Talking for a living


December 18, 2012 by jiejie768

On Thursday and Friday, I had the unique (for now, but hopefully soon to be reoccurring) opportunity to work as an interpreter for a group visiting Ayacucho with CARE Peru. CARE is an NGO that does work all over the world. I actually wasn’t aware that they had offices in Ayacucho, but after talking to GeGe, I found out that she first came to Ayacucho with CARE and had done a lot of work with them in the U.S. as well.

This all started when I got a call at 9 a.m. Thursday morning. It was GeGe, calling on behalf of Alejandro and Travelbus to ask if I could interpret that day. In half an hour. Ryan and I were actually supposed to meet GeGe that morning to do some work for KATC and my alarm hadn’t gone off. I hopped in the freezing cold shower (our solar powered shower isn’t warm until the afternoon), shoved an egg sandwich in my mouth, burned my tongue as I chugged a cup of hot coffee and ran out the door.

As is often the case with best laid plans in Peru, I turned out to be about half an hour early when all was said and done. As we waited for the clients, some background story started to unfold. I would be meeting the father, children and nanny (assistant as it turned out) of a family from L.A. who were traveling with CARE. Our plan was to visit the zoo, and then spend the rest of the day in Huanta (a place I’d never visited, and without a guide … I was a little nervous about that part). As it turned out, only the father and son showed up, and our plans completely changed. We spent a couple of hours at the zoo, and then they met up with the rest of the group for lunch back in Ayacucho. I killed a couple of hours at home until our 2 p.m. meet up time, when we would presumably head to Huanta. Around 2:15, the group from CARE turned up, having not eaten yet. I met the rest of the family (mother, daughter, assistant) and we made arrangements to meet again in an hour. At that point, I really had no idea what was going on, but I thought that the mother looked awfully familiar.

Did I mention that on the way back from the zoo earlier in the day, the father, Brad, told me that he directed the movies “Casper”, “City of Angels”, “Moonlight Mile”, “10 Items or Less” and “Land of the Lost”? No? Well, it turns out that he also directed his wife, Amy Brenneman (“Judging Amy”, “Private Practice”) in one or two of those films, and now they were in Ayacucho to visit CARE Peru’s community organizing-, health-, and agriculture-related projects.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with the CARE group in Guayacondo, a city in the campo approximately 45 minutes from Ayacucho. The adults saw projects, visited homes and did interviews, while Melissa (the family’s assistant) and I played with the family’s two children (ages 11 and 7) and basically every other kid in town, who were pretty excited to have visitors. We ran around people’s yards, played duck, duck, goose on the soccer field, learned to crack a whip (well, we tried), and took tons of photos. I also had a chance to shock some kids with my (limited) knowledge of Quechua, when they tried to confuse us by asking “Imataq sutiyki?” and I knew to answer: “Meg”.

The kids in Guayacondo taught us a game similar to "Ring around the rosy"

The kids in Guayacondo taught us a game similar to “Ring around the rosy”

We taught the kids to play "Pato Pato Ganso" (duck duck goose)

We taught the kids to play “Pato Pato Ganso” (duck duck goose)

The kids of Guayacondo in front of the Posta (clinic)

The kids of Guayacondo in front of the Posta (clinic)

The group from CARE Peru visiting the preschool in Guayacondo

The group from CARE Peru visiting the preschool in Guayacondo

I had the chance to talk to Amy Brenneman quite a bit that first day and let me tell you, she is a fascinating woman. I’m not very familiar with her TV work, but I definitely plan to keep following her charity work. I found her to be incredibly smart, compassionate, interesting and a great mother. I could say all the same things about her husband, Brad Silberling. They were truly a joy to spend time with.

I thought I was done working after that first day, as they had a second translator with them, but before I left on Thursday night, the Ayacucho CARE director asked me if I was available the next day as well.

Friday started more or less the same as Thursday, though a little less frantic (the shower was still cold, but I got to eat my breakfast sitting down). The plan for the day was a trip to Wari and Quinua on the big yellow bus (which Ryan and I have done before) and then a city tour of Ayacucho. We got a pretty late start, traveling with such a large group (the CARE Peru team, the Brenneman-Silberlings, a film maker from CARE USA, and a Peruvian film crew), so the city tour got scrapped pretty early on. We spent the day in Wari and Quinua, while I translated from the open air roof of the moving bus. I’m going to say I did a good job, because the entire thing would have been in Spanish if I hadn’t been there, but with so many kids (two ;-)) and cameras, I usually only had two or three people listening to me at a time. We stopped for lunch in Quinua, and I had another opportunity to talk to Amy and Brad, this time about politics and education. They did a lot of work on the Obama campaign and were interested in how voting we voted (the process, if not the selections) from here in Peru. We also talked quite a bit about charter schools, since their kids go to one, and we will be opening them in Washington soon. I also had the opportunity to talk to Kate, the film maker from CARE USA quite a bit. She was really interesting and I can’t wait to check out their youtube channel when the videos from this trip are posted. She was headed to Quito next, so I gave her a recommendation on where to eat humitas.

The monument at the Pampa de Ayacucho

The monument at the Pampa de Ayacucho

A beautiful view from the monument

A beautiful view from the monument

Horseback riding at the Pampa

Horseback riding at the Pampa

As I mentioned, the afternoon city tour was canceled, so I had an hour to run up to KATC, get mobbed with hugs, and hear the oldest kids practice their Christmas carols. I met up with Ryan, and he came back downtown with me to take the group to a few spots in Ayacucho to do some shopping. We hit up the music store to buy some CDs we heard on the bus that day, and I took them to the central market to look at a few crafts and try to buy some alpaca yarn. I was very glad to have Ryan’s help as everyone went off in all directions. A quick trip to the ice cream store and a restaurant to order take out and the job was done! Ryan and I went to Mamma Mia to spend some of my hard earned talking money.

CARE says they have groups in Ayacucho all the time and would like to hire me again. I sincerely hope that they do. It was one of the most fun, most bizarre, and most rewarding experiences I’ve had in Ayacucho to date. I did miss “my kids” though, so I’m happy things are back to normal, for now.

2 thoughts on “Talking for a living

  1. Kathy Collins says:

    Meg (and Ryan), what an awesome experience, in every way. It is so great that you talk good enough in Spanish to be such a help. Another great addition to the resume! 🙂

  2. Chip says:

    Bravo Meg! Happy to know Hollywood is more than glitz and glamor. And I LOVE the photo of the group of kids in front of the posta. The kid standing up on the fence behind them tickled me… playing to his own beat of a drum I see :0)

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