Well, I haven’t left yet for El Salvador. I’m going with my mom, so I’m working around her schedule. I’ve checked a few books out from the library; one is an Amnesty International report on death squads from 1988, the other is a general civil war history book. Also I’m trying to get through a really helpful book, El Salvador’s Decade of Terror, which starts out with a great general chronology.
Also, I’ve been working on transcription backlog. The first year there we produced one tape, and last year we produced 10. I got through 4 and a bit in August of last year and learned a lot about transcribing. The first thing I learned is that it’s awful. It’s boring and tedious and requires an incredible amount of focus. It’s very very frustrating and makes me wish I spoke Spanish better, or that I could turn the job over to someone who really knows the language. I spend so much time looking up words to see if I’ve heard right, and I’m completely convinced that if I just spoke the language as well as I pretend I do, it would take a lot less time because I’d just know the words they’re throwing at me. Although I’ve never transcribed anything in English, so I have no basis for comparison. Right now I’m at 10:1 (10 minutes spent transcribing to 1 minute of tape), but last summer I was down to somewhere around 5-7:1, so I’m hoping I can get there again. Here’s what I wrote about transcribing last summer (edited for language):
“Transcribing is so hard.
There are the obvious reasons– it’s in Spanish, it’s such a slow and tedious process, it takes so much concentration… I mean really, I don’t think I’ve ever concentrated on anything so hard for such a long period of time. It’s like when you’re trying to thread a needle, and there’s that one little bitty strand that’s [messing] it up and you keep trying and keep trying and it’s not working and you have to squint and get your face up all close because the needle is so small and the thread is so small and if anyone says anything to you you want to scream ’cause you were about to get it but they ruined your concentration and now you have to start all over… are you feeling sufficiently fidgety and drained? Okay, well it’s like threading the impossibly small needle, for hours and hours, every day.
Of course the other reason is that it’s just so damn depressing. Not only are you threading an impossibly small needle, you’re threading an impossibly small needle with a picture of someone being raped or tortured– and you have to keep looking at that little picture because if you take your eyes off the [freaking] needle, well then, how are you going to thread it?”