Lost and wading through Translation

Relying on someone else to translate your thoughts while in another country can sometimes lead to hilarious moments, moments you might not even realize are hilarious until months later when you’re going through your footage with a different translator and those strange answers and odd looks you kept getting from your interview subject suddenly makes sense.

The following took place at a wedding in Cambodia in which we were interviewing Navi, a friend of the bride and groom, about weddings. Until our recent translator translated this exchange, I had no idea there was a little bit of meandering during our interview.

Stax: Does she think weddings are important and if so why?

Translator (in Cambodian): Do you think the bride and the groom are important?

Navi: Yes they are important.

Translator (in Cambodian): Why are the bride and groom important?

Navi: Because I’ve known them since they were little.

Translator to me (in English): Because she’s known them since they were little.

Stax: (Internal dialogue: Maybe there was a misunderstanding. Just ask again.) So why does she think weddings important?

Translator to Navi (in Cambodian): Why are the bride and groom important?

Navi: Because I’ve known them since they were little.

Translator to me (in English): Because she’s known them since they were little.

Of course.

So Much to Do – So Little Time

Hello fellow Misadventurists,

We’re in the midst of a melee of preparation for our documentary.

If you were to come up a metaphor for our status, our company would be like a hot air balloon struggling to get aloft with a giant rhino charging toward us; but the basket is weighed down with ballast, and we’re furiously cutting loose ropes and throwing chests overboard to lighten the load.
Image courtesy of 9wows.com

The ballast, of course, is all the stuff we’ve accumulated over our four-plus years here in New York City. Shifting operations overseas and becoming virtual expats, even temporarily, means reducing our overstock to nil. And you would not believe the amount of stuff that two people can hoard over four and a half years.

The charging rhino is our February 28 deadline, after which we’ll be flying to Oregon for a couple of weeks and then departing from Seattle/Tacoma International airport, ready or not.

By “ready”, I’m referring to externalities like immunizations, flight details, supplies, gear, visas (very important for China and Vietnam especially – luckily we can hop on a subway and apply personally at the Manhattan consulates for both countries, which speeds things up considerably). We have a likely fixer in Cambodia, a couple who is interested in being in the doc, and we even have some AirBnb bookings already (can’t wait to meet our hosts in Hong Kong, Kam and Eve.)

But that all said, are you ever truly ready for an adventure into the unknown like this? There are only so many contingencies you can plan for. Even with only a month to go before our departure from New York, – trading our view from this:

Image courtesy of Bushwick Collective

to this:

Image  By © Timothy Allen/BBC
Image By © Timothy Allen/BBC

– there are still infinitely more crucial details unknown than are known. But perhaps that capacity for surprise and serendipity – yes, even for catastrophe – is what draws us again and again to this field and these kinds of projects.

In all the current melee it’s important to remember that this kind of career is a great privilege, a privilege that so few around the globe can hope for. The possibility of complications and failure is balanced with this knowledge, and with the immense gratitude we hold for our opportunities and toward the people that have supported us.

So on toward the unknown….

A Wedding of Cultures

3457932240_d4d0256e5f_oExciting news, fellow misadventurists! We are announcing our newly formed project, “A Wedding of Cultures” (working title). and happy to say we are tentatively scheduled to begin primary shooting in Cambodia by March of next year.

A Wedding of Cultures is a cultural and social documentary that asks the question: are weddings, with their age-old traditions rooted in feudal and tribal societies, still relevant in this highly mobile era where more and more of the Western world (according to media reports) is abandoning the concept of marriage as a necessity to a stable relationship?

To answer this question, we’ll be following a few brave couples belonging to wildly different cultures around the world, as they prepare for and follow through (or don’t follow through) with their weddings. We’ll talk to parents and older relatives as well as the younger generations of family and friends, exploring the ways in which specific customs are tied to narrative traditions rooted deep in the culture.

On a wider level, we will explore the ways in which a worldwide event and fashion industry has promoted a one-size-fits-all ideal of how one is “supposed” to get married, contrasting what many see as the typical wedding with the stubbornly individual reality. Through it all we will be obsessed with one question: why do people still spend their life savings and put themselves through hell and back just to conform to a tradition that from all Western statistical accounts, seems to be dying?


Of course, we are still in the beginning stages of funding and cultivating sources for this multinational documentary, but watch this space – we’ll be providing major updates regularly on this blog and on the official website here:


As we get this project off the ground, we will be adding features to the website, and of course there will be plenty of ways to help out once we get some footage in the can.

Thanks for your interest! And follow the Misadventurists  on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news.