Mushrooms in translation

Hi all!

I want to share this section of my fieldnotes. Rather than description, it is my analysis. It is very much a thought in progress, so I would love any feedback!

A description of mushrooms and mushroom sellers at a Kunming market

Analysis:

There are two important variables concerning mushroom sellers in Kunming’s farmers market. The first variable: Is the seller also the picker, or did the seller buy from a distributor? The second variable: whether the mushrooms are wild or not. While the word ‘wild’ seems to translate into English quite nicely, and without confusion, describing ‘not wild’ is more open to interpretation. Andree, my Chinese counterpart, prefers the term ‘artificial’. Indeed, after spending a good week chatting with Kunminese about mushrooms, it seems that ‘artificial’ is the most commonly used English word. Other translations would include, ‘cultivated’, ‘industrial’, ‘farmed’, ‘mass-produced’, etc.

In my opinion ‘cultivated’ is the most accurate term. Afterall, cultivation is exactly what is being done. As opposed to mushrooms growing without the aid of humans, in the wild (interestingly, most wild mushrooms still cannot be cultivated), this other category of mushrooms ARE grown by humans, they are cultivated.

But, that point aside, the fact that these Kunminese prefer the translation ‘artificial’, is very telling. ‘Artificial’– to describe not-wild– is by far the most polarizing term to use. To say ‘artificial’ implies that something is not real, it is not genuine, and thus inferior if not critically flawed. It goes far beyond terms such as ‘cultivated’, ‘industrial’, or ‘farmed’. And indeed, when discussing this choice of translation with various Kunminese, I have questioned whether or not they mean ‘industrial’ or ‘farmed’. They tell me that they also mean these other, nearby terms. But still they insist that ‘artificial’ better expresses what they are trying to say when describing those mushrooms that sell at a cheaper price and are lacking in robust flavor and aroma.

Additionally, this view of wild vs ‘artificial’ mushrooms applies to other produce. At one point, when walking around the market, we found ourselves in an area that strangely lacked the hustle and bustle occurring everywhere else. I wasn’t the one to bring it up. Rather, Andree pointed it out by asking Shiladitya and I why we thought this section was so quiet. We gave many guesses but couldn’t figure it out. Finally, she said that unlike the rest of the market, where the farmers themselves sell food, this section was comprised only of distributors. Andree explained that these distributors get their food from industrial farms (of course she said ‘artificial’). She said it wasn’t as fresh, or natural. And evidently everyone knew it. (Now I have to also admit that on average the price is slightly lower, and it is easier to bargain with the farmers. But still Andree stressed that the quality of the food was of higher consideration to the scurrying consumers.)

In other words, what Im trying to say, is that Kunming doesn’t need Alice Waters to come and lecture on the importance of naturally grown, locally sourced food. Such values run deep in Kunminese culture.

And to really take this thought too far… I will say that this story is very interesting in relation to the macro picture of an industrializing, urbanizing China. If there is such concern over naturally-grown, fresh foods, how do people swallow such obscene industrialization? Throughout my interviews, I am surprised to find so much acceptance over industrialization (and its consequences on food quality, including pollution in general). Obviously people aren’t happy about it, nor am I inferring any sort of apathy. But still, there seems to be a sense of trust, or calm, maybe understanding that this is part of a process, a cycle, and that resolution will be found. It is hard for me to express. And it is hard for me to say how I feel about it, but it is what I observe.

india to yunnan journey so far…………….suman chakraborty

india to yunnan journey so far has been a tremendous experience specially so far for a person like me who is travelling abroad … i love the culture and environment of the city just love it had some problem to adapt with the food of here but now got completely used to it …………..its just awesome

Film: ICI Fellow Milind Murugkar on India's Food Security

ICI Fellow Milind Murugkar has recently done an interesting piece comparing America’s system of food stamps with India’s current lack of food security. By traveling to New York City, and interviewing food stamp recipients, Murugkar was able to gather first-hand knowledge of the United States system, its challenges and successes.

Milind says, “We have used this film successfully this past year to introduce the United States’ food stamp program to the Indian public. This documentary, America’s Ration System, was aired three times on a leading television channel, IBN-Lokmat, a regional network in Maharashtra, A shorter version of the documentary was broadcast on the leading Indian national television channel CNN-IBN, a sister station to CNN and well known for its Citizen Journalism Segment featuring news pieces created by ordinary citizens to highlight pressing social concerns. America’s Ration System aired on this program and was subsequently nominated for a Citizen Journalist Award by CNN-IBN’s editorial board.”

Everyone at ICI wishes to congratulate Milind on the success of his documentary, and to thank him for sharing it with us! Below you will find the video in two parts.

Part 1

Part 2
watch?v=pPpiB5ablb0&feature=player_embedded

Film: ICI Fellow Milind Murugkar on India's Food Security

ICI Fellow Milind Murugkar has recently done an interesting piece comparing America’s system of food stamps with India’s current lack of food security. By traveling to New York City, and interviewing food stamp recipients, Murugkar was able to gather first-hand knowledge of the United States system, its challenges and successes.

Milind says, “We have used this film successfully this past year to introduce the United States’ food stamp program to the Indian public. This documentary, America’s Ration System, was aired three times on a leading television channel, IBN-Lokmat, a regional network in Maharashtra, A shorter version of the documentary was broadcast on the leading Indian national television channel CNN-IBN, a sister station to CNN and well known for its Citizen Journalism Segment featuring news pieces created by ordinary citizens to highlight pressing social concerns. America’s Ration System aired on this program and was subsequently nominated for a Citizen Journalist Award by CNN-IBN’s editorial board.”

Everyone at ICI wishes to congratulate Milind on the success of his documentary, and to thank him for sharing it with us! Below you will find the video in two parts.

Part 1

Part 2
watch?v=pPpiB5ablb0&feature=player_embedded

Bir to Bhagsu

I’ve had quite the experience since the last time I wrote! In Bir, I started spending a lot of time at Deer Park, a center for classical Indian wisdom that specializes in Buddhist philosophy. They also have an ecology program and are very serious about being a zero-waste campus, so they’ve been very interesting for my research. I was fortunate enough to be in Bir at the same time as a 4-day teaching by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, an extremely renowned lama. People from literally all around the world flew in just for this teaching, so I figured I might as well go along, since I happened to be living just a three minute walk away.
I’ve been fascinated by Buddhism for some time now, but I did not come to India with much of an agenda to learn about it. However, it seems like this is the time in my life to actually spend some time delving into it. The teaching was on The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva, a central text in Mahayana Buddhism. For a teeny bit of background, a bodhisattva is a person who dedicates their life to developing compassionate and serving all sentient beings. The teaching also happened to be really relevant to my research project on how sustainability work can be more effective when approached as karma yoga, since the philosophies of karma yoga and the way of the bodhisattva are quite similar.
I would have you reading for hours if I were to describe all that I learned and considered at the teaching. It was incredibly thought-provoking and gave me something of a new framework for the kind of person I want to be. It also really helped me clarify many of my beliefs and rediscover several things I appreciate about Judaism. Mostly it just made me realize how much more I need and want to learn about Buddhism. Whenever I thought I understood something, a conversation would usually reveal that its much more complicated than I thought.
After the teaching, I spent a few more days up the mountain on the building project. I got a little better at throwing mud at walls, sifting rocks, and even Hindi! The highlight was always the incredible lunches the women made. They all brought dishes from home to share and usually forced me to eat way too much delicious food!
On my last day in Bir, I fulfilled my dream of FLYING! Bir is a world-famous site for paragliding, so I figured it was too good of a chance to pass up! It was really quite surreal.
I decided to spend my last week in India in the Dharamsala area to learn more about karma yoga from the many yoga centers there. I found a yoga course in Bhagsu that covers a lot of the theory and philosophy of yoga, in addition to the physical yoga asana practice. I’ve been practicing yoga for about four years now, but none of my yoga classes have really gone into the theory behind the poses, so this has been an incredible opportunity to learn about what exactly it is that I’ve been doing for the past few years. I’ve really been enjoying the chance to make yoga the focus of my life for a few days. I’ve been doing lots of really interesting reading, particularly on karma yoga, which is giving me so much, even beyond my research project.
Bhagsu is one of the weirdest/coolest places I’ve ever been. It’s basically an Israeli colony way up in the Himalayas. I see and hear more Hebrew than Hindi or even English. It seems like every other building is a yoga or meditation center, and the rest are hippied-out cafes filled with colorful tapestries, cushions, and lanterns. Most of the cafes have a menu that features Indian, American, Italian, Greek, Israeli, Chinese and Tibetan food. There is a huge culture of people just sitting in cafes all day and all night. One of my friends said it reminds her summer camp, which I think is pretty fitting. And its GORGEOUS!

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