Tim," originally from Lauren's home state, stood up to give his presentation. This is his presentation in its entirety, verbatim:

    "I can't really cook anything, so I drew this picture. It's an Indian, and he's sportin' some coffee."

    So. Maybe I forgot that one because subconsciously, I kind of wanted to forget it?

    Posted by Ilyka at April 21, 2006 12:56 PM in i don't know you tell me
  • Comments

    One student's food offering for the night: A bag of Tostitos and salsa.

    And it was just a jar of Pace from the grocery store, right? Only it had been opened already. There were bits of dried gunk around the edges of the jar's mouth, yes? And most of the peppers were gone. And it was "mild", right? Oh, and the chips were stale.

    Please, Ilyka, just say yes. Please?

    Posted by: JD at April 21, 2006 02:23 PM
    And it was just a jar of Pace from the grocery store, right?

    Ooh, so close. It was a jar OF TOSTITOS BRAND SALSA from the grocery store!

    Which really sucks when you consider one can actually buy very, very good salsa in the grocery stores here. I mean, you would have to TRY to buy Tostitos.

    And to the rest of it I am just going to say "Yes!" because you asked so nicely.

    Posted by: ilyka at April 21, 2006 02:30 PM

    I really do not believe how much this cheered me up, that there are adult (presumably functional) people around who own so spectacular a degree of cluelessness that it makes me look so-fist-it-cated.

    Posted by: Craig R. at April 21, 2006 05:00 PM

    Um, being culturally informed (which many in your class were NOT) and being for "multiculturalism" (ie all cultures are equal who are we to judge?) are different.

    Very different.

    My husband and I honeymooned in France, July 2001. We were in some little shops in Nice, us with broken French and the clerks with fractured English having a great time. One of the clerks asked us where we were from... I said "California"

    Huge smiles came across the two clerks' faces


    Cultural ignorance isn't just for Americans.

    Posted by: Darleen at April 21, 2006 06:06 PM

    uh oh...sorry 'bout the double post, Ilyka! I got a "mu is stopping comments due to spam, try again in a couple of minutes" page.

    So I did.


    Please delete as necessary.

    Posted by: Darleen at April 21, 2006 06:17 PM

    Oy. Or, rather, OY!

    When I was in high school, circa 1985, I took a comparative governments class. We did presentations on each country (the countries were determined by where various people had been; I had not been anywhere, so I teamed up with a girl whose father lived in Brazil, we suspect for the lack of extradition treaty), and food was part of that. Now, mind, this was 1985 in Connecticut, and I was 16 or so and had probably never had a decent chile in my life (well, until the girl who was from India brought in some stuff her mother made), but I managed to do some very basic, non-Internet research and find a recipe for black beans and rice.

    So, um, what's the excuse in the Internet age?

    Posted by: zuzu at April 21, 2006 07:12 PM
    So, um, what's the excuse in the Internet age?

    That was the part that plumb blew my mind. You and I are almost 'zackly the same age (I turn 37 this June), so I know you remember as well as I do the days of hunting this stuff up in the encyclopedias at the library. I can remember when that PowerPoint presentation would've been done on a series of posterboards, too.

    Whereas some of these kids apparently couldn't use freakin' GOOGLE.

    The worst part?--My professor set up a links page of nothing but links to sites with tons of information about Colombia. To my way of thinking, that means she did half the research FOR us. And still, we get a drawing on construction paper of "an Indian, and he's sportin' some coffee."

    Posted by: ilyka at April 21, 2006 07:56 PM

    "I can't really cook anything, so I drew this picture. It's an Indian, and he's sportin' some coffee."


    But that is the guy we all want to party with, right?

    Posted by: JD at April 21, 2006 08:03 PM

    OK, this post just reminded me of something that I must share, so that I'm not the only one thinking about it:

    When I was in high school, a classmate of mine - spoiled rich kid who thought the world revolved around her, and who could blame her, because that's what she'd been told all her life - was talking about a trip she'd taken that summer overseas.

    "It was SO WEIRD," she said, completely serious. "Like, everyone there had accents except for us!"

    Posted by: Moebius Stripper at April 21, 2006 08:43 PM

    I have nothing of import to post here (so I prolly shouldn't, hey) but I just wanted to publicly say that I think you're wonderful.

    That is all.

    Posted by: Margi at April 23, 2006 10:51 PM

    I'm with Darleen: I've taught kids educated in "multicultural" curricula, and they did not come off much better than this: the ed school version of multiculturalism tends to be broad and so shallow as to be a couple of atoms deep.

    On the other hand, this level of ignorance and laziness (one of which begat the other in a vicious circle of stupidity that will keep most of these kids in entry-level jobs for the rest of their lives) is what made me such a pretentious twat when I was younger, when the subject ranged to speaking foreign languages and living in foreign lands.

    Yes, I was lucky, in that I wasn't rich and opportunities and scholarships just fell my way to travel to the USSR in the Perestroika years, but dammit I worked hard for my As in Russian that landed me those scholarships. How much you wanna bet that the kids with the crappiest offerings (alfredo WTF, over?) are also doing the worst in the actual language study part of the class?

    Ilyka- take heart, you may graduate in the same year as some of these twits, but, once unleashed on the workforce with your degree, you will rapidly rise through the ranks while they are still trying to figure out why they should do a little homework before Powerpointing. The downside is that you will be managing twits like them. Start practicing your lines now: “fat, drunk, and skilled at nothing except Microsoft Office is no way to go through life, son.”

    Posted by: John at April 24, 2006 10:35 AM

    Yikes! Now I feel lucky. A few years ago I took a spanish class at the local community college. The professor was Cuban and very enthusiastic. That enthusiasm was contagious I guess and the "kids" in the class went all out for our dinner. Their presentations were just as fantastic as their food. Not a Tostito in sight.

    Thanks for the recipe for sobrebarrigas. I can't wait to try it.

    Posted by: Janette at April 24, 2006 01:31 PM

    Sportin' some coffee? Like hittin' it out of the park? Or kickin' it past the goalie?

    As for las drogas, I'm old enough to remember when Ecuador was better known for pot. Then Columbia suddenly got the reputation, around '71, and the Ecuadorian growers started shipping into Colombia to connect with the buyers.

    Posted by: triticale at April 24, 2006 07:47 PM

    Ilyka- take heart, you may graduate in the same year as some of these twits, but, once unleashed on the workforce with your degree, you will rapidly rise through the ranks while they are still trying to figure out why they should do a little homework before Powerpointing.

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha! And you've been in the workforce how long? Though I wish it were true because I'd be vice-president of the World Bank by now.

    Posted by: Roxanne at April 25, 2006 01:41 PM

    Yay, stupid spammers.

    Anyway. I think Tim was dead on in his response. He's taking a farkin' Spanish language class, and it's stupid to have to cook things for it. Or, for that matter, do presentations on Colombian culture.

    Because it's a language class, not one on the history, culture, or food of any specific or unspecific country where said language happens to be spoken.

    (Why not Spain? It's Spanish, after all...)

    (And, yes, I hated the "cultural" stuff when I took German, too.)

    Posted by: Sigivald at April 25, 2006 02:01 PM

    Roxanne - 10 years. My firm is unf*rgiving of BS in the lower ranks (all the VP levels are full of it, in any industry). If that is not true at your firm, it's time to jump ship.

    Sigvald - cooking might not be that great of a test of cultural flexibility, but there is no way to learn a language well without absorbing some of the culture and history. My first Russian books had some dialogs and stories that sounded pretty weird to me, but they were pretty good lessons in Soviet culture. I learned the word "shock worker" ("shock", as in military strike). Then we learned the history of the word, from the Stakhanov story. We all said: "the Commies really don't talk like that, do they"? Well, yes they did. One of my treasured possessions is a pin declaring that I was a shock worker of the All-Union Student Construction Brigades of 1989. How the heck do you learn what those words mean without learning some history, too?

    Posted by: John at April 25, 2006 06:17 PM

    Great. Now I'm all embarassed of Indiana again.


    Posted by: Lauren at April 26, 2006 03:14 PM

    If it helps any, Lauren, I don't think he's actually a Klansman, so there's that at least.

    Posted by: ilyka at April 26, 2006 03:37 PM