Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making radio for real

So, time to put rubber to the road. Today we had a more or less all-day meeting to hash out exactly how we are going to manage programming and staffing a radio station 7 days a week. Community radio in the abstract is a wonderful idea, but then when you sit down and think, what are we going to do 12 hours a day, and who is going to do it, it becomes somewhat daunting. 

There have been a number of obstacles that have slowed down the process -- I have blogged previously about what I thought were inaugural broadcasts, one in March and one in April. But there has not really been an official start date for daily broadcasting.. or at least not a very secure one. After the first "initial broadcast", the signal had to be recalibrated to a different frequency.  And then there have been structural and technical problems -- I don't know all the details, but the antenna had to be taken down and reinstalled, and then there were some problems with the frequency.  Also, the actual broadcast "studio" needed work so that it could be more functional. All of this, of course, requires money, and so funds had to be requested and/or allocated.

I've been a bit anxious about this - and I have to admit, for mostly very self-centered reasons. I have to submit a research proposal to my university, and I need to really be sure that the emisora (radio station) is actually happening and that I am going to be able to be intimately involved in it. Otherwise, spending the time and energy to write the proposal and submit all the supporting documents for human subjects research would be a huge waste.  Also, I've been planning to bring my students up to Quiché and the weekend we agreed upon was this coming weekend, and every time the radio has been delayed, I've wondered what I am going to do with the students when they arrive. Semana Santa meant that I couldn't really talk about this with anyone from Ixmukané, or at least not anyone in a position of much authority. I'd told the director about a month ago that I was planning to have my students visit, and she was very agreeable, but then I didn't get to talk to her again about this before I left for Puerto Rico on April 13, and I got back at the beginning of Semana Santa. Last night I was up half the night fretting about this.

Yesterday I went to the office in the afternoon, after spending the morning with a group of comadronas (sort of) in Zacualpa, to try and talk with Doña Mari, the director and also Sebastiana, who has been coordinating the radio project. Doña Mari had left because she wasn't feeling well; Sebastiana and I talked a bit and she told me that Tuesday (i.e. today) there was going to be a meeting to talk about the radio station and how to actually handle the day to day broadcasts -- who was going to do what, on what days. Of course it would have been nice if I had been able to learn about the meeting without having to drive to Chichicastenango, an hour away from Chinique (especially with gas close to $5 a gallon).  I tried to explain to Sebastiana why I might seem a bit anxious and pushy -- because of my need to submit a proposal to the university and also to work out something for my students. She asked me to come early -- the meeting was going to be at 11 -- to start working on things.

So, I drove to Chichi this morning. It's never an easy thing to pack up and leave Chinique even for just 2 days; I have to think about what I need for the day, what I need to have with me for my time in Antigua/Guatemala City. I also realized my sheets were kinda funky and that meant washing them out I didn't sleep well so I got up at around 5:15 and washed the sheets and did yoga and made my breakfast, and then had to wait for the water to warm up for my shower (it never really did).  The floor in the kitchen is "slumping" in one place, and there is a gap between a few of the tiles, and I've noticed that there are some beetles crawling and flying around (especially at night) since the rainy season started, and I finally figured out that some, at least, are probably entering through the gap in the floor. So I went to find my landlord to ask him to see if he can patch that gap with cement or spackle to at least slow down the insect invasion.

Driving through Santa Cruz I saw that the stop lights were not working; there were police out on the corners directing traffic. When I got to Chichi, the power was off throughout the city; I climbed the stairs to Ixmukané's office and saw the staff room lit by a single candle. It turned out what Sebas had wanted to work on with me was to listen to some recordings that other staff members had done (I gave Ixmukané two digital voice recorders earlier this month) but since there was no power and the recordings were on a computer that didn't have a charge in its battery, she was working on accounts. So I busied myself catching up on fieldnotes and then finally Humberto -- a man who has about 20 years of experience in community radio and who has been contracted by Ixmukané to work on this project -- and Jenniffer, another staff member, arrived (and that is how she spells her name). So we could start. We worked through the broadcast day hour by hour, trying to both sketch out what would be the content of the programs and more important, who would take on responsibility. I ended up agreeing to do the early morning slot on the weekends (Humberto will do it during the week, although I might take on another day from time to time). I won't go through all the details of the program, but we came up with a pilot plan for the first couple of weeks. I'm tired already. It's clear that this is going to demand a lot of a small number of people. For example, a couple of hours ever afternoon were going to be dedicated to civil society and governmental organizations -- but no outreach has been done to them and so which of them will be ready to come into the studio and go on the air for two hours next week?  So the suggestion was to have some material pre-recorded. I volunteered to go to Santa Cruz with Kan, one of the young men on staff, and try to meet with some of the organizations and record interview so we would have material. 

I'll blog more about this later; I'm now finished up dinner in Antigua and am tired. I didn't get to leave Chichi until nearly 7, and the stretch of the Interamericana between Los Encuentros and Tecpan was very, very foggy; for some stretches I could barely see 10 yards in front of me, so it was an exhausting drive.

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