2019-05-14

Q&A with Volunteer Cole Sterr: Soup Kitchen Insight

Written by Lauren Hoffmann
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The communications team visited Cole while he was working, and had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience.

Volunteer Cole Sterr has been working in a soup kitchen for Voluntario global as part of his service learning subject through college. Cole has spent close to a semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires through a program at his college in Minnesota, United States. The soup kitchen Cole has been working in during his time here services a kindergarten and local community.

What is your favorite dish you have been preparing during your time at the soup kitchen? 

My favorite dish is defiantly the desserts, it’s like a sweet roll so it’s a piece of bread and I spread dulce le leche in the middle of it and roll up. I usually prepare them every Tuesday and that’s a lot of fun for me, it’s what I most look forward too. Otherwise I just usually do random tasks in the kitchen, lots of chopping vegetables.

Did you face any difficulties?

In the soup kitchen? Well yes obviously the language barrier is hard I’m not fluent in Spanish, I’m proficient but not fluent so that’s a struggle because sometimes they tell me what I need to do and I don’t know what they are saying so it usually requires a lot of pointing and a lot of hand gestures. Also it was a new environment, new place and neighborhood of Buenos Aires that I had never been in so that was hard, and getting here is always a time because it’s an hour from where I live. So just making sure I get here on time, energized and ready to work because all the ladies in the kitchen are super energized all the time so sometimes it’s hard keeping up. I’m not a proficient cook by any means so sometimes I feel like I’m not as fast or feel like I’m slowing them down but nothing too bad.

Being a vegetarian: was it easy to sustain your vegetarian lifestyle here?

In Buenos Aires yes it would be. I actually decided not to be a vegetarian during my stay in Argentina just because I know they eat a lot of meat here. Had I made the decision to continue to be a vegetarian here I think it would be easy, my host mum is actually a vegetarian and everywhere I go there is always a few vegetarian dishes and vegan and vegetarian restaurants too. I don’t think it would have been that hard, vegan yeah it would have. Here in the soup kitchen it would have been difficult if I was vegetarian, they always feed me and I find that such a wholesome gesture so even when its meat I’ll accept it and eat it.

Not having done so before, how did you handle preparing the meat?

It was an interesting time cutting up the meat, I didn’t even know how to cut it up they just handed me a knife and I just watched the woman next to me for reference and went with it. That was interesting because I’ve never really cut raw meat like that before. Because I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now seeing raw meat was a little disturbing but it doesn’t matter, I would do the task anyway if asked.

Speaking of food: Have you changed your perspective on food since working here?

Not really I would say, obviously the soup kitchen tries to feed the community around here so I guess just have to do whatever they have to, to get that done. I’m just happy to help in whatever way and I don’t really care what the food is in my opinion, because this area is scarce in resources just having something to nourish the people in the area is better than nothing I guess. I would say my own personal preferences about food haven’t really changed I am probably still going to be a vegetarian when I go home.

What will you take home from your experience working here?

I would say that I would take how that it’s good to be out of your comfort zone. When I first came here and it was a lot of Spanish at first and like I said I’m not fluent in the language. So the language barrier was really tough and just being in a new environment I felt like a fish out of water, but as I started to talk to the ladies in the kitchen and get into a routine I felt a bit more comfortable. I would say defiantly getting out of your comfort zone is important and I guess I’ve really seen how collectivist it is, coming from the US it’s a really individualist culture and here it’s very collectivist so it doesn’t really matter who you are and what you do in the kitchen or even if you make mistakes just as long as your helping, were all working towards the same goal. There was a lot of times where I was really self conscious about things and then I realized it didn’t really matter and they didn’t care so I would say I’ve seen how collectivist it is and I will take more of that behavior with me back. All the workers always give me a kiss and always greet me and some of the people who have done that I’ve never even actually spoken to. I guess I would just reinforce that no matter who you are you’re always welcome here.

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