Sunday, March 27, 2016

Amazonian Interviews

I'm sure many of you were curious what I have been doing at the Office. All this talk of 'Projects' and 'Awareness' and traveling in the field. Well, for those who are curious some of my work finally got put up!!!!


This video is an interview (in Quechua I believe) with a Native Tribe leader explaining the problems his community has faced and the struggle they're undergoing to get their Land Deed.

This video is also an interview with a woman from a similar tribe.

This video is from a series done at one Paz y Esperanza's workshops. In it, a Female Pueblo Leader talks about her path to becoming a leader, the trials of being a female leader, and some of the conflicts her pueblo faces. 

This is Julio Yaukurima. He is in charge of a federation of pueblo leaders. He has been to multiple workshops, but he always brings leaders to our conferences so they can learn about their land rights and the defense of a collective land title.

Above is an interview of our Human Rights Attorney Ruben Darîo Ninahuanca. Nina Vilma Balmaceda, a university professor from the States and Native Peruvian, engages him on questions about how he chose to be a lawyer, and how he began a career in defending human rights.

This video is a short message from Paz y Esperanza Moyobamba's director Jorge Arbocco Guillermo. He speaks about the work Paz y Esperanza does creating workshops to teach native tribes about the rights entitled to them.

This video features a Pueblo from one of our workshops. In it he discusses some of the things he has learned from our workshops, the need for collective land titles, and his Pueblo's struggle to maintain their right to live.

So, here's a sample of work I've done. There's plenty of technical things that bother me extremely that any film major will spot. In my defense some of these interviews were shot in the Andean Amazon rainforest. By myself. I can't get everything done well. Regardless I expect more work to pop up on YouTube later. Don't worry! I'll update you if I catch anything!

CREDIT: Ana Reyes Otiniano (aka my boss) did interview the subjects and give feedback on the video cuts. Ultimately the video is for Paz y Esperanza so they have final say on the cut.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Photo Gallery of Moyobamba

The Statue at the Punta Tahuishco

The Catholic Church in the Plaza de Armas

Rolling green hills between Moybamba and Tarapoto

Ahuashiyacu Waterfalls outside of Tarapoto

Sunset in Lamas

Morro de Calzada

Virgin Mary altar on October 31st

Boat ride on the Rio Huallaga

Mural in Moyobamba

"Millions of people in the world can live without love, none can live without water."

Moyobamba, the City of Orchids. This is it's emblematic orchid.

Hiking the trail up the Morro de Calzada

Coworker Ronald Saucedo Carranza and dog, Luna, at the sulfur baths

Coffee grown on Ronald's chacra next to the sulfur baths

Water from the plaza in the fountain in town square

Entrance to the Cueva de Palestina outside of Nueva Cajamarca

Reflection of the Sunset on the Rio Mayo

Sunset outside of Iquitos near the Amazon River

Moyobamba Sunset Skyline

The Mountain Range just outside of Moyobamba

The Morro de Calzada Mountain

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lengua Materna

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Press 'play' and let this man's sweet music fill your ears. Consider it a soundtrack.

Now, I know I"m getting ahead of myself here. Jesus hasn't even been crucified yet, you're probably saying. We need the resurrection for Pentecost to make sense! I know. I know. Believe me, I know. But, I've had the idea of 'language' on my mind and this was the first passage I thought of.

I normally despise modernizing biblical tales (especially ones post-Jesus) but modernize it I will.

Imagine you're in a pretty nice hostel bar in Prague. Everyone's had a few of the free-to-all-guests drinks and relaxing before heading out on a pub crawl. You're carrying on with your mates chatting about the new season of House of Cards. 

By now, you're used to the chitter-chatter of foreign languages and can block out all those obscure words you don't understand. Maybe you're sharing a beer with a Spaniard who speaks some english and you're using what little spanish you know.

Out of nowhere, BOOM! Holy Spirit descends (quite literally) from the ceiling. Tongues of fire separate and hover over every individual person. Quite the sight eh? Well, guess what: you missed it. In fact, everyone did.

Everyone was so busy chatting and drinking they didn't notice the Holy Spirit.. One minute you're chatting with your friends when you hear korean words, but your mind just translates it.

Suddenly you realize the Korean tour group next to you is planning their trip tomorrow. They're talking about Prague Castle and which time to go. You lean over and politely tap their shoulder (which is to say you obnoxiously shouted over at them) "Go in the morning before it gets hot outside!" The Koreans look up, confused. You shake your drink at them (preferably one of Prague's nice darker brews) and repeat yourself "If you visit the castle go in the morning. It's more crowded but you stay out of the heat." They all humbly nod and reply "Thank you." You turn back to your conversation. Your mates are staring at you.

"When did you learn korean?!" They ask.
"Better yet, they understand english?" Another adds. Suddenly, it catches on.

You look around and stretch your ears. You're hearing Hebrew from Israelis, Egyptian Arabic, Romans' Italian, some Catalonian Spanish, of course the Korean, Greeks, and a small outlet of Indians speaking regional Punjabi

The Indians accidentally booked a youth hostel, and they hate the noise. You give them a bit of a dirty look because you like the hostel and if they didn't want noise they should've switched.

Thus proceeds one of those comedic moments where everyone realizes what's going on and they all freak out. They're all speaking their native tongues and technically the sounds don't make any sense to you, but you're translating them all into the same thing "What on Earth is going on?"

The bizarre scene draws the attention of passersby who enjoy watching foreigners freak out. The crowd grows and grows. "It's a miracle from God!" Someone says. "It's just like in the Bible!" Someone else adds.

"No it's not." A Skeptic intervenes. "They're all drunk." The Skeptic's words make sense, the crowd dissipates and all the curious Czech people go home for their dumplings and beer dinner.


When you put it like that I wish that happened to me.

Not only did the Holy Spirit descend on these people, but also they understood each other. In a sense it's an opposite to the Tower of Babel story. In this story we're seeing the opposite happen. The ability these traveler's receive is to communicate perfectly, something that incites concern but also connection. Communication is key!

Enter Daniel stage left.

I gained fluency in Spanish the good old-fashioned way: school. Indeed it is one of the rare legacies of my high school education that I actually became fluent in a language by doing my homework. Major shout out to: Profe (La Reina) Johnson, Dolores Gende, Sra Gump, Mr. Jennings, Mrs. Henderson, and even ol' Dr. Noricks. (I just listed my all of my spanish teachers in case you didn't know.)

I even had the distinct privilege of practicing and using my spanish outside of class with friends like Ryan "Baldie" Baldwin and Nestor Hernandez (if you two are reading this feel free to confirm or deny my early spanish-speaking abilities. I have nothing to hide.) Being from Texas Spanish is pretty important to know in my opinion. I constantly spoke with my family's Mexican housekeeper Irma. She was like a second mother to me. She and I used to laugh and smile after we had a conversation in Spanish or I taught her an english word or two. I digress...

Where was I?



So, fast forward to me in Peru. I'm fluent in Spanish. I should be fine. I will certainly struggle a lot less because I speak the language. At the very least we can discuss the weather and I can ask where the bathroom, beer, and libraries are (in that specific order.) Everything's gonna be good right?

What ensued was a struggle unlike what I was expecting. 


*deep breath*
Now that we got that out of the way...

Being semi-fluent is hard. It's a concentration task. Every day my brain is working double time to turn sounds into words, words into ideas, ideas into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into ideas. Making those connections is hard. Especially when everyone expects you to know what they're saying. You know why? Because I can hold a regular conversation with any spanish speaker.

I've sat through many meetings where the lectures run on and on and I just kind of zone out. My mind runs in the background translating every word possible but making zero connections. Someone mentions my name. I look up, smile sheepishly. Everyone laughs. "Silly Daniel! Keep up!" They laugh. I hang my head in embarrassment, try to pay attention again and inevitably fail.

That's an average public forum/Peruvian sermon/lecture. Being in Peru and speaking only spanish has quickly taught me the limits of my translating skills.

I can't translate when:
1. The speech is longer than ten minutes with lots of facts, statistics, and technical jargon.

2. The idea presented to me seems entirely impossible, but is very real.

3. When I'm physically or mentally exhausted.

4. In the middle of a very taxing activity.

^^^ All of those circumstances are my weak points. No matter what I hope for my brain translates the words. I can't give myself a break from translating. Instead it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other. Not a lot of room there for good dialogue about profound political issues. Nobody thinks to cut me any slack because on the day to day I can keep up. Wanna talk about food? Done. Wanna share vacation stories? I'm in. Wanna discuss gender disparities and the role of women in both the public and private spheres or the desire to flip the perceived concepts around? I'm gonna have to take a rain check.

Still, on my first day in the office something relatively marvelous happened. I communicated both my name and asked for help. In Spanish sign language. A deaf-mute woman and I became friends over a few frantic gestures. Nothing beats that kind of gratification.

To bring it all back around you have to see - my experience struggling to keep up was reversed in that moment. A moment I repeated multiple times this week as I went to the classes Paz y Esperanza organizes for deaf-mute children. As I filmed the cutest kids ever I got involved in the classes and pretty quickly was up to my elbows in eight, nine, and ten year olds trying to tell me things. 

Maybe I felt a touch of the Holy Spirit or maybe it's because I'm a visual learner and very expressive facially, but we actually communicated! And not just a "Hi, how are you?" "I'm fine" kind of way. It was a genuine "My name is Daniel. I'm 22 years old. I'm from the US and I'm here to film you guys today!" I don't know how I did it. They're very patient children. All the frustration I can feel for overworking my brain speaking spanish is reversed when I score a short conversation with my new friends. In fact, I'd say the feeling of successfully communicating with a deaf-mute child is the exact opposite of misunderstanding a Peruvian gender equality lecture. It's life giving. It's exciting. It's... holy.

Mission work depends, often, on communicating effectively. Not just saying words, but also listening and making connections. The story of Pentecost only affirms this idea. It sounds very basic I know, but think about the perspective here:

Christians from all over the world are gathered in one spot (literally everywhere: Rome, Asia, Greece, Libya!). The Disciples have just elected someone to take Judas' spot (kind of harsh I know, but deemed necessary). Everyone's in their own bubble and suddenly their awoken. In that moment of understanding empathy broke loose. Everyone there realized they were all there for the same reason. Tongues of holy freakin' fire were acting as the greatest UN Translators ever. 

The sad part about the story is the ending. Everyone's excited! Someone calls it a miracle from God and some idiot in the crowd just goes "Nah. They're drunk." The  excitement fades, the outsiders leave. The story concludes with our natural reaction: explain away something incredible with a very reasonable answer. 

(To the guy who thinks drinking makes you less fluent I heartily disagree. I would argue I speak better after a few drinks.)

The takeaway from the story is an obvious one, but one that needs to be reiterated. Communication is key.
It's the entry point for a more nuanced empathy and the gateway to companionship. Deaf-mute children aren't lacking in that nuance or companionship. Quite the opposite. They are gifted with an instant connection whereas the rest of us have to race to keep up. Even on my best day I miss a lot of spanish. Regardless of the missteps we have to keep going. We have to make an effort to cross the language gap. It's a two way street believe me. I wouldn't be where I am now without the struggle. The loss of clear, precise self-communication opens you up to all kinds of emotions and those emotions result in growth. Wether you like it or not. Speak something other than your lengua materna and I 100% guarantee you will learn the true depths of empathy.

 - Daniel Pappas - 

For those of you who made it through this really long post here's a video of Cute Animals cuddling!