Off Record

Esmeraldas is a wrap up. First community finished, down in the books. Now it’s documenting time- videos, audio, photos, and text. The question I ask myself is how to present the individuals singularly. The experience is own entity, meanwhile we have to dissect and cut out individuals from the story to present systematically their words.

I am tempted at this point to add my own voice to their stories; based on what I perceive and fill the holes they dug with some mestizo soil. This soil would not be reproduced, I tell myself, but rather it would be a mix of what they unknowingly shared with me off record, meaning in their body language, their side comments, and their proverbial phrases. I love when wisdom and love sneaks up on you, and you see very clearly what the other is saying and how it could not be any other way.

What will I find when I sit and sort through the individuals’ materials and documents? I am afraid that when I read Juan Carlos and Pool’s documents I will not find them there. I am afraid that the documentation we have from them will appear only as sad and empty.  I tell myself it will be clearly insufficient, but the question is whether it will be cliché and superficial. I am referring to their documented answers to questions like “What they are most afraid of?” or “What are your three wishes?” Some of them are lies, but I can’t judge their remarks any more that I can decipher my own misjudgments.

My only wish is that trusting the process will be the best way forward. Now, in the early phases of implementing the same exercises and methods in the second community, letting go will be necessary. It’s funny that substituting one voice for another is not as an innocent process as one would like to believe.

Last Friday, we presented at Radio Modular, the local radio here in Atacames, to address the new community we are working in. After providing the context of the 100 Voices project we were pressed to share our perspectives on the youth we have encountered and again I questioned how the voices mingle and how to do them justice. Regardless, Kirsten and I set our best tone forward to discuss the dynamism and diversity we have experienced in terms of youth participation.

Inevitably, our radio conversation turned into discussing youth as “invinsibilisados” a common term used here to refer to youth as invisible, not invested in, and ignored. To me, it sounds more like a movement to be invisible. Youth sometimes exert effort to remain invisible, elusive, and misunderstood. I can relate to this feeling and maybe this is why I feel constrained by the process to collect and give voice to the people we are engaging through this project.  To act and exist off record or out in the sidelines can be more interesting and fun, and youth know this. At certain moments, I feel what we have off record like scars, jokes, and attitudes are more meaningful that what we may have on record. All left, is to trust the invisible power behind our efforts 🙂

-Valerie

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