Depressed at the Zoo – This cheered me up!

After several weeks in Lima, I ran out of excuses why I couldn’t go to the zoo. My friend kept inviting me, insisting that I shouldn’t miss it. Joel really wanted to show off what seemed to be his favorite place.

Truth is, I get depressed at zoos. When I see the animals in the cages, staring at me with those pitifully sad faces, I feel their pain. Even the most advanced enclosures with natural settings are not the same as nature. I try to convince myself that the animals have been rescued and are being rehabilitated and cared for by loving keepers. If they were released into the wild they wouldn’t survive… so best keep them in the zoo.

But… I see little things that make me angry; empty water dishes, soiled cages, spectators rapping on the glass or taunting sleeping creatures. Garbage thrown carelessly into the enclosures, overcrowding or worse yet… solitary animals, and that, that just makes me sad. If you enjoy going to the zoo, don’t invite me along, I’ll probably spoil your day.

On my last weekend in Peru Joel finally convinced me to go with him to Parque de las Leyendas. I reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t a bad zoo… I tried desperately not to over scrutinize the details. I breezed past the first section with animals from the mountains. I lingered in the botanical gardens and leisurely explored the ancient ruins (pre-Spaniard). I hurried away from exhibits with weepy eyed animals or crowds pressing against the glass.

After a snack we rented a pedal boat and floated around a big lagoon for a while… I managed to see the entire 3 sections (coastal, mountain and jungle) without having a total breakdown or being reduced to tears. It wasn’t a bad zoo…

But the big treat came at the end. We were walking toward the gates to exit and I spotted a bus. It drew me in with its cheerful paint-job. Joel said, “That’s for children”, and tried to drag me away but I had to see inside.

Agua Bus

I pushed my way past the girl minding the door. She was trying to shut it but I squeezed through and entered a chamber with a dozen kids, 2 parents and a man in a blue jacket.

COOL!  A bus/classroom to educate kids about water.

I was instantly comforted, forgot all about zoo trauma, and was excited to learn more. I watched a unique demonstration of how water evaporates then rises to the top of the mountains, falls as rain, gets filtered by the land then returns to the ocean. At least, that’s what I think he was saying. (My Spanish is pretty limited.) He had a nifty switch panel that turned on lights and accentuated his model and presentation.

Water cycle demonstation

Next he played a short video that reinforced what he had just taught the kids. It had flashy graphics and lots of animations. The children were engaged. I watched them watching. It inspires me to see young people learning about nature and our precious resources, especially water. The video showed statistics for how many liters per day each Peruvian needed. The numbers were way lower than what North Americans use. I shuffled uncomfortably when the comparison table was showing.

Watching a Water Information Video

When the video was over, Marc (the blue jacketed man) quizzed the kids and answered questions. It was encouraging to see genuine interest from the kids and infectious passion from the host. When the discussion ended he slid open a door and we entered the back half of the bus. Marc circled the room and pointed to the information displayed prominently on the walls. There was a final round of Q&A followed by another video and a few more questions to finish the water lesson. Afterward each child was presented with a T-shirt from the water authority (Authoridad Nacional de la Agua) and they were shuffled out the back door to clear way for the next group. IMG_5583It was a perfect finish to a challenging day for me. I was inspired by the program. After spending 3 months focused on exposing the problems in Peru, it was refreshing to see someone sharing solutions.

I keep saying, education is the answer. We need to reach the children.

Teach them to recycle, reuse, rethink, reduce, and refuse. Show them how to grow food. Provide them with opportunities to engage with nature… Nurture a connection and respect for the environment. Encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural resources.

The adults of the past few decades haven’t been doing such a great job. Here’s hoping this next generation does better.

Good News, Bad News – The price of truth

This morning I received good news and bad news. The good news is that the footage of illegal mining that I have been trying to get from a Peruvian television station will be made available to me. The news segment was an exclusive report which covered the raid and closure of a gold mining

amazon nation
Madre de Dios River, Peru

operation on the Madre de Dios River. I had tried to get my own footage of that region but there are new (they spring up overnight) illegal mines all over the area and it is extemely dangerous. (It’s especially for a blond haired blue eyed girl like me! I stick out like a sore thumb in the jungle) So after weeks of email exchange in badly translated spanish, I have been given the rights to use the footage. The bad news… it’s $500 per minute and the special is 10:56 long.

So, here I am again, asking for more money. I need this footage! It shows the devastation and corruption that I was not able to capture myself. I could describe the activity but it just wouldn’t have the same impact that the images do.  You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well in this case, the video is worth $5,500.

I’m almost finished filming this documentary. I have a few more interviews to capture here in Lima and then I return to Canada where I will start post production. I never budgeted for stock footage when I considered the costs for production, but this expense is still a small price to pay for the value of the video. Also, it contains an interview with the head of the ministry of mining and I have been unable to secure an interview with him. It’s too dangerous to ask questions of some people. Did you see my reports on activists being killed? So please share this update and donate to this film if you can. You can email transfer directly to me which means I get 100% of the funds, (GoFundMe takes a percentage for admin and operating costs)
Thanks to everyone for supporting me on this incredible journey. I can’t wait to show you the results of my investigations. Peruvian Heartache is an important film that demonstrates how crucial it is that we protect our culture, traditions and our planet.
Gracias!
— excerpt from email replyamerica
“Por políticas del canal nosotros tenemos unas tarifas establecidas para este tipo de solicitudes.

Para documentales, nuestros costos son los siguientes :
– $ 100.00 + IGV (el minuto, imágenes no exclusivas)
– $ 500.00 + IGV (el minuto cuando son imágenes exclusivas)

Se tiene que realizar un convenio con nuestra área legal y abonar en nuestras cuentas antes de entregar el material limpio.”

— And subsequent follow-upamerica
“Buenas noches, solo para informarles que el material que están solicitando pertenece al programa “Domingo al día”, la nota lo realizo el reportero Libero Belotti, fue emitido el 15 de noviembre del 2015 como exclusivo y tiene una duración de 10 min. 56 segs.

Saludos. “

Trends and Cutural Influences in Peru

Those that have televisions and/or computers have no idea that children require censorship and parental restrictions hence they consume programming which is (In my opinion) completely inappropriate. I watched in horror as an eight year old spent hours viewing Youtube videos of adults playing Shoot to Kill video games… literally from morning until night. When he wasn’t watching or playing video games he was watching horror films.  I can’t even watch stuff like that.
I realized that for the most part, the people of Peru are at least 20 to 30 years behind Americans in media education and awareness. Although unfortunately for most Americans, they know they are watching garbage but continue to do so anyways. (Much the same as knowledge that sugary or salty snacks and fast food are bad for us; most keep eating them despite the facts)


Misinformation and lack of education are huge predictors, for example, I was drinking green tea and my host asked me why I was using diet tea. The package even had a bikini clad torso on it. I told her that green tea was a healthy, antioxident with many useful benefits and that you would need to drink upwards of 10 to 14 cups per day for any sort of dietary affect. She refused to believe that one or 2 cups  was indeed healthy and not harmful, and declined to accept my explanations until after I showed her proof from nutritional websites. (However, she still refused the tea when offered)

Almost all of the publicity and advertising in Peru features American (caucasian) models. The stores are full of cheaply made merchandise which mimics or badly copies the culture of the United States. Rozen instead of Frozen… Carz instead of Cars… and crackers called Kraps (Kraft?)
In general there doesn’t seem to be much of an “environmental awakening” here. People throw away trash in city parks and on the streets without a thought. Only the upperclass neighbourhoods are clean with proper bins for disposal. (mostly because of fear of fines) The taxis run on propane, liguid gas or diesel but strictly for economic reasons. The wave of awareness hasn’t hit the beaches of Peru yet… nor the mountains. In two and half months and over 40 towns and villages I have only seen about a dozen recycling bins. Plastic is quickly being adopted as the new luxury. Global ignorance gives way to marketers with corrupt agendas. While much of Europe and many industrialized countries are scrambling to refuse, reuse, reduce and re-invent, Peru is still in early adoption stages.

It would be nice to reverse that trend before any more damage is done. With a frighteningly fast rise in mining and deforestation (both legal and illegal) and massive dam and pipeline projects underway, it won’t be long before this beautiful country becomes a barren wasteland. For the moment many of its citizens remain uninvolved and oblivious to the dangers.
I realize that trying to spread the warning internally is useless. We need to send the message from the outside for it to be heard and adpopted. I have footage of all the problems… I’m now focused on trying to reach for solutions.

I’m open to hearing ideas from all of you. Please comment or message me directly – nonimovie(at)gmail.com

Also if  you’d like to support my film effort you can do so here Peruvian Heartache Documentary
Best to all of you this holiday season and as we head into a new year, wishing you many blessings for 2016!

Alison (Noni) Richards
StopResetGo.org

Where I´ve been the past month…

amazon kids

I just arrived back in Lima after having spent the past 7 weeks on location. The first month was spent in the highlands of the Andes where I filmed interviews with the indigenous people who are struggling to maintain their traditions and culture despite countless global influences. No matter who I spoke to, or where I went, money almost always was the main problem. The Incas were a people who celebrated and honored a system of reciprocity and currency is not part of their heritage. Unfortunately they have been forced into an existance where they must participate in our capitalistic system. They now have electricity in their homes but must pay a fee to the government, their children need uniforms for school and they must pay for transportation. Some members of the community are more successful than others and it has created a divide in what was once a tightly knit family. Others live in utter poverty, succumb to alcholism or spend money on giant TV’s and sattelite dishes while their children go barefoot and hungry.

Education is the key to alleviating many of these problems but influences like climate change (crops no longer grow because of changes in weather conditions), pollution and contamination from mining or industry, and tourism (explotation) contribute to suffering in complicated and devastating ways. Rampant corruption at all levels of government amplify the effects of disparity and poverty. I am hoping not only to point out the problems in my accounts but also to provide suggestions and implement stategies to alleviate these conditons.

I was relieved to move from the highlands, where I suffered from altitude sickness for most of the time, to the lowlands in the Amazon jungle. Peru is home to 1/4 of the worlds natural forests and I thrived in the lush environment. Fresh air and moisture was an almost instant cure. Unfortunately for many, illegal deforestation and mining have proved otherwise. 9 out of 15 fish in Peru have unsafe mercury levels due to contamination from mining activites. Many of the indigenous farms have been destroyed due to poisoned lands or flooding from operations that have been left to ravage the landscape illegally. The indigenous people have held their ground bravely and battled powerful and greedy forces to try and protect the environment but many have lost their lives due to violence, murder or illness from the toxins.

A modern day version of the wild wild west; guns control the area, law enforcement officials are painfully absent, children attending schools when safe to do so, families torn apart, livestock destroyed, crops failing and workers robbed while returning to their homes. I wasn’t able to film in all the areas because I was scared to death and rightfully wise to keep my distance. Many activists have lost their lives attempting to stand their ground. I wept when we found giant trees butchered and left to rot for morsels of choice wood likely bound for Mexico or the US… I swallowed my tears and held a brave face when sharing a river boat with a family that was fleeing their land… my heart is heavy… Peruvian Heartache is a story that begs to be heard.

Have you invested in Gold in recent years? Chances are someone lost their life trying to protect the rainforest it was stripped from. Do you have a new dining room table? Perhaps the wood was stolen from a national reserve in the forest that is responsible for creating more than 20% of the oxygen in the world.

Please help me to finish this important film. I have excellent profiles of the locals, revealing images of the devastation and alarming information about the secrets being concealed in this country struggling to maintain its culture and traditions. I have nearly exhausted my funds and need to find additional resources for a few more weeks of filming and then post production. Luckily I have been blessed with the generosity of many who have contributed both time and resources to help capture this story, but editing is tedious and expensive. I have a burning desire to get this film to the public as quickly as possible so that we can help save both people and protect the health of the lands.

I can also use your help in spreading the word. I need airmiles for travel (for both me and crew) and any other assistance you can offer. I don’t want to beg, but I am! Never have I felt as strongly about shouting a warning to the world as now.

Thanks for your support and well wishes. Can’t wait to share this amazing story with you all.

Alison xox

Missing Posts… Back in Cusco with Internet

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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.

stay tuned for 3 more soon…

 

 

Day 16 -Trash and Treasures

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Enjoy the sights wherever you are!

Day 13 Translation continues…Out with the contronyms!

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.

Bautista T’ilka T’ilka – President of the Association of Tourism Seven Springs (also Construction Foreman) I had no idea how articulate and well spoken he was until we translated his footage.

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.’
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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.’
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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.)
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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.
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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.

Day 4 Patabamba

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Day One Filming – Totorayoc, Peru

highland and valley women

Today we will head into the highlands to a small town of traditional weavers (tejedores de la vida – Weavers of Life) where we will learn about their process for creating beautiful fabrics and artwork.

Traditional bags take weeks to produce for each one. The Quechan name is Ch’uspas (sounds like juice pass)

We will also speak with local porters who must suppliment their incomes by carrying goods for tourists along the Incan trails.

Porters with tourists

Preparing our Documentary in Cusco

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.Farming in the Andes

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