Thursday, October 22, 2009

what does "dar papaya" mean?

"What does "dar papaya" mean? This was the first question that Everett Wilson asked me (Sarah) when he interviewed me for Turning Wheel magazine a few months ago, and it is a question that many people have asked before and since. Everett interviewed Kore, Liza Smith,the Youth Arts and Action Delegation leader, and me for a great article in the magazine that just came out. The interview is full of information about the dar papaya project, the Colombian conflict, the peace movement, youth organizing to resist the war and create alternatives to violence, and the intersection of Buddhist practice with human rights work in Colombia. We so appreciate the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, publisher of Turning Wheel, for bringing attention to the situation in Colombia by highlighting the dar papaya project's work.
We wanted to give you a glimpse of the interview - what follows is how I responded to Everett's first question. We hope it gives you a sense of the nuanced meanings of "dar papaya" and why we chose it as the name for our documentary film.
The Turning Wheel issue in which the interview appears includes many more great articles about war and peace, and is available from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Check out and order copies of the magazine from
Also, please join the discussion with your comments about what "dar papaya" means and how you have used it/ heard it used. We would love to hear your thoughts!
Now, what does "dar papaya" mean, anyway? (As defined by Sarah Weintraub, copyright Buddhist Peace Fellowship 2009)

There is a very Colombian phrase dar papaya. It means, if you translate it directly, 'to give papaya.' Dar is the verb 'to give.' I've only heard the phrase in Colombia, and it has a very Colombian, very specific but multi-layered meaning. It's actually one of the themes of what we're doing in the film.
But the way I've most often heard it used - the phrase as you almost always hear it - is no dar papaya.
'Don't give papaya.'
What it basically means in most contexts is, 'don't get yourself in trouble.' Don't tell people more than they need to now. Don't share anything you don't need to share. Don't make yourself a target, and that could be politically, or it could mean don't wear your big camera on the front of your chest and walk through bad neighborhoods. So in the cities it's mostly used in that way. No dar papaya means don't put yourself out there to get robbed - don't fling your wallet around or talk about how much money you have. No dar papaya: don't be giving away all your papaya.
In the rural region where I lived then I first lived in Colombia, it was used more in the political sense. If you're going through a military checkpoint and they start asking you questions, don't tell them more than you need to, don't start telling them, 'I'm a member of the peace community, and you all shouldn't even be here and you're all corrupt...' It's just giving them papaya, giving them ammunition to use against you. So it means keep a low profile. No dar papaya.
So we chose the title for a few reasons. I like the way it sounds both in Spanish and in English. In Colombian Spanish - anywhere else it doesn't really mean much - but in Colombian Spanish it has a kind of edginess to it, because you always hear the phrase no dar papaya, so calling the film the Dar Papaya Project is already a little bit edgy or pushy.
People start asking, 'What kind of trouble are you making?' It's a rocking-the-boat kind of feeling.
But I also just like the way it sounds. And I think it also reads in English, it sounds kind of like tropical, slightly unusual, so I think it works whether or not you actually understand the phrase.
We thought about putting a definition of the phrase on our website, and when I tried to come up with a definition, it was like what I just told you - I mean it's a paragraph long, and there's all these different variations, and people take it in slightly different ways, so we decided not to put up a definition.
For those who know, they know.
People who've lived in Colombia or who are Colombian or who've worked in Colombia get it and have different takes on it. Some people say, 'Oh that's so cool!' And other people ask, 'Why did you call it that? What are you trying to say? Are you trying to make trouble?'
So aesthetically we liked the way it sounded - both in Spanish and English - and then in the meaning... On the one hand we're not expressly trying to dar papaya. We're not trying to make trouble or trying to give ammunition to be used against us, and at the same time there is a feeling that we're not not trying to do that. We're not no dar papaya either. We're going to talk about what's going on, and if people don't want to hear about it, too bad. that's the edginess, and that has a lot of resonance with the Colombians we work with.

Order Turning Wheel magazine to read the rest of this in-depth interview! Write to
Thanks again to Tanya Susoev for the photos.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the dar papaya project continues, with joy!

Hello friends of the dar papaya project!
Welcome back to our blog. We haven't written for awhile, but now we are back in technology-land to keep you updated about the dar papaya project!
As planned, co-producers Kore Oliver and Sarah Weintraub traveled to Colombia in the late spring. We were there for a total of six weeks, including two weeks with the FOR Youth Arts and Action Delegation. We filmed over fifty hours of footage of the meeting between youth activists from the US and Colombia. The ACOOC in Bogota and the Red Juvenil in Medellin welcomed the US delegates into their homes, offices, and lives. We loved getting to know all of the delegates and the Colombian youth and getting to watch them get to know each other, and share and change each others lives. We are honored to work with such incredible young people.

Just a few highlights from our time in Colombia...
- doing one-on-one interviews with the delegates, Colombian activists, and delegation leaders. We were so moved by their stories - thank you all!
- playing cooperative games and doing art - learning about the Red Juvenil's strategy of alegria (joy)
- hearing the delegates from San Francisco's Mission neighborhood talk about their reality - the violence they have grown up with right here in our own city - and watching the Colombian youth hear those stories and seeing how much their understanding of the US was deepened
- interviewing some ACOOC youth about how they are using their entire lives to try to make Conscientious Objector a legally recognized category in Colombia
- making food for each other, singing karaoke, celebrating birthdays, and all the other ways we shared our real lives

We were deeply inspired by our time in Colombia, thrilled with the footage we captured, and are full of energy to continue work on the dar papaya project!

This summer found Kore starting the editing and storytelling process, while Sarah spent the summer in the mountains at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, writing and reflecting on her time in Colombia. She loved cooking vegetarian food for Zen Center's visitors, and being a part of the residential Zen community there, but was far away from any technology.

After brainstorming, creating, and working apart for the summer we are very excited to be collaborating together again! Work in all the different realms of making the film is going ahead as planned, and with mucha alegria. And it also brings us joy to update our blog and be able to share with all our friends and supporters what we have been up to. We will be updating more frequently now that we are both near computers again, and we look forward to being in touch with you!

peace and papayas,
Sarah and Kore

PS: Muchas gracias to delegate Tanya Susoev for sharing her beautiful photos! You can look forward to more of them on our future blogs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I arrived in Colombia two weeks ago and have been in Medellin and Bogota meeting with our partners here, scouting out places to film, and working out the details of filming here - where will be charge our camera? store our tapes? etc... All our contacts here are very enthusiastic about the project. The delegation arrives on Friday - we are looking forward to meeting them and can't wait to start filming! abrazos, Sarah, Bogota

Monday, February 16, 2009

welcome to dar papaya!

Dar Papaya is a film project about the meeting of Colombian and US youth in creative resistance to war. We will film the journey of young people from the US as they travel to Colombia and meet their counterparts there, as part of the Youth Arts and Action delegation sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. This blog will keep you up-to-date on the journey.