Meet our Kuadrilla: Interviews with Current IISJ Masters Students
Weekly interview series by Pamela Teutli & Emma Hyndman
Current master’s students David Lopez Martinez (Colombia) and Narith Non (Cambodia) are roommates, classmates, and friends. We sat down with them to hear about how they get along, what they’ve learned in Oñati, and what their friendship means to them. David and Narith immediately hit it off, and can often be found cooking together in the residence or sharing notes in class. They were gracious enough to volunteer their time for this first interview in a continuing series called Meet our Kuadrilla. These interviews give the Oñati community a chance to meet current master’s students through themed interviews. We asked a few questions before turning it over to them, giving Narith and David the opportunity to interview each other.
*Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity
How did you decide to come to the IISJ in Oñati?
Narith: To be honest, I don't know what to do with my life. After graduating from law school, I wanted to work in the private sector but I was lost. I had a Cambodian friend who participated in an exchange program at the Indonesian University who shared information about Oñati. I decided to apply and was successfully accepted, so now I'm here. I just came here to try it and see what new things I can learn.
It’s been two or three months already and I find that everything is beautiful here. Even new knowledge. I never regretted coming here. Everything I’ve learned is very satisfying.
David: It has been a very wonderful and interesting experience. There are so many issues to understand, so many cultures, so many new things I’ve learned in just a few months. I am in a similar situation to Narith. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I was in law school and I was interested in sociology and anthropology. Some professors and friends suggested I come to Oñati to study because it is the strongest program of its type in the European world.
German Bernal, my professor in sociology of law, first suggested this program to me. He came to Oñati as a visiting scholar about twenty years ago. Andres Abel Rodriguez also influenced my decision to apply here, he spent time in Oñati as a visiting scholar during his post-doctorate. Finally, when I met with Mauricio Garcia from the National University of Colombia, he convinced me that the Institute is one of the most interesting places in the world to study sociology of law.
David: Ka [Narith’s nickname], How have you felt the multiplicity of cultures?
Narith: There are a lot of cultures and peoples living here, different people from different places. When I was in my country, I hardly knew that many countries. I have a perspective of the US, and I felt that the US doesn't accept Muslim people, for example. But here, people are very kind, they accept the migrants. They don't care about job competition, they even accept different religions and cultures. They are very kind to accept that. I think it is a good thing, after all.
Narith: How do you feel being in Oñati? When you see a lot of Colombian people do you feel like home or do you feel homesick sometimes?
David: It's a question of mixed-feelings. It is nice that there is a multiplicity of cultures that are combined in a small geographic region. I am impressed because of this situation. Maybe they are encouraging us to retain a sense of togetherness that goes beyond continental spaces. The coexistence of many cultures, many backgrounds, personalities. Everyone has a lot of things to teach us, in this master you learn for everyone through their experiences, their visions, their languages, but most important their stories.
Interviewee: What have you learned from each other and what has been your relationship as roommates, friends, and peers?
David: To me it has been surprising that we are so similar. We share so many sensitivities about the world. I have admired Narith's disposition to listen to people, to the language, his ability to learn. There are messages about Buddhism that I've learned from him. For example, the idea that you are only alive to give. I listen to Narith’s stories about his background, the history of Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge, the customs of Cambodian people.
Narith: I've learned a lot of things from you, too. He is a very disciplined person! Sometimes he is not disciplined, but in a good way! I will snooze my alarm if I'm watching TV so that I can keep watching but he snoozes his alarm while he is reading so that he can read more. He always wants to keep reading. I try to learn from him but it is very difficult. He is very smart and disciplined. I try to observe the way he eats, the way he lives, I try to perceive the context back in his hometown. What makes him like this? Sometimes, if I wonder, I ask him.
David: You have many wise quotes that remind me of popular wisdom in Colombia. You enjoy the simplicity of life with people. For example, I have admired your sensitivity with nature. When we are walking, you are looking up at the trees and you ask what kinds of trees or plants we are surrounded by.
Narith: I have a reason to feel sensitive towards nature because I come from a farming background, my family are peasants. But you also have a deep love of nature. All kinds of nature! When we went to Urrbia together, you didn’t want to miss the opportunity to go to the top, even though some of us were hesitant due to the cold. You spend time in the forest here and see nature to learn about this place and its people.
David: I admire your stories…
Narith: About what
David: Everything. Do you remember the porridge?
Narith: Yes, yes I remember.
David: It was a story about the suffering caused by the dictatorship. Narith told me about the food he cooks and the special way of preparing rice to--
Narith: We use a little rice to feed a lot of people. Maybe a cup of uncooked rice can feed at least 5 or 6 people. This happened during the dictatorship. People starved because the government only gave out one cup of rice to feed hundreds and mixed it with vegetables. And David always appreciates these stories.
"In this master, you are allowed to learn from everyone. Their language, their background but most importantly their stories".