Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Final Week and Successes!

Monday, August 20, 2012 1:51 pm

Hello everyone,

My last official week working on my project with Dr. Furbee and CDIT was successful. I have final edit copies of videos, their accompanying lesson plan outlines for teachers, two primary source stories, some really great quotes, and a large collection of pictures. It is a really great feeling to have everything so finished feeling.

Unfortunately, Dr. Furbee is at a little bit of a stalemate with the website, so she is looking into a new IT person to help her to update the existing website and then to add these materials to it. Until then however, I’m in a holding pattern currently but feel great about the materials I have produced.

My time in Mexico was really incredible, I learned so much about the field of Anthropology, what graduate level work looks like, and how Applied Anthropology is really having an important, meaningful, sustainable impact. Additionally, I’ve learned firsthand about the ups and downs of creating a product from scratch, and my problem-solving skills, creativity, and patience have all definitely been tested, mostly successfully. I am so grateful to the CICE for enabling me to have such an incredible summer and to establish relationships and partnerships that I know are just beginning.

While my official time is up, I know that I will continue to work closely with Dr. Furbee, because we both equally want to see this product acutally up and live on the internet, reaching students in classrooms!



Week 7

Friday, August 10, 2012 4:55 pm

Hi All!

After a short break, this week was back focused on my project intensely from my kitchen. I had sent out videos and lesson plan outlines to my “teacher advisory panel” right before I left and have gotten really really positive feedback back from them. They made really helpful suggestions about the lesson plan outline and they loved the videos. So I have made most of their suggested changes and have been working to finalize exactly what materials will be offered. But overall, excited that two of the videos and their lesson outlines are essentially complete!

Dr. Furbee and I begin to really hammer out details on the website beginning early next week, we both have meetings that will hopefully shed some light on the best way to sell the materials. She also has another entrepreneurial project in the works, of making a “Doll Village” of Tojolobal dolls, each doll representing someone in a community and their traditional clothing and accompanying accessories, so this project and mine will probably share the website. Crunch time is upon us though, with schools starting, or about to start, so I’m hoping that next week is really productive on that front!


This is a picture of the prototype of the doll- I went with Dr. Furbee to some of the design, concept, and idea pitches for it. The final product will have legs and “less chunky arms” according to Dr. Furbee. But I think its wonderful!! And its very accurate!

More next week!


Week 6: The beginnings of feedback

Monday, July 16, 2012 7:27 pm

Hello again,

This last weeks worth of work has been alot of trial and error for me. As I was finally finishing up the editing of these videos, making them the way I want them, I began doing random testing on anyone who would watch them. At a family reunion this week, I sat down people in my family and made them watch and give me feedback. The resounding feedback was; they need to be (even) shorter and more concise, and more entertaining- less like a lecture. (well humph- if only they could have seen where i started…….) So anyways, I dove into editing once again, trying to make that happen because if adults feel that way, kids definitely will. So I now am reaching a new point where I think I will be ready to fully address my “teacher advisory panel” that I have put together to view these newer versions and get their input on whether the curriculum outlines that I’ve written to accompany these videos are as helpful as they can be.

So I have learned a lot about the product development, trial and error, importance of focus groups and advisors, and faced another whole round of nit-picky challenges from the entrepreneurship experience this last week.

I have a couple of weeks where I will be out of the country coming up where progress will be sidelined but August will involve me making any changes the teachers suggest, working with Dr. Furbee to determine the website situation, and meeting with an intellectual property lawyer to get her advice on how I can most effectively protect the intellectual property of the Tojolobal people I worked with and the materials that I and CDIT have produced.

I’m sure that these components, as have all of the steps so far this summer, will produce their own sets of unexepected issues, obstacles, and challenges that I will have to sort out.

Until August,

Week 5

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 2:02 pm

Hi All!

I am back in the United States! However, not before I had one last all-day visit in another community, Gonzalez de Leon, and that was particularly fun because a couple of the CDIT employees live there, so we got to visit them in their homes, and I got to meet their families and children. I also ate lunch and dinner in the community and it was the first time I had gotten to do that. They are so generous with everything they have, and their food is delicious. There cannot be anything more incredible on this earth than a hot, fresh corn tortilla. I got to watch her make them by hand right in front of me, and then hand me one off the griddle! This was no Moe’s burrito. Anyways, I really enjoyed my last day in Mexico and in the Community. Then after a 4am wake up call to make my 8am flight, I was headed back to Atlanta.

Since being in Atlanta, its been more of the same, working on really finalizing the videos, and working on lesson plans. I have been continually tailoring the lesson plan outlines and brainstorming questions, activities, and ways to present the information, as well as developing questions so that when I send the sample supplements to my “Teacher advisory board” I can get the reactions and feedback that will be most helpful. You might think I’ve been working on videos alot- because I have- but its really hard to edit video that happens in a language you don’t understand, choosing when to cut becomes incredibly difficult. So I have to listen over and over and over again, while reading the transcription, in order to figure out where to cut, and what I want to keep. This process is alot harder when I don’t have the CDIT team readily accessible to affirm my decisions. I also was unable to record any voice over parts in Mexico, because there is so much background noise all the time. I filmed an interview with Dr. Furbee one of my last days there, and in listening to it, you can hear every person who walked by on the street, as well as all the street noise. Each water, gas, and trash company has its own sound that it plays continuously as it drives through neighborhoods- alerting residents to the fact that if they need their services or products, they are in the area. Their advertising creates a continuous racket which is really notconduciveto audio and video recording. So I have now been able to work on the script and record my voice overs and narrative parts since I have a quiet space to do that.

Dr. Furbee has also asked me to write two reflections, one right now about my time in Mexico and the personal growth I’ve seen and what I learned about myself, and then another one at the end of the summer reflecting on my progress and what I might have done differently, a little more about the project. I have really been enjoying this assignment and have spent alot of time on it the past few days.

Now that I’m home, I’m not really working as standardized hours, or as many hours per day as I was in Mexico, so my blog posts will be a little less systematic- as I will be trying to post once I have done a weeks worth of work and/or have some progress to report on!



Week 4: Midterm Review

Thursday, June 21, 2012 2:52 pm

I only have 2 more days here in Chiapas with the CDIT team- the past three and a half weeks have flown by! I’m sad that the end of my time here is so close, but I’m excited to get back to the US and really get this project into the hands of teachers!

Since my last post, I have had some more community experiences, and spent alot of time crossing things off my “to-do before I leave” list. Last weekend I filmed in Las Margaritas, the ‘center’ or ‘capital’ is the best way to explain it. The communities I have visited are all within the Municipal body of Las Margaritas, so I went to the city/center/capital, also called Las Margaritas, and walked around for a while in their indoor market. It felt like a farmers market really, there was the cow butcher and the pig butcher and the chicken lady, there were the spice and herb people, bread people, vegetable people, it went on and on. I’ve included some pictures- sorry about the pig’s head, but you have to have a pigs head to make a couple of traditional Chiapanecan Dishes…

So needless to say- very successful filming. Over the weekend I finished a couple of translations. One being a history of “Carnival” a festival they have during Holy Week to ask God for rain. It was fascinating to discuss with Dr. Furbee how they combine Mayan Cosmology and Catholicism in their Religious beliefs. I also finished a translation of the folktale, “The Clever Rabbit and the Coyote” in which the rabbit is very clever indeed. I have also translated a couple of poems, and some quotes from different people. The videos are coming along, but its very difficult to edit videos when you have no clue what is being said, so it’s a very tedious task. I think the team will be thrilled for me to get these done, because I ask them questions over and over again: “What did he just say? Can I cut this out or does she say something important at the end? Do these clips make sense together?” etc. etc.

This week in the office, there have been 3 university students working with us as well- the office is a little crowded now! They go to The University of Chiapas and are Language and Culture Majors, who are required to do something like 450 hours of community service over six months in order to graduate. These three students are working with CDIT to fufill their hours and are all also native Tojolobal Speakers. So they have helped me to understand all the Tojolobal that is spoken in the videos I have just taken (they have patiently answered most of the questions I’ve had). It’s also been really cool to watch them work with the CDIT employees while they learn what each person does, and take a stab at it themselves- talk about Contagious Education! Both the team and the students have grown more passionate and energized in the work over the time I’ve been here, making teaching and learning really inspiring to watch! I also got to listen to the team do a presentation/overview of CDIT for the three students, which was interesting and informative for me also!

Today was another opportunity for me to shadow Dr. Furbee, as I went with her and one of CDIT’s employees to one of the Community Documentation Centers. We work in the headquarters, but CDIT has planted community centers in 4 different communities and trained, through workshops, people in these communities how to document their culture and language use. Our visit was like an annual check-up! The girl who is the most involved at this center is a real g0-getter, she has really made thedocumentationefforts a priority for her community and is making a huge difference- a real testament to the work CDIT does!

Additionally- in talking to my Mom last week I realized I may need to clarify some points. The people I work with are Tojolobal Mayans, which is like a race/ethnicity. Not all Mexicans are Mayan (in fact, most aren’t) and not all Mayan people are Tojolobal (the other main languages in my area are Tzeltal and Tzotzil). And Mayans live in Guatemala and Belieze as well, so not all Mayans are Mexican. I hope that made sense. The picture below shows me last week in Lomantan with two women we talked to while we were there. I’m 5’4″ and am the same height or taller than most Mayan men. I’m definitely the tallest person in the CDIT office- a new experience for me.


Until next week,

Week 3: New Perspectives

Thursday, June 14, 2012 2:17 pm

Hi all!

In my last blog post, I commented on how similar this office is to workenvironmentsin the United States.This week however, has made me reconsider that claim.

I have visited three different communities over the past week, as well as paid visits to Dr. Furbee’s friends in town. I have really enjoyed getting to meet all these people, and hear them reminisce with Dr. Furbee and hear them talk about their lives in general. I got a crash course in Tojolobal courtesy and manners (lots of hand shaking and cheek-kissing in greeting and when leaving). Everyone I met was so inviting, friendly, and welcoming. However, their lifestyles are very very different and it has made me realize that the officeenvironmentfeels familiar because it was created and organize by Dr. Furbee but that she trained the people on the CDIT team about how to act in the office, but that the culture andenvironmentin their homes, their communities, is very different. They have much less but are so gracious to us, inviting us into their home, offering food, chairs, coffee, etc, even though they may not have alot of food- they want to feed us, and, at 80+ years old- they should sit in the one chair, not I. While the office has Wi-fi, phones, 8 computers, etc. The communities don’t even have cell service, much less, the internet. So there are still some serious differences between our worlds.

In one of the communities, I video taped children the majority of the day- they read poems to me in Spanish and Tojolobal (their native, Mayan, language) and they showed me how to play all their different types of games. They play soccer, as well as a couple of variations of a marble game, their own version of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ and human tug of war. They were such hams, showing off for the camera, and giggling uncontrollably. It was fantastic. They also explained to me what they do everyday, told me all the things they liked and the subjects and foods they hate. This community visit was part of my independent project and will go into the “day in the life” and “school” videos.

The other community visits and house calls were as part of my shadowing with Dr. Furbee. In one community we went around and reconnected with some of her old friends who she worked with about 10 years ago, because she wants to complete the research she was doing with them around 2002 which got sidetracked by other events. They were thrilled to see her again and to meet me. I have really come to love how relational this work is and have come to appreciate how important it is to continue and maintain relationships. Some of the other visits were about anotherentrepreneurialventure the team has in the works. My independent project is another of the efforts for the team to branch out and create a products that are congruent with their Archival and Documentation work, but that can be a source of income in order to sustain the team. They had been operating on an NSF grant but their grant is rapidly coming to a close and they are looking for other things that will enable them to continue. So we had some business meetings about their otherentrepreneurialideas- trying to get those off the ground too. Its been really interesting to observe howentrepreneurialefforts develop in a culture that isintenselyfocused on community equality. A great tension exists between pressure to think of the community first, and make decisions which benefit everyone, while also working intensely to get ahead individually and improve your own situation. This is especially difficult as Americans, so we spent a lot of time convincing people our work was important and that any participation would be worth their time- because the benefits of language documentation are not always obvious to people who would really like to be learning English, especially when speaking your indigenous language has been a source of discrimination in the past.

These day trips into the communities have pushed my work on the Curriculum Supplement, my independent project, into the evenings and nights after I’ve spent a long day out in these communities (which are like villages in the middle of massive agricultural fields) but I’m still translating conversations and stories as well as editing video like crazy. I’m also working on creating a “process outline” in Spanish, so the team can replicate the work I’m doing and create more materials, into the coming year and broadening and adding variety to anything I create. CDIT is founded on the principle of contagious education, so I am also working on doing my part to facilitate the team learning and knowing what I’m doing so they can do it without me in the future.

Saludos a todos y hasta luego,


Just like any other office

Friday, June 8, 2012 12:21 am

Well- its the end of my first week here in Mexico. It has flown by!

After a “slick”, as Dr. Furbee declared it, trip down, I got right to work and its been full speed ahead since then. Dr. Furbee is theLinguisticAnthropologistwho is also the president of the non-profit, CDIT, where I’m working. She is currently my boss, mentor, mother, chef, life coach, etc. On the weekends, we relocate to San Cristobal de las Casas, a slightly larger city than Comitan, where CDIT is headquartered. There, we are literally living together… I’m on the sofa. Here in Comitan, I’m living in a hotel but still eat all my meals with her in the office/her house.

A typical day for me in Comitan goes like this: wake up, go up to the office (one block away from my hotel, but up the steepest hill you’ve ever seen in your life) and have breakfast with Louanna. The other 5 CDIT employees arrive at 8:30. They take a break at 10/10:30 for some sort of light snack/breakfast. Then everyone works until 3, when they leave. Louanna and I then cook ‘Lunch/Dinner” they call it purely “Comida” which is ‘food’, its the biggest meal of the day, then it is time to ‘siesta’ or rest and I usually return to the hotel. It also typically rains around that time. Then, I go back up the hill around 7 or so and have dinner, which has more often than not been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We then work for a few more hours and then I go back to the hotel to begin the routine again the next day. But really- working in a non-profit in Mexico feels alot like being in any other office. Everyone has their spot, theres a clear routine for the day, there are office-wide meetings, people work on projects together, everyone wears headphones, there’s ubiquitous wi-fi, etc. etc.

My current tasks have consisted of going through the organization’s large databases (which are actually not stored in a database but in stacks of CDs/DVDs) and seeing what they have that will correspond and complement the core curriculum standards as well as the themes/ideas I had developed last week. So far, there has been a TON of material. I have watched countless hours of video (not great quality, but I think it will do) and begun to edit and select the parts of each video that I will use. Since CDIT is archival in its main goal, each video is VERY long- the shortest one I have watched has been 45 minutes long, the longest has been over 2 hours. They are also all in Tojolobal, the Mayan Language that this organization works to document, protect, and grow. I also spent one whole afternoon looking through stories, interviews, and other oral accounts to find Primary Source material. I have started to work on translating these, but it is very daunting because I found so many promising documents and they are also all verylengthy. I am hoping that I will make significant headway on the translations this weekend. Here is what the process looks like (I’m the Spanish to English part.. the Tojolobal to Spanish part has already been done by one of the CDIT employees):

TOJ: Yajni wa xk’otye ja lo’lanum ja b’a sti’ egelesya, ti’ wa xwajye

ESP: Cuando llegan los del carnaval en frente de la iglesia, se van por

ENG: When the carnival arrives in front of the church, they go by

The weekend also holds trips into thecommunitiesfor me- so that will be interesting. They won’t be entirely work-related but I will probably have the opportunity to video tape and record some and will probably be used in the supplement as well! I am really looking forward to the next week and making even more progress!

Until then,

Week One and Intro

Thursday, May 31, 2012 8:51 pm

Hi all,

I am a rising senior, Anthropology and Art History major who is getting the opportunity to work with a Mexican registered non-profit using the Summer Entrepreneurial Fellows Stipend. The NGO that I am working with is headquarted in Comitan, Mexico, a city in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. They are a Mayan Language and Culture Documentation center. They are trying to preserve, research, and re-teach Mayan languages which are slowly going extinct. Their work has produced a large database of media (video, sound clips, still photos, oral history accounts, etc). I am going to help them to turn their existing media into curriculum supplements that can be used here in the US. I, like many school children and probably even Wake Forest students, was under the impression that the Mayan people died out when the Spanish arrived. However, that is not the case as there are Mayan people across Mexico and Guatemala who are discriminated against and marginalized because of their ethnicity and livelihoods. The supplements will hopeful help to correct this educational gap and potentially provide another small source of income for the NGO so they can continue their main focus of anthropological documentation and preservation. I first learned about this company and hatched the idea for this project during spring break last year when I was on a trip to the area with Anthropology and Business school professors from Wake for a class entitled Free Trade- Fair Trade, over a year and a half later I’m getting the opportunity to return and make the project a reality!

I spent last week working in the states to finalize project ideas and themes, interview teachers about what they desire in a lesson plan, study the new North Carolina Core Curriculum outlines and requirements, research all types of supplemental teaching materials, search for competitors, and learned how to use iMovie and Final Cut Pro. It was a surprisingly busy week!

Today begins my second week of work and my first week on the ground in Mexico! Updates next week will be about my first few days at the headquarters and with the Mayan communities!

Until then,

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