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A Day In The Life: StoryCorps Facilitators Part III

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014.

Just a couple of months ago, we began our 2014 Mobile tour. A team of facilitators and their fearless Mobile Manager hit the road with open ears and a shiny airstream trailer.

You may remember We Are StoryCorps’ look into some of the lives of our Door-to-Door facilitators, Jill Glaser and Luis Gallo. They taught us a lot about what it is like to hop on a plane, train, or automobile when great stories need to be recorded. Now, we want to look at another side of StoryCorps facilitator life–our Mobile Crew! While our amazing 2014 team is hard at work recording the voices in Huntsville, AL (next stop Durham, NC!), we were able to hit up the dynamic facilitating duo from our previous Mobile tour–Anna Berlanga and Callie Thuma.

Anna (L) and Callie at Cheyenne Frontier Days during a Mobile visit in 2013. Photo by Mike Dougherty

Anna (L) and Callie at Cheyenne Frontier Days during a Mobile visit in 2013. Photo by Mike Dougherty

In Fall of 2013, Anna and Callie hit the road from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Los Angeles, California and many, many places in between. Listening to these two ladies talk about their experiences was so incredible–reminding us how abundant stories are and how everyone has something incredible to share.

Full disclosure: this interview may give you the sudden urge to pack up and travel the country recording stories!


W.A.S: “What was one of your most interesting experience during your time as a facilitator?”

Callie:“In Cheyenne, WY, two men recorded a full 40 minute interview all about the atlatl, which is an ancient spear-throwing weapon used by our early human ancestors around the globe. Later on, one of the men, Russell Richard, came back by the MobileBooth with atlatls, darts, and a foam ‘coyote’ target. We set up a range outside of the library, and Russ taught us how to launch darts using the atlatl. It was a lot of fun, and also totally unexpected. I never know what I’m going to learn next when I’m facilitating in the Booth.”

Russell Richard coaches Callie on how to throw an atlatl. Photo by Mike Dougherty

Russell Richard coaches Callie on how to throw an atlatl. Photo by Mike Dougherty

W.A.S: “Where was your favorite or most memorable city?”

Anna: “Each city I’ve visited has given me great memories. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Phoenix. I really liked Phoenix because of the people I met. I got to meet many young Latinos. Their presence made me think about my own identity and how I have chosen to express it. It was a real growing experience for me. I always felt fully Hispanic, but I didn’t grow up around a lot of Hispanic peers. I spoke Spanish to my family, never to my friends. Seeing these twenty-somethings who were truly bicultural with their friends and family made me more invested in expressing both sides of my identity. That being said, I loved every city I visited with StoryCorps. I played trivia in Santa Fe, danced in Las Vegas, floated down a river in Boise, rodeo-ed in Cheyenne, and went to free concerts in Yakima.”

W.A.S: “Did you or the team create any favorite driving games on the road?”

Callie: “Aside from holding our breath when we drive through a tunnel, no.”

Anna: “Yeah, we didn’t really create any driving games. But to pass the time, we would stop a lot. Driving from Cheyenne, WY to Yakima, WA, we decided to take the northern route. In so doing, we drove through Yellowstone National Park. We went on a hike, had a picnic and saw thermal springs. On that same drive we stopped in Missoula, MT for lunch, a fair, and a dip in the river. We stopped in Coeur d’Alene, ID and went to a farmers market, and swam in the lake. Having these long stops, getting out of the car, and meaningfully divorcing myself from the drive kept me rested and refreshed.”

Callie and Anna at a geothermal pool in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Mike Dougherty.

Callie and Anna at a geothermal pool in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Mike Dougherty.

W.A.S:What is the best part of the job?”

Callie: “The stories. Getting to travel and see the country is amazing, but the best part is listening to people. The things I hear make me laugh, cry, shake my head in disbelief, and marvel at the complexity of human beings.”

anna_636Anna:“I bet it sounds cliche’, but I love meeting people and hearing their stories. I have said many times before but a common theme is love. People bring grandma in to record her story because they love her. They bring in their spouse to talk about the day they met because they love each other, or they talk about someone who has passed because they love them. Our interviews remind me of the people I love. Once, a mom came in to talk about a son who was murdered and her daughter that committed suicide. It was a really sad story, but it reminded me of a mother’s love, and how much I love my mother. I told the participant that I was going to call my mom immediately. She was comforted to hear that her story could move me to action.”

W.A.S:Is there anything you’ve learned as a facilitator that you did not expect to learn?”

Callie:“I didn’t expect that listening to others would teach me so much about myself. Hearing others’ stories regularly forces me to confront my preconceived notions about people, and that can be incredibly humbling. Listening allows me to see humanity in a different light. It’s a gift to be present with people in that way.”


Interested in becoming a StoryCorps facilitator? We are accepting applications for Bilingual Facilitators for our Mobile team as well as at our Atlanta and San Francisco StoryBooth locations.CLICK HERE for more information.


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