May 21, 2009

Palafitos Panorama

Palafitos en Chiloe

May 16, 2009

Dos Meses en Chile

The rain is falling swiftly on the corrugated metal rooftops. Smoke billows from dozens of miniature smokestacks. Muddy fishermen and seagulls huddle in the mist along the waters edge hoping for a meal. And I hunch over my camera, an umbrella in one hand and the focus in the other. I'm on an island called Chiloe over 1200 kms south of Vina del Mar (my home in Chile) filming one of the most unique places I have ever laid eyes upon. The island of Chiloe (the largest island in South American north of Tierra del Fuego) sits close off the Pacific coast, perhaps a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland. It's an island of rolling green pastures, misty clouds, old farmhouses, over 150 wooden churches, and palafitos (houses built upon stilts upon the waters edge). Chiloe is famous for its multicolored palafitos which sit high above the inlets to avoid the extreme tide changes. Here fishing is less of a job than it is a lifestyle for many Chiloeans. No matter where you look, you can find dozens and dozens of fishing boats marooned high up on muddy banks. Admist milky colored water and drab gray clouds, the colorful houses, boats, and people stand out.

Chiloean Palafito

Lago Llanquihue Boats

For the past two days I've been filming wherever I can and whenever it's not raining (which has turned out to be very difficult). And when it doesn't stop raining, I film anyways. Mud and water has become a part of my existence since I left Vina del Mar last week. My shoes, pants, and backpack have all become the same color and I'm hoping my family will recognize me when I get home. At this time of the year it seems that South Pacific storms are at full force, at least for the little island of Chiloe. Two days before I was a few hours north of Chiloe (on the mainland) in a town called Puerto Varas. Sitting on the edge of the 2nd largest lake in Chile (Llanquihue), Puerto Varas has a commanding view of the most impressive volcano I have ever seen (Osorno). It looks something akin to Mt. Fuji in Japan. Puerto Varas is also close to the largest salmon farm operations in Chile. Unfortunately at this moment, Chile's salmon farms are battered by disease and many have shut down for the time being or even closed up. But as I traveled around the lake I could still see the farms floating alongside the coast. I also recognized the distinct German influence in the area (germans colonized the south about a hundred years ago). German flags flew from classic Alps-like houses and you could be guaranteed of finding Kuchen (a German pastry on every corner). In a few days I will head north to return home to Vina del Mar. But my few days in the south have shown me what a diverse land Chile is.

Volcano Osorno

Smog Over Santiago

Looking back on the last month I've begun to get a feel for the rhythm of Chile. Everyday I walk out of my home on a winding cobblestone street overlooking Vina del Mar. Dogs fight for scraps of food, old woman with faces two hundred years old stagger up the steep hills, and if you’re not careful you can find yourself tripping over the uneven stones or getting run over by a bus or taxi. During the day you can watch the mist disappear to reveal inexorably tall Andean mountains and cacti in the distance. When walking the streets of Vina your senses are bombarded by hundreds of smells and sounds. Street vendors dressed in running gear jump aboard moving buses to sell the insides of coconuts, popcorn, candy, and chocolate. Blind beggars sit in the shade banging tin cups for money. Collectivos (inexpensive taxis) dart in and out of traffic with suprising speed. All different sorts of breads and meats are cooked and sold along the sidewalk. The fruit and vegetable markets are abuzz with activity at all times of the day. And at night boys play soccer for hours in old clothes and on muddy fields with the lights of the city illuminating the game. Such is the life in a bustling South American port town. At times its been difficult for me to communicate and I find myself out of my element in the big city. But the happiness of the people I have met is what keeps me warm and makes me love this place. Walk into a store anywhere and you will be greeted with a huge smile. Speak spanish to someone and they'll almost give you a hug. When I am with my new family, they care for me as one of their own. Many times we swap jokes until the early hours of the morning. And while, like in Samoa, I am clearly a visitor, the Chileans go out of their way to make me comfortable, happy, and accepted.

Apr 14, 2009

Trailer #2

Here is the the latest trailer to my upcoming documentary. Hope you enjoy!

Apr 8, 2009

Bienvenidos a Chile

Fishing Fleet in Zapallar

Santa Inez (my home)

Three weeks have passed rather quickly since I arrived to Chile. I've spent a lot of time adjusting to the new culture, practicing my spanish, and filming at the markets, ports, and cultural attractions around Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. At first it was hard to communicate, being that I hadn't practiced any spanish in over two years. But I quickly got up to speed, mostly because few people if any speak english. I ended up spending my first day in Chile down in the filming trenches (so to speak), shooting footage at the Valparaiso fish market. Here fishermen wake up early, around 3 am, jump into their tiny yellow boats and brave the cold foggy waters of the South Pacific. By about eight in the morning they have landed enough fish to sell for the day, having to avoid the large oil and cargo tankers that begin to appear around this time. Using a winch on the end of an old pier, the boats are pulled one by one out of the water. The fishermen then line their boats up in order and begin hawking their catch.

Tradition Chilean Fishing Vessels

The Morning's First Catch

By 9 the market is abuzz with activity. Locals buying fish, fishermen yelling, and workers untangling lines. Dogs run excitedly back and forth between the shellfish stands and the boats and the sea lions clutter the beach barking madly for a meal. For my first day in Chile it was quite an adventure.

Hombres at Work

El Jefe

Woman at Work

I was stunned to find out during one interview that generally speaking most fishermen make around $150 US per month. That's right. Not $150 a day or $150 a week but $150 in a month. This particular fisherman told me honestly that's its nearly impossible these days to make money as an individual fisherman. There is so much competition with foreign Spanish and Japanese trawlers and such a lack of large fish that the industry is nearly sunk. Through missing teeth and sunburnt lips he told me that most of his food comes from whatever is leftover at the market. It was an enlightening but sad first encounter in Chile.

The Market

Shellfish Specialty

Old Boat in Zapallar

I'm glad to say though that although it was sad to hear this one fisherman's story, Chile is alive with friendly people and a willingness to share their culture. Three weeks have passed and I've been invited to homes, barbeques, soccer games, and car races. The family I live with are perhaps the most hospitable, kind people on the planet. They continue to astound me everyday with their selfless and caring ways. They've taken me all over this region of Chile from the dunes and coves to the north to the vineyards to the east. I've gotten a chance to glimpse the great Andean cordillera which I hope to visit sometime soon. I've even walked with crazy winding streets of Valparaiso with its hundred year old ascensores (hillside elevators) and angular houses and I've ridden the convenient but incredibly fast micros (buses). Of all the peoples I have met on my journey so far, I'd have to say that the Chileans have already made me feel more comfortable and accepted than anywhere else. Each day my eyes are opened by how little they have but how much they give.

Tasty Looking Grapes

Mar 27, 2009

Samoa Comes to an End

Looking back on my time in Samoa, I would have to say it was a memorable four months. From the wonderful people and unique culture to the stunning beaches and constant sunshine, Samoa will forever be a paradise in my mind. Shooting a documentary gave me the opportunity to meet all sorts of people from spearfishermen to traditional siapo-cloth makers. Traveling throughout the country gave me deeper insight into what is at the essence of Samoa. I remember working on the plantation with my friends, planting taro, cutting down banana trees, and drinking coconuts by the dozen. All the while under a beautiful blue sky and warm tropical breeze. Then there were the moments spent around the bonfire on the beach, listening to homegrown guitar music and swapping jokes and language. I still catch myself laughing thinking about Fao Fao, my best friend/ 4 year old nemesis who followed me around everywhere, copied everything I did, and somehow taught me some amazing dance moves. I recall sitting in the middle of the empty street at night, talking with my adopted brothers Paye and Tuua and watching people of all ages walk by on their nightly jaunts. Then there were the days spent helping the girls with their chores and English, and letting them make jokes about me in Samoan for hours all the while not understanding one bit. Talking with my adopted mom Rosa and hearing her stories from her youth everyday at lunch was perhaps my favorite part of the day. Jumpstarting cars, killing pigs, harvesting shellfish and hunting octopus, wrestling with the kids, cooking palusami, climbing coconut trees, dancing, learning Samoan, running from Fafafines, listening to people sing, and hearing more gossip than I thought a small village could ever produce was just a day’s work in Saleapanga. When I finally said goodbye to all my family’s tearful faces and my plane took off out of the jungle heading for a new continent, it was hard to imagine living somewhere else.

So here I sit, almost two weeks in Chile and well on my way into my third and last adventure. I live in a wonderful little home with a Chilean family who in some ways remind me of my friends back in Samoa. But here there are no coconuts chugging sessions or scores of little kids just waiting to trip you up. Here there are giant mountains and massive deserts. And a new type of people work the land and live amongst the coastlines, plying the waters for a living. Just last week I spent a few hours at the local seafood market and watched through the fog as little yellow fishing boats were pulled out of the sea by their owners who sold their catches along the shore. I also walked the eccentric winding streets of Valparaiso with its ancient acensores (elevators) and Pablo Neruda inspired architecture. And the other day, I was sitting on a three hundred foot sand dune that dumped right into the ocean, an ocean that I had traveled in part, that stretched all the back to the origins of my journey last July when I landed in New Zealand.

I have just over three and a half months left to my trip and I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve seen, filmed, and learned. Now that I am well past the halfway point, I have begun thinking about home again and all the family and friends that I miss dearly. I look forward to seeing you all very soon and I hope that you will check in to my blog a few more times before this August for some more Chilean adventures, photos, and videos.