Perhaps you recognize the feeling of seeing someone after a long time. At first, you don't know what to expect. After a brief moment, the discomfort vanishes and the familiar sensation emerges. You – experienced Estimator reader – should feel this right now, knowing that we interviewed one of the most prominent faces of the Estimator: Former member and chairwoman Lala. At her beautiful residence, we chatted about life after leaving the committee while enjoying her delicious traditional national food.
We met Lala on a rainy and drizzly night at the end of march. It does not look like a nice welcome home after going on exchange for half a year. But, Lala loves being close with her friends again and the fact that the wine is way cheaper. Even the Erasmus Campus, “As shitty as it is”*, feels like a cozy home to her. But first, dinner has to be prepared. In the meantime, some wine is being consumed.
*She immediately apologized and didn't want it in the article. However, she is not in charge of the Estimator anymore.
For those who don't know you, maybe you can tell us a bit about who you are and your connection to Estimator.
'Hello everyone. I'm Lala, I'm Kurdish from Iraq. I'm 20 years old, studying the double bachelor's degree in my fourth year. I was in Estimator for three years and I was the chairwoman last year. And currently I'm a member of the eurekaweek committee.'
And what motivated you to participate in the exchange program?
Most of all meeting new people. But I initially wanted to study in the UK before I came to the Netherlands. So by going to Glasgow, I was curious to see what living there would have been like or if I should do my masters in the United Kingdom? And I was convinced to go to Glasgow because my friends had a lot of fun there.'
Meanwhile, the food is being served. Although Lala is known for her cooking skills, she never cooked traditionally Kurdish for other people. “Not even my best friends”, she confessed. Not knowing if this was a positive or a negative thing, we were honored to taste it.
And did you understand them? Or did you experience any misunderstanding during your stay?
'Well it was quite difficult because Glaswegians have one of the thickest accents. So whenever you met someone who was from Glasgow, like a taxi driver, you could never understand him. It's just impossible. But besides that, it was okay. However, I did experience a funny misunderstanding.
So this guy asked me if I wanted to come over for tea. And I was quite surprised because that's an interesting thing to say. Do you want to come over for tea? But he already knew that I had dinner plans. So I said that I have dinner plans, but I can come over afterwards for a tea. Then he was quite confused. And there was confusion on my part, because you were supposed to have dinner at the time he suggested to drink tea. After all, it turned out that in Scotland tea means dinner.'
We can imagine that moving from Kurdistan to the Netherlands was a big shock, but did you experience big culture shocks in Scotland?
'No because moving to the Netherlands was already a culture shock so I already embraced it. So I don't think Scotland was that different. The culture shock for me was as a Kurdish person moving to the Netherlands was how direct everyone was and how to the point and cut the bullshit. On the other hand, Kurds are always like “you can take everything I own”. If you compliment someone and say that their watch is really pretty they literally give it to you and force you to take it. That's the kind of culture I was born in.
In Glasgow, it was really interesting how close everyone was and how much everyone was like family to each other, even though they had such different personalities. We also had potluck, which is something I've never had before in the Netherlands. Basically, it's like a dinner where everyone brings a dish and you eat it together. And after a pint of beer, everyone is gone.'
In the meantime, we are loving the food. I would have been ashamed at a potluck compared to Lala's delicacies. Unfortunately, I don't think it is going to be a hype in the Netherlands. A potluck with stingy Dutchies is still going to end up with a tikkie. And Lala knows that too ;)
And what did you like in Glasgow besides potluck and the people?
'I would say one thing that was nice about Glasgow was that museums were free. So we went to a lot of museums and we could go as many times as we wanted to take long walks, which was great. The Glasgow Botanic Gardens was just like five minutes away from my apartment, so I was just constantly taking walks there.
There are lots of cute pubs. And everyone after uni would go to a pub and just have a pint. I think the music was interesting at times, but if you found the right clubs, it was very fun.'
What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in an exchange program in the near future?
'I would also say definitely go to as many freshman events as you can. In the end, it's really the new friends that make your exchange. So don't stress too much about actually passing because everything is easier than Erasmus. Furthermore, I think it is nice to try out a different sport.
It is also important to look for a place you think you would really enjoy living in. For me, Glasgow was too cold. I was sick for a month the moment I got there :/ But I did come to realize I do not want to live in the UK.
The fact that the weather in the Netherlands is not that bad after all is a pretty good conclusion for me. And if she goes to the UK, we can't enjoy her food anymore.
So last but not least the recipe of the dish of the night by Lala herself: .
Brnj ba rubahanar:
- Pomegranate molasses (1/4 cup)
- Salt (1 teaspoon)
- Beef/Chicken/Veggie stock (1 cup)
- Short grain rice (1 cup)
- Blanched almonds
It's crucial to use very concentrated pomegranate molasses, many brands have very little pomegranate content compared to the amount of sugar added etc.
1. Wash your rice! Place it into a large bowl and fill with cold water, give the rice a little mix and drain it. Repeat this process a couple of times until the water runs clear. (My mom also makes sure to keep the rice soaked in water for at least 20 minutes).
2. In a pot pour a generous amount of oil (Kurds are very fond of their oil, no pun intended) on medium to high heat . Afterwards fry the pomegranate molasses in the oil. Once that's simmered for a couple of minutes add in your washed rice and a teaspoon of salt. Incorporate the rice well into the molasses. After the rice has been fried in the mixture for a minute on medium to high heat, add in the cup of stock water and bring to a boil on high heat. Make sure to gently stir the rice in the mixture as it comes to a boil. Once steam has formed, immediately cover the pot and keep it tightly shut. I like to put a kitchen towel below the lid as the pots I own aren't too good at trapping the steam inside.
3. While the rice is cooking, bring another pan and add some oil. Fry up some almonds and raisins (controversial but I personally omit the raisins). Once the almonds have turned brown remove from heat and set aside.
4. Let the rice cook for 20-25 minutes. Once thats cooked uncover the lid and assess whether the rice is cooked enough.
5. Once the rice is cooked serve the rice on a large plate and pour over the almonds and raisins.
6. For meat of choice, either slow cooked lamb or chicken thighs marinated in pomegranate molasses is the way to go :)