Saturday, July 13, 2024

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People of Another World IX by Melda Sherman

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Melda SHERMAN / BOSTON

Melda Sherman / ARTTMODERNMIAMI NEWS 

Melda Sherman: Hello, can you tell us a little about yourself? What is your name?

Marcela Hampel: My name is Marcela Hampel and I am an immigrant in the USA. Currently, a citizen of this great country. I am a Spanish teacher who is permanently learning English (I do it slowly). I have a family. Currently raising teenagers. I am fond of art, and I like very much to paint.

Melda Sherman: Where did you come from? 

Marcela Hampel: I am from Argentina.

Melda Sherman: Are you married? 

Marcela Hampel; I have been married for 17 years, and the years dating, we are 26 years together. My partner, friend, and husband is German. 

Melda Sherman: Where do you live? Since when? Where have you lived before?

Marcela Hampel: I was born and raised in Argentina. I lived in different cities in the Northeast (Formosa, Corrientes, and Posadas); geographically and culturally close to Paraguay and Brazil. Our kids were born in Argentina. Because of my husband’s job, we moved to the USA in 2012. They were a baby and a toddler when we moved.

Melda Sherman: What is your occupation? 

Marcela Hampel: In Argentina, I was a computer programmer, working in the forest and forest products industries. Once we moved to USA, I spent the first years learning English and taking care of my little kids. After that, my vocation turned towards education and mainly, I have been teaching Spanish in a couple of universities for the last few years.

Melda Sherman: What is your country like? Can you tell us a little bit?

Marcela Hampel: My country has many things, bad and good. It can be sad when we learn about the economic crisis it is permanently living in. At the same time, the people are very proud and passion, especially when the matter is soccer. Like many American countries, we are a melting pot resulting from the mixing of Indigenous and European. During the 20th century, Argentina was the destination of second-largest group of immigrants on the continent. We had turbulent times and military dictatorships like many other Latin American countries in the 70s. We have already gone through hyperinflation, very populist governments, and a permanent economic crisis. However, we also have good things: no wars, no racial or gender discrimination, no issues with freedom of speech or religion. I mean, there could exist a few cases in this matter, as in the rest of the world, but they are insignificant. Even though people live in permanent crises, we have many reasons to be proud.

Melda Sherman: Do you have movie and book recommendations about your country? 

Marcela Hampel: Movies: The son of the bride (El hijo de la novia).

Argentina, 1985

Melda Sherman: How are the Argentina people? What are they eating? What do they drink? How is the climate?

Marcela Hampel: Argentines like very much to spend time with relatives and friends. In my opinion, we are more spontaneous, we are used to a less formal treatment. It could be mistaken with thoughtlessness, until you realize that treatment means we adopted you and formalities are not needed.

About food, our “asado” (barbecue) is what we are known for. The tradition is to prepare the fire outside on Sundays, gathering family and friends in the morning. I do not know much about wine, but some Argentine red wines are very prestigious. However, probably the most typical drink is the “mate”, which is an infusion we drink with a metallic straw. “Let´s drink mates”, is the equivalent of “let´s go for a coffee”. It could mean, “let´s talk, let´s spend quality time together”.

Argentina is the southernmost country in the continent with all the climates and landscapes: (sub-) tropical and humid in the northeast, dry and hot in the northwest. Towards the South, in Patagonia, it can be pretty cold. Mountains (the Andes stretch from North to South), the best waterfalls, and plains for agriculture. Cosmopolitan cities and wide deserts.

Melda Sherman: How did you adapt to America?

Marcela Hampel: Slowly but well. I found the US to be a great country with great people, although it is still easier for me to get closer to Latinos, but mainly because of the language.

When I arrived in the US, this was in Ohio, in November. It was cold and snowy. I did not speak a lot of English and I did not meet my neighbors until Spring. It was very lonely, but it was nice. I fell in love with the cold, with the snow and I think this situation brought me to paint. Then, I became a member of an artists’ group with great people. I met other persons related with education and I ended up teaching Spanish.

Although I love Argentina, I never felt the necessity to come back. I think the technology in these times helps with that. I still hear the radio from there, I read the news, and I am in contact with my family and friends through social media. The experience of an immigrant now is very different from the one my great-grandparents went through a hundred years ago. I feel myself in the place I want to be, but maybe because I feel I can be in different places at the same time with the internet.

Melda Sherman: What are your plans?

Marcela Hampel: Right now, my plans are modest and happy: to continue my studies in Spanish, teaching it, and painting watercolor in my free time.

Melda Sherman: Many people in many parts of the world want to change their lives. They even want to settle in other countries. What would you like to say to them? 

Marcela Hampel: Everyone faces different realities. For some people is harder than for others. The decision must be accompanied by a great deal of willpower and determination, as well as careful planning. You must understand that you have to adapt and have an “open mind” attitude.

Melda Sherman: Well… Do you go to Argentina often? What are you missing?

Marcela Hampel: I am not going very often, on average every 6 years. I have children and it is a long trip! I also have relatives who visited me.

About missing something, I could mention some situations that make me say “Oh my God, why am I not in Argentina right now?”. All of them have to do with the FIFA World Cup (Soccer). Every 4 years for a month, it is the only thing we, the Argentines, can talk about. The expectations and the gathering to watch the games make it a very special time. I still cannot overcome the shock when we are in the month of the World Cup and in a bar or in restaurants in the USA; TVs are only showing basketball games or American football games. Those moments make me feel alone or too far away, as in another planet.

Melda Sherman: Well, what is popular as a profession in Argentina? 

Marcela Hampel: A fun fact: Argentina has the highest number of psychologists per capita in the world.

Melda Sherman: Do you have a funny memory after moving to America?

Marcela Hampel: When learning numbers and age 3, my younger son was very proud about that and at one moment, he dialed 911 … and hang up. 1 Minute later, we got a call back from the local police department and after 3 minutes a friendly officer was at the door checking what all this is about. We were very ashamed, but also quite impressed by the quick action.

Melda Sherman: Finally, imagine sending a message to the universe! What would you say? 

Marcela Hampel: Dear Universe, I think on many occasions I was able to decipher your signals. However, it would be great if they were clearer. Otherwise, thank you!

Many thanks for this interview… 

Melda Sherman 

Instagram: melssherman 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

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