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December 2012

In this issue

The Girl

Cuba's Secret Side

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What We Do


For the first time, students Recycling Modulethroughout North America have the opportunity to edit National Geographic-quality raw footage to create their own documentaries and shorts. Take 2 is offering in-depth, professional footage that comes with a comprehensive curriculum and teaching tools that meet national curricular standards for English, social studies, economics, government, science, and media. Teachers do not need to have any video or editing skills. Comprehensive curricula, student activities, worksheets, and teaching tools are available in the supporting materials.

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Thank you so much to our friends, board members, and supporters whose generosity is making all of this possible:

Ted and Susan Cronin

Jill and Thomas Bashore

Hanspeter and Renate Muller

Robert Franklin and Lisa Braden

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Katherine Burkman

Megan Perkins

Frank and Pam McKulka

Asta Potter

Bob Auchincloss

Deb and Mike Festa

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The Girl

Maasai WomanI want to talk about travel.  Not the sitting-on-a-cruise-ship-sipping-a-cocktail type of travel, but the kind when you wake up one morning and say to yourself, “I think I’m going to go live with an East African warrior tribe for three months."

And that’s where most people get stuck. How on earth do you find a remote village in the Serengeti and a Maasai family willing to take you in?  And even if you do… how do you survive the three months after that?

The first part is easy.  In my case a friend put me in touch with an acquaintance, who knew of a village on the edge of the Rift Valley. “No problem,” the chief said with typical African generosity. He then added something about a 7-hour mini-bus ride and that I should get off at the baobab tree.

Foreigners were not thick on the ground out there, so within a few minutes of my arrival about thirty villagers had stopped what they were doing to come check me out.  I had one goal – I was looking for a girl.  I knew she was going to be between the ages of 8 and 14 – old enough to have empathy, young enough not to be married, and smart as a whip.  If I could find her, then my next three months would be a success. If not, then I was dead in the water.

Maasai Girl Hauling WaterAt some point Nangakua, the first wife of the village chief, ambled over and said in rapid-fire Maasai, “Hey, you want something to eat?”  I didn’t understand a word.  Then the girl magically appeared, looked me in the eye, and said slowly and clearly, “You.  Eat.  Now.”  And I knew the next three months were going to be just fine.  Her name was Ndutu and she became my shadow.  Within a day she knew my entire Maasai vocabulary and drilled me relentlessly on grammar and new words.  She also taught me where to haul water, how to chew on a twig from the toothbrush tree to keep my teeth clean, and a million other things including how not to get eaten by lions.  I reciprocated by telling her useless stuff like what a penguin looks like and that people have landed on the moon.  And though she didn’t know it, I put a down payment on several more cows to add to her dowry after I was gone.

It still wasn’t easy – the flies were maddening, my shoulders ached from scrubbing clothes in the river, and the women thought it endlessly hilarious that their cows refused to let down their milk for a foreigner.

Then one day I found myself sitting under an acacia tree, drinking a bowl of fresh blood and listening to Ndutu say, “and after the hyena dropped the goat, Nangakua took a stick and chased him clear across the plain…”  And it all seemed completely normal.Karin Muller

Here's what I’ve learned from twenty years of travel. There’s always a girl. And around her, an entire village waiting to welcome you and keep you safe.  You’ll have to trust me on this one.

Cuba's Secret Side

Cuba's Secret SideCuba's Secret Side, a two-hour PBS television series, will premiere nationwide on February 1st, 2013 (local airdates may vary).

For three months, I traveled undercover throughout Cuba – living with fisherman and farmers, Santeria priestesses and country doctors.  I filmed life on the black market, hitchhiking protocol, slums, rock concerts, 50-year-old car repair, and a stunning end to an explosive festival. It was a side of Cuba that few foreigners get to see.

Click here for 30-second trailer

Most importantly, the footage used to create this series is available to students to edit into their own documentaries through Take 2.  No broadcaster/production company has ever allowed schools unlimited access to raw footage used in an international series.  This is the future – interactive, project-based, student-driven – and today’s digital natives can’t wait to get their hands on it.  Along the way they learn to think critically, collaborate, and become global citizens.

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