Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VCU Humphrey Fellowship Blog, September 2015 - Lenka "Zoey" Juricekova

Recipe for Slovak Dumplings or What Is The most Tasty and Important Ingredients while you are on Humphrey Fellowship

“Bryndzové halušky“, or dumplings with “bryndza“ is a traditional meal from the Slovak Republic,  a small country in the middle of Europe where I come from. I have eaten this dish several times and never before imagined that the first time I learned how to cook them and prepare them without the help will be thousand miles away from home. Things that sometimes seem less likely to happen come true very often. So at the end of August 2015 I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond and for couple hours I was cooking Slovak dumplings for people from Bosnia and Herczegovina, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Uganda and Virginia - US. Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows for the year 2015 -2016 at VCU.  People from all over the world during their first Movie Night eated Slovak dish and watching a Slovak movie.

The basis of  dumplings with “bryndza“ are potato, and a little bit of salt and flour. Bryndza is special sheep milk cheese – white, tangy and crumbly. You cannot find it easy in the US, but when you really want it, anything is possible – even prepare your own bryndza too. But what I realized and learned by standing in the kitchen and experimenting with the dumplings was, that besides of bryndza and potatos, other ingredients are important to prepare and serve the most tasty dish during your fellowship program. Do you wonder what ingredients?  Please, here is the recipe.

You will need:

Couple grams - sometimes couple kilograms - of homesicknes, mixed with the ability to laugh at yourself and..“take it easy“

- This special ingredient entails in itself moments, when you want to pack all your suitcases and go back home, and moments when you want to smile and smile because you are delighted how many challenges and opportunities are in front of you.

- Why this particular mix? Everything, including the smell in the air, the taste of your morning coffee, or the sounds on the street seems different.  The first days of your new temporary life you probably find yourself looking for the keys from your car for almost 20 minutes while you realize, that your car is parked almost on the opposite hemisphere of the Earth.   In front of you is new daily routine and programs, completely different from that one back home.   So you will grab the navigation or the map and hurry up in to your new office, school, or work. You are holding the navigation in your hand so strongly as a child holds the hands of his or her parents. All around is a different language, even your own voice sounds different when you speak English and not in your native speech. Sometimes you have a feeling that it is not completely you when you miss some words and you cannot easily express everything you need. But most of the time you have to smile on yourself when you are trying to search for strange words, pronounce them, but your tongue does not obey you as you would like. And you really have to smile at yourself when your navigation says that your new office is 5 minutes away from your apartment, but you come there after nearly 20 minutes .. because you got lost. Do you tell or not tell this new personal record to your new colleagues?

Litres of readiness for change, willingness to observe, to listen and to be patient

- This ingredient is like a magic liquid, which need to be shaken all the time very carefully  to obtain its real and the best taste. Once you need to be more patient, another time you need to be able to take action for better understanding of others worlds.

- Why this mix? During the couple months you have been in the United States so far, you have met people almost from every continent, from different countries, with different cultures, with different religions, beliefs and values, professions and with different hobbies.  Not every meeting was the easiest one.  Sometimes you are afraid not to offend somebody unwittingly, sometimes you feel anxiety if your joke does not harm instead of having fun. What is absolutely normal is not necessarily normal for someone else, or it can be understood differently.  Every day you see new faces and hear new names and accents.  Every day is about the new adaptation.   And you start to be addicted to it, because it gives you a feeling that you can learn from anyone in the world something new, if you listen carefully.   From one moment you wish to live for eternity because you want to go and visit all that places and where all the people you meet come from.

Thousand megabites of memory with “eyes wide open“

- This “seasoning“ may form a memory in your own head, or takes the form of big diary, or as a memory stick for your computer.   Anything is good, and the most important thing is – it needs to be huge and with enough space.

- Why? Virginia State Capitol, Valentine Museum and Canal Cruise in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Haskell Indian Nation University in Lawrence, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Virginia Museum of Fine arts.. These are just couple places I visited during last four months.  Places full of art, culture, human stories and information.  But what is the most important is these all places are full of inspiration which says, ”It is up to you what type of fingertips you will leave behind you.”

Tonne of dreams, self – motivation and hard - work

- This ingredient has a strange taste  - bit of sweet and bit of salty, sometimes little bit sour .. it is made by Phantasy Co.

- Why you really need it? Everyone from Humphrey fellows came here with his or her own project and goals to achieve what they want to bring back in their country and work.  Days are suddenly very short and in your calendar is less and less space because is full of notes, addresses and names of people you want to speak with.  Every meeting with every professional is different.  You feel like a detective who is searching for clues. You need to smile and feel glad when you see so many people willing to share their own know-how and help. And when you listen the stories behind the successful project, it gives you a hope that everything is possible. Every meeting brings you closer to your professional dream. On the other hand, you need to keep your inner child with you every time, because it helps you ask questions and not to be comfortable with the status – quo. To grow up takes a lot of questions.

Non-countable amount of humbleness because now you know you are a very rich person

- This additive you should have enough anytime, anywhere and for anyone to share.

- Why? Because now you know, you are an extremely rich person and humility is able to grow only by its sharing.  You got the opportunity to learn, to visit new places and to meet new people.  Thanks to all of that you can know yourself better.  Now you are fully aware of all those things you have back at home and maybe you have never seen them so clearly before until you went away from them for a while. Now you know that you are very rich person because you have a family you may miss and who may miss you. You have your work you love.  You have opportunity to learn and make mistakes.  You have your own identity while having the opportunity to change in an environment of safety, support and with your own pace and control about your own life.  Not everyone in the world has the same opportunity.  There are people who flee from their countries, away from their culture and families, with one backpack on their shoulders, on their way to the “No man’s land,” usually with no idea if they ever will be able to come back home.  People whose lives are in threat and risk because of climate changes, health problems, because of political system they do not agree with, because of lack of opportunities for good and available education.  Their identity has to be changed drastically from one day to another, with no moratorium, usually only with the question on their mouths:”To be or not to be?” …a question easy to ask and write, but very hard to “do”.. What can you as a Humphrey Fellow do for them? How can your project make this world a better place to live?  How can it be a better place to feel homesickness, a better place for readiness to change, a better place to remember, a better place to dream about?
A better place to cook your own dumplings with your own ingredients.

Lenka “Zoey” Juricekova

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