Monday, June 21, 2010

Hanging on to the Past

Once in awhile I have something so serendipitous happen to me that I just know I have a guardian angel.  My poor angel used to be very overworked trying to either keep me out of trouble or to rescue me if I got away while he was on  his lunch break. Yes, I know it is a him. And I once knew him very well.

Now that he is flapping around where ever angels flap he has devoted more attention to me than he did while he was earthbound. But that is the subject of another posting.

This time it was not a life-threatening situation but it was something that will make me very happy. I hope. That is where the finger crossing thing comes in.

It started out like this. I ran into a friend who began talking about a book that she had just read, "End of The Spear" written by Steven Saint I believe.   Steven is the son of the missionary Nathan Saint who was killed in the Amazon basin of Ecuador many years ago.  

As she spoke it seemed that she could be talking about the Huaorani tribe that I knew and wrote about in a previous posting way back in October 2009 under the title "Poems and Stories from Another Life Part II - Moi."

That chance meeting started off a chain of events that has me so excited that I had to write about it.  I went home and went on the net to see if I could purchase the book. It was then that I discovered that it had been made into a movie so I ordered the DVD. 

There were other treasures that dealt with the most fascinating people I have ever met.  I ordered another movie "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" and a few books. The movies and one of the books arrived the other day.  What gorgeous photos of the tribe...some of whom I had met in 1996 when I travelled to the Shiripuno River to visit them.

Today I watched both movies, Gates was more of a documentary than the End of the Spear one.  I became totally engrossed in both of them even though they are a different branch of the Huaorani than the ones I knew. I also saw a different (slanted?) side of missionaries than I previously had been introduced to.

I am no fan of the kind of missionaries or other people who go in to "convert" (meaning tell them that everything they have been doing and believing for the past thousand years or so is wrong) people who are living in peace and harmony with nature. Especially when the word they are bringing crushes the beautiful innocence of these people, shames them into wearing clothing and seeks to obliterate their own rich and wondrous belief system.  I have heard too many stories first hand from various tribes regarding their treatment at the hands of various missionaries to be anything but sad when I hear of these encounters.

If these movies are true then, yes, the missionaries persuaded the tribes people not to kill each other and other tribes people, and brought them medicine. They also brought them diseases previously unknown to them which wiped them out quicker than the killing did!

In fact I just came across an entry in Wikipedia today regarding this missionary/tribal encounter.
"The deaths of the men galvanized the missionary effort in the United States, sparking an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world. Their work is still frequently remembered in evangelical publications, and in 2006 was the subject of the film production End of the Spear. Several years after the death of the men, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, and the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International) to live among the Huaorani. This eventually led to the conversion of many, including some of those involved in the killing. While largely eliminating tribal violence, their efforts exposed the tribe to exploitation and increased influence from the outside. This has caused Huaorani culture to begin to disappear, but anthropologists argue over the ultimate effect—some view the missionary work as cultural imperialism, while others contend that the influence has been beneficial for the tribe."

In the book, "Spirit of the Huaorani" one of the tribe is quoted as saying of the missionaries something like this, " When  you came here I had my land and you had your bible. You taught me to close my eyes and pray. When I opened my eyes you had my land and I had your bible."

The next thing I knew I was rooting through a box of old VHS tapes wanting to immerse myself in the videos of my trip.  About 4 or 5 years ago, when my movie camera died,  I had them transferred from the original camera tapes to VHS. At the time I  was told that because I had not stored the movie camera tapes properly and the sound and date portion had been destroyed.  I said, go ahead anyway as at least I can see the places I visited.

I got the two VHS tapes out, put one in the machine and began watching.  Shock and sorrow were my only reaction. the tapes had deteriorated to the point where there were only tiny fragments of movie and the rest was blue or grey patches.

Something spurred me on to see if I could either buy a machine to transfer them - bad as they were - to disk.  I have a "thing" about preserving the past. Sometimes to my detriment since I tend to get stuck back there in often painful moments.

The software and instructions to hook up my VHS machine to my computer and thence to my DVD burner cost $80.00  Would I ever need it again? Was there another way to do this?  More calls and many price comparisons later I found what sounded like the right person for me and made an appointment to bring my tapes in.

I gathered up the tiny movie camera tapes (8 of them) and the bad VHS tapes they have been copied to. Plus about 3 that were 18 years old but still in better shape than the newer ones I had had copied "professionally". 

To make a long story short the movie camera tapes were intact! There was nothing wrong with the sound at all, nor the dates.  These will be copied once again but to a disk.

Obviously I had been lied to and cheated the first time around.  Now I am not the kind of person to take this lightly.  I will track down the SOB who almost made me lose a part of not just my history but the history of the disappearing Huaorani tribe.

I for one never can understand why a person will lie to you for the sake of a few bucks.  All he had to say was I am sorry I do not have the equipment to copy these properly. 

Perhaps I am not the only dissatisfied customer for his shop is closed  and he now operates out of his home.  I can't find it in the phone book now.  Lucky him because  I was thinking to give him a piece of my mind.  Lucky me too as I have so little left to spare!

He would probably like to tell you that he lost his business because Wal-Mart came to town. I wonder.

Hanging on to the past, even when some people think it is damaged can be a good thing sometimes.

1 comment:

Peeoknee said...

Thanks Jane for sharing this great entry into your blog. I'm so with you on the missionaries( not all mind you) that go into to these places and totally change these people, their ways that have survived centuries without us. The earth talks to all people in her own way and I think we need to understand that part first before trying to change others. Why do we feel we have to FIX everything!!!! Leave these people to their traditional ways and their beliefs. Sorry for babbling it just makes me so mad!
Oh yeah, I'm glad you are able to preserve your great memories!!!