by: Alyssa (Lulu) Meyers
WARNING: Explicit Language
by: Alyssa (Lulu) Meyers
WARNING: Explicit Language
by: Sophia Pizzo
(Donata Carelli, center, with Professor Louisa Burns-Bisogno, center right, and Burns-Bisogno’s screenwriting class)
On October 4th, the students of Professor Louisa Burns-Bisogno’s COM242 course, “Script Writing,” welcomed a very special guest. Italian writer Donata Carelli presented her film, 2 Euros an Hour, which won the Bronze Zenith award at the 2016 Montreal film festival. After the COM242 screening, students were able to ask Carelli about the screenwriting process and her inspirations for the film.
Set in the small town of Montemerano in Southern Italy, 2 Euros an Hour (known as Due euro l’ora in Italian) tells the story of Rosa, a seventeen-year-old girl who is eager to get away. Behind her father’s back, Rosa begins working at an illegal sweatshop under the rule of a cruel and abusive boss.There, she meets Gladys, a dressmaker starting her life over in Italy. Together, the two women form a close bond as they endure the trials of life and love.
2 Euros an Hour was inspired by the true news story of two women who died in a factory fire in Italy in 2006, working for just two euros an hour. The women were found in an embrace, which inspired Carelli to begin writing her film that same year. Ten years later, 2 Euros an Hour was finally released.
Carelli said that she discovered her love for screenwriting by accident when her father signed her up for a screenwriting class. “Opportunities are always hidden behind something not so interesting,” said Carelli, who had been an aspiring journalist at the time. Her screenwriting teacher, and later mentor, was Ugo Pirro, writer of the 1970 award-winning Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.
Though 2 Euros an Hour was based on a specific event, Carelli said that she can find inspiration from anywhere and anything. “If you give me a window, I can pull up a chair and dream,” said Carelli.
Above all, Carelli encouraged Professor Burns-Bisogno’s students to always keep an open mind towards new opportunities and inspirations. “The world is full of stories,” Carelli said.
by: Leslie Pizzagalli
Being a commuter and a first-time transfer student is no simple task, and those of us who take four wheels to Western in the morning (or afternoon… or night…) can agree that I-84 is no joyride.
Nevertheless, the vibrant walkway of leaves during the first few months of the fall semester make the stop-and-start travel a little more bearable. Sometimes, those extra added minutes taking the backroads to avoid the highway make it all worth it. A peaceful early or midday afternoon cruise to campus can add a surge of color to a tedious trip. Being a student who commutes from a town over twenty minutes away, the tiny road trip to class is not the only thing that takes some getting used to. However, time management is an important factor to take into account when dashing from driver’s seat to desk.
Only a month or so in and it is likely that a WCSU commuter student begins to learn that a precious morning coffee run may just turn that stroll to class into a sprint. Every minute counts when it comes to making it on time to class, and factoring in the unpredictability of the freeway throws a wrench into the (home)works.
Despite the usual stress of the rush, there is nothing quite like seeing a plethora of fall foliage on a crisp, colorful morning. When I am not hustling my way to class in the morning, I like to sit outside the student center under one of the numerous umbrella-shaded tables. The secluded setting is perfect for catching up on schoolwork and sightseeing the campus’ greenery.
The plummeting temperatures are approaching, but with this hot and cold yo-yoing weather, it is uncertain when I will have to pack up my backpack and head inside to locate a new homework hideaway. Until that unfortunate, chilly time comes, I will be outside basking in the changing of seasons.
by Charles Feltch
While covering the Homecoming game for WCSU Football, a friend of mine in the stands who’s also a writing major asked me why there are so many players on the sidelines. I said there are more players and positions in football than most sports, and by extension there are more players who have to sit on the bench. My friend asked me why so many guys would put in all that time and work into practice if they’re just going to sit on the bench. I told her to write something about it, and she agreed. But she backed out, so I am taking the task up while she, figuratively, is going to sit on the bench.
The second string players; the backups; the replacements; the benchwarmers. Even if you don’t know sports, there’s a stigma attached to these types of players. What most people don’t know, even most who do know sports, is that these players are just as important as the starters. On any team, the small, weak second stringer who’s giving it their all in practice could be a wake-up call to the starter who’s taking it too easy. The practice team who manages to overcome the starters in practice will help them better prepare for the real thing.
For the ones who are lucky and determined, a benchwarmer can one day be a starter. I don’t even necessarily mean in the sports itself, but in the fields of life beyond a 300 yard piece of turf. Over time, the uniforms, the trophies, and sadly even the memories of sports will fade, while the discipline, the bonds and the spirit of winning will carry on in those who did things right. So while a starter in their prime may run away with the night of the big game, with the crowd chanting their name, a benchwarmer can see that, learn from it, and years later run away with life.
by: Catherine McConkey
One of the most exciting things about being in college is having the opportunity and freedom to do something different. My name is Catherine, and I am an international exchange student from Ulster University, Northern Ireland. Through this student-run advice column, I want to help anyone who is considering studying abroad in the future by sharing my experiences over the next few months.
I have the privilege of studying at Western Connecticut State University this year through the ISEP program (International Student Exchange Program). If someone had asked me this time last year if I would be studying in America, I would have probably laughed in their face. The thought of graduating at the age of twenty-one and then venturing out into the big, bad world was too much to bear, so I began to look into alternative ways to extend my time being a student. Studying abroad quickly became an option once I began speaking with students who had taken the same path.
Tip I: Location is key when considering studying abroad.
From what I understand, many international students spend their time traveling around their chosen exchange country of study. Since arriving nearly two months ago, one of the most frequent questions I have been asked is, “Why did you come to WCSU?” The answer? Western is a fantastic university with a large selection of media courses for my major. However, it does help that Connecticut state has been a good location for traveling.
After being lucky enough to travel to the United States on two past occasions, I knew I wanted to explore more of the East Coast. When thinking about your international location, take into consideration the country’s climate, language barriers, and travel expenses. When traveling to Connecticut, I was able to get a direct flight from Dublin to Hartford, saving me a lot of stress and money. It may not be possible to get to your chosen location in one flight, so if that is the case for you, I suggest leaving enough time for connecting flights, figure out train/bus links ahead of time, and do not be afraid to ask people for help!
My first two months as an ISEP student at WCSU have been two of the best months of my life. Along with other international students at the university, I have had the chance to experience American society in some of the greatest ways possible. Though to be honest, during the beginning of my international exchange, I did experience a massive culture shock. From food portions, driving on the other side of the road and adjusting to people constantly saying, “Bless you!” every time I sneezed.
Sometimes, it all feels like it really is like a movie!
Tip II: But seriously, culture shock is a “thing.”
To help adjust to your new home, make sure you research your designated country/state and reach out to people before you arrive. I made it my mission to contact as many people from Western as I could, including other international students, my housemates and The Echo, WCSU’s student-run online newspaper. I instantly felt more comfortable and confident about arriving and the fear of not knowing what was on the other side of that plane journey slowly began to fade.
(Western Connecticut State University Homecoming Game 2017)
Make sure you get involved to help understand the culture, it’s a great opportunity to experience new things, make friends and it is also really fun. Studying abroad is a chance to do things and go places you would never be able to, were you to stay in your home country. One of my most significant involvements in American culture so far was attending the university’s Homecoming football game. Homecoming was a great chance to feel like a ‘proper American,’ though I feel that none of the international students exactly understood the rules of the game, why it was so long, or why there were so many people on the field.
While I have learned so much about the American culture already, I have also had the chance to make connections with and teach other students about my roots and where I come from.
Tip III: Plan your trips in advance.
One of the greatest advantages to studying abroad is the places you will go. I have had the opportunity to visit New York on more than one occasion, Newport Rhode Island with the PAC (Program Activities Council) community, Washington, DC, and I am currently planning to travel to Boston and Canada. What I have learned from these experiences is that the key to a good trip is planning.
One night, my fellow international students spent and I spent a few hours planning trips for us to take this semester. By simply using Google Maps, we were able to identify what close by cites and attractions interested us, as well as how long it would take for us to travel there. We even looked into websites that help with travel issues, such as comparing the prices of hotels and their cancellation policies. Many of the hotels we took into consideration offer free cancellation on room reservations, which is great when your plans are likely to change.
Remember, you are a student, so it is important to manage your money, especially when on a trip. In cities like New York, it is very easy to spend a lot of money – trust me, I have been there! There are many ways to save money, including looking for cheaper food alternatives such as eating at, or ordering from diners and fast food outlets. You can also save by familiarizing yourself with public transport, rather than paying a taxi service. In big cities, it is also great to walk from location to location to better take in the environment and enjoy every second of it!
(New York City)
Tip IV: You can study abroad, too.
If the thought of studying abroad interests you, now is the time to look into it. The ISEP services have recently opened their applications and posted information about the program on their section of Western’s university website. Donna Warner, the International Services Co-ordinator for Western Connecticut State University, can help with any questions and inquiries about the programs offered. I am also here to answer any questions you may have, whether you are a student from WCSU looking to study outside of the United States, or an international student who is about to, or is considering studying abroad. My advice articles for The Echo’s advice column will be filled with the best advice I can give about making the best of your study abroad experience, check in with me in a few weeks for some tips on packing, choosing your courses, and how my adventure progresses!
For More ISEP Information:
Donna Warner, International Services Coordinator:
University Hall, Room 303
181 White Street Danbury, CT 06810
WCSU’S International Student Exchange Program Website:
Or, feel free to leave comments, questions, etc. below and I will do my best to get back to you!
by: Leslie Pizzagalli
Western Connecticut State University’s Homecoming Week Street Fair held on October 7th at the Westside Campus had passersby hopping — or should we say hooping, skipping, and jumping down to The Echo’s table for a good time.
Not only was there an abundance of food trucks, booths filled with activities, and bouncy castles, but thanks to The Echo, hula hooping contests were in full swing. As far as the victors, there were some seriously nostalgic goodies to be won. Slinkies, mini paddleball, bubble wands, and Play-Doh were only a few of the addicting childhood-reminiscent handheld gadgets given out during the Street Fair event. Students, staff, friends, and family members of all ages alike were eager and excited to participate in hula hoop contests to win these 90’s inspired throwback trinkets. In addition to the youthful, colorful toys, other trinkets such as fidget spinners, gel pens, and tiny hats were also offered as grandiose rewards to be won.
Even WCSU’s mascot, Colonial Chuck, joined in on the festivities; regardless of being unable to fit into any of the three hula hoops The Echo supplied!
With the new university semester in full swing, students are busier than ever between class time and the workload. Any and all leisure time is cherished with such packed schedules, and a break like Homecoming Week is always an enjoyable opportunity to get college goers outside and exploring what Western has to offer.
By attending the street fair, The Echo crew’s hoped that with the help of their vibrant, neon colored knickknacks and flashy prizes to bring a splash of fun color and bittersweet nostalgia to the WCSU community. Furthermore, they also intended to bring awareness to the fact that the student-run newspaper is regularly searching for writers and contributors to The Echo, as well as introducing its lively club members to their intended and potential audiences. Each person who passed by the club’s table was informed The Echo being a student-run newspaper offered exclusively online, and that anyone would be welcome to be a part of the sixty-two years (and counting) of publications at Western Connecticut State University.
More Photos and Videos from The Echo’s Street Fair Table:
By Lauren Tango
It’s that time of the year: pumpkin patches, hay rides, brisk air, and of course…apple cider! There is certainly something about this time of the year that brings communities together by enjoying traditional outdoor activities such as these. On Tuesday, October 17th, Dr. Thomas Philbrick and his Evolution & Natural History of Land Plants students hosted an event on campus demonstrating the production of apple cider.
The process is quite simple: first, the whole apples are dumped into an apple mill to be ground and collected into a cloth bag. The milled apples then head into the apple press and the cider is collected into a bucket. The apples that are used for cider are typically “rejected” apples, meaning that they were too small or misshapen to be sold in stores. At this event, there were about 600 lbs of apples used, and every member of the biology class was hands-on in the process. There was one cider press that was creating basic raw apple cider, and another press that would be heated with added spices to give the cider an extra kick.
Dr. Philbrick also brought a touch of history to this event by using original cider pressers from the 1800s that he had rebuilt over time. Over the last 10 years that he has been making cider, Dr. Philbrick and his wife have also hosted cider festivals at their home where the entire neighborhood is invited to come witness the process of cider-making and enjoy the finished product at the same time.
As students rushed to their classes, they could not help but stop to take a second look at what was going on due to the enticing aroma of the freshly milled apples. This was an open event for the public and students at the university, and it was definitely a hit. It was a crisp, sunny and beautiful fall day during this event: the perfect equation to enjoy a nice fresh cup of cider!
By Lawrence Perry
The WCSU Homecoming game was surprisingly packed. The stadium was filled with supporters yelling like madmen and women. Maybe this is why our home team played so well. Playing against Worcester State, Westconn put up a very good performance.
The first thing of note was a tackle by Mike Quinn. It was still early; the teams were still feeling each other out. After a few minutes of gridlock, Westconn kicked the ball, and Chris Shizaar caught it. Worchester tried to come back, but couldn’t make any traction.
The game started at 6pm. 39 minutes later, Worchester had only scored 3 points. Westconn, meanwhile, already had 14 points. This set the tone for the rest of the night. After a few more plays that went nowhere, including an impressive tackle, the first period ended.
By period two, the crowd was getting into the game. They chanted “Defense!” and “WCSU!” At one point, the score went up to Westconn 35, Worchester 10. A supporter chanted: “Let’s go baby! I see you!”
The rest of the game was a blowout. Though Worchester made some good plays, which earned them 23 points, Westconn won with 49 points.
It was a fun game that even a non-football fan could enjoy. If the goal was to fill students with school spirit, the game succeeded.
by: The Students of Professor D’Aries’ WRT 377W-O1 Course of Fall 2017
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following article consists of the “Literary Event” personal opinion reflections/reviews from the Fall 2017 students of Professor D’Aries’ WRT 377W-01 course, The Writing Life. The editor has elected to make the minimum amount of edits in the attempt to preserve originality. Otherwise, reflections were written and published by the members of the class on BlackBoard.
Please keep in mind while reading direct quotes from Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha, that he has only been speaking and writing in English for twelve months now.
To start off the article, D’Aries’ BlackBoard reminder for the assignment is posted first.
The reason that this particular class’ reviews of Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha’s lecture, Indigenous Tribes and Languages of the Amazon Rainforest, on October 10th, are being published is because The Echo’s Editor-in-Chief/President, Alyssa/Lulu Meyers and Vice President, Sophia/Sophie Pizzo, are members of this class, and were subject to attend and review this event. In an act of community and togetherness, Meyers prompted the opportunity to put our required attendance to a more informal use.
More information on Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha’s lecture can be found here: http://www.wcsu.edu/news/2017/09/28/amazon-indigenous-tribes-expert-to-speak-at-wcsu/
As I mentioned in class, we will attend this lecture on Thursday, October 5th at 1:40 in the Student Center Theater: http://www.wcsu.edu/news/2017/09/28/amazon-indigenous-tribes-expert-to-speak-at-wcsu/. We will meet at the lecture, so be sure to come see me so I can mark you present.
Before class on Tuesday, 10/10, post a 250-word response to the lecture in this forum. This response will be similar to our reader responses in that I’m most interested in your analysis and critique rather than a summary. Be sure to include at least two quotes from the speaker.
And as Alyssa mentioned in class, anyone interested in contributing their response to a feature article in The Echo should contact her directly.
See you on Thursday!
Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues’ lecture on indigenous tribes and languages of the Amazon rainforest was both fascinating and quite enjoyable. He talked about population numbers and numbers of languages. The videos he showed were peculiar but interesting to watch. They certainly had more information on them then I was expecting. I knew tribes like that existed and they are in need of help from the outside world, for food and proper medicine, but I was mostly under the notion that they were striving to preserve their way of life, without being kicked out by illegal foresters/minors or dying for their lack of food, medicine, and dangers of the jungle. Dr. Rodrigues didn’t really say anything about preservation, but I think it was intended when he said they needed help.
All people are people, but because of where they live, they grow to think differently, communicate differently, and just live differently than people in other places. “Human beings are all the same. Same hardware, but different software.” We’re built the same but wired a different way. And people like him wish to understand exactly how they are wired. “Each language holds information on the people who speak it.” And Dr. Rodrigues this information is well worth learning and understanding. That is why he does what he does. And he seems very passionate about it.
When he said that he had only been speaking English for no longer than a year, I was very surprised. His English isn’t perfect, but for someone like me, who has major difficulty learning a new language and remembering, that is quite impressive. My personal favorite part was towards the end when he showed us the translation of a few English words into a few different languages indigenous to the Amazon tribes. I liked echoing his pronunciation of the words.
If living in a rain forest means no unnecessary mass shootings and worrying less about what people think about you, then point me in the direction. I enjoyed Dr. Cunha’s lecture on indigenous tribes for the simple fact that it’s based on an appreciation for language and culture. Sometimes we get so embroiled in our own worlds that we forget to appreciate the small things, and I get the sense that in these tribes, they appreciate everything despite having little food and no health care and that just so happens to be their two major necessities. So I loved it when he said that everything is about nature in the Amazon rainforest while in America it’s all about money. I could agree; it’s all about money and power. What if we could live like the indigenous for a week? It takes something like that for some of us to really appreciate what we have, like a bed and hot water.
Another part of the lecture that stuck out was when he said that between us and the indigenous tribes we have the same hardware (feelings, bodily needs) and a different software (he speaks one language, I speak another). No matter where you’re from, we have this common link: a need to survive. Also, the roles of females and males are similar. Women take care of the home and the men work outside the home; they hunt. We’re all just trying to survive. What also stood out to me, and most likely to everyone else, was the video of the young man wearing the bullet ant gloves, per ritual. I found it intriguing; painful to watch but intriguing, considering that’s what it takes for a boy to become a man, and it makes him a better man too.
The fact that this young man never complained made me feel like a total wimp for having complained all throughout my service in the army.
Again, I really liked listening to Dr. Cunha. I hope to attend another lecture in this series.
PS: I need some of that magic tea! (I forgot what it’s called. I think he called it miracle tea.)
Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da-Cunha presented, with exceptional enthusiasm, a look into the lives of various indigenous tribes. Having spent four years living among a few different tribes, Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha has vital information on the communication, survival and cultural aspects of living in the Amazon rainforest. One concept that Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha repeated is “we have the same hardware, but different software.” We may look the same or very similar, but we have vastly different perspectives and ways of thinking.
It was interesting to learn that there are so many indigenous people in the world. It is insane to think that 69 tribes do not have any contact with the outside world. It is also sad to know that they need protection from governments that do not even admit they exist.
Another concept that Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha made clear is that living in the rainforest is hard. He admitted that he had trouble adapting to the diet and even lost three teeth while there. I cannot imagine living in a place where food was not guaranteed and dental hygiene was not certain. He mentioned that the indigenous people depend on nature the way we depend on money. I think sometimes we need to be reminded of the luxuries we benefit from here.
I thought the videos he presented really drove home his points. It was interesting to see a glimpse into their world. Watching the video of the ants in the gloves was eye-opening. There are so many complex aspects of the lives of people we never think twice about. Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha ended the presentation with a powerful thought: “Loss of language is loss of humanity.”
I have to say that presentation was very exciting to listen to. The Professor who presented was one of the most eccentric and interesting people I’ve heard talk before. I knew of the Amazonas region from watching an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix, wherein an ex-hippie acid head decided to become a chef and now runs one of the top 10 restaurants on the planet. It seems that everyone to come out of that area, in my limited two-example experience, is a wild tree person to which everything is “amazing, trust me.” Hearing about indigenous peoples in trouble always irks me. These cultures, as archaic and primitive as they are, are really beautiful and should be treated with respect. The entire foundation of our civilization can be traced back to people like this, and in typical modern human fashion, we exploit them and destroy their homeland for our own gain. The language discussion was cool in of itself, but still, I am always drawn to the fact that I wish they would just take care of these people. The Brazilian government, in some cases, refuses to acknowledge their existence so that they can continue to log the forests. Maybe I’m just a hippie in this sense, but I’m not sure. It seems pretty straightforward to me that these people should be cherished and kept safe for as long as we can. If it all comes down, my money would be on them to make it through, not any of us modern folk.
Learning about indigenous tribes/cultures in the Amazon was quite interesting, to say the least. The guest speaker was incredibly intelligent with his research and very informative. I was also amazed at how quickly he learned our English language so quickly in just one year, after spending the first four years of his life in the rainforest. This experience overall made me really appreciate the American way of life, and not to take the small simple things for granted. Thus, it seems as if the tribes that reside in the Amazon almost thrive on what little resources they can harvest. By this is mean they pretty much make do with what they have and seem relatively happy to live the life they do. Seeing such scarce conditions, however, made me sad because if members of the tribe become ill they do not have the proper treatments to cure the specific illness that can rapidly spread ending up fatal for most. Further, although he greatly appreciates the culture he came from, which is completely respectable and understandable, I question the thoughts of him saying he could adapt back to that lifestyle. Finally, the two quotes or two statements that stood out to me throughout the whole presentation were the following: ” A life without suffering is a life that is not worth living.” (in regard to the coming of age ceremony for becoming a man). Also in correlation with that painful ceremony, “The Amazon tribe Satere Mawe the young males wear gloves filled with hundreds of bullet ants.” Watching the short video clip of this experience, was even painful for me to watch, justifiably cringeworthy!
Dr. Rodrigues’ lecture on the Amazon Indigenous tribes was very interesting. While I’ve heard and studied very few indigenous tribes in a few anthropology Dr. Rodrigues shared a lot of new information. For example, he shared with us a lot of numbers when it came to population and the number or tribes and languages. It was shocking to find out that at one point in time there were at least 6 million indigenous people living in Brazil, it was even more shocking to find out that as of today there are less than 900,000 indigenous people. While this is an understandable fact as Rodrigues shared with us that as many as 69 tribes have never had any sort of outside contact with the world around them. So much so that when these tribes do come into contact with others it is almost impossible to communicate with them. He further explained that many of these tribes are trying to ask for help as they do not have access to basic human necessities such as food, clean drinking water, and medicine. Dr. Rodrigues shared with us that the lifespan for many of the indigenous people is between 40-50yrs old. Learning this amazed me simply because in America 40-50 years of age is still considered to be quite young. Overall the lecture was very interesting and I learned a lot.
Overall, I thought the lecture was boring. The speaker had interesting things to say, and I enjoyed the videos that he showed the audience throughout his presentation, but when he was just talking to himself I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer I would have to sit there until the speech was over.
I don’t think this is the speaker’s fault, exactly, because he was clearly passionate about what he was talking about. Maybe I just wasn’t as invested because he wasn’t talking about aspects of these tribes that I was interested in. Yes, the languages they speak are important but I found myself being more drawn to the social dynamics and gender differences. I was interested in what the men of different tribes used to cover their penises and how even though they live life naked the women still sit in a way that hides their vaginas from view. I was interested in the fact that, despite having minimal contact with other kinds of people, the tribes’ women still fall into basic gender role stereotypes that we see in our own society: the men go out and the women stay home to cook and care for the children. Some things really just don’t change in the world, huh?
The bit at the end when the speaker had some words in the tribes’ languages up on slides for us to repeat was amusing for the time that we did it, but I can’t say I remember anything about it besides laughing at myself for butchering the pronunciation.
Maybe this lecture just wasn’t for me.
On Thursday, Oct 5, I attended the lecture on “Indigenous Tribes and Languages from the Amazon Rainforest” presented by WCSU World Language Professor, Linguist, and Anthropologist Dr. Alvaro Fernando da Cunha. The lecture was captivating, soul-wrenching, and thought-provoking. The indigenous tribes are in danger and close to extinguishing.
Dr. Fernando da Cunha explained why, with personal stories, images, videos, and facts.
His storytelling method was geared to capture the audience’s heart, and invite, inspire, and engage students to become future participants in the research, study, and preservation of these sacred tribes.The professor stressed the commonality of internal emotions between these untarnished tribes of the Amazon, and human beings throughout the world. All humans feel. He then explained the daily struggle to survive within nature, and the survival techniques used with the utilization of medicinal plants, natural fibers, and skills necessary to live near a river, or a mountain. Survival within a specific habitat has been learned and mastered through a lineage of multi-generational adaptation. Longevity and survival within the rainforest will, at best, reach
The professor stressed the commonality of internal emotions between these untarnished tribes of the Amazon, and human beings throughout the world. All humans feel. He then explained the daily struggle to survive within nature, and the survival techniques used with the utilization of medicinal plants, natural fibers, and skills necessary to live near a river, or a mountain. Survival within a specific habitat has been learned and mastered through a lineage of multi-generational adaptation. Longevity and survival within the rainforest will, at best, reach fifty years. Malaria, other diseases, malnutrition, and parasites shorten the lifespan.
The domestic and hunting tasks within the tribes adhere to the male-hunter, and female- child tending and home keeping chores paralleling the anthropological patterns of Homo-Sapiens, and other early prehistoric tribes. Task responsibilities and chores within the tribes are viewed equally, without a gender directed dominance. Women determine male sexual partners. In this realm, the women have more control.
A final portion of the lecture focused on the spoken languages. There are 305 indigenous ethnicities, and 274 indigenous languages in Brazil. From those 274 indigenous languages, there are many variations amongst the different tribes.
I appreciated the storytelling narrative of Dr. Fernando da Cunha. He was sharing his personal story of living amongst these people and passionately invoking audience members to share in the study of these special tribespeople that have lived apart of an electronic- frenzied society that rarely, or barely has the time or opportunity to stop and see the natural world.
On October 5th, Western’s departments of World Languages and Literature (WILL), History, and Social Sciences hosted Dr. Alvaro Rodrigues-da-Cunha, of the University of Sao Paulo and University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a post-doctoral researcher of anthropology and linguistics as they pertain to the native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest. Dr. Rodrigues spoke at WCSU’s Midtown campus Student Center Theater, delivering a lecture titled “Indigenous Tribes and Languages of the Amazon Rainforest”.
Dr. Rodrigues, a lively speaker who engaged his audience with fervor and friendliness, spoke of the great cultural diversity both endemic to the Amazon and present, through centuries of colonization and cultural exchange, throughout the nation of Brazil—the largest country in South America, which contains most of the Amazon, and houses most of its tribes.
He also spoke of the continued fragmentation of these cultures.
While European colonization, which began in the late 1400s, represented the initial, and perhaps largest overall, disruption to the forest’s tribes, today most indigenous Amazonians are threatened by the dual presence of loggers and drug smugglers, as well as global warming.
These are serious problems for groups of people already beleaguered by the hostile environment of the forest itself, most Amazonian natives already living lives much shorter, on average, than those of first-world people.
Yet, as Dr. Rodrigues was quick to point out, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon are just as human, and so just as deserving of respect and dignity, as we are here, in a technologically-advanced society. Indeed, we have the same basic necessities despite our cultural differences, a glaring fact which continues to be ignored by those who persist in destroying the Amazon.
I think he put it well when he said, “We have the same hardware and different software.” In other words, we have the same bodies and brains, but different ways of carrying out our lives.
Regardless, for many of the tribes of the Amazon, the primary struggle—one existential in nature—is that of basically defenseless peoples, most without any weapons other than bows and clubs, having to defend themselves against encroaching loggers, remorseless forces acting on behalf of large, greed-driven organizations. In the process, many distinct languages, spoken nowhere else in the world, have perished along with the tribes.
As Dr. Rodrigues stated, “Each language holds the unique reality and knowledge of those who speak it.” If that’s the case, then we have lost many realities, and countless amounts of knowledge, since the arrival of Europeans to the shores of the Americas. So, if we wish to preserve the unique wisdom of the peoples of the Amazon Rainforest, then we had better work to preserve the languages of those peoples; thus we must protect those people themselves, and the forest that they call home.
“Amazing,” is an adjective and exclamation that the presenter continuously used throughout his presentation. “Amazing,” is how I will describe my experience attending this lecture on Indigenous People in in the Amazon Rainforest. While the presentation itself was fascinating, I found the presenter’s passion and energy thrilling. His obvious interest and investment (which I was not surprised, but excited to discover is something intimately important to him) drew me in more than anything else. He wanted us to see what he saw, to understand what he felt and saw. Instead of putting the information before us and hoping that a few words on a PowerPoint would be enough to absorb his lecture, he made us – or, at least he made me – feel involved and included as if we were part of the presentation; part of the presenting.
He told us, in regard to all human beings, that, “we have the same – the same – hardware, but we have different software. Yeah, [it] is amazing. The same hardware – necessities, emotions… There’s no difference about them and us. There’s none.” It would have been simple to say that we are the same and leave it at that, but he kept making a point to repeat it and make the thought stuck. At first, during the first few times when he would refer back to this concept, I would think about how I, personally, could understand it. I have heard similar things, about all of us humans being the same, and sometimes I would be able to grasp the concept, but rarely would I ever feel it. It is my belief that the presenter put a lot of thought, passion, effort, and feeling into conveying and promoting this – for lack of a better word – vibe. Eventually, I think I started to feel it, or at least feel and/or empathize with his feeling of this connectivity, unity, whatever it was that hit and stuck with me.
Oh, and I want that magic tea that prevents period pains, please and thank you.
To me, the most memorable and impactful part of this lecture was the presenter himself. Right from the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodriguez-da-Cuma was enthusiastic and radiating positive energy. He expressed his hope that students in the crowd, in five or ten years, would take his place on the stage, presenting their own lectures and research. It was refreshing to attend a lecture with such an enthusiastic presenter– it was evident that Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma has a passion for the Amazonian tribes.
At face-value, the lives of the indigenous Amazonian tribes are such a polar opposite from what we consider to be modern/”advanced” society. Watching the first video of indigenous tribe members making contact with more “modern” people was interesting. As people living in what we consider to be modern times, our exposure to people living in nature or without technology is usually through history textbooks or documentaries. We forget that these tribes are still existing and thriving and that they are living cultures. That’s why I found Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma’s work so profound– he is dedicated to making sure that these people and their languages are not forgotten, even when the rest of the world likes to pretend that they don’t exist.
My biggest takeaway from the presentation, ultimately, was the phrase Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma repeated several times: “We have the same hardware, but different software.” Even throughout cultures that are so vastly different, we are all humans trying to meet the same needs.
By Sophie Pizzo
Last Wednesday, WCSU and the Macricostas Family Foundation hosted a screening of the award-winning 2015 documentary Beneath the Olive Tree, directed by Stavroula Toska and produced by Olympia Dukakis. The screening was organized by Dr. Theodora Pinou, Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and was followed by a Q&A and reception with the film’s director.
Beneath the Olive Tree tells the story of women who lived in concentration camps during the Greek civil war– a part of history that most of the world, including Greeks themselves, remain unaware of.
In 1940s, the Greek people were made to sign a “Declaration of Repentance”, denouncing communism and declaring their support for the government. Anyone who resisted signing this document- men, women and children alike- were put into concentration camps on remote Greek islands, where they would be subsequently beaten, tortured, and even killed for being associated with the Resistance.
Beneath the Olive Tree focuses on a group of Greek women, now in their 80s, who kept journals of what really happened in the camps and hid them, buried in tin cans underneath an olive tree on Trikeri Island. In the present day, the women make yearly visits back to the islands where they were held prisoner, and share stories that inspire strength and speak to the resilience of women.
When director Stavroula Toska first learned of the women’s concentration camps, she knew had to share their stories.
“I was completely taken by the stories of these women…as a Greek woman myself, I had never heard of any of these stories,” says Toska, who now lives in New York. As the film progresses, Toska learns of her own personal connection to this untold chapter in Greek history. She knew that, no matter what, she had to make a documentary to share with the world.
“I was an ameteur when I first started with this, so I didn’t know what lights to buy, I didn’t have the money to buy the best sound equipment. I was like, I don’t care. I’m just gonna go and I’m gonna dive in and do it, and whatever happens, happens,” says Toska, who spent the course of five years researching and traveling back and forth to Greece to film “whenever [she] had time and money to go back.”
Among the audience were Dr. JC Barone’s film students, with whom Toska shared advice on getting started in the industry and pursuing their projects. While she discussed issues of networking and fundraising, Toska stressed the importance of being persistent and having faith.
“I always say that no matter what, you just keep going,” says Toska. “In hard times, when there’s no money, there’s no people supporting you…it’s that faith that you have in yourself, and in your project, and that commitment that you’re going to see this through, even if it takes six years.”
As the Q&A ended, Toska had another parting message: “Greek women are such badasses!”
Beneath the Olive Tree has been the recipient of several awards, including the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival Award for Innovative Filmmaking, the Santa Fe Film Festival Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature, and the IndieFest Film Awards Award of Merit. Toska continues to promote the film through screenings and film festivals, and is currently working on directing and producing for future projects.
Western’s screening of the film was made possible by the Macricostas Family Foundation and the Center for the Study of Culture and Value.
For more information on Beneath the Olive Tree and Stavroula Toska, visit http://oramapictures.info/wordpress2012/three-candles#!/three-candles.