Monday, February 14, 2011

Translating for a Cause

Through a friend I was contacted to interpret for the FAITES SANS OGM festival in Le Thor. I said yes, put aside the dates, and went about my life. Then I looked again and said oops, who is that? oh yes. That's why I'm busy this weekend.

I managed to re-ignite the contact and confirm times, payment (what they could afford) and place, etc.,

And off I went on Sunday -- they were set on Saturday apparently.

And what a delightful experience! I was there interpreting during the speeches of Percy Schmeiser (the Canadian farmer who had such a terrible experience being sued by Monsanto for theft of their patented canola plants, which had arrived by the wind from his neighbor's land! -- though in the end he won the battle) and Vandana Shiva, the mother of all seed preservers in India.

These two have worked for years to combat the ever creeping presence and power of Monsanto and the world of genetically modified seeds. They have worked to preserve the ancient varieties of seeds and the ancient ways of farmers. They have stressed and explained why organic and traditional methods get the best yields, nourish the land and feed families and communities. They have spoken at the International Monetary Fund, the UN and far and wide dispelling the myths propagated by Monsanto as to yields (far below what was predicted so confidently) use of toxic pesticides (far over what was predicted) and the reality of organic agriculture.

These two 'grosses pointures' as we say here (super VIP) were joined by their Mexican colleague (for whom I did not translate, but who was splendid and fascinating), Ana De Ita who has been defending the varieties and bio-diversity of the local corns of Mexico against the infiltration (illegal during a moratorium banning OGM corn!) of Monsanto's GMO corn into Mexico.

I had a grand time, learned oodles, and managed to convince the conference operators that they should hire skilled translators more often. It is a truism that many many people speak English in France. But, sadly, this does not always mean they can retain information in their heads for a few minutes, and repeat it in coherent sentences for the audience to follow. Nor is a basically good vocabulary always sufficient. And, well, just take a look at many a translated menu...

All this to say, I will be keeping in touch with this group and am likely to work with them again.

What's ironic is that I actually knew a handful of the actors in this festival -- from the attaché for the Green Party in the mayor's office of Le Thor (from Tango) to two of the volunteers and adherents to Folle'Avoine, the non-profit that helped put this festival together (also from Tango), to one of the civil representatives for the safety of humanity (from the Steiner School), to a number of faces from the Conféderation Paysanne (from my years as companion to an organic vintner).

And yet the job offer came via a friend in Avignon (thank you my dear!) not at all from these numerous individuals who've seen me regularly in the past few years. Apparently, I have not been particularly open or demonstrative as to my interpreting skills... or they're all simply so accustomed to communicating with me in French that they forget that I'm fully bi-lingual?

Ah yes, I've neglected to say that the day finished at a wonderful tango spot, and shoes in hand, I danced a lovely bit before heading home to my kids, my normal life, and an early morning the next day.

I'm rather in awe at how many aspects of my life came together on this day: Steiner school, tango, nutrition/organic agriculture/life-style, translating skills (including simultaneous), and my accumulation of knowledge on this topic (thank you Michael Pollan!, OCA newsletters and more!).


Nathalie said...

Thanks Madeleine for this wonderful account of that day, I'm so glad it was as inspiring as I thought it would be. Three cheers!

Madeleine Vedel said...

It was great. wish you'd been there too!. Your translation/interpreting skills are superb, ditto your wide-ranging knowledge.
with affection! - M

Trishia said...

Madeleine, I just learned within the last month or so about Monsanto. Excuse my English, but I call them "evil bastards." Anyone who creates a STERILE seed??? You gotta be kidding. What's wrong with this picture? Did you hear that Prince Charles has taken up the cause of the farmers in India who are being destroyed by Monsanto? Anway, I so glad I read about this on your blog because I'm hoping this is a sign that word is getting out and Monsanto will be stopped....:)
PS Madeleine, I find blogging is a strange thing -- it's so connecting and yet ... it's not!ha! Blogs aren't designed to let the commenter know if someone replied, etc. So, anyway, don't feel obligated to reply. I know you are busy. I'll see you on Tango danger you!:)

Madeleine Vedel said...

Yes Tricia, Monsanto is quite the evil humongous government manipulating big brother. From agent orange to roundup to sterile seeds to control of the world's food supply... and Obama is beholden to them (after being an early fan of Michael Pollan... but money, power, and national interests talk). I've been getting the Organic Bytes newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association for some time now -- a good source of information on such things. Take care! and yes, I do love my tango.

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