Category: Research

Possibly the Best Coffee in Bogota

As someone who recently started to explore sensuous ethnography, I use every opportunity to train my senses. What better way to do so in Colombia than checking out the best coffee places? The following alphabetical list is 100% fieldwork approved. All the places use coffee from Colombian farmers in different parts of the country and roast themselves at the respective places, so that the beans are always freshly roasted and ground, sometimes only minutes before serving.

Abadía Café, Calle 119 # 14A-14

It’s a grey sunday afternoon on a long weekend, few people are on the streets. I stroll down the small side alley that is Calle 119 at this height, and after a few steps find Café Abadía. I feel immediately confortable, the ample space is full of cozy sofas. There are two other guests, both reading books in their chosen corners, and enjoying a coffee. I sit down and order a cappuchino and a chocolate cake which looks amazing. It doesn’t deceive me, and neither does the cappuchino. They are served on handmade pottery, and I am convinced at that moment that I found the perfect place for a lazy sunday afternoon read surrounded by people who seem to think the same.

Amor Perfecto, Calle 119 Bis # 5-37

It’s a Saturday afternoon, my husband and I have just had lunch with his family at a vegan restaurant in Usaquén. We’re all pretty full, so Juan and I decide to go for a coffee at Amor Perfecto, which is close-by. We walk up the few blocks, the streets are bustling with locals and tourists alike, because Usaquén is a nice area to go for breakfast, lunch, coffee, drinks, etc. We arrive at Amor Perfecto, and before we can lay eyes on a cosy sofa right at the entrance, we’re escorted to a “table for two” somewhere inbetween the bustling front and the quiet patio. The decoration is tasteful, but somehow the elements don’t combine. All details have been carefully selected, but the overall atmosphere is a little cold. We order two Macchiattos, which arrive promptly, decorated with hearts in milkfoam. As I take a sip, I am surprised by a strong bitterness on my lips and prominent citric notes on the tip of my tongue. The coffee is otherwise rather tasteless, between those two sensations exists a vacuum, that is only filled by the background noise: “What a wonderful world” is playing, and I think I agree. But there’s still room to improve the coffee here.

Azahar, Carrera 14 # 93A-48

It is already rather late for coffee, for my standards, when Juan and I arrive at Azahar a Wednesday evening at 7:30pm. Before, we were checking out recent novels by Colombian authors at a bookstore close to Parque 93, and when they closed at 7pm, we headed to the café. On tripadvisor, people had bemoaned the site, as Azahar is not a proper place, but rather a small stand with a roof – but still offers a few tables. Even though the nights have been cold recently, we’re fine under the roof, enjoing Macchiattos with banana cake and almond croissant. The macchiatto arrives with flawless latte art, but develops many bubbles in short time. The aroma is strong and earthy, exactly right to renew energies for another few hours. The banana cake is fluffy and tasty, only the chocolate decoration is the tiny bit too much for me.

Bourbon Coffee Roasters, Calle 70A # 13-83

I am showing around a friend from highschool, who is visiting Colombia for the first time and has a day to spend in Bogota. As I am always keen to show what I think are the best places in town, I propose we have a coffee first. I am almost two hours late to our appointment, because I was stuck in a traffic jam that surprised even my otherwise patient nature. She agrees, so we walk south the 15 blocks from where she is staying to Bourbon’s. As we enter the little street that is Calle 70A, the buildings become much more charming. Lush green trees and romantic, small front yards mix with red brick buildings, a few cafés, a theater, and one or another embassy can be found here. We enter Bourbon’s, I order a cappuccino and an almond croissant, and we sit down in the patio, which is filled with succulents hanging from the walls. Through one of the windows, we can see the roasting machine, and the air fills with the smell of roasted beans every time the wind changes its direction. The cappuchino arrives, and as I take the first sip I am overwhelmed. No, seriously, I have tears in my eyes. I’m not exactly sure that’s an appropriate reaction to coffee, but thinking about it in terms of that scene from Ratatouille, when the restaurant critic get’s a childhood flashback, I guess that’s fine. The soft, then stronger coffee flavour finishes with slight citric undertones. Combined with the delicious almond croissant, this is the clear winner for Best Coffee Ever.

Café Cultor @ Wilborada Bookstore, Calle 71 # 10-47, Int. 4

The bookstore is crowded to overflowing on that saturday afternoon. Several baby buggies are cramed in the entrance, and from upstairs the voices of a woman and a girl can be heard singing songs to the sound of an accoustic guitar. The café within the building is equally exploding, and I have to share a table with a woman and her baby. Apparently I entered a parallel dimension beaming me right back to an Eltern-Kind-Café in Prenzlauer Berg. I feel completely out of place, as I am at least five years younger than the average woman around, and have come by without a child, but still order a cake and a cappuccino. As I eat the first bite, which is surprisingly tasty (I expected much sweeter), even the singing child sounds nice to me. The cappuccino comes with flawless latte art, the milky white leaves forming a perfect contrast to the otherwise caramel coloured foam. I am surprised to find notes of peanut in my coffee, a soft scent and low accidity. The coffee is indeed very good, but I will have to come back on another, less crowded day.

Café Mundano, Diagonal 40 # 7-40, Local 03, Semisotano

I almost don’t find the café. It’s noon, the sun is shining so bright I just want to hide somewhere but still run around the block clueless for about three times, until I realize I’ve tried to early. I find the café a block away from where I was searching. There’s only two more people here, but the place will become crowded during the 30 minutes I spend there. The place is small, but has a charming industrial chic and welcomes with the smell of coffee. The place mats display the coffee variants on offer, and I decide for a capucchino, a glass of water and a vanilla-blueberry cake. The coffee itself smells very nice, but doesn’t have a strong taste, and the vanilla-blueberry cake has only few blueberries, but convinces in terms of taste. Plus, the sparkling frosting makes for a glamorous experience.

Catación Pública, Carrera 120A # 3A-47

It’s my birthday, and my husband and his family invite me for lunch in Usaquén. After a delicious Italian meal, I want to have coffee and desert at another place, using the opportunity to get to know new locations. We head a little north-east from the plaza to climb up to Catación Pública, a coffee place dedicated to educating locals and foreigners alike in terms of how to make the most of the precious bean. My husband and I are the only coffee lovers in the family, so while everybody else it getting down for desert, we decide to use the opportunity and have a selected bean prepared in three different styles: french press, metall filter, and siphon. We’re skeptical about the french press, and have tried with a Chemex at home, but are fascinated by the sciency aura of the siphon and willing to be surprised. We select a variant from the Huila, that is supposed to have notes of blackberry and black tea. As we try the three different preparations, we’re surprised to actually taste differences. The french press again deceives us, even though without milk it leaves soft notes of coffee on our tongues. The metal filter brew surprises with heavily acid notes, bringing out this quality of the selected bean. The siphon gets closest to an Espresso preparation, as it emphasizes both the earthy notes and the citri acids, without overemphasizing any. I don’t think this is going to become part of our own kitchen, however, as the sciency aura with the Bunsen burner like aesthetics doesn’t seem to be an everyday option.

Salvo Patria, Calle 54A # 4-13

I’m around for lunch on one of my last days in Bogota. The neighborhood is beautiful, some taller buildings, but mostly two- to three-story houses made of brick, similar to those around Bourbon’s. The first thing I like about Salvo Patria is that guests get a carafe of tap water right when they take a seat, as I am thirsty from walking. I then order an Amazonian fish filet for lunch, with blue potatoes and salad as sides. I’m a huge fan of lulo juice, so I get one of these, too, which comes with the sugar on the side so that guests can decide for themselves how much they would like to add. My main dish arrives with delicious homemade mayonese that combines nicely with the blue potatoes. The fish is very tasty as well. I order two kinds of chocolate mousse for dessert and accompany them with a macchiato. The dessert is amazing, but I have to take half of it home because I can’t finish it there and then. The macchiato is from Azahar. The strong variant from the Huila region is full-bodied and finishes with some citric notes, making it the perfect side for the chocolate mousse.

Varietale, Calle 41 # 8-43

It is Dia sin Carro, or car-free day in Bogotá and I get to Varietale surprisingly easy. Many people are riding their bikes, and the area around Javeriana University is crowded. I meet a friend in front of the university and we walk down the two blocks to Varietale, as we catch up on the news. The street is crowded with food stalls and cafés, so it’s not easy to see the cute white and teal coloured façade from afar. Inside, it is crowded as well, but we manage to find a place in the ample patio. I order a cappuccino and a Pastel Gloria, a bocadillo- and arequipe-filled pastry, which is one of my favorite Colombian sweets. The order arrives as we exchange news on current projects and plans. The cappuccino is very soft, generally good in taste, but not too varied in nuances. I suspect they use too much milk. The pastel is amazing, however.

The Trees are Talking in Villa Grimaldi

It is a warm summer day in February, shortly before noon, when I arrive at the gates of Villa Grimaldi with a friend. The place is quiet, no-one to be seen walking the beautiful gardens. We enter the site and get two audio guides to do the tour. The sun is burning, so we rush from shadow to shadow to listen to the explanations of the guide. I don’t really connect to the place until we’re halfway through, instead being fascinated by the incredibly noisy birds populating the scrawny araucaria trees. The place was a restaurant before it was appropriated by the secret police (DINA) shortly after the 1973 coup. It was then used as a secret detention center, where people were tortured and disappeared. While the original main building and detention cells have been destroyed, the trees bear witness to the history of the place. It comes to no surprise, then, that many of them have specific meanings in the context of constructing memory.

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Apart from the araucarias, another tree that captures the attention is a bushy bougainvillea right next to the closed former entrance door. Its bright pink flowers remind of the lush garden surrounding the former restaurant. The door, however, has been closed forever, expressing the desire that no political prisoner will ever have to enter through that door again. In general, the plates and sign-boards have been attached close to the ground, to resemble the view blindfolded prisoners had of the place – never actually being able to see the beautiful trees and green spaces, but only the floor through the tiny holes the fabric left.

p1000132-minAs we continue walking, we enter a kind of field, about nine squares separated by tiny cobblestones, each with a birch at its center. As the audio guide explains, they symbolize the former prison cells, the birches being the isolated prisoners. Next to them, there’s a giant evergreen ombú, a species native to southern Patagonia. As we learn from the audio, the majestic tree has been used to create examples for the prisoners: some of them were hung there for everyone to see.

p1000135-minNext to the ombú, there is a circular bed of roses, interspersed with orange-red signs. Some of them have names of former female prisoners on them, some of them are left blank to remember those who passed through Villa Grimaldi unaccounted. At the center of the bed, there is a small fountain with a quote of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral at the bottom: “We all would have been queens”.

After around two hours, we have explored almost every corner of the park. During that time, we were the only visitors, and only one or two employees crossed our path. The atmosphere was peaceful, the airy spaces and the plants make this a solemn experience, that allows one to connect to the history of the place, but not in a ravagingly emotional way, but much more quietly, with the option of just taking in the contradictions of the place. As we take the bus back to Santiago’s city center, we pass by a restaurant with the telling name: El Trauma. 80’s.

More information on Villa Grimaldi can be found on the webpage of the Villa Grimaldi – Corporación Parque por la Paz (spanish only).

A Week in Macondo: Where Emotions become relevant for Peace Research [1]

Era como si Dios hubiera resuelto poner a prueba toda capacidad de asombro, y mantuviera a los habitantes de Macondo en un permanente vaivén entre el alborozo y el desencanto, la duda y la revelación, hasta el extremo de que nadie podía saber a ciencia cierta dónde estaban los límites de la realidad.

Gabriel García Márquez

When on October 2nd Colombians were asked to vote for the Peace Agreement established between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the ficticious Macondo once again became the more real reference for Colombia, as shown in the now viral quote from  A Hundred Years of Solitude by Colombian Nobel Price winner Gabriel García Márquez. Only when taking into account the emotions on the sides of all parties involved can we get closer to understanding why a tiny majority of voters pronounced themselves against the agreement.

Shock and Disappointment

Sunday evening, October 2nd, my husband and I sit in front of the computer screen, live-checking the results of the plebiscite. When the first numbers come in, we are relieved: approximately 53% Yes-votes, only the quorum of about 4,5 million has to be reached. Every five to ten minutes now there is new data, and the quorum is soon reached. However, the advantage of Yes-votes becomes smaller and smaller. The urban centers are almost completely done counting. Incredulously we hit the refresh-button, hectically browsing the regions hoping to find a place were there are still many votes to count. When at 1am over 99% of the votes are in, it becomes clear that those who voted at all – a mere 37,4% – decided with a tiny advantage to dismiss the agreement. Silence surrounds the otherwise buzzing family whatsapp chat, and I see many stunned comments from friends of mine on facebook. Nobody really understands what just happened. Why would you revoke a peace agreement?

(Missing) Compassion

Many of my acquaintances and relatives are surely not ardent worshipers of the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. Nevertheless, they all agreed in that this vote had nothing to do with voting for or against the current government, but to express general support for the efforts made to reach peace with the FARC. Especially in the urban centers, the conflict has become less and less visible. The more affected regions majorly voted for peace, while the people in the cities were skeptical.

Many have resigned to insecurity, or don’t even know peace, since the conflict goes on for decades. When the media cite 52 years as the duration of conflict, what they mean is the conflict with the FARC, who orginated in 1964. The historical, social, political and economic context that has fueled their existence, however,  is rarely mentioned. The enormous inequality in income distribution, conflicts about landownership, drug trafficking and paramilitarism are as well part of this conflict. They are deeply rooted in Colombian history and often don’t figure prominently in media coverage about the FARC. In the almost 300 pages of the agreement, these aspects are mentioned [2], but many Colombians doubt whether the regulations – especially concerning drug trade and organized crime – can actually be implemented. The rural population’s hopes for peace are counterbalanced by the doubts and fears of a mayority of urban residents.

Jealousy and Fear

For many, especially the maximum sentences for human rights abuses and the right to political participation of the future ex-guerriller@s was a key issue. Also, many opposed  the promised financial support from the state to reintegrate ex-combatants into a civilian life. But the campaign of the No! did also manipulate voters from the less affected cities with purposeful and systematic misinformation. The post-truth election battle was characterized by laments on how the “gender ideology” would destroy the “traditional family structures”, or that the country would sure fall prey to communism should the agreement be ratified by the voters. It simply did not matter that none of these issues were actually part of the agreement. Often, the No! votes were based on a feelingt of greed: “Why should they get this much money from the State when I myself have to struggle to survive?” “Why are they allowed to particpate in congress, when nobody asks me for my opinion?” “Why don’t they have to go to jail, when I am prosecuted for every oh-so-little offence?” And even if these questions are based on a wrong understanding of the issues accorded in the peace treaty, they do offer insights into how people are feeling. And many historical injustices will persiste even under the agreement [3]. Fear, greed, anger and defiance are all expressions of a diffuse feeling of disadvantage, whose relevance for peace research became painfully obvious with the victory of the “No”.

Silent Hope

But a permant cease-fire and the decommissioning of the FARC would be a great advance, especially in those parts of the country where the armed conflict is still a reality. Which is why many people in the cities took to the streets to demonstrate for the agreement after the first shock about the “No” had passed. It was a new feeling of solidarity and joint fighting that found its expression on the streets. In Bogota alone, 40.000 people participated in the third March of Silence, thereby aligning themselves with a tradition of silent protest [4]. When on October 7th, the Nobel committee anounced Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos as the laurate for the Nobel peace prize, euphoria was back. The sign from the international community to not give up now brought back hope and courage to many deceptioned “Yes”-voters. The “back and forth between rejoice and deception, between doubts and revelations” will likely continue a little longer, but the people of Macondo are determined to break down the limits of reality to reach peace.

 

[1] A German Version of this text was published on Friedensakademie-Blog.

[2] The complete Spanish text can be found here: https://www.mesadeconversaciones.com.co/sites/default/files/24_08_2016acuerdofinalfinalfinal-1472094587.pdf (last accessed: 13.10.2016).

[3] See also the report about voters in Ciudad Bolivar (one of the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota with a high amount of displaced persons, who – in contrast to most other strongly affected regions – majorly voted “No”) from Colombian newspaper El Espectador: http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/un-no-hacerse-escuchar-articulo-659274 (last accessed: 14.10.2016).

[4] The first March of Silence took place on February 07th, 1948, to protest violence against members and supporters of the Liberal Party. The second March was convened on August 25th, 1989 after the Liberal presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán was killed.

Halfway through Conference Season

Half of the year has passed, so we’re also halfway through Conference Season. For my part, I hope I am actually through with it for this year. I’ve been presenting three different papers in four different locations, and this experience made me want to share a few thoughts and impressions. Sometimes, the choices of which conference to attend can be tough, especially if the budget is small and the options many, so I will give you a short overview about pro’s and con’s of some of the typical features. They’re probably not exhaustive, so feel free to add others in the comment section!

The Annual/Biannual/etc. Association’s Conference: Even though depending on the association, this one is likely to be the biggest in terms of numbers of people attending and papers presented. Panels are 100% sure to be parallel, with you having to choose between all the interesting topics, because (Murphy’s Law for Conferences:) they’re most likely going to happen at the same time. Also, Networking can be difficult and exhausting here, because of the sheer number of people to engage with. But the upside is that nowhere else will you have the opportunity to attend a great variety of different topics in such a short time, and you get a good idea of what people are currently doing in your field. Also, using this one to the full capacity, it offers you the possibilty of attending sessions on topics that are underrepresented at your home institution, or things you always wanted to have a closer look at, but didn’t have the time to read into on your own.

The Exotic Destination: There’s a conference on something related to your research focus in [fill in your dream destination]? If you have the possibility to get funding for that, well “Hell, yeah!” Make sure to apply on time, and make use of your trip by extending your stay as much as possible. Be aware: People who come to conferences like that and only show up to present their own paper, suck! You don’t want to be one of those, so make sure you do spend some time with your peers. Some of the most enjoyable stays can result from exploring the destination together with others who think the same, but also attended a good deal of the conference, so you can gossip together while enjoying a sunset somewhere you might never have had the budget to go to by yourself. Continue reading

Torschlusspanik

The days in Bogota are counted for now, and with them my opportunities to collect more data. Friends and colleagues here and back home all ask me that one question: So, do you have all you needed? The most terrifying variation being “How many interviews do you have?” And every time someone asks me that, they send me down a spiral of doubts and worries. While I am convinced that there can never be “enough” when it comes to human interactions (to which I count formal interviews, but also participant observation, casual meetings with informants, exchange of material or immaterial things or favors, etc.), I also believe that my work here cannot and should not be translated into a certain number of interviews. In the end, their usefulness depends on their quality rather than the quantity. Yet, even though I am very happy with the quality of my interviews, I cannot but feel disappointed about their number.

There’s a name for how I feel about my time in the field. And apparently, it is a very common syndrome especially among women scholars. Maybe you have heard about impostor syndrome, that awquard feeling of being a fraud and the anxiety that people will find out. If you wanna know more about it, you can check out Chronicle Vitae. Also, the guys from StartupBros have some recommendations on how to get over it.

As for myself, I like to believe that even though I am deceptioned by the number, I am still happy about how well everything went. Knowing that I didn’t even know most of my interviewees before the trip, the depth of the interviews and the levels of trust reached in interactions do indeed surprise me. Considering furthermore, that so far all of them are willing to introduce me to other family members, and in general continue to cooperate with me, I can actually be at least a little proud of my work.

And, of course, I did not spend the whole time on doing interviews. There’s a lot more to being an academic in the field than being able to just run from informant to informant, extracting data from them like I was a cauchero and they the rubber trees. While I was here, I attended the publication of a book which includes an essay of mine. I met with colleagues and advisers to discuss my project and possible cooperations. I prepared a course I will be teaching during the summer term. I wrote a presentation I will hold at a conference in a week from now. I attended a virtual discussion with a research group I am part of. And that’s only the non-fieldwork-related part of the job. Why am I telling you this? Because this way I see there’s nothing to be ashamed of when thinking about “my number”. That’s as good as it gets; and maybe it’s time for me to forget about that romantic idea of simply being in the field and going about my stuff without any strings attached. One of the reasons I wanted to become an academic in the first place was precisely the variety of tasks combined in the world of science (apart from the obvious curiosity about other cultures, and my desire to teach). My way of dealing with impostor syndrome? Write about it, right here!

That Awkward Moment

Sometimes I am seriously doubting whether studying Anthropology actually was a good decision. Sometimes in this case means every single time I am heading for an interview. I just can’t stop feeling unqualified, I always worry whether I’ll be asking the right questions, and I’m literally praying there won’t be too many moments of awkward silence – still being an atheist, that is. Every single time, I’m sweating more than I would on an entire day at the Caribbean. While other colleagues have told me they’re embarrassed by how much they speak themselves during an interview when they transcribe the audio file, I am more often than not worried about how to keep things going.

Every time I read texts on interviewing methodology, I cringe at the part that says one should try to make the interviewee feel comfortable. How in the world am I supposed to make people feel comfortable in a situation that is not comfortable at all, not even for me who I am supposed to be in charge of it?! I am clearly no small talk genius, and apparently worse so under pressure. Not that I would get into embarrassing moments by talking about inappropriate things, or something like that. You could at least call this a talent for ice-breaking, if you want. I am more the kind of person who becomes utterly aware of her social awkwardness around people I do not know.

So how do I go about these situations? Continue reading

TechSupport

Sunday afternoon, after a traditional german cake&coffee session, I felt fully motivated to do some work stuff that involves larger amounts of time, yet lesser efforts in thinking: I started a software installing spree to keep up organizing my thesis. I have recently changed from pc to mac, mostly because the keyboard sounds of a mac actually make me want to write. But this change involves some other adjustments too, and so I spent the last four hours simultaneously writing this post and installing everything I felt I could need during Project Thesis. You will find these programs in what I think is the order to go about the research process.

Usually before going to the field, you already read. All those documents want to be filed and catalogued somewhere, so that when you start writing, it will be easier to create in-text-citations and bibliographies that are neatly formated and free from the occasional hand-made typo. There are several options for you here, but I am just going to focus on three: citavi, EndNote, and zotero. The first two are usually available with a license offered from your university, zotero is freeware. With citavi you can also get a free version that allows for projects with up to 100 sources each, however, it’s pc-only, which is why I will have to migrate my data now. EndNote comes as a free online version, too, but keeps limited citation style options, among other restrictions. Personally, I don’t like it’s style and find many of the extra features from the licensed version – like maintaining my cv and writing grant applications from within the program – unnecessary. I kind of liked this introduction to zotero, and will make the reality check for accessibility during the next weeks.

Organizing data from the field will probably be a little more demanding than organizing literature only, and even though all the above offer options to include other sources such as video, audio or image material, you may want to tag and sort all these with a little more space for creativity. This is where atlas.ti, MAXQDA, or Scribe may come in handy. A discussion on pro’s and con’s from the EASA media anthropology mailing list can be found here. Personally, I have no experience with any of these, but will keep you updated on my experiences with Scribe. I decided for it, because it works well importing to zotero, and because I’m a fan of open source software. Not that I would be super informed and able to contribute myself, but because it offers much more independence. Should I change universities, I won’t have to migrate all my data from one program to the next because of different licensing policies. Also, a nice overview of useful open source software for anthropologists can be found here at Stanford.

Then, there’s the horrors of transcribing. Continue reading