Meet Global Voices Contributor – Janet Gunter

Whenever members of the Global Voices community travel to another country, they usually find a way to meet one or more fellow ‘GVers’. A few days ago, contributor Janet Gunter was in Lima, Peru, and I arranged to meet over some typical Pisco Sours, and talk about her involvement with GV.

Here are some questions and answers based on our conversation; alternatively watch Janet's interview on video (English subtitles available):

Juan Arellano (JA): How did you get involved with GV?

Janet Gunter (JG): Through Sarita [GV Portuguese Language Speaking Countries Editor], and our blogs about East Timor. We actually met in person for the first time in East Timor. Then I met Paula [GV Multilingual Editor] here in London. GV has always been for me about meeting and working with good people. On the GV Portuguese email list, I feel like I have dozens of friends around the world with similar interests and values. That's something really rare for me.

Janet Gunter, photo by used with authorization.

Janet Gunter, photo by used with authorization.

JA: So you started collaborating with GV Portuguese as a translator, an author, or both?

JG: As an author – covering Portuguese speaking Africa. Then when people started writing in Portuguese, I started translating their work into English. I mostly translate our African authors.

JA: Tell us about your role in GV's special coverage “Europe in Crisis“.

JG: I'm the instigator / cheerleader! I lived in Portugal for three years and I feel things that are happening there have a personal importance to me. Sara and I thought that there needed to be more coverage of citizen voices with the deepening crisis in Europe in 2011. And so we just started a Special Coverage page, and there has been a tremendous response from authors, translators and from our audience. Plus Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French GV sites all have very “engagé” [engaged] editors. It's been a real pleasure linking and getting to know everybody across Europe. We're now 60-70 authors and translators collaborating and communicating.

JA: Is there something new you think could be done to improve GV's coverage of Europe (in crisis)?

JG: We need an RSS feed, and ideally we need an editor but we are looking for institutional sponsorship for this.

As a freelancer you work with NGOs whilst at the same time keeping another foot in other areas. How do you reconcile these sometimes very different worlds?

JG: With 30 columns on my Tweetdeck and having no “personal life”! In all seriousness, I realize that a lot of my activist skills – especially around networking and communication, are useful in my professional life. In the “professional sphere”, many respond increasingly favorably to my description of myself, which is very real about what motivates me and what kind of person I am. The person and professional are mutually reinforcing. If that makes sense. (This really came out when I “mapped” my interests.)

JA: Two questions then: What really motivates you? And, what challenges have you faced in your different jobs?

JG: What motivates me? First, other people! I want to work with dynamic, good people. Beyond people, a combination of reacting to injustice, creativity, and wanting to be out in the world. Challenges are dealing with burnout, systems that are not responsive or made for real people, convincing management and institutions to take risks.

JA: You say you're a bad tourist but at the same time you have travelled a lot. Tell us something about this.

JG: The only reason to accumulate money or wealth is to then spend it on experience! I don't own a house, don't have a car, don't own much at all. I travel a great deal for work. But I also enjoy slow train journeys and visiting my many friends in far flung places.

JA: Can you share some of those great travelling experiences with us?

JG: Too many – that would be a book in and of itself! Last winter I took the train from Los Angeles to New Orleans, departing from my California family, stopping in the west Texas plain for a couple of days and ending up with friends in New Orleans. It was slow, magical, meditative. I love empty spaces, so west Texas was a perfect interlude. There is nothing like travelling alone in short spells, then arriving to friends or family. In New Orleans I finally reconnected with a long lost friend, and New Orleans meant so much more to me, after having worked and travelled in Brazil and other places. Then I went to see my 94 year-old grandfather who was born in New Orleans, and drove two days back to my hometown of St Louis, with my dad, dodging tornado warnings and listening to country music on AM radio, arriving in time for my mother's warm soup for dinner. This is the kind of trip I love.

Apart from all the things she is currently doing, Janet finds time to work on a personal project: the restart project. She talks about this project in the following video:

You can find Janet online here and also on Twitter (@JanetGunter).

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