On April 16 three OSTI interpreters interpreted for Dr. Rigoberta Menchu at Portland Public Schools.
What was so cool about this?
I had been in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador back in 1987, one year after the Civil War officially ended in Guatemala. I remembered the trucks running around with military weapons in “democratic” El Salvador. I was on the missionary ship MV Logos. It was a tough time for those countries. I had the opportunity to visit towns where the Panamerican Highway (a dirt road, actually) ended in the Darien, in Panama, and stay in homes made of bamboo walls. I got to be in homes in the border of El Salvador and Guatemala. And we visited Nicaragua by invitation of the Government. It was an amazing time. So hearing Dr. Menchú talk about the progress that has been made was beautiful. I remembered how hopeful people were when they met us. Their question was: “Wow. You are all so different, and you can get along. How can we do it too?”
On the Logos, our community came from 40 countries, from all continents. And nobody was in dominance. But Guatemala was special. Their people were incredibly welcoming. It stood out in all our minds and hearts, and when I was asked if I could interpret for Dr. Menchú, I just jumped for it. It was an honor.
I took two possible outfits (both Argentine) a jacket or a chal. They chose the chal (you’ll see me next to Dr. Menchú). My colleagues, Jazmin and Heidi, were awesome. We had some limitations based on her requirements, and we worked within them. We practiced, prepared, and worked as a team. We practiced on an empty stage the day before. and when the time came, we knew we could trust each other. It was awesome! More media interpreting might be fun to do!
As interpreters, we learned how to work together, how to build a team. We didn’t just show up. We read ahead of time. I picked the team members because I knew I could count on them. I knew they would take it seriously. We prepared, we had a Dr. Menchú party. We traded emails with YouTube links. We checked the schedule and decided who would do best interpreting for who, and staged it. We practiced together on the stage the day before. We said things like, “I like potato chips!” on the stage, with conviction, to an empty hall, to check the sound and how our diction worked in the room with no amplification.
And we had a group hug in the parking lot the day before, right before leaving. Kind of a Three Musketeers thing: “All for one, and one for all.” That is actually the motto of Switzerland! We were a team, and we were there for each other.
And at the event, it showed. At the reception after the event, that is what I was told. I was told my colleagues were great! That we were a good team.
Interpreting is teamwork. Peace is part of being part of a good team.
As Dr. Menchú said, peace is not just something you acquire through weapons. It is wholesomeness, wholeness. Teamwork, being at peace with your team, is a good place to start.