A Shrimp Cocktail of Loneliness

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By the Poolside

Poolside with a Shade of Homesickness, Loneliness and Fun

Food for me is home.  “Food”, by which I mean the authentic savour of home-made Honduran tamales, yuca con chicharrón, Gambian benachin rice, fufu with beef stew, and German bratkartoffeln (perhaps German food a bit less).  That and only that is what I call “food”.  Because when I eat it I am reminded of my kitchen in Comayagüela, my clothes, hair and skin drenched with the smell of boiled maize flour and burnt charchoal because the water was ‘gone’ and I had to shower for my friend’s birthday party with the water from la pila, in which little bits and ingredients of tamales had fallen into.  Benachin rice, it carries the taste of dry Saharan dust blown into our house from the monsoon winds.  German food brings unhappy memories which is why I have no real words associated with it but nevertheless I will include it in my repertoire of homes.

My definition of food is therefore a conglomeration of happy, less happy moments and every shade of feeling in between.  It is by no means something associated with gourmet and taste.

So there is one more kitchen that is also my home.  This genus of food has a repertoire of species of dishes which are, to my knowledge, international and thus homeless per se.  Because they have been forcefully planted in a new region regardless of their environment, some haven’t grown any roots.  They almost always have an overall bland, vapid, and distinctively undistinctive taste.  These sad dishes are at home in the Country Club of Tegucigalpa, the Bungalow Beach Hotel in Banjul, just as much at a Belgian seaside restaurant.  The menu available at poolsides is my favourite species, I recall having countless such tasteless dishes while enjoying an empty pool all to myself.  Its repertoire includes the standard Club Sandwhich, with white bread whose degree of bad quality and insipidness depends very much on whether the country it is being created in has white bread at all.  Let us not even begin to dwell on the quality of its ham or bacon.  Papery and salty Fried Potatoes, too dry, too thick, too burnt.  The Cheese Omelette with the overpriced but cheap yellow cheese, accompanied by the ubiquitous Vanilla Milkshake.

And now for my favourite of this unhappiest of lists: the Shrimp Cocktail.  While savouring its blended mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard I had a sudden certainty.  I became aware that its ingredients were all imported.  I was priviledged.  The whole cocktail, in its long tall, thick glass, belonged all to me.  From the first delicious, fat shrimp on top to the last drop I could scrape with the long spoon beneath the lettuce leaf.  I had no duty whatsoever to share it with anyone, and no one to share it with even if I had wanted.  I was lonely.  It was a new dish, nothing at all like my enchiladas, my taquitos and arroz con sopa the frijoles.  I was homesick.  I savoured the coolness of the sauce with the sea taste of the shrimps while the afternoon sun sparkled on the empty pool water.  The loneliness made the pool water smooth like a mirror.  I was not thirsty, not hungry, not cold.  I sucked at the last juicy shrimps, soaked in the now watery sauce.  I tasted the loneliness even more.  It was a bright, quiet afternoon of pleasure and fun, with no wants at all.  I thought this to myself and forgot everything with the next dive, the warm water washed away my thoughts.  They resurfaced again only many years later, in my senior year, in the middle of a party night.  Between drinks, friends, darkness and laughter, I tasted the exquisite saltiness of my shrimps and wondered about its similarity to the salt in our tears.

©Kenna Lee Edler

Colonialist Imagery

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Colonialist imagery Michelin man

Michelin Man, “Arabic Makeover”

 

I took the above picture at the Amazighe Heritage Museum, the Berber museum in the heart of Agadir,  Morocco, in 2008.  It is a simple, easy to understand example of how colonialist (not quite colonial, I consider the terms not always interchangeable) imagery has become a natural, unquestioned, and frequently also unchallenged, feature in the imagery of our past and current everyday life.

The Pervasiveness of Colonialist Imagery

The Michelin logo undergoes an Arabicization.  He is localized for the region targeted by the advertisement by wearing what is considered North African local dress.  A combination of slippers, a white, long keffiyeh, obligatorily held in place either with an agal or fez, seems enough to comfortably place the brands Renault and Michelin in the North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, all simultaneously and without any distinction from one another.  Also, the localization of the advert is irrespective of the actual dresses of the region, e.g. the Moroccan djellaba is markedly different from the dress portrayed by this particular image.  The arabized Michelin man that welcomes the viewer presents a fabrication of Arabian North Africa.

Why do I categorise it as colonialist imagery?  Note that in the eagerness to portray the “(Pan)Arabic” Michelin Man, further details were added to the logo’s accustomed expression and character.  The figure’s eyes are droopy, the corners of his eyes point downwards.  A lighted cigarette hangs from slightly upturned lips.  With these added subleties, a reading from the perspective of colonialist imagery gives him the traits of a smoking, good natured albeit sleepy/slow/lazy Arab.  This image is a colonialist image per se because it carries the message that all of the aforementioned traits are faithful representations of all the peoples of the countries listed in the advert.  It goes beyond being a representation as it conveys the sense that attributing these traits to these peoples is true and therefore rightful.

The Legacy of Colonialist Imagery

The omnipresence of images like these in our visual history have clearly contributed to the way we see certain groups in our present, which is very much alive with stereotypes and categorization of ethnic groups.  It is important to dismantle these projections and not to leave them uncontested in the fabric of our present.  I hope these 399 words have helped to disrobe the Michelin man from his arabicized wardrobe.

©Kenna Lee Edler

¡Misión: salvar mis hondureñismos! Ayúdenme plis, porfis :)

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¡El título lo dice todo!  Adoro mis hondureñismos pero se me van olvidando por el desuso.  Decidí hacer una lista de las palabras y expresiones que más me hacen sentirme como en mi casita y entre los míos.  Están todos invitados a complementar mi pequeño vocabulario catracho.  Y como el vocabulario del caliche es tan rico, extenso y variado, no encontré más que separarlos por categorías.  Con el tiempo, estaré revisando este posting para ir ampliándolo.

Comunicado: ¡¡Hoy sí papá!!

Comidas:

-tamales, nacatamales, nixtamales, tamalitos de elote, tamalitos pisques, montucas, mantequilla crema, mantequilla rala, tustacas, rosquillas, pastelitos de perro, rosquetes, polvorones, nucitas, pupusas, baleadas, frijolitos fritos, capirotadas.

Insultos (¡¡jeeej!! que salen del mero mero corazón, papá):

– comemierda, malparido, pendejo ese, jueputa, cabrón, toro fuego (?).

Insultos (especialmente para los que son unos inútiles):

-maje, muela, inútil, inepto, pánfilo, zángano, mantenido, pedazo de alcornoque, cipote(-a) este(-a), metiche, chigüín, manos flojas, manos tullidas, manudo(-a), pánfilo(-a).

Pronombres (llenos de cariño para los compadres/ comadres más cercanos):

-maje, compa, comadre, loco(-a), chava, man, alero(-a), güirrito(-a), cipotillo(-a), mamita, mamacita, papito, papaito, muñeco(-a), babosada.

Descripciones de gente y de USA:

-es un culo, indio de agua dulce, flaco(-a), gordo(-a), negro(-a), gringo(-a); los Yunaite

Dichos:

-Silbando en la loma; mañana hago mi casa dijo el gavilán; el vivo a señas y el tonto a leña; atenete a Santa Quiteria y no te subas al palo; juegos de mano, juegos de villano; indio comido, puesto al camino.

Si llegan a encontrar esta página, ¡por favor dejen un comentario con vocabulario que quisieran agregar!

©Kenna Lee Edler

Unconscious Versions of Blatant Racism

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"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda

The Facts

Some years ago (approx. in the second half of this millenia’s first decade) Honda brought out the first “Use Original Parts” advertisement campaign, created by the Garrigosa Studio in Barcelona.  The message is quite clear and straightforward: use authentic spare parts on your Honda, everything else will seem unnatural, unauthentic, is unthinkable, in short, it simply cannot exist.  To bring the message across, they presented human male faces morphed with animal species.  The animal muzzles of an elephant, camel and a pig were neatly placed into where the mouth in a human face would be.  (The campaign’s prints were found on Trend Hunter Marketing and Kruzer.  Visit the pages for more of the campaign’s images.)

The Question that Stares you in Your Face:

Is it Racist?

Why, just because a man who is coincidentally black is associated with an animal that is stereotypically from the African continent?  It could all be a coincidence.  Moreover, there are lots of elephants in India and Southeast Asia too, you know.

First Glance, First answer: No.

Now let’s look at some more of the images, seemingly the most popular of the campaign:

"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda

Second Glance, Second answer: No, but…

…something about the sequence of these images bothered me.  I saw two others but these three struck me.  I immediately had some thoughts and concerns about the message underlying this campaign and scoured the internet for further possible information but was unable to find any criticism on it.

The Conclusion: It’s an Unconscious Version of Racism

In other words, racism in disguise.  While I cannot find anything specifically racist about each picture, I can definitely point my finger at it when I see the collection of them.  Each animal is connected to the ethnicity of the male face in question in a culturally stereotypical fashion.  In other words, the images recall in a viewer with a Western mindset concepts that are dangerously close to pre-established stereotypes in our culture.  Why can’t the Caucasian man have an elephant’s trunk, the Middle Eastern/ Maghreb a pig’s nose and the black man a camel’s muzzle?  Is it only about favourably blending human skin colours with piggy pink, sand brown and greyish black?  If the message of the campaign is to alienate us from an unnatural, uncanny human/ animal combination, then surely mixing human and animal skin colours would be even more beneficial for bringing the message across.  The campaign as a whole, therefore, has a very silent, very dangerous way of perpetuating racist assumptions about ethnicities.  A perfect example of an unconscious version of racism.

In our time and age, it is unquestionable that we are surrounded by images on a daily basis.  I find it very unsettling that we are increasingly taking these environmental imagery as a given.  More often than not, we consume them uncritically, become blunt, and/ or ignore some of the subliminal messages implicit in them.  At a second glance, most of these images (mostly belonging to ad campaigns) carry culturally questionable messages that can only be deciphered if cross-referenced with other aspects of reality.  Underlying these images are often assumptions concerning stereotypes, prejudices and distorted images of reality.  Beware of what enters your thoughts through your eyes.

©Kenna Lee Edler

About

About.

Fractured Colours of the Self

769376688964_1743466818_oLet’s start simply, from the beginning.  My mother is of cinnamon, in the sun she turns the colour of hot sugar caramel becoming hard candy, or gets as freckles the hue of the dark patches in the inner part of cinnamon sticks.  My first beloved, best friend was tall, taller than anyone else, with midnight skin, and with a lot of patience, he kept me safe from venomous snakes and plants.

My first silly, temporary crush was only milk with sky eyes, so that was soon forgotten when the other boy came along.  He was coffee and milk on the outside, but with eyes dark, hot, evil and delicious like coffee’s deep roasted beans.  The rest is just history, I was befriended, wooed, hated and amused by honey, emerald and muddy river gazes.  Protected and educated by more caramel, lime, and yellow sand skins.  My outer shell may be just white but my inner self is fractured into a spectrum of colours, each of which belongs to one of those who made me be today.

©Kenna Lee Edler

Reposting: Literal translation or The Danger of Getting Lost in Translation

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An old article I once wrote, to be found here.

I’m reposting it in it’s entirety in case the link is no longer available:

©Kenna Lee Edler

Not too long ago, in the late eighties, the direct translation of a marketing campaign for an airline advertising their leather seats made it into the Hall of Fame of literal translations into Spanish.  The literal translation of the ad “Fly in Leather” politely invited its first class Spanish-speaking passengers to “Fly Naked”.  PR and advertising agencies have come a long way since then, as shown for example by the strategic translation of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan “Yes We Can” in the recent past; the Spanish translation revealed political, economic and cultural awareness as it alluded to an already well-known phrase among politically active Latino voters.

In today’s globalized world, straight translations of marketing slogans might determine the success or failure of multilingual marketing campaigns.  At best, they can cause amusement among the target language’s consumers but at worst and more importantly, they expose the degree of cultural disconnection of a brand towards its intended target audience and this can have long-lasting, negative results.  The marketing scenario described above is one of many that can result from literal translations.  Anyone relying on a translation has to be aware of this most common pitfall among translators.  But how does one avoid the dangers of literal translations and losing crucial messages in translation?  The answer lies in the range of multifaceted skills a professional translator has.  Having expert knowledge of a language is only just the foundation of a translator’s job; translation is really about the ability to communicate meaning in spite of differences that may exist between languages.  Ideally, language skills are complemented by other essential skills involving a target language: cultural/ historical awareness of the community of speakers, mastery of the language’s grammatical & linguistic rules, knowing how to use and where to find reference material, literacy in online research and last but not least, courage to use creativity in language.  After all, languages are alive and incessantly evolving, just as its speakers.  Do you want to know more on how to avoid literal translations?  Visit our pages on Direct translations and Literal translation to learn more!

©Kenna Lee Edler

A February Sunday in Istanbul

So, here are a few impressions of my week in Istanbul (besides day long working).  On a very sunny but bitterly cold morning I stepped out with my friend to Istanbul Modern, which has in its permanent exhibition drawings from Turkish painters.  It’s incredible to see old painting techniques of Europe reflected in painting with Turkish motives, for example, impressionist views of the Bosphorus, cubist illustrations of people around a chai table…

Van Gogh happening

Then, we rounded up the day with a visit to a neighborhood on the European side right beside the Bosphorus.  It was Sunday night (and still cold) but the place was buzzing with families going out to dinner, couples meeting, friends hanging out.  We had delicious keskul (a kind of almondmilk pudding?) and sütlac:

Just a perfect day!

©Kenna Lee Edler

Like a compass without a pole!

My very first blog… As you can imagine from the title, I’m still looking at how all this works and sorting stuff out.

Two weeks ago, bored from studying, I decided was going to write a book. With a maniac frenzy to start writing (it happens when I’m trying to keep away from stuff that really matters, like studying for my upcoming exams), I created this blog, found a title for my very first book, registered my name as a domain, plotted a storyline, set up a word file, thought about deadlines and, exhausted, left the writing for next day. My word file is still empty, word count = O.

Now I’ve cooled down, I feel like I do really want to write that first book. And to be more realistic and start after June, when the exams are over. What it’s going to be about? No idea. A compass, no pole.

©Kenna Lee Edler