29 July 2010

a small note from an earth-bound heaven-looker

This is important.

When I wonder why I would ever want to go to an evening of a giggling gaggle of girls calling everything cute and putting polka-dots and bows all over magnets, or why ultimate frisbee was invented, or why I have to keep listening to uneducated and rude comments about democratic political leaders, or why someone would suggest that I should be marrying Captain Moroni (and I can see in their eyes they are actually envisioning that painting of the overly-muscled, fur-clad, no-nonsense man and that they've missed those other qualities, you know, the non-combatant ones), and the worst of all, when I have times that I wonder if maybe it's not just a difference in taste maybe I'm just wrong and I'm not being a "good Mormon"--

--when all of these things happen I go back to what I know. What I do believe in. I run all the equations and ask myself all my questions and make sure I know what I'm doing. I have to re-make sure I still belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

And then I get a little bit stronger and know I've got to do as my cousin says here and speak up.

If I don't move in the next year I may have another year of existential crisis. For all that I've gained from that year and for all that I love that girl who weathered it, I don't want to experience it all over again. Luckily, now I have all of you.


25 July 2010

on our last night together I took off my socks and the paraguayans discovered I have no blood



I have looked back at my Paraguay posts and have seen many typos and thought that maybe I should fix them. But I will not. Such was the state of my brain and fingers and the keyboards. The typos will remain a testament of something. Until this blog dissolves into straight-up zeros and ones.

In Pedro Juan Caballero there were a few hours of everyday that felt sloggy. It was hard to move or decide what to do. This usually took place from three to five in the afternoon, after we´d spent the morning reviewing footage, filming, and exploring Pedro/Ponta Pora; the coldness settled in too deep. It drank up our bones and we could no longer maintain motivation and usually ended up burried in our sleeping bags hoping that marrow would thaw.

Mostly, that week I did not get too down (only low enough to be considered human) because my curiosity is just too uncontainable. Who could stay in bed when the cold was a temporary inconvenience? We would not be in there forever.

Friday was too much, though. Winter had hit on Monday and had never left. There at our colegio in Pedro (a name for which I now roll my r´s) we were staying in a classroom where the windows and doors didn´t really close. After our first night the Pilarians taped newspaper over the open windows. The third night it started raining. The next night (at least I think I´m counting things right but one never knows with all of the travel and translation that has been going on) the wind started blowing. We fastened a deflated air mattress over one bank of windows. Over another, some plastic and a garment bag. We tied the door shut with a rope made out of plastic bags. This is the setting I woke up to Friday morning. Friday, the day when I started losing circulation in my fingers and my toes.

This circulation thing happens when I reach a certain point of coldness. Conditions were met, point was reached. As we were filming I had to keep switching the hand el microfono was in so I could massage and breathe life onto the the other one. After our usual morning/early afternoon routine, I choked on a bit of depression, got into my sleeping bag and wasn't sure if I´d ever agree to come out again. This was just too overwhelming and I was too under circulated. I took a little siesta and woke up completely disoriented. Where was I? What was I doing? What time was it? I stared at the women sitting in desks across the room from me until I remembered. And then I remained dejected in my sleeping bag unable to make another move.

Then the quietest mother paraguaya asked us if we would like some tea. Oh sweet angel! Yes! Yes, we would! This is manna! You are heaven sent!

Since this afternoon, upon recounting my miracle, people always ask me what kind of tea were they giving me. Magic tea, I tell them. That is all I know, for even if they had told me, I would not have understood.

With the first warm sip my heart started beating again and I smiled. With the second my toes revived and could wiggle. With the third normal brain activity was restored. I tried to explain to quiet Mother Paraguaya that her tea was magic but she looked at me strangely and said I could make myself tea anytime I wanted.

Muchas gracias, senora.

Muchas gracias, the words I said more than any others as I traveled through Paraguay.

23 July 2010


Last night the Mexico City Benito Juarez airport came back to me in my dreams. It felt foreign. Which is a word I’m still not sure I understand.

Anyway, I’m home now. Traveling is still so very appetizing and alluring to me. I don’t think I can stay away from it long.


I have this feeling that I am not accustomed to. My general nature is to spend large quantities of time alone with space to do what I please. But now all I want is to see all of you. I feel how much I love you and need you.

May we set up a tent in that beautiful soft, grassy, non-allergenic field over there? A beautiful white pavilion tent and we will all lay out our soft mattresses and wrap ourselves in handmade quilts and down comforters as we look around and smile at ourselves and enjoy how great we all are together.

19 July 2010

row high who

This is the eve of departure. Paraguay is almost over which is a sad thing for me. I wish I could skip the next couple of days of airports in Sao Paulo and Mexico City. This time I traverse the globe by myself.

I still haven't begun to tell you about how I ended up on a bus of young Paraguayans who congregated around J and I and coerced me into singing for them.

Nor have I told you the miracle of the magic tea.

And I must tell you of Nacho and Elieser. I will think about them over the next three days of travel in the hopes I can pen down their likenesses so you may understand how great they are. If I could take two people home with me...

18 July 2010

safe. I assure you, safe.

I tell you this here, this thing that is not quite a public thing, because I don´t know how to tell you this in person because I don´t quite yet know what to say.

Yesterday the harp camp ended and we were put on a bus with one of the student orchestras to drive back to Asuncion. Halfway there our bus crashed. There was a thud and some wild driving and I flew up in the air a little and it all seemed to happen very slowly because I remember grabbing on to my arm rest and J and thinking ¨You´re not supposed ot have time to grab on to anything when you´re crashing¨ and I wondered if the bus would roll and if we would be a little crushed. I also remember thinking, ªI´m fine, I think I´m fine, am I fine(question mark)ª

And then the bus stopped with out any rolling or falling of luggage or crushings or much of anything at all. J and I poked our heads out the window to see what we could see. Part of the side of our bus had peeled away and was sticking out, but it seemed to be only a couple of feet of metal, no sweat. I was hoping we could maybe just bend it back and keep on driving. We can do that, right (question mark) It IS Paraguay after all.

My North Dakotan upbringing prepared me for hitting a boulder or a post or a deer. So when J and I couldn´t resist our documentary curiosity and opened the door to exit through the driver´s cab I was surprised to see the windshield was gone. Did it have one in the first place (question mark) Can he roll it down (question mark) Because it can´t really all be broken can it (question mark) And when I had to crawl over the twisted remains of the door and jump five feet down to the ground I just thought of it as part of the adventure.

I was surprised to see the front left corner of the bus reduced to knots of metal. The damage I was expecting to find were some mildly damaged harps.

Then we began walking back to the crash site. A man came walking in our direction. ªThree deadª I heard him say.

They can´t really be dead, I think, I mean, they can all be revived, right (question mark)

And then we saw the car. Or what had been a car and was no more knots of silver metal and then I realized that the thud thud thud was a group of men working to hack off the door of the car and there was--well, in the end, there were five dead and I saw them. I couldn´t film, I couldn´t do anything but silently cry and hold J´s hand as I watched their bodies that looked like they no longer had bones or muscles being carried and placed into the back of pick-up trucks.

I don´t know how long we watched everything. The directors of the orchestra found us and told us there was a van waiting to take us to Asuncion. J got our luggage from the bus as I stood imobile waiting for her. A man approached me and asked if I had been on the bus. I knew he was a reporter and I knew I didn´t want to answer his questions and I couldn´t understand how he didn´t just know that I couldn´t really speak spanish but my brain was working too slowly to get myself out of there.
So I answered him.
He asked me where we had been coming from.
Pedro Juan Caballero.

A professor we were traveling with saw me and took me away to wait for J by the van safe from the reporter.

We, ten, and our luggage and a harp rode three and a half more hours in a six passenger van listening to the strangest assortment of music. Electric organs and ironically a spanish version of that Last Kiss song. You know the one that Pearl Jam and that group in the fifties sang. About a car crash.

Thanks to some wonderful people we are now safe and warm and comfortable.

I love Paraguay and I want to tell you happy stories. They are yet to come. But I tell you this one first because it must be said and it must be processed. I don´t know what to think. I only know two things-- I must think differently about life otherwise I can´t handle it and I am ever so grateful for how much everyone has been doing for us this whole time in Paraguay. Do you ever feel you can´t ever repay the generosity shown to you (question mark) I feel that more and more every day of my life.


16 July 2010

precious love

I´ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be foreign. I don´t feel foreign here and I´m in a different hemisphere. But our Pilar friends call us the foreigners and think we´re a little bit funny. However, I watch them and feel like I´m at home. I don´t always know what they are saying but on the other hand I do. I know these people, they just like the parents at home in North Dakota sharing the same stories, laughing the same way, sitting around in the same groups.

But there are big differences. because we´re from lost estados unidos they wonder sometimes at what we film and why. I wonder if they think we think they´re strange sometimes. At times I tell them how things are similar to the life I had in North Dakota but they seem to range between wanting to show how different they are and how the same. So I watch and take part.

And I have to remember sometimes I do think things are strange. The other day when we went to downton Pedro Juan and Ponta Pura a woman with a corner stand tried to convince us to by her fleece blanket of garish color combinations and `Precious love`printed on it. I almost bought it right then and there because I thought it was so terribly amusing. Does that qualify as condescending...imagine there is a question mark here since i can´t seem to get it to work.

This isn´t to say there is a great divide between US and THEM. We spend most of our time all conglomerated together with them chatting and me jumping in frequently with `que significa...`

Sometimes I find myself imagining conversations I could have with people when I get back home and I wonder, `How will I explain that with my limited vocabulary...`and then i remember this will not be the case up there in the north in the summertime.

I´ve been thinking a lot about Chris Marker´s film Sans Soleil. I think there is an idea floating around that we´re much the same all over the world but there are slices of magic, of culture that combine to make humanity...looking for a word that´s not trite...that make humanity complete.

P.S. The trend continues. Most difficult keyboard so far.

15 July 2010

I love blogspot because at the top of the page when I sign in it lets me choose my language. I just spent five minutes looking for English in the list of idiomas and couldn~t believe thy had everything but English. Then I remembered I was looking for Ingles. Or something like that.

However, my spanish is improving a great deal and you could even say my Guarani is improving as well. I mean, to go from zero to three words is an improvement, right? Guarani is nothing like Spanish but they tell me it is very rare for anyone to speak pure Guarani. Last night a señor gave me many examples of how guarani is mixed with castellano.

In Pedro Juan Caballero we continue to be under the care of the mothers, fathers, and children of Pilar. We sleep on mattresses on the floor together, they correct my spanish and patiently help me communicate myself in what must be the most painful sounding spanish ever.

Yesterday J and I discovered some amazing things. After our first night where J froze to death and I slept happily on in my sleeping bag we determined that our first order of business was to buy her some blankets in town. We found a shop that just happened to be a combination of a toy store and a bedding shop. We inspected every shelf (while being followed by an eager shop keeper) and found to our great delight fleecy pillows that have a boy and girl and strange cat embroidered on it and say in bright orange letters "Me haces muy feliz." (You make me very happy.) I want to buy a pillow for each of you and I could probably afford to but I~m sorry I~m not trucking them all over the world. Even though you all do make me very happy.

Tambien, our job is to listen to beautiful music all day long. You do realize this don~t you? And yesterday we happened upon a group of young girls who call themselves Sonidos del alma (sounds of the soul) all playing guitar and singing rancheras. We are all sitting down and learning rancheras when I get back, let me tell you. Rancheras are the best thing to hit this planet. And we filmed it! We~ve got beautiful rancheras on film to treasure forever!

Pedro Juan is not quite as optically charming as Pilar. It is on the border of Brazil, you cross a street here and enter Punta Pura. Yes, yesterday I just popped over to Brazil because I could. Pedro Juan is every bit a poor border town, streeted by red dirt and most buildings look like they are decaying (though decaying buildilngs here become very colorful and intriguing). I wasn~t quite expecting that, maybe because even though I have the intelligence to understand I~m making a documentary, I~m not IN the movies, I still can~t get my head out of the clouds. Punta Pura (and I sure hope I~ve finally got that right) is more what I was expecting. Paved streets lined with booths and city-like buildings.

However, we~ve still been finding very welcoming people. Sometimes too welcoming, I wish people would ask for our email or if we have msn messenger after knowing us for five minutes, it illicites a certain reticance on my part to ever talk to anyone new. There~s a restaurant we~ve been frequenting for drinks and an occasional empinada (i just had a battered and fried hard boiled egg yesterday?!? I~m trying the food, I really want to do this). The family that runs it has taken an interest in us and is concerned about our wellbeing. We must be cold over at that school they tell us. Well, un poco. The Pilar families we are staying with offer us coffee and tea, I drink the tea and wish I could soak my feet in some hot coffee.

More later, hopefully. Apparently the internet frequently cuts out in the entire city. I want to confess, I treasure these moments with the internet so so much. I feel bad like I should be entirely swept away in bliss to be having this wild adventure but I am terribly human and am accustomed to having a lot of alone time and I hope it is not terrible and very american of me to love the internet so much right now. You should love it to and write me sweet morsels of life and home and I will try to impart some jewels of Paraguay. And you should read these magical stories my friend Christopher writes. I hope that~s ok I just told the whole world they should read your stories, Christopher. That~s all, I must go back to Paraguay and drink some yummy chocolate milk that has creepy clowns on the box.

11 July 2010

heaven makes me tired

We are in trouble.
For not eating enough.
The locals don{t like it.

This "{" happens becuase I can{t find the apostrophe here in Pilar.

Pilar is paradise by the way. When we showed up in Paraguay we discovered we weren{t necessarily needed. At least, we didn{t feel needed. We sat down with N our Sonidos contact and were discussing our shooting schedule and we found out we couldn{t go to the luteria recyclados, the workshop where they make instruments from recycled garbage, because there is another documentary team here filming. And we don{t have a driver because Favio drives the other filmmakers. What? I{ve contemplated not telling you, my dearest ones, because I worry that you will worry and worrying makes the world spin counter clockwise. Sometimes. A veces. But the truth is that while Asuncion was wonderful and started my head spinning and reminded me of Minneapolis, partly because I have a theory that Paraguay is the midwest of South America, Camilo, the other foreigner (from Uruguay), looked out for us the most.

At first I didn{t think too much about it. My thoughts take a long time to process into emotions to translate back into coherant thoughts that then influence how I react and now there is a wrench thrown into the works with Spanish. It is a lot of work focusing on understanding this other language. It wasn{t until I was on a bus half way to Pilar that I looked outside the window and thought, "hey, this bus ride would be a lot cooler if it wasn{t night and I could see the paysage outside the window." Then I realized that J and I were on a bus to a place we know nothing about to be picked up by a man named Walter. What on earth was happening?!? I felt so frustrated I wanted to cry.

But I didn{t, becuase I don{t, much, and I luckily ended up having an aisle passanger sit on the back of my seat. This was luck, for let me explain. There were probably ten people who had to stand in the aisles the full six hours from A to P, so I was lucky in my seat. This isn{t one of the super crazy bus rides you hear about where there are people packed in tight holding live chickens and things like that. My guess is that since you don{t fly from place to place inside Paraguay and since it is more of a luxury to drive a car all over the place, the bus has become a middle class thing to do. We at least were on a sort of charter bus. My seat wouldn{t stay reclined, so until I had my aisle man I couldn{t lean back and relax like the rest of the seated peoples. I was so grateful for his rear end that it didn{t bother me at all to have it so close to my head and I blissfully went to sleep.

When we arrived in Pilar Walter, who we find is a world traveler ("Did you know Walter lived in Japan?" "I think Walter is from Argentina" "Walter lived in the States for a while, you know."), welcomes us and takes us to our hotel. He speaks a little English in a Midwest kind of way. His year in the states was in St. Paul, Minnesota, which made me happy. Our hotel is pretty nice and the internet here is free although we rarely have much time or energy to spare for it. Becuase we love Pilar. It is a small town, I want to tell you it is tranquilo becuase that is why we keep telling people we like it so much. I think there are about 30,000 people here, I think that is what they told me. The streets are quieter and more colorful and I think by the time we leave tomorrow night everyone in town will know who we are because we find the streets so alluring we must walk around with our cameras and take pictures of everything and becuase the people at the Music school here are so friendly and welcoming that it is exhausting to understand all that is going on. And a newspaper reporter interviewed us (aka J, since I am not much use for interviewing). If I remember correctly I filmed us being interviewed. We{re so happy in Pilar I{ve contemplated moving here. However, there is too much Guarani, I don{t understand that at all, and people get worried about how much we eat. In fact, J and I are kind of worried about how much we eat. We{ve been traveling so much and doing so much that a Cliff bar has become a filling meal for us. This afternoon they gave us a long time for our lunch and siesta and told us to eat eat eat eat eat eat eat. So we went downstairs to the restaurant which only serves carne and ordered some rice and some salad and worked really hard to eat something resembling a meal. Really, I just want some Tillamook yogurt. I think this is all so much work for my failing stomach. Eat some for me, will you, please?

We were told that the next morning after we arrived N called to make sure we were safe and sound. I don{t want you to think that N isn{t kind to us, we{re just a bit confused right now.

Anyway, the weather has been muy perfecto because they{re having a warm winter and someday I{ll tell you about the tropical rainstorm and about filming a violin symphony in a plaza and interviewing thirty vionlin players. And the happy harpist who is going to Pedro Juan Caballero with us who is such a character. And going birdwatching in the Pilar countryside.

I have been getting all your emails and have been eating them up like sweet morsels. Thank you so much, I love every tender word of them.

07 July 2010

please enjoy your stady

Well, I couldn´t resist you.

About a quarter of the way into our twentyfour hour long jounrey, J and I decided we both needed the interent terribly. We´re addicted. If you take Internet away from me, there goes half of my world.

So lucky you get to hear of our travels.

In the last week I have been on five different planes. The last three were Spanish as a first language and the last one was full of Portuguese advertisements. Customs have been a breeze (thank heavens), I´ve got a stamp in my passport, I´m staying in a nice german evangelical hostel, I´m talking to people in Franglish (That´s French/English/Spanish) (If I dropped the French I would stop confusing people), the weather is lovely, customs people can´t translate, just looking at airplane food made me lose my appetite, it gets dark here early, I´m reading the Jorge Luis Borges poetry book that B gave me--it´s got the original spanish and then the english translation next to it. I´m learning lot´s of useful words like "alma" "marmol" and other poesia words like that. (Soul and marble etc etc.) I´m sure they will come in handy. I was going to have a great poetical, philosophical post about this travel to and arrival in Paraguay but I keep getting destracted by my internet bill going up. And this keyboard is difficult. ñññññññññ Everything is all messed up. My fingers are even more english than the rest of me.

Something better to come later.

05 July 2010

goodbye al gore

This is it.

Tomorrow I leave for Paraguay sufficiently relaxed by sun, sand, ocean, and having nothing to do but make faces at small children and read books.

I leave finally feeling excited and starting to realize just how bad my spanish skills are.

And I miss you and you are all getting bear hugs upon my return. And I am going to hunt down some Tillamook yogurt.

I love my documentary filmmaking career so so so so so so so so so so so much.


(My throat hurts from ocean water and reading books instead of sleeping)