Today I attended the inaugural session of the 3-day conference titled 8th International Congress of Philosophy at Universidad Rafael Landivar (the Jesuit university), the topic being contemporary concepts of corporality (or embodiment).
In Guatemala institutions of higher learning don't do a good job of promoting their conferences, so there was nothing on the university's website--that I could find--and only a small item in the back pages of the newspaper. It is a pity, since it is a very interesting conference, with the participation of scholars from many different fields all addressing the topic from within their disciplines.
He really does a great job of combining his diverse interests in exploring mindfulness and listening. Moreover, he's got a side-job as an artistic photographer, for which he has won awards. You can see that side of him here.
The conference began with a beautiful rendition of Vivaldi by the excellent camerata group of Professor Dieter Lehnoff, which garnered a really long (and well-deserved) applause. Lenhoff is a well-known music scholar of German nationality, whose long labor of recovery of Guatemalan Baroque music is really awesome. I collect all the CDs his project turn out. Clearly Lehnoff trains his music students with the same care he curates his CDs.
The inaugural keynote speaker of the event was Dr. Michael Purdy, head of the Communications Studies Department at Governors State University in Illinois. Purdy is a spearheading scholar in the growing field of Listening Studies. Full disclosure here: I had the pleasure of co-authoring a communication textbook chapter with Michael and have read and attended other of his presentations.
All of this came into play in his presentation, Including the body: reflecting self potraits. In his presentation he did not read from notes, but spoke entirely extemporaneously and with such naturalness and knowledge it truly was engaging to everybody. Luckily, the university offered simultaneous translation technology for all who needed it.
Dr. Algis Mickunas from Ohio University, considered by some one of the best philosophers in the field today, will present on the last day of the conference. Presenting, besides philosophers, are musicians, dancers, theologians, scholars from the disciplines of Perfomance Studies, Mayan Studies, Literature, Psychology. Scholars presenting come from Guatemalan universities and from USA schools, Universidad de Salamanca, University of Frankfurt and others.
His talk addressed views of the "self" from the Greeks up to our days, and the ways in which these are expressed. He also questions, in interesting ways--and through his own photographic art--the extent to which the self is subjective. Lots of food for thought there.
I will return for more. Not only is it free, but they did a good job of feeding us! Talking of food in Guatemala.
Buying food for cooking in Guatemala is quite an experience. First, for some reason, fresh food simply lasts longer in my fridge in the USA than it does here. I do not know if the reason for this is that a) fresh produce in the US already has some sort of preservative added to it or b) the kind of produce selected for consumption in US markets is longer-lasting than the varieties one gets in the market here.
Be it as it may, produce here is bigger in size--the carrots, cabbages, turnips, bell peppers, etc. are huge--and much tastier. The variety of bananas and potatoes is amazing and buying produce and fruit here is a joy. I just wish I were a better and more dedicated cook!
So here are some recommendations: Aguacate (avocado) is a daily staple. To buy avocado, you squeeze it and if it yields without much pressure, it is ready for tomorrow (para mañana). If it is very soft, it is ready for today (para hoy). Rock hard, the avocado is going to last a few days. In said case, wrap it in newspaper and don't put in the fridge.
When it comes to buying corn, there is elote tierno and elote sazón (tender corn and mature corn), depending upon your preference. Most people prefer tender corn because it is softer and juicier, but I prefer to buy it sazón, because it is mushier and has a stronger flavor. You have it boiled or grilled on coals, with lime and coarse salt.
In general, don't buy produce thinking it'll last a week, for most barely lasts a few days in the fridge. That's why markets still thrive here, as cooks have to go to the market almost daily.
Same goes for fresh dairy. I buy goats' milk twice a week. The goatherder comes to the door of our building, he is given the pitcher, and he fills it up. I, in turn, pasteurize it and it is so creamy and frothy at the same time, it is delicious with coffee or used to make simple fresh cheese. By the way, it's hard to find hummus here, so I just make my own as well. I make hummus, cheese and granola, and that's about it. Not a great cook, me.
Dairy products in Guatemala are of excellent quality and variety if one knows where to get them. All sorts of butters, buttermilk, cheese, etc. I prefer the artesanal products. There is a cooperative named Xelac which produces a very good quality Swiss, Rocquefort, Gouda, Edam, etc. at half the price of imported. I also buy mantequilla de costal, salt-free freshly-churned artesanal butter, at the market.
Tortillas are very different from what you get in the USA or Mexico. Even corn tortillas are different, smaller in circumference and much thicker. I love them, though.