PART 3: THE INTIMATE DETAILS
Okay. Now let’s invade your privacy a bit and question these things. The first one is: Why did you become a vegan?
I was seven years old when I told my mother that I was going to be a vegetarian. I was walking and I saw a man hacking a frozen animal. I told my mother I was going to be a vegetarian and she said I was going to die. At that moment, both of us didn’t realize that it was true, so I said, “Okay, if you want to cook me meat, make sure it’s not recognizable.” And I was very difficult about that.
At fourteen, I decided to really become a vegetarian. And Mom even went to a doctor to see if I was going to die and the doctor said no, there are people who don’t eat meat in their diet and they’re fine. So I became one.
Carolena’s commitment to veganism is reflected not only in the merchandise in the FCBD store, but also in the little refrigerator she shares in the studio: it is a completely no-meat environment. Carolena even convinced Wild Card (an American fashion company) to make a vegan based line to be sold in the FCBD store. And there’s no silk hip scarf to be found in sight. Nope. Just gorgeous, viscose and cotton fringe scarves.
Do you think your being vegan has inspired many bellydancers, particularly the Tribal dancers?
Well, I’d like to say that, but I think it’s also more to the fact that people heard about my being vegan and just asked how I did that. So they asked me questions and I answered whatever I can.
One time when I was teaching in Milwaukee, I met the husband of the organizer. When we met me for the first time, he was a die-hard meat eater. At the end of the workshop, he became a vegetarian, and a week later, he became vegan.
Wow! That’s fascinating! Does being a Buddhist have to do with you being vegan? When did you become a Buddhist?
I didn’t really become one. I was being a vegetarian at that time and was researching for religions that specifically forbid the eating of meat. And it turned out that only Jainism teaches that and if I were to be a Jain, I would need to let go my current lifestyle and I can’t do that. All religions teach meat eating as optional, but I think Buddhism is the only one that says it is better for you not to eat meat because it’s going to be much better for the karma.
So, one time I visited a temple here and I asked a monk if I had to go through a ceremony to become a Buddhist and he said no. And I said, “Oh, okay, because I felt completely peaceful here (in the temple),” and the monk said, “Well congratulations then! You’re a Buddhist!” And so I phoned my Mom and said, “Mom, guess what? I’m a Buddhist!”
My mom is just the type of person who’ll ask me what I’m into or I’m doing so that she could try it too and experience it with me. She’s not religious but when she learned what Buddhism is, she said she liked the philosophy of Buddhism. She even referred to the Dalai Lama as her boyfriend because she loves him so much and he has changed and taught her so many things, including patience.
Was this when you discover the Goddess Quan-Yin?
Well, I’m a Tibetan Buddhist and the Goddess lives in Chinese Buddhism belief. For Quan-Yin, I believe that I’ve known her even before Buddhism. There was a picture of her silhouette given to me by my roommate at a time and I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever.
I didn’t know that there were so many interpretations, paintings and statues of the Goddess. So I figured out that the way not to lose the picture was to tattoo it on my body. At first, I was going to do it only as an outline because that was the only way I knew of the image. But my tattoo artist said that we had to fill it. So people started giving me pictures of Quan-Yin and I realized that there were many interpretations of this goddess.
Alright. Now, when we were doing the General Skills and Teacher Trainings 1 & 2, you sat there, knitting away, all the while listening and responding to our queries without skipping a beat. How did you get into knitting?
Well, after design schools and lots of sewing, I wanted to learn to weave, so when I asked a friend who was a fashion designer if I could try to weave, she let me give it a try, but then said, “Ummm… You should stick to sewing.” I wanted to weave but she helped me realize I was too slow for that. Later, I found out that I had to do something when I’m flying (to teach workshops), and so I took up knitting. At first it was so overwhelming that I gave it up. But then I took up crocheting and once I got the hang of it, I got back to knitting again, and here I am.
The thing about knitting is that it’s portable and I can do it anywhere. When flying, take the bamboo sticks with the rounded point. The metal ones just won’t work with the security protocol.
Do you have a piece you’re really proud of?
My biological clock has switched ON now. At first it said “experiment”, now it says “produce”. I’m making Stump Socks for Amputees with the Granny Peace Brigade, and Beanies for Servicemen and Servicewomen with Operation Beanie. I’m currently knitting a vest for myself, but this one can wait. I feel the need to create something that has social value with knitting, and it helps with the feeling of helplessness.
I converted my living room into a textile studio with two sewing machines, a loom and a spinning wheel. But I can’t take those things with me, so I carry my knitting when I travel.
Continued next Thursday, May 5th, 2011, with "The Love" - the last one of this series. Discover what Ms. Nericcio's favorite ATS Steps and Moves are, her opinions on performing and teaching, her favorite things in FCBD headquarters, and her future plan.