By 2007, I had become the head of the university’s film program. I had coordinated several film festivals, taught multiple film classes, and established filmmaking as an official school sponsored activity. Now, I was ready to take my passion to the next level.
My motivation for joining the Mesoamerica study abroad tour was to make a professional documentary. The tour lasted one month. I equipped myself with 3 video cameras, 13 batteries and 40 recordable tapes.
Although I was the only one in the program who had moviemaking experience, I knew I could not make the documentary alone. Therefore, I asked others within the program for help.
I tried to include everyone so no one felt left out. A few girls were uncomfortable being in front of the camera, but agreed to help film.
At that time, I had no interest in language, culture, or diversity. I chose Central America because I was interested in the hidden treasures of the Aztec pyramids. But, to me, Mexican sombreros and tacos were of little value.
But when I got there, it was as though I had stepped through a magic wardrobe. The food did not taste like Taco Bell, at all. The entertainment was unlike anything I had ever seen. It made me feel as though, my whole life, I had been missing out on something important. It was as though Mexico, itself, was the hidden treasure I came to find. It made me wonder what other magical worlds I was blind to.
We Danced Anyway
One night, my host family took us dancing at the town square. Watching the way the community interacted with each other, as though they were one, tightly knit, family made me wonder why Americans don’t share the same sense of community intimacy.
At that moment I changed my mind about culture. I loved the Mexican herritage. I wanted to do whatever I could to preserve the traditions and customs of different populations. I wanted to explore the world - not geographically, but ethnocentrically.
Midway through the tour, we visited the village of Manabah where a mudslide had killed most of the adult residents. The village was full of orphan children who begged for food and money.
The mood was that of visiting a cemetery. As the comic relief of the group, I did not know how to handle my feelings. I wanted to help the orphans. I wanted to solve their problems, but i couldn't.At a loss of knowing how to behave, I stayed behind the camera for this segment.
Later, this experience inspired me to work for nonprofit organizations, again. I got an internship at Feed the World and wrote my graduate thesis on ways charities can use visual images to increase donations.
Where is Jonny?
On the last day of the tour, I separated from the group to be alone. In time, I came to a homeless community that offered me a tour of their property (as though they were guides to a theme park).
During the tour, a bum locked me in a cage with a monkey for over an hour. He said he would not release me until I gave him two hundred dollars (which I did). Meanwhile, my fellow students heard that I had been kidnapped and they organized a search party.
When I was finally free, I told my story, but no one believe me. Good thing I had my camera!
The finished documentary was two hours long. I've included it in the Talents section of this website, but don't watch it until after you have finished my story...
After completion, I felt that I was ready to become a proffessional filmmaker. However, because of Bishop Frank's advise, I knew that moviemaking was forbidden. Therefore, I declared my major in education and prepared to become a student teacher.
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