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Vive la vida

Last Build Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2009 17:53:27 +0000

Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0


Fri, 19 Jun 2009 01:13:00 +0000

This is one of my very favorite techthings that has emerged from the current uprising in Iran. Not only does this revolution demonstrate the remarkable potential of the masses banding together to demand change, but it has also made citizen journalists out of many of us.

This is a stream of camera phone videos taken in Tehran. There is even a chat feature to connect you with other viewers around the world.

Please click here for arguably the best big-picture coverage of this historic event. It's no coincidence that the best source happens to be built through global collaboration of citizens of the world.

Rwanda On Your Blogroll

Mon, 25 May 2009 21:40:00 +0000

Remember Jean Paul? He is a remarkable man I met during Memorial Week who openly shared his story with me. I saw him once more in Kigali at the internet cafe where he works, and he told me of his hope to write a book about his experiences and what it means to be a Rwandan genocide survivor. Check out his new blog here.

James Rutayisire, interpreter and utility player for the documentary we're making in Rwanda, has also started a blog, in which he plans to write about his journey to start his own business in order to earn enough to pay for university. The English translation for Rutayisire is "never give up," and I can't imagine a more fitting name for James. Check out his blog here.

Both of these extraordinary guys would appreciate your comments, so please don't be shy!(image)

Rwanda Week 5: Jabosiko and Clémentine

Sat, 09 May 2009 19:17:00 +0000

These clips were shot by Jabosiko and Clémentine, a husband and wife who participated in our five-week video training program. They grow a number of crops in addition to running a small store in front of their house. They have four daughters and each has quite the eye for an interesting composition.

All three families have completed the training session, and will spend the next three months putting these skills to use in recording their own lives for a feature length documentary. To learn more about this project, please don't forget to check out our Facebook or MySpace page.(image)

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Sat, 02 May 2009 20:17:00 +0000


We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you an absolutely precious home movie. My niece Ella is approximately one half of the reason I am so excited to go back to Arizona (the other half being Donovan).

I'm putting together some more from Rwanda--don't you worry. Only three days left here, and I intend to make the most of them.(image)

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Rwanda Week 4: Imanweri and Mariserina

Tue, 21 Apr 2009 15:15:00 +0000

This video was shot by Imanweri and Mariserina, two grandparents who have lived in the same village in Rwinkwavu for their entire lives. They, along with four other Rwandans, are participating in a video training and then spending three months documenting their lives on video. Their backyard is a decidedly great place to practice new techniques, always full of potential subjects--plenty of flora and fauna, and of course, the neighborhood kids.

For more information about our training program and documentary, check out our Facebook or MySpace page.(image)

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Memorial Week: Remembering the Genocide

Fri, 17 Apr 2009 15:57:00 +0000

Rwanda spent last week remembering the genocide of 1994 and mourning the loss of over 800,000 of its people. Each community puts on several events, and the closing ceremony here in Rwinkwavu was the largest. The ceremony both remembered the dead and honored survivors, mostly in the form of testimony, poetry and song. It was all very powerful, even with my lack of comprehension of the local language, Kinyarwanda.

I had the incredible fortune to bump into and speak with a survivor personally. Jean Paul, who was seventeen at the time of the genocide, painted a picture of the Rwinkwavu sector in April of '94. Here, you can listen to his story and see a bit of the memorial activities.

You'll be hearing from Jean Paul again in the future. I think our paths intersected for a reason, and I foresee a collaborative effort between us to make sure his story is not forgotten.(image)

Rwanda Week 2: Retitsiya and Monike

Mon, 06 Apr 2009 21:54:00 +0000

Most of this footage was shot by Retitsiya and Monike, two sisters who are participating in our video training and then spending three months documenting their lives on video. At yesterday's training, some of the neighborhood kids joined in on the fun.

On another note, today marks the 15th anniversary of the genocide that devastated this nation in 1994. The coming week is designated a time of remembrance. It will be important to bear witness to the remembering; I'll share what I can. For a riveting, well-written and quite complete account of the genocide and the events leading up to it, check out We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch.(image)

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Thu, 26 Mar 2009 20:54:00 +0000

I'm in Rwanda. Crazy! I'm trying to use this trip as an impetus to bring my blog back to life. I'm working with my friend Luke to make a documentary about what it's like for rural Rwandan families--particularly subsistence farmers--to make a living. I will be facilitating a videography training program so that members of the families can shoot on their own and share their stories through their own unique points of view. I'm hoping to launch a second blog dedicated to this project sometime soon.

In the meantime, I'm already enjoying tropical weather, deliciously prepared fish which I ate with my hands, and a general good feeling about being here. I haven't had a chance to bust out the camera, but here's my obligatory first photo in Rwanda, taken on the webcam at the Partners in Health house.  Not really a traveler's type of photo, I know.

(image) (image)

Y esto es sólo el comienzo...

Wed, 05 Nov 2008 19:50:00 +0000

With the help of 66 million voters and countless staff and volunteers, we have finally accomplished our goal to elect Barack Obama President of the United States!

I can't fully describe the feeling, and don't think I ever will be able to.  I don't think anyone will ever fully comprehend what happened here in Las Cruces.

To speak generally and tangibly, we took one of the top battleground counties in the nation and blew it out by 17 points.  We helped to elect Harry Teague for House (who will be the first Democrat from NM's 2nd Congressional District in 28 years) and Tom Udall for Senate, giving New Mexico an all-Democrat representation in Congress for the first time in history.  We elected every Democrat on the ticket, from Barack Obama all the way down to County Commissioner. Not to mention we won the state of New Mexico (which was decided by 366 votes in 2000 and less than 6,000 votes in 2004) by over 120,000 votes! Together with the rest of the state field team, we changed the face of New Mexico politics.

To speak personally, it has profoundly changed me, put some wrinkles into my somewhat ironed-out plans for the future, and reshuffled everything I want to be and do in life.  This is partially because of the emotional and professional growth that comes with being a Field Organizer for Barack Obama's Campaign for Change.  It's also because of the opportunities that will emerge in the unprecedented participatory democracy the Obama Administration will become.  It really is the beginning of something new and revolutionary... just you watch!

Meanwhile, just peaking into blogworld to say hello! I'm back! I'm transitioning and adjusting to real life, and I'm really excited about the future. Stay tuned.

Why I Miss Home

Mon, 30 Jun 2008 17:43:00 +0000


If you can, try listening to this accompanied by "No One" by Alica Keys.  Should make your day.

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México Blog #2: San Luis Potosí and Querétaro

Wed, 25 Jun 2008 04:44:00 +0000

Bussed from Monterrey to San Luis Potosí overnight, arriving at 6am. Managed to find my way downtown from the bus station by just walking with my giant backpack and asking people questions. Visited La Virgen and rested my feet in many colonial churches.Connected with Octavio, my couchsurfing host, who made a delicious comida of chorizo con papas (coincidentally the same staple my dad makes at least once a week). Went out and drank a little too much with his cousin and another friend. They were fun!Spent the rest of the 2 or 3 days there editing and dealing with camera issues while Octavio worked on his thesis. Convenient.3-hour bus ride from San Luis Potosí to Querétaro, which is BEAUTIFUL.I stayed my first night in a Bed and Breakfast run by this crazy Canadian lady named Shelley.  She's very loud and abrasive and speaks little Spanish--basically you would think she was American.  There was a couple from New Zealand with nearly-out-of-control toddler twins who had been travelling Central and South America for six months.  Spent the next two nights with my couchsurfing host Laurence, a Francesa living and teaching in Querétaro. She lives in this cool apartment place called "Quinto Patio," which feels a lot like a college dorm (everyone is friends, people keep their doors open, etc.), except that everyone is a little older and a lot more mature.  Friday night I partied with Saskia, one of my Spanish classmates back at Pacific, and all her Queretano friends, which was a blast!  Interviewed a woman named Crispina who sells artisan works on the street. Spent an afternoon walking the full length of the famous Querétaro Aqueduct, just because I wanted to know how long it was.Met a lot of Laurence's friends and neighbors, who were all very welcoming and wonderful, especially her boyfriend Alfredo.I just got really excellent vibes from everyone I met. If I ever go back to live in México for an extended time, I would like to be in Querétaro. [...]

México Blog #1: Monterrey and Saltillo

Wed, 28 May 2008 03:39:00 +0000

I was horrible about documenting my month-long trip through México, despite the fact that the whole purpose was for a docuvlog. I didn't blog at all, and didn't even keep a personal journal! What an idiot! I'd still like to keep some kind of record of it all while it's still pretty fresh in my mind, so I'll be catching up in the next few posts.I arrived in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon on April 17 in the afternoon, and took quite an expensive cab ride to my hostel, Hostal Monterroco. Aside from the hostel reservation and address, I was completely clueless. It was both exhilarating and SCARY to arrive in a foreign city (one of the largest in México) without an itinerary. I made it to the hostel just fine, but felt incredibly lonely. Here I was, finally in México, embarking on this incredible and highly anticipated journey, with nobody to enjoy the experience with me! Plus I felt very nervous and cautious--being a woman traveling alone with a laptop and a video camera will do that to you!Everyone at the hostel was very nice, but I never got to feel completely comfortable there. Apart from the person who checked me in, I was never sure who was actually on staff there, so I was hesitant to ask questions and stuff, especially since my Spanish felt a little rusty. I spent that first afternoon/evening relaxing and transcribing. The next day I went out to explore the city. Like a typical gringa, I got a pretty mean sunburn on my first day in México. Doh! UNlike a typical gringa, I am proud to say I didn't take out my map one single time while I was out and about! I walked A LOT, enjoyed some street tacos, and found the bus station and bought my ticket to go to San Luis Potosí a few days later.On Sunday morning I talked on the phone with Lili, my Spanish TA from 2006, who lives in Saltillo, about an hour away. We had made plans to hang out in Monterrey that day, but instead she offered to come pick me up and take me to spend the night at her house in Saltillo--sweet! Honestly by that time I was over Monterrey and really wanted to see a familiar face more than anything. So I spent the day walking around town with all my stuff so that I could meet her downtown that afternoon. I hiked quite a way to Monterrey's Basilica de Guadalupe, where I ended up spending a lot of time just sitting... and I guess praying a little too. I found that La Virgen really does have that power to comfort, and I wasn't even really looking for it!I met Lili and her dad, we stopped by the mall and then drove to Saltillo where Lili's INCREDIBLY generous and welcoming family lives.When we got there Lili drove me around town on a little tour including where she works, where she went to school, and Saltillo's Santuario de Guadalupe. Saltillo's the capital of the state of Coahuila, but much smaller than Monterrey, which I liked. That night we met up with one of Lili's friends for some drinks and MEXICAN SUSHI! It was spicy and delicious and had an inexplicable different taste that I loved.The next day I met Lili's friend Alex, one of the top video producers in the state of Coahuila, and he drove us around town all day to get shots of the Santuario and other images of the Virgen.It was lots of fun and he was a really good guy. In the afternoon Lili had a bunch of family over for comida so I got to meet most of her cousins which was fantastic. I did a lot of listening while they went on chatting about all kinds of stuff, probably understanding about 65 percent. I shot an interview with Lili and her mom, and we headed back to Monterrey so I could catch my overnight bus to San Luis Potosí, where I would have my first experience couchsurfing in México! [...]


Thu, 24 Apr 2008 20:46:00 +0000

México adventure post coming soon, but first, some special words about a special person from one Plessica Plortney and myself (since her blog is private).----From Jess:Sam Mathies: Poker-king, practical joker.When I first met Sam his office was on the third floor of Marsh. He had really weird blond hair, but was very well dressed. He kept taking me to tournaments my freshman year, even though I bottomed-out at pretty much every event that I attempted. You just never knew what kind of trip you are going to have when you leave for a speech and debate tournament, but with Sam, we always knew it would be a blast. From Florida, DC, San Diego to Argentina, to the CLACK and back, Sam was there with his Chai Tea telling us it probably wasn’t a good idea to sleep during competition and that screaming Shakespeare at the top of your lungs wasn’t actually Duo.Besides being an awesome coach and mentor, Sam was always doing the crappy crap that made our team run. He make booking flights, judging JR. Prose, driving us all over the state in that crappy short-bus, and inadvertently flirting with coaches to get our fees reduced look so effortless. Sam did the best he could to make our experience the best it could be (which, at times, was pretty hard).The best thing about Sam, he is very fashion-forward. He defends his student’s honor when weird guys at bars think they are prostitutes. He took us to meet President Bush.Sam: you and your family gave up a lot for the team; please, go live like rock stars in Florida and enjoy your weekends!-----From Ash:Sam Mathies. Weekend dad. Bargain-shopper extraordinaire. Fashion icon. Plus one of the funniest people I've ever met. When I met Sam, I was most impressed by his manners. And also the size of his mouth. More than four years later, I have learned to appreciate his personality on a more sophisticated level. He brings The Office onto airplanes. He gives great suggestions for undersized visual aids in my speeches. He buys me the occasional Long Island Iced Tea. And he snorts when he laughs.In honor of Sam's departure from my alma mater, I present Sam's Greatest Hits.FACT: Sam is popular with the ladies (and the gents in Fairfax, VA). His strongest demographic is the street walker/performer of South America. He's also a specialist in seducing flight attendants to get us onto overbooked airplanes.SAM'S BIGGEST TALENT: He can make you think he's really refined. Impeccable manners, decent fake laugh, the works. But he's secretly making fun of everyone. AND he's not so refined.FACT: Contrary to my previous frequent declarations, Sam is, indeed, as cool as his wife Traci. BUT BARELY.FAVORITE SAM MEMORY: When Jess's hilarious Scrabble move (YID/YIP) made him lose consciousness and drool all over himself on a plane to Buenos Aires (by way of L.A.)., all the while with his eyes open. If he had died, it would have put a real damper on the trip. But since he didn't, it gave us something to laugh at several times a day for at least a week.(NOTE: re-enactment of actual events)FACT: Sam can appreciate the finer things in life, like an authentic bloody porteño steak. But he also enjoys the simple things, like the hilarity of the safety video on the boat from Buenos Aires to Uruguay.In all honesty, Sam is one of the most decent, understanding, witty, fun-loving, intelligent, down-to-earth people you will ever meet. Plus he's one hell of a dad. I'm grateful I got to enjoy a full four years with him as my coach and pal, I'm bummed for the people that don't, and feel downright sorry for all the fresh new Pacific faces that will never know him. On the other hand, if I ever decide to go to Jacksonville I WILL mov[...]

Here I Go!

Thu, 17 Apr 2008 06:20:00 +0000

I have a one-way ticket to México! Tomorrow I will get on a plane, land in Monterrey, and take a cab to a hostel, all by mysef! After tomorrow night, I am not sure where I'll be staying or what exactly I'll be doing (aside from finding interviewees for Road to Guadalupe). Am I afraid? Yes.

But more than that, I am beyond excited! So far on this journey, everything that has ever worried me has somehow worked itself out, so I have confidence in the universe. I have found amazing friends and experiences in unexpected places, and I'm looking forward to that happening on this leg of the trip.

Not to mention, IT'S MEXICO! The project will take me through Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro and Mexico City, and after that, the possibilities are limitless! Top priority: Oaxaca. I've got some old friends there from my semester abroad and I'm bursting with my excitement to see them. Hopefully this time I will make it to Morelia and Chiapas, too. How long I spend in Mexico depends on the opportunities I find (and when I run out of money). It will likely be between one and four months, but could possibly be longer. Who knows? I certainly don't. Isn't that exhilarating?!

Wish me suerte!(image)


Sat, 05 Apr 2008 03:02:00 +0000

And here I thought New Mexico was rad!  The first thing I did when I got to Austin was go to a Plapple store, because my MacBlook has had a battery problem for weeks.  My helpful "Genius" replaced my battery free of charge by "fudging" some warranty details. Thanks dude!

When I got to my Couchsurfing host's apartment, she gave me good vibes right away. She's warm and conversational in a non-forced way. Her roommate is an undergrad at UT-Austin's Department of Radio-Television-Film, where I just happen to want to go for an MFA! Now that's gotta be fate.

But the best of all was South Congress (apparently known as SoCo), which seems to be Austin's equivalent of Hawthorne.  It was fantastic!  Live music on every corner, delicious smells, and a vintage car show bonus!  People were friendly and there were lots of trees and locally-owned businesses. It really reminded me of Portland, but with better weather.   Where I was once vaguely interested in coming here for a film degree/career, I am now seriously thinking about how to make it work. And I haven't even visited the school yet!

The Immigration Post

Tue, 01 Apr 2008 02:20:00 +0000

Part 1: In her L.A. interview for Road to Guadalupe, Iris Almaraz spoke about immigration in a way I really appreciated, but I didn't have room for it in that project. So here it is now:Click here for Quicktime versionPart 2: I started thinking a lot about it again in Texas. This picture was taken from Interstate 10 in El Paso. That right there is Mexico. RIGHT THERE.It really reminded and SHOWED me what I've long felt: the border is little more than an arbitrary political line. I won't even get into colonization and the fact that what we call the U.S. Southwest was México until 1848. I'm not going to write here about all the people in this region who, without moving an inch, went from citizens to aliens on February 2, 1848. But I had to mention it.When you go to the border cities like El Paso/Juarez, you really do see that a few feet make a world of difference. If you happen to be born on the Texas side, you are free to come and go as you please, free to public education without anyone accusing you of taking their tax money, free to work for a decent wage and have legal recourse in the face of mistreatment in the workplace. If you're born a few feet south, you're likely to face extreme poverty, and be considered criminal if you look for work in El Paso in order to support your family.  Does that seem messed up to anyone else?I guess my views on immigration are pretty radical, but they seem perfectly reasonable to me.  Legal immigration/work eligibility needs to be a plausible possibility for Mexicans.  NAFTA needs to be repealed or at least amended, and the U.S. and Mexican governments should work together to alleviate poverty in México.  Criminal record (as long as the person in question has served their time, paid their fines, etc.) should not affect employment or citizenship eligibility; after all, we don't deport American-born ex-convicts!  Meanwhile, until pursuit of The Good Life (also known as the American Dream) becomes legal for folks born south of the border, undocumented workers should have access to health care and protection against workplace (and other) abuse, and should feel safe interacting with police.  And they sure as hell should be allowed to drive.Does that cover it? I'm not sure.  But basically, whether we're talking about the line dividing the U.S. from México, or all the other lines all over the world, your birthplace should not prevent you from making a decent living, getting an education, providing for your family, or feeling safe in your home. Simple. [...]

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White Sands!

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 04:32:00 +0000

No sound on this video--bring your own soundtrack!


For the record, by the way, I LOVE New Mexico! Good vibes all around. Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, even small town Santa Rosa had a little something special. Mostly the people, I think. Possible future residence?(image)

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Sun, 16 Mar 2008 17:24:00 +0000

It is snowing right now. In the Arizona desert. In my yard. In March.(image)

Episode 2: Josefina Lopez and Iris Almaraz in L.A.

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 17:03:00 +0000

For Semanal, I'd originally planned to post one video a week in addition to the videos at Road to Guadalupe. But this week, I'm cheating.(image)

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Lumiere #3: Dessert With Jennie and Julie

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 22:47:00 +0000


This was a great end to the first day of my journey. Sushi followed by fruit slices and cream with my good buddy Jennie and her sister Julie in San Clemente. Jennie, Julie, Brooke and Chris have been my adopted California family this week. Thank you.

More Lumieres here.

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"Because I'm Talkin' About the Road..."

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 04:05:00 +0000

The adventure has been fantastic so far. I got my friend Jennie to come up with me to San Francisco from Orange County, so that made for a hysterically fun road trip. Then I had a little snafu to deal with when a very important interviewee--who should have been the main focus of the first video--cancelled our appointment. Bummer. Upside, I did get some great material which I hadn't expected, downside, the footage doesn't look so hot because I had to shoot at night and the place was pretty dark and lighting was one thing I chose not to budget. So I feel less than satisfied with the first installment, but am also learning to let stuff like that go. :) I'm learning, and having a grand ol' time!

Next stop: Hollywood. For real! Whooo!(image)

Tin Box Thunderstorm

Sat, 23 Feb 2008 21:59:00 +0000


Been busy this week, working and preparing for my trip (T minus 2 days!). So here is just a little glimpse at what it's like to try to fall asleep during an Arizona thunderstorm when you live in a tin box (AKA 1970s trailer).(image)

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