On Being Late

In Costa Rica, when someone says, “I’ll be there in five minutes,” five minutes can be anything from 10 to 15 (to even an hour), depending on the context. When I was living back home, I knew that in most situations, being five minutes late somewhere was not a big deal. Dance classes would start roughly at 5:05 p.m., not 5’o clock; coffee with a friend around 4:30 p.m., not the planned 4:00 p.m.; your mom saying you are leaving at 9:00 a.m., but you know it’s really 9:15.

When I moved to the States for college, I was surprised at how much importance is given to every minute in this country. I now understand why the expression “time is money”exists. Being late is considered rude and selfish by social norm. Lateness in the United States means being a couple of minutes behind scheduled time. Lateness in Costa Rica (and I could argue Latin America) means being over a half hour late or more. There is a different perception of time and a different rhythm of life in the countries. In Spain, people have dinner at 10 or 11 p.m. and in the United States it is normally around 6 or 7 p.m.

Time is a societal, cultural construct. But, even so it has consequences in our lives. When I started college, I experienced complete culture shock. I was moving at my own time and my own inner clock was still working according to the norms I learned back home. I never saw a problem in entering a class five minutes late, until I realized I was being offensive to my professor and fellow students without meaning to. I have realized the importance of time in interpersonal relationships, and I am working at being punctual. I have to push myself (because it’s a challenge) to be on time, and ‘on time’ by North-American standards. But, those couple of minutes that make the difference always seem to be rushing past me: encapsulated in small situations that only make me realize how ironic (and comedic) life can be.

1. Mornings—they are just crowded with possibilities for lateness, even more when you aren’t a morning person. Every morning is full of wonders:

The snooze button on your phone is a big ally to tardiness, and you know it, but you still want five more minutes in bed (because they tend to be very long five minutes.)

An even better trick is when you set up the alarm, but mistake the AM for the PM settings. Do not fear, your alarm will go off 12 hours after you actually needed it.

Once, and if, you make it out of bed you will already be haunted by the ghost of tardiness. Proceed to get showered and dressed. But, you have to change shirts five different times because it’s that kind of day and nothing feels okay on you. Or, it could be a bad hair day. Regardless, either one will require attention and the extra minutes that are your enemies.

Just when you lock the door behind you, you will realize you left the keys, phone or wallet behind. Sometimes even the full backpack. Now, go find them and run!

2. The Trek—once you are late, getting to wherever you are going will be a trek. And, your anxiety about being on time but knowing that time has been lost will make it even harder. But, it’s okay because you can always find something to blame it on: 

The T, because you know the green line sucks. And public transportation is a disaster and out of your hands.

The traffic, because your teacher or boss can’t really know for a fact whether that accident or construction was actually happening.

The weather, especially during the winter. It’s always the snow’s fault. Always!

3. Arriving—that is the moment between the trek and the moment where you actually arrive. When you sit down in class or meet with a friend or check in at work. Those final little seconds are always key.

But, Murphy’s Law is always playing with you. The elevators will always be too crowded. This is especially the case in a school like Emerson, where the ratio of people to elevators is messed up. When you open the door to a building, and you have two minutes left to be almost on time, but there is a line for the elevator, you are doomed. 

Or you will run into someone that talks a lo, and you really don’t want to be rude and you have to go, but they insist for a quick little chat.

Or it will take forever to find a good parking space.

Or you will need to run to the bathroom because you can’t hold it and there is no other option.

These are some of the ironies in my daily life that sometimes hold me back from being on time. I like to look at them in retrospective and laugh, although I now understand cultural norms of time. I am trying to improve my punctuality, but no one is perfect and it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself.

Although I mock being late, I only do it because I appreciate seeing the differences in social contexts in relation with time. While being late is rude—and I have come to understand that—I also think that time should not be taken so seriously. Always judging according to the right context and, most importantly, knowing that taking life with some humor will make you a happier person.


How to Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, the holiday season can be uncomfortable in terms of food. You sit around the table with your family as they all stare at your plate trying to figure out what you will eat.

This time around, you can have the opportunity of showing your family and friends how delicious plant-based food can be.

These are some of the plates that I plan on cooking for my Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Roasted Squash with Red Onion, Oregano and Mint

Tgiving issue: roasted squash, brussel sprout slaw

Easy and so delicious, this warm appetizer will be loved by everyone at the table. It’s as easy as baking the squash and spicing it up. Enjoy.

Recipe can be found here.

Zucchini and Caramelized Onion Quiche


Delicious and filling. Works well as a side dish or even a main dish. This is the kind of dish where you can choose the vegetables you love the most. In my case, zucchini is the chosen one. I suggest squash, tomato or mushrooms. This is a yummy, easy and quick addition to the table.

Recipe can be found here.

Squash and Celeriac Quinoa Stuffing


Give your classic Thanksgiving stuffing a twist.

Replace the bread with quinoa, and treat yourself to a healthy stuffing. This is a great vegan approach to the stuffing, where you replace classic ingredients like chicken broth and eggs for butternut squash and celery root. This is healthy, full of protein and the quinoa will give great texture to the dish.

Recipe can be found here.

Whipped Coco Cream Tart with Fresh Berries (Vegan)


Delight yourself and your guests with this quick, easy tart. The berries are your choosing. This tart will look so gorgeous, you will be surprised!

Recipe can be found here.

Chocolate Pecan Pie (Vegan)


Some delicious vegan chocolate pie to end the meal. This pie won’t take you longer than half an hour to make, and you will thank yourself you did.

Recipe can be found here.

Additional tips can be found on Food&Wine’s website.


Statelessness: Home is Nowhere

Every ten minutes, a stateless child is born. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report that claims there at least 10 million stateless people, 3 million being children. (Watch: Why don’t these 10 million people belong?)

Being stateless means not having a nationality. In simple terms, there are two ways to acquire a nationality: when a country gives nationality through birth on their territory, and when parents are able to transmit nationality to their children. Someone can either be born or become stateless throughout their life.  

Due largely to discriminatory citizenship laws and violent conflict, millions of families are displaced across the globe. Stateless people are denied basic rights that people with nationality take for granted. For one, you are unable to get an ID. In the eyes of the law and state, if you lack identification papers then you are a non-human. Being stateless means you will not have basic human rights such as medical care and education. You cannot get formal employment or even marry. Many stateless people face societal discrimination, exploitation and poverty.

Each country has laws to determine who can become a citizen. Some legal loopholes can leave a person stateless. For example, children in a country with unknown parents are called “foundlings.” By lacking paperwork from their parents or a birth certificate, it is almost impossible for them to get a nationality. Another reason statelessness occurs is when people move (mostly due to violent conflict), children tend to lose their nationality. This can also occur due to changes in borders and creation of new states. In the 1990s, the main cause of statelessness was the dissolution of the USSR.  In some countries, a person can also lose their nationality if they have lived too long outside of the territory.

When Vikash, a stateless 23-year-old in Malaysia was interviewed by the UNHCR, she said, “My entire life is a question mark.” Being stateless means having no sense of belonging, no land to call home and no protection from a nation.

One of the biggest reasons for statelessness are discriminatory laws that deny citizenship based on race, religion or gender. Hence, it is a man-made conflict. The UNHCR report is part of campaign called Ending Statelessness Within 10 Years. The campaign seeks to “harness a unique window of opportunity to to garner public, national and international support to finally eradicate the scourge of statelessness within a decade.”

In 27 countries, including Syria, women are not able to pass down citizenship to their children. It can only be passed down by the father, and if the father is gone or dead it means the child will remain stateless. This is specifically a big problem in Syria with the refugee crisis. More than 140,000 children are born stateless in countries neighboring Syria. Yet, families fleeing Syria don’t usually take documentation with them to proof birth and marriage certificates.

There are other cases such as the denial of citizenship in the Dominican Republic to people of Haitian descent. This year, a ‘cleansing’ occurred in Dominican where thousands of Haitians and Dominican citizens of Haitian descent were relocated to Haiti due to a citizenship law approved in 2013. The Dominican government stated that this was simply a way to solve immigration problem. Yet, many of the people sent back to Haiti had been born in the Dominican Republic and had never even been to Haiti.  (Check out the article I wrote about it).

Who is stateless and where?

  • The exact number of stateless people is unknown.
  • 600,000 people are stateless as a consequence of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Only in Montenegro (formerly part of Yugoslav federation) has 3,300 registered stateless people.
  • One million in Myanmar’s Rakhine state are stateless because of citizenship law.
  • There are 700,000 stateless people in Cote d’Ivoire, and 300,000 are ‘foundlings’.

Statelessness is a humanitarian crisis that can be solved. Because these people don’t have a voice, many citizens of the world ignore the problem. Now it’s a good time to spread awareness and to protest against the injustices that these people are suffering through.

Watch the campaign video: #IBELONG

Sign the open letter to end statelessness: http://www.unhcr.org/ibelong/

Read more:



Fun Fact: Did you know that Albert Einstein was stateless for five years? He renounced his German citizenship in 1896, and afterwards became a Swiss citizen in 1901.

Opinion, Style

Taking It Off

For some people, arriving at home after a long day means taking off their shoes or their pants. For me, it means taking off my bra.

A couple of years ago, I could have never imagined even writing about this. In between dance and school, my closet consisted of sports bras for dance and wire bras for school. No questions asked, because in my mind wearing bras was just the way things are supposed to be. I can’t specifically remember where this idea came from, whether it came from the media or my family. As a kid I just simply understood that at a certain moment in my life I would develop breasts and as a result I would need to start wearing a bra.

Women have been wearing bras in the Western hemisphere since the Romans were around. Women would tie bands around their breasts while they would exercise. And, since then bras have been modified to fit the standards of beauty of society at the time. For over 300 years, women had to wear corsets to make their curves more defined, like an hourglass. In the last century, bras have taken another step with technology. With the invention of spandex, sports bras were invented. (Learn more: Infographic). The point is that bras have always been imposed on women. The only real purpose of the bra is to be an object of modesty, to cover something that should not be seen. (Check out this video on the evolution of the bra in the Western world.)

In college, my horizons widened. I was no longer in patriarchal Latin America, but at Emerson College, a ‘liberal’ school. And in that sense, Emerson has changed me. It has taught me about social issues I had not experienced back home, such as systematized racism, or the fight for rights for the LGBTQ+. My time in college has also taught me a lot about myself, it has been my time where I get to decide what I like and don’t like. Also, being in a  school with such individualized ideals, and unique individuals, has reminded me that I am my own person. Being my own person includes the comforts of my breasts.

The movement and film Free The Nipple have played an influence in the way I understand how woman are censored. The statement of Free the Nipple states “we stand against female oppression and censorship, both in the United States and around the globe”. Today, in the USA it is effectively ILLEGAL for a woman to be topless, breastfeeding included, in 35 states. In less tolerant places like Louisiana, an exposed nipple can take a woman to jail for up to three years and cost $2,500 in fines. Even in New York City, which legalized public toplessness in 1992, the NYPD continues to arrest women. We’re working to change these inequalities through film, social media, and a grassroots campaign.”

I believe in micro-revolutions. The idea that change comes from within, that a rebellious action can sometimes go far. That’s why I decided to ditch the bras: the push ups, the wires, the too tight sports bra. I decided I was just going to stop wearing bras that did not fit comfortably on me, even though Victoria’s Secret kept hinting at me. All the bras I had that made me feel constricted were shoved to the back end of the drawers. I bought bra-lettes. The fancy version of training bras. The first time I tried one on, it was like wearing a very comfy oversized sweater.

When as a woman, you realize that you have a responsibility of questioning the “way things are supposed to be”, you become empowered. You begin to see possibilities when there were rules before. Finding alternative options to the bra (or none at all!), has proven to be a successful rebel act for me. It’s not just about the bra, it’s about having options. It’s about owning my body. It’s about making the choices that are best for me, and that should not be mandated by society or the media.

Living in the digital age is hard. Information is overwhelming. Too many ideals of who we need to be. By taking off the bra, I have also taken off the pressure of living up to many unrealistic standards imposed on women. Now, I’m a rebel. And I love it. You should try it too. Take it off, and love your body.

Art, Opinion

Movie Review: The Martian

What would you do if you got stuck on Mars?

The movie The Martian is based on the book by Andy Weir. The time is somewhere in the near present and space travel is common. This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is left behind and presumed dead after a manned mission is forced to evacuate Mars due to a storm. Watney is hit by an object and lost. He wakes up after the storm has passed, alone on the planet and must find a way to survive and contact NASA.

I must admit I have not yet read the book, but have heard great things about it. Hence, I cannot give an honest response in terms of comparison between the two forms. What I will say though is that this movie is a must watch. It strays away from other space movies because it has such an original story. This is a man not only lost in space and far from home, but one that is attempting to find life on a new planet.

The movie uses humor and wit to develop quirky characters that are hard to not fall in love with. Matt Damon’s acting is sincere and with just enough comedy. He plays a man that is easy to sympathize with, who is funny and smart enough to want to follow along for the full length of the movie (and its a long one.) I also need to add that he looks incredibly fit and sadly too good looking to be a man left alone in space.

Kristen Wiig makes an appearance, and she is just as great as you would want her to be.

Space films are always amazing, and always a good experience to watch in the movie theater. They put into perspective our existence. The Earth seems terribly small when seen through the lens of an astronaut in Mars. A single human being in a dead planet makes us wonder the worth of a single life. How many things that we often take for granted, and we see Mark lose them all in a second. Everything from plants growing to water that flows to the importance of human company.

While the movie is long in duration, it keeps you up on your feet throughout all of it. The film is total catharsis, it encompasses a whole range of emotions while remaining funny and lighthearted. I felt a lot of tension throughout the whole movie; it was really nerve wracking to have to accompany this man in his journey alone on a planet and to know how far away he is from everything else. It is impossible not to be on Watney’s side and want him to survive, and that is what makes it the most tense, knowing that there is only two possible outcomes for the story.

I also enjoyed the fact that the movie takes you from Mars back to Earth, and we get to see the two sides of the story. Once NASA finds out that Watney is alive, they try to contact and save him. Yet, along with that comes all the politics of PR and the emotions attached to everyone who is on Earth watching this man thrive in a different planet. There is so much tension in both planets, so much real human emotion all surrounding one life. This also makes it from recent space movie blockbusters like Gravity, because The Martian keeps you between two planets. You are not away somewhere in space, this movie gives you two solid grounds in which to feel and explore.

The cinematography is vibrant, more so than the typical Earth shots seen in other space movies, this one gives you Mars. As a result, you get all the cool space shots that can be compared to those in Gravity and also get shots of the vast, red landscape of Mars.

A ticket to The Martian buys you a great story and the ability to discover a new planet. So allow yourself to leave planet Earth for a couple of hours and explore Mars with Matt Damon. You won’t be disappointed. 


Home Remedies for the Change of Seasons

The change of seasons and the cooling weather can make you sick. Getting a cold in college is never fun. Medicine at the pharmacy is expensive. The cold breeze seems to want to keep you sick.

I want to share with you some of my natural remedies to get over a cold.

  1. Sleep

Sounds obvious, right? Well many a times we are so caught up in our lives that we don’t want to take a break. When you are starting to feel your energy levels are down, allow your body some rest. Take a break that night, go to bed early and use the excuse to catch up on some Netflix.

  1. Honey and Lime

This is your best bet if you have a cough, and can also help you to get over a cold. Lime is a natural expectorant, which helps loosen the mucus in your lungs and sinuses. Honey is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and will soothe a sore throat. You can also add ginger to the mix.

Just go ahead and mix the lime juice with the honey in a small bowl. You can take it with a spoonful. Do this at least twice per day.

Tip: try to get local honey. The darker the honey the more nutrients it has.

Read more here.

  1. Tea

When you’re sick, it’s important to drink liquids to help your body cleanse itself. Hot tea is a great option. It will soothe your throat and detox your system. My personal favorite is green tea, because it is so rich in antioxidants. I like to mix it with mint or ginger tea. Mint tea aids digestion, and ginger soothes the throat.

Try to drink as many cups of tea as you can. Add honey if possible.

Tea is a magical thing. Learn more about tea here. 

  1. Nasal Wash

It sounds gross. I know. I was terrified of nasal washes, but I had a terrible sinusitis a couple of months ago and the nasal wash was what cured me.

My favorite brand is Alkalol. It is made up of only natural ingredients and is not harsh in taste.

If your sinuses are clogged, don’t stuff yourself with medicines that will only block the mucus from being released. A nasal wash will cleanse your nasal passages and sinuses and will get rid of all the stuffiness. This will help you heal from the inside out, and will prevent you from having leftover mucus after you get over the cold.

  1. Yoga

You probably won’t want to go to yoga in the peak of a cold, and you shouldn’t. Even if you have never done yoga and are not interested in it, there are some yoga positions that can help you heal and release.

Yoga is much more than an exercise, it is an ancient practice aimed at helping us heal and relax the nervous system. I believe that yoga is an integral part of healing from any illness, and this is why I include it as such a large part of this article.

Do not be intimidated by the Lulu Lemon’s and the crazy Yoga Instagrams. Yoga can be extremely simple, and you can do it at home.

The following positions will help you relax and restore.

Try to stay in the positions for at least 30 seconds to one minute, repeating them 2 or 3 times. Your body is your best teacher, so hear what it has to say. Don’t overwork yourself. Most importantly, relax and breathe.

Bridge Pose

This position will open your chest in a subtle way and will allow blood to get to your head.

Supported Bridge Pose

If you like bridge pose, but simply want to relax in it, then this is the position you will want to take. Using a bolsters blankets (4) or blocks, slide them under your lower back.. Measure a height that works out for you. If you don’t have these props, pillows and towels also work.

Camel Pose

Camel pose will open up your back and chest. It will also clear your passageways.

This pose can be intense on your low back. Take it easy. Bend back slowly, with your hands on your lower back. If you feel like you can do more, then place your hands on your ankles. Come out of it slowly.

Plow Pose

This pose is considered to be the best to clear your sinuses. It will open your passages and bring blood to your head.

This is a position that can be hard if you are not flexible or have not stretched in a while. Take it easy and go for it slowly, don’t just swing yourself back. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees and place them close to your ears. Stay in the position for at least 30 seconds, breathing deeply.

Standing Forward Bend

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly bend forward, trying to place your hands on the floor. If your hands don’t reach easily, bend your knees. This pose will bring energy to your head and respiratory area and help clear the sinuses.

Legs Up The Wall

Relaxes the groin and opens the chest area.

Lay on the floor and simply put your legs up on the wall. Relax and hold for a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes.

Now, remember to take it easy and don’t push your body. When you are sick, the body is asking for rest. Listen to it and feel better!

Globe, Opinion

“The Perfect Dictatorship:” Finding Truth in the Media

On September 26, 2014, 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, México. A year later, there is still no definite answer as to what happened to these students. An investigation and report was released recently, which stated that the students were murdered by the violent group Guerreros Unidos. Yet, the parents of the missing students refuse to believe it. What is true to them is that their sons are missing and that justice won’t be served.

Tragic news stories like the one described above have always found a way to inspire filmmakers. Picture this: A governor accepts money from a narco. The event is caught on tape and sent to the local television channel. The story blows up. The governor approaches the tv channel. They accept a sum of money in order to remake the governor’s image. This is the plot of the Mexican movie, The Perfect Dictatorship.

The film is a satire with the objective of criticizing the corruption of the Mexican government and media. The story moves on from there, to demonstrate several different cases of how information is handled and framed by the media. In this case, the media is trying to make the people forget about the corruption of the governor and even propose him as a candidate for presidency.

The point of the story is to demonstrate how much influence the media can have on the political affairs of a country. The director and writer, Luis Estrada, claims that he drew on current events for the plot of the movie. There was no need to look far, when the real drama had been happening all along.

The movie puts the workings of a government into perspective. It’s no secret that the Mexican government is corrupt. But, what the movie is trying to highlight is the power of money and how money can corrupt even those who are supposed to stand by the people. The Perfect Dictatorship shows how the media is no longer a source of truth and empowerment for the people, but simply a tool used by those in power. This is a huge deal in a country like Mexico, where there is a growing gap between rich and poor. The poor have limited educational resources and will believe what they see in TV. Hence, the narratives of the media become truth to the people and power machines for the rich.

One of my favorite things I learned from the movie is the Chinese Box (La Caja China) tactic. The idea is that when there is a main story that is getting attention, but you don’t want it to (in the case of the movie, the corruption of the governor) you find another story that will distract attention and will be put into the headlines instead. Ha! Sounds like something that seems to happen in the news a lot and everywhere.

The case of the 43 students has been one of the most heard and talked about worldwide. Sadly, this type of violence occurs everyday in Mexico. We don’t hear much about it. Well, at least not through the media.  

Although the Perfect Dictatorship seems to be showing an exaggerated account of how things occur, it does not seem to be too far from the truth. What happened to the 43 students? There is still not a truthful answer and only the heart-broken mothers and fathers of the students are still looking for justice. The public has forgotten and has instead been fed stories that the media has decided are more relevant.

I hope the families of the students find peace soon. I hope justice is served. Looking at a case like this, it seems as though all hope is lost. But then, I think about the film. I am reminded that there are ways to push truth forward through art. If the media won’t stand by the truth, then something else must. So, as witnesses to violence we must not stay silent. We must create, we must ask questions, we must write, and sing, and paint and yell until our voices are heard. Because a perfect dictatorship can only happen if we allow it. 


A Day Trip to Salem

My boyfriend’s parents are visiting Boston and were kind enough to take my boyfriend and I on a day trip to Salem. I have lived in Boston for three years and have never been to Salem. It’s absolutely outrageous. Luckily, last Monday I was able to visit for the day and was finally able to attach history and geography.

Salem is a beautiful city, it is right by the water and much like Boston, still maintains the historical charm while accommodating to the needs of modern life. A $15 roundtrip ride will get you to Salem in 31 minutes. Perfect for a day trip!

When we arrived to Salem, like good tourists we followed the signs to the Peabody Essex Museum. What we did not know is that the museum is closed on Mondays (a good thing to know if you are traveling specifically to the museum.) We weren’t too disappointed, however, since there is plenty to see and do in the city.

Bird Nests
Bird Nests

We decided to walk to the House of Seven Gables which is a 15 minute walk from the museum. On our walk we spotted many cool stores. Unsurprisingly, most of the stores sell souvenirs, as well as anything witch-related you can imagine. My personal highlight was the Harry Potter wand store, called Wynott’s Wands. We also got to see the Naval Maritime Museum, as well as the U.S. Custom House which is a very pretty historical landmark.

When we finally arrived to the House of Seven Gables, we took a tour. First, we went into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth house. It was moved from its original spot, but was still intact. It was a lovely way to see how people in the 17th century lived, the things they used and what was considered fancy at the time. I am not a personal fan of Hawthorne, but it was still extremely interesting to see the places where he use to write and keep his manuscripts.

Then, we took a tour around the House of Seven Gables. This is the original house from where Hawthrone drew inspiration for his novel. The house has a beautiful view of the water and is still incredibly intact. The rooms inside the house are decorated lavishly, showing the wealth of the family. Apparently, Hawthorne’s cousin lived in that house and was the one who told him to write about it. During the tour I also learned that Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather (John Hathorne) was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. He was the judge who carried the trials on and never repented of accusing people to be witches. To eliminate the bad reputation the named carried, Hawthorne added the ‘w’ to his last name. The tour of the houses was very inspiring. They were both beautiful and entering them was like traveling through time.

House of the Seven Gables
House of the Seven Gables

Once we had seen both houses, we went for a bite to eat. We decided to try Boston Hot Dogs. It was definitely a good choice, they had all sorts of crazy hot dogs and many options to choose from. They also had vegetarian and vegan options, a huge plus for me.

After the good food, we went on our night tour. We took a Historical Salem Night Tour. The guide was himself a practicing witch and had grown up in Salem. He took us around to the Memorial and to some of the other landmarks where the witch trials had occurred. The guide was very good in debunking myths about the trials and gave an informed overview of what had occurred historically. We did not see any ghosts or witches during the tour, but we did happen to walk around the second oldest cemetery in the nation. Having our good feed of Salem history, we were happy to get on the train back to Boston.

Memorial for people accused of witchery
Memorial for people accused of witchery

The trip was very successful. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about American history, while also engaging on a fun look at witchery stores. It is also great to go during summer, since the weather is nice and it is not nearly as crowded as it is during October.

View from House of Seven Gables

What’s Up With the Mother Grain? Your Quinoa Questions Answered

Quinoa is a delicious edible seed that is eaten and cooked as a grain, nicknamed the “Mother Grain.” It is extremely nutritious and high in protein and amino acids, the reason why people consider it a “super food.” I have to admit that I am huge fan. As a vegetarian, its a great source of protein. It is also extremely versatile and can be used in many different types of plates.

Quinoa has been planted since at least 300 B.C. in the Andean region, from Chile to Colombia. Considered a sacred seed by natives, it was used in religious rituals and did not become extremely popular in the West until five to seven years back.

So, what happens when a crop that was exclusively consumed by only Andean farmers becomes a top choice for all western foodies?

The two main countries that produce quinoa are Peru and Bolivia. In Bolivia, the country’s crop expanded almost 40 times in production from 2000 to 2009. In Peru, production grew almost 20 percent more from 2008 to 2009. Peru exported a worth of $30 million in quinoa in that same year.

For ethical eaters, concerns grew in terms of the tripling of the price of the grain, as well as the potential environmental effects of growing the crop at such an accelerated rate. 2013 was named the International Year of Quinoa. A year where quinoa production reached its peak and where most consequences started to become clear.

In a positive sense, it is providing an income to farmers whose only source of retribution comes from quinoa. On the other hand, the demand for quinoa is so great that it is prompting Bolivian farmers to dispose of traditional farming practices, something that can endanger the ecosystem of the Andes region. The problem is that quinoa is a very delicate crop, which only grows in high lands with cold weather.

It is not a feasible solution to begin planting it in other countries. The crops simply do not flourish as similarly as they do in the Andean region and this will only take away from the farmers who have worked the crop for years.

The real environmental problem with quinoa crops is the potential desertification of the growing region. Changing quinoa from a subsistence crop to a mass commodity leads to farmers working the soil year-round, which degrades the land and damages the soil. This could lead to higher incidence of pests and for the need of farmers to begin using pesticides, making quinoa no longer organic (one of its main appeals for some people.)

Another factor are the llamas. Once they roamed free and grazed the lands where quinoa was planted cyclically but now, they are being moved away to farm even more quinoa on untreated soil. Production of quinoa, and the maintenance of the soil was dependent on the llamas which no longer get the chance to do their work.

So, what is one as a consumer to do?

I would say the first thing is to buy it moderately. You do not need to eat quinoa every day. Make it some what of a treat.

Most importantly, I would say learn where your quinoa comes from. Buying fair trade quinoa (even though its more expensive than the one they sell at Trader Joe’s) will reassure you that the farmers are getting paid for their hard work, while you enjoy the nutritious grain.

Now that you are informed of the wonders, and consequences of eating quinoa, these are some suggestions to how you can enjoy the “Mother Grain.”

  1. Toss it into your salad, or just about anything else! Make sure to cook it before hand. Quinoa tastes so good on its own, that it is a great compliment to almost any meal. Replace rice or pasta, and use quinoa instead for a healthier meal.
  2. Make Quinoa Patties. So easy!
  3. Make Quinoa Chocolate Cake. Yes, it’s real, delicious and gluten free!
  4. Quinoa Black Bean Burgers
  5.  You can also find quinoa bread and quinoa pasta in store as gluten free alternatives.


Art, Globe, Opinion

Crossing Borders with Race: A Book Review of Americanah

Nigeria and the United States seem like worlds apart. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel Americanah, these two countries are bound together by the story of Ifemelu. In this novel, Ngozi shines again with her sharp thoughts, deep prose and extremely important observations of the world we live in. This is an honest reading, where the writer says more than you expect. Ngozi gives you the pleasant surprise of learning something new, of seeing the world from a different perspective with every page that goes by.

The story begins when Ifemelu, a Princeton student, is going to get her hair braided. As the scene of her braiding develops, we learn that she is a Nigerian woman who has been living in the United States for 13 years and has just decided to move back to Lagos. From the first chapter, Ngozi succeeds in making deep observations of cultural differences between people. For example, the women who braid her hair are all African like her. Yet, they believe that Ifemelu doesn’t eat “real food” because she is eating a granola bar, a very American thing to do for an African person.

As the novel progresses, the reader gets to learn more about who Ifemelu is and where she comes from. Born and raised in Lagos, she grows up with an image of America as the land of dreams. Her boyfriend dreams of America, and Ifemelu gets the chance to move to America for school.

When Ifemelu moves to America, she “becomes black.” Not once had she felt black in Nigeria, or had thought about what, culturally, the word “black” entails. She recognizes the differences between American Blacks and Non-American Blacks. Hence, Ifemelu experiences the hardships and differences of America and begins to write a blog called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non­American Black.” The blog is absolutely magnificent and presents some of the most provocative ideas about race in the book. Ngozi does not let one thing go and uses the nuances of the language to bring attention to the problem areas in our society. She also manages to do so with strong, uplifting prose that allows a laugh every once in a while.

Ifemelu’s story is intertwined with Obinze’s, her boyfriend in high school and university. He is the one who seems to know everything about America back in Lagos, and life surprises him by sending him away to London to live the life of the immigrant. This novel is not only about race, but it is about the universal experience of not belonging, of being an alien wherever you are. It is a story about crossing borders, physically and culturally. And, like all good stories, it is also a love story.

This novel is worth a read, or maybe a hundred reads. It speaks truths for every minority, and is extremely empowering. You close off the book feeling refreshed by the new perspectives and with a new understanding of the complexities and subtleties of race. This novel speaks of and to the world right now, where racism is excessive. Ngozi highlights the lack of equality in American society and how this issue is deeply rooted in all areas of the country.

By becoming aware through the reading of books like this, a person can understand new perspectives and recognize the need for real equality, an equality that can use differences as a positive asset.

These are some of the most provocative quotes from the book:

“When it comes to dressing well, American culture is so self-fulfilled that it has not only disregarded this courtesy of self-presentation, but has turned that disregard into a virtue. We are too superior/busy/cool/not-uptight to bother about how we look to other people, and so we can wear pajamas to school and underwear to the mall.”

“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”

“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”

And if this book wasn’t great enough, they are making a movie of it now! Exciting news!

(Photo credit: epiphanyinbmore)