Each of these posts was written by different members of the Reach Out Volunteer team. It has been an enriching experience for me capturing their work, travels and experiences for our film and pleasure to have gotten to know them a bit.
The train ride back from Machu Picchu was bitter sweet. I was happy to be heading back to Cusco and to get caught up on my correspondence… but I knew that I may never again get the opportunity to visit all the amazing places that we had been too. These posts will be a lasting memory of those days. Posts for Day 1 through 3 have already been put to my facebook, but are also available on the wordpress site.
We are on our final 2 days of the 14 day journey… today we visit an animal rescue center, an artisan center that fabricates silver jewelry and a baby alpaca factory for tapestries and textiles.
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 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.
Today as we continue to review the footage from Day One and Two, I am reminded of the beauty and innocence of the children of Richard’s village. Here is a picture of a mother escorting her child to school. Few of these children have been exposed to the big city and even fewer have seen foriegners. Richard has two daughters, the eldest is 5 and attends kindergarten. She she is dressed in her traditional clothing.The younger daughter is only two but speaks Quechan very well and is a bright and sensitive child. She was very shy around me, probably because I looked so different than anyone she was used to.
Richard’s eldest daughter was eager to show me how she could weave (braid) as well. She was fascinated with the camera and was much more confident than her little sister.
Yesterday was a great day because we had many unexpected surpirses. Today we are reviewing the footage of the past 4 days… a complicated task because everything is in a language that I don’t understand. We have over 1,000 photos so far and I do understand them. Like they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So today instead of a big story, I will share some images from Patabamba.
In the morning, the women move the livestock to the pasture land. They use the wool from the Laamas and sheep for making textiles.
We tried to speak with the president of the village but he refused to give us his time. At first we were dissapointed but instead we headed to the school to see about interviewing someone there. The principal, Juana Sulema Carrasco Cruz, was more than happy to share her time with us and gave us fantastic insight into the local community and the problems there.
This was the grade 3 classroom. Major problems at the school are, limited supplies, no library, one computer for the entire school, very few books. Problems for the children are, absent parents (they must work out of town and are often gone overnight) poor nutrition, no money for uniforms, unequal financial status (some families are self sufficient while others live in extreme poverty).
Some of the young girls end up having babies are welcome to bring them to school. They bring them into the classes with them.
We noticed a huge gap in abilities when Yieber was teaching the older boys how to play a new card game. Simple skills like following directions, remembering rules, number sequences and manipulating the cards in hand were very difficult for some of these boys. It was nice to see them support and cooperate with each other. No one shamed another for poor play… they were cheerful and having fun!
The Kindergarten was in a separate location. Getting an early start is crucial to their success but not always available to every child.
The women of Patabamba are fully aware of the problems in their community and have banded together to form a council that meets each week. They share a meal, teach each other spinning and weaving techniques and plan stategies to help bring their families back to the traditional ways.
These women have little or no education and zero access to technology (computers or internet) but, they know that to succeed they must assimilate into todays society. They asked us to help put them in contact with tour companies and people who can buy their products. They are determined to create a better life for their families and we’re going to do what we can to make that vision a reality.
We didn’t get as early a start this morning as both Yieber and I were suffering from lack of sleep. Today we took a taxi the entire way to our destination of Patabamba.
I got breakfast cake from a woman near the taxi stand but it wasn’t nearly as good as the banana cake yesterday.
We arrived in Ccorao and had missed our opportunity to catch a ride to Patabamba. We met up with a teacher who had also missed her car so we waited for her to arrange transportation and joined her. It would be nice to travel in a car that wasn’t packed beyond capacity!
It began to rain and I was grateful that I had packed my raincoat. The weather could change here in minutes from hot and dry to chilly and wet. We sat in the taxi waiting for one more teacher who was late… I listened to the conversation and was able to pick out a few words. After 15 minutes I heard, 5 more minutes, secretly I hoped they wouldn’t make it… more room for us.
My hopes were shattered when 4 more people got in. There were now 9 of us in a compact car. Brings a whole new meaning to cozy. There were at least 3 things to be grateful for:
1. I wasn’t squished against the door
2. I wasn’t backwards in the hatchback 3. Today there were no guinea pigs!
The driver used a roll of toilet paper to wipe condensation from the window, he didn’t seem at all concerned with the rain on the exterior though… or maybe the wipers didn’t work? It was a single lane gravel road so he honked before rounding each hairpin curve. We arrived safely.
It did take long to figure out that Patabamba was a seriously poor village. The houses were typical but modest. It had a bit of a feeling of a ghost town except occasionally we met someone herding sheep, cattle or a mixture of livestock. We met a young man who was reasonably well dressed and asked him where we could find the leader of the town. He was on his way to meet the president so he escorted us and gave brief instructions. The president was not impressed by our efforts to share news of his village. To him we were just 2 more people making wild promises who would deliver nothing. He’d seen it many times before. It’s shocking how many charities fleece the public by collecting donations and padding their own pockets. We understood his position since we had come there to investigate an NGO that come with good reason but exploited the people and situation. We decided to head to the school to try and interview someone their. We hit the jackpot as the principal gave us excellent information. She was well informed and explained the problems of the village in great detail. Then she hosted us for lunch with the students. After lunch Yieber taught some of the older boys a card game. They all had a good laugh and learned some new skills at the same time.
We had about an hour to kill before hitching a ride back to the city so we wandered through the neighborhood taking photos. At one house we noticed a collection of women who had gathered to spin and weave. They greeted us heartily and offered to share their communal meal as well. We spoke with them about their once a week council to find solutions to the problems in town. They realized that money had created a host of issues and decided to return to the days of their elders and teach each other the craft of making textiles. They begged us to help them spread the word and connect them with buyers for their goods. We exchanged information and I vowed to do whatever I could to promote their cause. A few of them had basic cell phones but none had a computer or internet access. The woman in blue and yellow was a passionate leader who had good intentions but no resources.
We almost lingered to long with the women but thankfully we left in time to get a ride home.
If you’re interested in authentic Andes woven goods, send me a message or comment below. I have 2 excellent sources.
Yieber and I spent most of the day yesterday trying to sort out the many details of our film before our first day of shooting on November 2nd. It was a long but productive day and in the end we managed to squeeze, 11 main locations into the next 2 months of filming. We´re going to have many challenges…
Lack of power to charge batteries for camera and sound equipment
We have to carry everything on our backs
Remote locations that can only be reached by 4×4, boat, walking or flight
Language barriers, (well… Yieber speaks all three languages, English, Spanish & Quechan, but I will have absolutely no idea what our interview subjects will be saying)
Unlimited topics to cover… there are so many people, places and subjects we want to include!
Limited time in each location
Limited hard disk space
We´re up for the challenge though and we invite you to come along for the ride (or trek in many cases)
We´d love to hear your input and feedback on this project so please comment and share this blog with your friends and family. If you don´t hear from us for a few days it´s because we´re off the beaten path and have no access to internet.
Yieber and Alison are hard at work planning, writing and scheduling the filming of the Indigenous Peoples of Peru. With external influences like tourism and big business they face many internal challenges. Environmental destruction, climate change, limited financial support and lack of appropriate resources all contribute to the hardships these people endure daily. We hope to bring you their stories while providing some solutions and help along the way.