The Trek Project is a multi-faceted, multi-media project that examines the ways that people see themselves in a global context. The project was created follows 10 high schools students on the same community service trip to Nicaragua that I completed when I as 17 and documents the journey that occurs when people from the US travel abroad as well as all of the complicated dynamics that surround how people claim global citizenship. The piece takes an analytic lens to the aide tourism industry and the US-relationship with Latin America. The piece involved the creation and implementation of Mapping Workshops in the Spring of 2009 both in public events and also privately with the students that I traveled with. These workshops examined how people see themselves in a global context. Additionally, I have been working on a timeline that contextualizes the concepts that come up in the movie and examines the colonization and re-colonization of Latin America. The project culminates in the creation of El Trompo, the documentary that takes the viewer on a journey from New York City and Philadelphia to Gualacatu, Nicaragua. El Trompo seeks to complicate our notions of macro and micro global systems of oppression and examine both the good and bad ways that people experience aide tourism. Additionally, I have created curriculum for various age groups in both in/out of classroom settings to further engage with the topics brought up in the movie.  


The Trailer:


You can view the entire documentary (25 mins):

Helyx is available to screen the documentary as an interactive mapping workshop.  The following blog serves as documentation of the project process, it was kept from 2009-2010 during the peak of pre-production, production and post production.  

Home Stretch = January

to do list for january:

FINISH The Trek Project

this means completing the editing of El Trompo
creating the map/timeline of Latin America
compiling the maps from the mapping workshops
finishing a documentation notebook of the entire project from October 2008 - January 2010

There is a second rough cut of El Trompo on vimeo-

the password is the same as last time, if you want it email me at

ALSO I am proud to present the *almost* final trailer for El Trompo,
check it out:

I create this project to tell a story. A story that can be compared to the millions of other similar stories, but also one that is completely rooted in the unique history of one specific community. This story is, I hope, a piece that pays dignity and respect to it's subjects in a way that continually challenges and pushes my reality. I am not a voice of authority or vast knowledge. I speak as an observer, an outsider. There is no quick fix to the problems that I present. However, my hope is that with more awareness we can re-think the way we see ourselves, and within that, how we see others.

Thoughts on Aide Tourism

many well intentioned westerners enter the community thinking that they have all the answers. This community is strong, it existed before we came and it will continue to exist after we leave.

why must we always transplant our ideas on others, disregarding the answers they came up with themselves.

we live in a country with the largest wealth gap of any developed nation. Many of our children may graduate high school, but how many still cannot read? How many come out not knowing how to learn but only knowing how to perpetuate the machine.

everyday organizations from the US travel abroad and continue to support the colonialism the government. We have been brainwashed to see others as helpless, to see our privilege as the savior and to see our systems as superior, but are they really?

TTP Summary


Since the beginning TTP has presented me with a language barrier. My Spanish is conversational at best but I tend to understand a lot more than I can speak. In some sense I started preparing to travel to Nicaragua in January of 2009 when I traveled to Guatemala to take a 2-week Spanish intensive. Before I went buildOn requested that while I was in Nicaragua I hire a translator to accompany me so that I would not monopolize the program translators. My plan had been to only use buildOn’s translators for straight on interviews but I agreed to hire the translator despite the strain it put on my budget. On my first day in Nicaragua I met Javiera, we lived together for 2 weeks with our host family, slept in the same bed and were together for almost 24 hours a day. We grew quite close and I found her to be valuable in many more ways than I anticipated entering this project.
While in Nicaragua Javiera would joke that I didn’t even need her. I could generally understand what people told me during interviews and in my own conversations. However, having a translator I discovered became of great benefit to me when it came to speaking and translating my ideas into something that the people in the community could understand. While I can speak some Spanish, my grammar is rather awful and there are dialectic nuances within Nicaraguan Spanish that I do not know. Javiera was able to help me navigate that space.
When I returned to the States to edit the documentary I used only the recordings of translations on the tape and relied mostly on my own Spanish to edit down interviews, etc. I made an agreement with a friend who agreed to write up subtitles for me which has given me concrete translations from a Spanish speaker.
However, as I edit the piece I often find that the in-country translators tended to simplify the words of the community members. I listen to the community members speak and find power in the words and phrases they choose to repeat and the way that they repeat them, however, when our translators repeated the sentiments in English for the team they tended to leave out those repetitions and miss the intonations of the speakers. Additionally, while conducting interviews with my translator I found that she would often not translate sentences when she thought that they were not responding to the question in the way that I wanted them to.
As I move into final cuts I am left with one problem. How do I translate? My intention from the beginning is that the entire piece should be bi-lingual. There is no need in my mind to have a Spanish version and an English version. Additionally, the community in which I shot the documentary has many residents who are illiterate. My preference is that the entire piece should have spoken translations for all of the English and preferably the Spanish as well, because it is certainly unfair to assume literacy in the US as well. The piece I feel should be accessible to as many people as possible, when education and literacy present such a huge barrier to understanding “academic” concepts I do not want to continue this problem of academic/educational elitism.
And yet as I struggle to complete the piece I run into the technicalities of using that many double translations. To have everything spoken in both languages could potentially almost double the length of the piece, and I fear that it will not be able to sustain the increased length. Writing this reminds me why I want to, and need to continue to translate and make the piece accessible, and yet how do I make this all work?