Answer to my question and to yours

Better late than never. Yesterday I promised to answer the question of why we wouldn’t give Sujeylin and Juan Carlos the 10 cents to buy a bar of soap. Please don’t expect any profoundly theoretical answers… The truth is that I am having quite a hard time deciding where the limit is with what we can do and what we can’t. What’s more, my head and my heart are not always in sync with this issue.

Obviously, one of the criteria I manage is that I won’t allow for the lives of Karla, Sujeylin and Juan Carlos be put at immediate risk especially where this risk could be diminished by us. When I say “immediate” I mean just that, because obviously the type of life they lead in general is quite risky.

Yet at the same time, I have to think of the objectivity of my documentary (which serves the greater goal of trying to get babies off the streets in general rather than only helping my protagonists) and in doing that, I am constantly aware of the dependency we have on each other. I depend on their collaboration, which I know doesn’t come for free and they know they can depend on me for certain things. Within this scope, I have to be careful not to jump every time they snap their fingers. Especially when we’re talking non-immediate necessities.

A day earlier I had paid for Sujeylin to fix a ring at one of the market stalls. This costs the equivalent of a hot meal. We also paid for several other things, including her trip back to Managua, some food, etc. At the moment the soap bar issue presented itself, I felt there was a danger of slipping into the “I snap my finger and you deliver” mode, and rather than paying for it I suggested I’d bring soap bars and shampoo from my hotel room the next day.

Sujeylin takes things as they are. She accepts life without comment. She never says thank you directly, but at the same time doesn’t whinge either when there’s something she can’t get. Things are the way they are for her and that’s how she accepts them. But Juan Carlos was a little irritated with us after that. Which is exactly what makes this issue so difficult. Maintaining a good relationship with them is also important…

I don’t know. We’re kind of going with the flow on this, taking decisions on the spot based on the general rule that we’ll help with non-permanent things (like food and soap bars) but not with things which create a permanent change in their lives (like housing). Not now at least, while we’re filming.

As for your question Kelley (thanks for asking!), Karla drinks mother milk 90% of the time. Sujeylin sometimes gives her a feeding bottle with some stuff she mixes up with water, but obviously mother milk comes cheaper and the doctors here insist a lot on doing it that way. And I think she is sufficiently nourished to be able to offer that. She feels hungry at times, but she is a big eater. And one really great benefit of Managua over many other third-world cities is the fact that water from the tap is drinkable. They have a faucet in one corner of the park and as such get plenty of liquids. She in fact doesn’t much like any other drinks (like Coca Cola for instance, which is all over the place) and because of the heat they do tend to drink a lot. This supply of clean water also helps a great deal in terms of hygiene. When I was still researching the film in Guatemala City, I often saw people bathe themselves and wash clothes in the public fountains, despite opposition from the police.

For food, they often mix rice with left-over vegetables they find or receive and cook it up for everyone. They all share. See below. Although on most days we buy her at least one meal in one of the market stalls, which is a lot healthier and complete.


2 thoughts on “Answer to my question and to yours

  1. I’m really happy to learn this. Funny – i feel a new respect for Sujeylin right now (and not only becasue of the breastfeeding). I like her maturity and awareness in “going with the flow” and not becomming irritated (like JC) when your crew did not purchase soap. She’s has some good stuff inside, huh? I hope she realizes her dreams.

    Another question (and you do not have to answer right away – I completely get that you’re on a shoot!). Is there any envy or jealousy toward Sujeylin and Karla about your presence and sometimes treatment (ie. meals purchased)? Just wondering if there’s any dynamic in the park culture regarding “special circumstances” for Suj. and Karla and JC.


  2. There isn’t. I think for two reasons. One, it seems that food is always shared between everyone (or at least the people present). So, when one eats, they all get a bite. However, I’ve seen this happen less with Sujeylin, but I believe that in her case everyone realizes that she needs to eat for the baby and that they are simply happy she has this opportunity. Again, for however much shit goes on in the group, ultimately the sense of solidarity is tremendous.


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