I’ve been silent these past few days… but for good reason. I did write a guest blog for a group I have been filming and we’ve been super busy exploring and then building greenhouses in the Andes.
It has been my pleasure to document the experiences of this group of young people. I’m blessed to be in such good company. I will post a blog each day that will be written by different members of the group. Our time together will be 14 days with amazing adventures planned for the 2 week trip.
Walking around the streets of Cusco is like being inside movie. As a filmmaker who scrutinizes each scene, I find myself rubber-necking almost constantly. The colors, the textures, the cacophony and sharpness in the area are hypnotic and mesmerizing.
I stopped carrying my camera while exploring since it made me a target. Not for robbery, the streets here are very safe, but for vendors and artists and shoe shine boys all enthusiastically trying to earn my attention and dollars.
Also, all the children here want there photos taken, not for money but for posterities sake. They dive in front of the lens and shout, Photo! Photo!
I could wander for hours and never get bored…. but I have a film to finish so I better get back to translating our footage.
Yesterday Yieber and I had a meeting with a local representative from an NGO in the United States. They don’t have an office here in Peru but when donations are made and specified to be spent here in Peru they process that request and distribute the funding.
Since we have starting filming our documentary we have heard many pleas for help. The small school we visited in Patabamba needs books, computers, teaching aids and money for nutritional food.
In the same small village high in the Andes, the women’s weaving council needs help to sell their textiles. They asked for assistance to set up a website and marketing tools, need help with training and technolgy to be competative in todays marketplace, not to mention supplies for the actual products.
When we visited a school in Lamay we saw firsthand how small contributions, well-managed, can effect huge change. The children in that community were healthy, happy and well on their way to receiving a good education. A few of the children even practiced their english and french with me.
It’s been difficult going into areas that are so poverty-stricken and not being able to help. Sometimes just a small amount of money can turn around an entire community. Upgrading the irrigation system for the farmers, providing books for the schools, seeds for nutritional crops, chimneys in kitchens to reduce asthma, respiratory illness and even cancer… all simple and cost-effective solutions that dramatically improve the quality of living for families living in remote regions.
I know that a lot of people are reluctant to give to causes without the benefit of receiving a tax receipt or having the assurance that the money will actually be going to the right place. For this reason we are investigating setting up a registered society (NGO)
We’d love your feedback on this idea since it is a challenging process, time-consuming and expensive. If we build it, will you participate?
If you want to sponsor our film, and you’re not worried about a tax receipt, there are many ways you can do this now. Donate your airmiles, (travel is an expense that is robbing our budget) provide financial help either through GoFundMe or direct email transaction, share our blog or aid us in the real production. (create graphics, write music, do research, voice-over, editing, PR, write press releases…etc)
We’re heading to the highlands again tomorrow to meet with a community leader and arrange for a donation of shoes for all the children. I’ll be posting some video of that adventure in a few days.
Everyone knows that filmmaking is a collaborative process. When a film is really good, it’s usually because each of the team members gave it a part of themselves. The combined whole is always greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Also consider the fact that each of us is unique. We have different backgrounds, cultures, religions, experiences that have shaped who we are. Our style and tastes are greatly influenced by each of those factors. When a group of people come together to collaborate on a film production each person has something unique to contribute. Not only that but, each person comes from a different perspective and position… something that I never would have considered may be blaringly obvious to someone else.
There’s both magic and mystery when it all falls together. The trick is to build a cohesive team that unites for the benefit of the project. Each person must believe in the message you are trying to convey, much like a parent who hovers over their children… if it doesn’t add to the content, it doesn’t belong.
When I started out on this journey I had the love and blessings of some friends and family. I was a crazy person on a mission to share a story that I thought was important. But something wonderful happened along my way… I met people who felt the same way I did. People who had an opinion and a voice and who wanted to shout from the rooftops with me.
I spent a lot of time focusing and visualizing what I wanted to accomplish but never once was I alone in that picture. I was surrounded by talented, creative and passionate people.
Today I rejoice in the fact that our team is growing. Yieber was the first person to step up and join this journey, then Carolina and now more are tossing their hats in the ring.
Yesterday was an interesting day. We had filmed some interviews over a week ago but since they are in a different language I didn’t know what anyone was saying. When Yieber and I translated the clips, actually he translated while I typed, and I finally got to hear what they were sharing.
This film has been an intriguing challenge for so many reasons. First there is the language barrier; I had to learn to interview people without being the person asking the questions. Then we have financial restrictions; i.e. an incredibly limited budget. Combine that with remote locations, rainy season and high altitude, well… it´s a good thing I like a challenge.
Making sure that I understand clearly what the subjects are saying can sometimes be tricky. Yieber and I end up in discussion over the correct meaning of a word, or how the same word can be used in different ways and have completely different meanings. He speaks English as a third language and when I explain the specifics of a definition at times I even get confused myself. Words like those are called contronyms.
I found a great list and explanation of them on MentalFloss.com These are words that are their own opposites.
Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression’ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.
1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’
* 2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” “Oversee,” from Old English ofersēon ‘look at from above,’ means ‘supervise’ (medieval Latin for the same thing: super- ‘over’ + videre ‘to see.’) “Overlook” usually means the opposite: ‘to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.’
* 3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)
* 4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.
* 5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them…. more
So, as you can see, translation from one language to another can be complicated. In Quechuan there are expressions that make no sense in English, the same can be said with Spanish. The trick is in finding the nuance and true meaning of what someone is saying and capture that essence as accurately as possible.
But with all the obstacles comes surprises and rewards. I have the honor of meeting and working with some truly incredible people. I am learning more than I ever could have bargained for and with luck I can translate/transmute/transfer that information clearly into the film.
Today we had one of those experiences where the situation was just too good to be true. We’re on a tight budget and were happy to find our flight tickets into the jungle were less than $80 each return. I had a strange feeling and was rushing to complete the transaction before the website crashed or a notification arrived saying that the flight was full.
The confusion arrived when my card was declined by Visa Verification process…. and I couldn’t understand why. Finally after several unsuccessful attempts Yieber called Lan Peru directly and spent over half an hour haggling with the customer service representative.
It turns out that if you are Peruvian or a legal resident of Peru you get the cheap price. For me on the other hand it was an entirely different story. My flight was nearly $300 (US) return. That was the reason for the transaction being denied, because it was coming from a foreign credit card.
Thankfully Yieber was able to reduce the prices slightly because he complained that the website had given us false hope.
This system is exactly the opposite that Air Canada offers. Flights within the country are way overpriced but you can fly across the Atlantic or to South America for half the price.
I try and avoid air transportation as much as possible since it leaves a HUGE carbon footprint, but in some cases it’s the only available option.
When I average the cost of both our tickets we are each flying for about $170 (US) return which seems a decent cost for a 55 minute journey.
It was interesting try to follow the negotiations in Spanish when Yieber was trying to convince the airline that I was living here, albeit temporarily.
Got to give him credit for trying!
If you’re interested in supporting our shoestring budget production you can follow the link in the right hand column Go Fund Me! Or you can make an electronic donation to my email.
As you can see, we’ll make sure to stretch your dollars to the max!
I was about to post the Day 11 account of my adventure and experiences in Peru but when I checked the internet my heart stopped for a moment. I flipped from one post to another, horrified at what I was reading. I have friends and loved ones all over the world and the pain of the attacks in Beirut were still throbbing when yet another atrocious event was unfolding before my very eyes. After confirming that those who I knew to be in the city were safe, I began to read the various accounts of the violations against mankind.
Many reports were tossing out conspiracy theories, some were shouting false flags and dispersed throughout an onslaught of vile accounts that the refugees embraced by the European Union were indeed at fault. I stopped reading. I swallowed my tears.
It seems the truth is buried amongst a flood of hatred, suspicion and fear. Oddly, I reflected on the fact that it was Friday the 13th. A that day many have superstitous beliefs about. I thought of my friend who was celebrating her birthday. How will she remember this day. How about the people whose birthdays are on September 11? Each date in history has both positive and negative effect. What we chose to honor and celebrate is what differentiates us from the savages.
It’s our beliefs that compound the problems. Our sterotypes, our cultural ignorance and the mass
confusion created by access to unlimited propaganda. Yes, the truth remains buried for many global events. History books are written from slanted perspectives that perpetuate more hatred and misunderstanding. How will this event be recorded? So many people weren’t even aware that just days ago an offensive was waged against Beirut. They deserve our compassion just as much as Paris. There are incursions, intrusions and invasions all over the world, but we need to focus not on the violations but on peace. If we teach compassion, forgiveness and practice unconditional love our world will change.
I don’t understand all the posts that say #prayforparis ? Which God are we praying to? Allah, Jehova, Jesus, the Lord God Almighty? I will pray for peace for all, but I pray not to a god but to the collective conscious of man for it is mankind that is creating these problems and it is mankind that must atone for them.
Namaste, Peace, Love and Unity for all those who suffer in this world.
Today I ventured out solo on a day trip to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. I had been introduced to Caroline Putnam via a mutual friend on Facebook and wanted to hear about her experiences living and working with the Q’ero (an indigenous tribe living at over 15,000 and in one the most remote areas of the Andes) Since she is originally from Louisiana I was able to interview her without needing an interpretor.
As per the usual drill, I took a taxi from the house, it cost me more than usual since I got the tourist rate, then caught a van to valley. I sat beside the only other fair haired girl, Katrina from Germany. We instantly struck up a conversation, exchanged ideas and shared experiences on the hour long trip through the mountains. It’s always such a treat to connect with kindred spirits on my journeys and Katrine was no exception.
When we arrived in Urubamba about half the passengers got out while Katrine stayed to continue on to Ollantaytambo. I admire women who travel solo in foriegn lands, especially in countries where they don’t speak the language. I wished her well, paid the driver, then searched for a payphone to contact Caroline. The phone was out of service so I was directed to another, also not working. Three men had been watching me and when I walked toward them in hopes of being directed to a functional payphone one of them pulled a cell phone from his breast pocket and handed it to me.
Wow! I didn’t even have to struggle with trying to make myself understood in limited spanish. I made my call and minutes later Caroline pulled up on her motorcycle and handed me a helmet.
Her house was nearby and I saw my first glimpse of North and South American fusion.
Caroline has lived in Urubamba for 2 years with her partner who was from the Q’ero nation but whom she originally met in Lima. They have plans to marry soon and it will be the first mix of an outsider into the strictly closed Q’eros indigenous community. We spent several hours talking about our goals and priorities then moved from the kitchen/dining/living room to her meditation room (an outbuilding on the property) where she had invited me for a sonic healing session.
Using voice, drum, bells, rattle, smudge stick, insense and essential oils, Caroline called upon the sonic vibration and energy within and surrounding me to facilitate a healing and unification of my spirit. It was an enriching experience and I enjoyed the sensations created by her intentions. I recorded the session so will try to post a soundbite later.
When she was finished we sat quietly for a few minutes then talked about our experiences during the ceremony and gave thanks for the experience. We returned to the house where she shared a meal of vegetable soup plus avocado and salsa wrapped in seaweed with me. I gathered my notes from our earlier conversation, my camera and recording equipment then we chose the meditation room to film the interview. It was interesting to hear a North Americans’ perspective of the indeginous people of Peru, especially from someone so spiritually attuned and in a serious relationship with one of its natives.
I could easily understand her attraction to the people and the culture since I myself was falling under their spell. Her insights and perspective however, seemed to come more from a point of a local than that of a foriegner. After we finished her interview I had an opportunity to speak with her brother in law who was in the process of searching for land to relocate his family from their home in the hilltops down to the town of Urubamba. Ricardo is a Maestro (medicine man) 24 years old with 4 small children. He needed to find practical work to augment his earnings as a maestro (master)
He sat chewing coca leaves while Caroline interpreted for me.
I learned more about the coca leaves from Ricardo and Caroline. A vital part of the Indigenous culture, they help not only with problems associated with high altitude but a host of other health concerns. Plant based medicine is the primary basis of the Maestro’s arsenal of cures. The knowledge is passed down from generation to generation but there is danger in losing these traditional ways since the young people today are more interested in technologies and modern affairs.
When I started planning this documentary back in April, I had a pretty good idea of the story I wanted to tell. I knew that there was a recurring theme around the world and I decided to film people who were attempting to live sustainable alternative lifestyles. It seems there’s been an awakening of sorts… people are beginning to realize that we can no longer sustain ourselves and keep our planet healthy by continuing to use methods employed in the past half a century.
I thought about the indigenous people in Canada, in North America, and partially credited them with preserving what little pristine land we had left. There could likely have been pipelines running all over the continent if not for their actions, (along with activists and concerned citizens) to halt the agressive devastation caused by the so called, industrial powerhouses. I was certain that many of those First Nations were living below the poverty level and I imagined the same was true all over the world.
But does not having money really make you poor?
After spending nearly a month in Peru I have discovered that the indigenous peoples are just as impovershed, just as disadvantaged but just as fierce in their efforts to maintain their traditions and return to the ancient ways. Sure, they have electricity, and many have cell phones, but they have recognized that we need to respect and protect mother earth or we’re all headed down a very dark path.
I have listened to their stories and heard their call for help. Now it’s my duty to share that information with the world. I have been forced to change course and subject matter for the film, just was we need to change the way we live.
One of the things that has been knawing away at me since my arrival in Peru is the amount of plastic being used. Plactic bags, bottles, dishes… it seems in direct contradiction to their goals to achieve a healthier planet. High atop the mountains are piles of garbage displaying a rainbow of plastic… blue, green, yellow and if you look closely you can see the clear bottles which somehow missed the recycling pile.
Kudos to the city of San Francisco for becoming the first city in America to ban the sale and use of single serving plastic bottles! There are bans in some national parks aready and also at some Universities, but this is the first US city to make such a move.
Rowanda banned plastic bags in 2012 and is now one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Banning plastic bags and bottles is a small step, but it’s definately going in the right direction.
Plastic is killing us, and the earth!
Please consider buying a refillable water bottle and using cloth shopping sacs and alternatives like mason jars for storing foods. We managed for thousands of years without the use of plastic, we can manage again.
A global shift is occuring… be an active part in it!
Today was a strange day. I spent the morning sorting through footage then decided I needed some fresh air. I prepared for a free walking tour of the city but when I left the apartment it was pouring rain. The weather at high altitude can change drastically and instantly so you always have to be ready. I had my rainjacket in my pack and pulled it on as I rushed for the bus. When I arrived downtown I had a few blocks to walk before reaching the main square, Plaza de Armas, and with each step it was treacherously slippery. The other day I had taken my boots to a shoe repair to have them resoled but now it was like skating on cobblestones. I could barely walk. They were slick!
I had been searching for suitable shoes for hiking so since I was downtown I decided to check out a few stores. (At least until the rain stopped.) Funny thing is that my feet are size 9 (40-41) and most Peruvians are much smaller so the selection isn´t that great. Luckily I discovered a North Face outlet that catered to tourists and found a perfect pair on special. I stuffed the boots in my backpack and exited the store under a clearing sky. (I guess refurbishing my boots was a good try but they were getting pretty worn and I needed proper foot gear for the treks ahead) My timing was good on the weather but I had missed the 2.5 hour walking tour of the city. No worries they have it every day!
By the time I got to the square everything was pretty much dry. The snap dragons had grown about a foot since my arrival 2 weeks ago. I was reminded that it was spring and the beginning of the rainy season so everthing was going to start sprouting like crazy.
Everything always looks very well maintained but this is the first time I have actually seen a man working in the gardens. Maybe they do it mostly at night? That´s when the garbage pickers and sidewalk sweepers (all done by hand) are working.
I wanted to take some photos today in the main square and around the touristy areas but I kept getting approached by the peddlers. Hard to take natural shots with mobs of locals selling key chains and hats… I loved the scene above though. A weaver demonstrating her skills with a local girl looking on. The textiles are truly incredible and very time consuming to make by hand.
I left the main square and headed away from the selling zone… Then, I discovered this place. I arrived purely by accident because I was looking for a bathroom and went through a doorway into a huge courtyard that I must have passed a dozen times before. It looked like the type of place tour groups would be brought to. I got mobbed here too and had to pay a woman to take my photo after she handed me a piece of lettuce and forced me to feed her dirty Alpaca or Llama or…?
I noticed that the other wooly creatures didn´t have the same teeth as this guy. Not sure if that´s normal or a really bad overbite. In any event, he wasn´t even that hungry and I had to literally force my $3 (soles) piece of lettuce at him.
On my way out of the tourist trap zone I was approached by a woman who wanted me to have my photo taken sitting in the sun god´s throne. I refused on the basis that the cat was comfortably occupying it. I don´t know how these people make a living…? One Peruvian Sole equals about 40 cents Canadian… and that´s what they usually get. Doesn´t seem much for all the effort them put out.
I got back home just before the sun dipped behind the mountains. I keep waiting for a good sunset but you rarely get rich colors here since the air is so thin and remarkably clean. I thought the lens flare was kind of interesting in this angle though.
Back to more editing tomorrow! Starting on the rough picks then translation for the second segment.
Be sure to check back on the previous days if you missed them. Also, if you have any questions or comments about the project, we´d love to hear from you.