All posts by Amy Engle

Running to, not from.

            Back in the U.S. of A for almost a week now and I’m still not finding myself any closer to closing the distance I feel between myself and the world. I told myself when I left for this trip that I would do everything I could to be fully present in the experience, appreciating every minute of Santiago, Cien Fuegos, Dajabon and Majagual. And yet I struggled nearly every day, feeling as if I was not actually in any of those places but watching a documentary about it, making it less real and frankly easier to deal with emotionally. 

After getting back from a ridiculous day of travel filled with a comedy of errors last Friday, I felt like a walking zombie of sorts, meandering around campus consumed by my thoughts. I walked up and down the mall, tired yet extremely antsy from sitting all day after being in constant motion for almost two weeks. More than anything however, I wanted to run, because even if it’s on a treadmill, when I run I feel like I’m getting somewhere, my body coming alive as I push it beyond the threshold of comfort. 

  I’ve found running to be my outlet for almost anything thats troubling me, and I happened to see a New Balance Ad the other day that stated it perfectly. “Sometimes we run not to get away from the world, but to clear our heads of it.” Ever since getting back last Friday I’ve been struggling to process all the things we saw on our trip. I am constantly reminded of the people, their live, and the things they can’t run from like I so wanted to do. 

  I’ve realized now however that it wasn’t that I wanted to run FROM the Dominican Republic, no, if they had this much impact on me in just a few days I can’t imagine the incredible lessons I could learn in spending even more time with them. Instead, I run because i want to clear my head and go beyond the initial emotions I’m feeling. I want to move beyond how uncomfortable I am with the realities of what I saw and start problem solving, finding ways to act. 

  So yes, I’ll admit that my running may be an obsession. But even though I’m not going anywhere on the treadmill, I can promise you that my mind is anything but stagnant. 

-a.e  

Unable to Move

It is becoming increasingly hard for me to find the right word to describe the last couple days. Upon returning to ILAC from Majagual, the campo we stayed in for the last 2 days, of course everyone wanted to know how it went, but I found myself unwilling to blurt out “it was great!” I can’t quite figure out why this is though. Maybe it was my personal experience in the campo, having trouble being alone rather than with another member of our class, or my lack of any spanish, but I’m struggling to find where this experience fits into my over all experience, what it means, and how I may have been changed.

Being in the campo was extremely difficult, not to say that any of the things we’ve seen this trip have been particularly “easy” at all, but the campo tied it all together, made it more than just a passing glimpse from the gringo bus. Staying in the campo showed us the reality of what these people live day in and day out, year after year, generation after generation. After the discomfort I experienced for the past two days, I am in awe at these people who live it day in and day out. And yet they were so willing to welcome us in.

I’m definitely still processing everything that I saw, everything that I felt and all the different aspects of life I had never considered before going to the campo. I don’t think I’m going to reach any big conclusions soon, nor do I really want to. Sure, it would be nice to have the answers, but if it were that easy, we wouldn’t have people living like this on an unbelievably gorgeous island just a 2 hour boat ride from Miami.

Tonight in reflection however I did draw at least one conclusion. I spent the last couple nights in the home of Gladys, a mother in Majagual. After getting into bed each night she would sit and pray, in spanish obviously, next to me. Both nights I so desperately wanted to make myself sit up and do the same, sit up and show her the love God has given me, but I didn’t, and thats really been bothering me. This whole experience I’ve been unable to talk about or share the most important aspect of my life, my faith, with these people whose faith is so apparent and moving.

I hope I do indeed allow myself to be moved by these people and the things that I’ve seen. Just as God is a constant reminder of the love this world has to offer, my faith will always connect me to these people in such a drastically different place, no mater how different our lives may be. The people of God that we have been studying in class has gained names as well as faces in the people of the Dominican Republic. Just as Carol’s silly little hand motion makes up the church and steeple out of the same fingers that make all the people, the people of the Dominican Republic truly are the backbone and foundation of faith.

Love in a God that loves ALL people great and small,

Amy

Rich in Spirit

It’s hard to believe this but we are now halfway through our trip… How can that possibly be?? Rachel Johnson and I were talking yesterday as we walked around the ILAC track how weird it was going to be to settle back into life in Omaha when we get home next Friday night. We’ve only been here 4 ish whole days and I have fallen completely in love with this place and more importantly its people.

Yesterday was our second and final day in Cien Fuegos, the neighborhood in which Pedro has transformed the lives of so many. It was an incredible day for many reasons, and also incredibly difficult to let myself get back on the bus at the end of the day. We decided to take the entire day at Cien Fuegos rather than coming back to ILAC for lunch in hopes that we could maximize the last day we had there and get all the shots we needed. I think Tim would agree, we definitely got some amazing shots.

The morning was so much fun as Peter, Scott, Morgan and I split off from the rest of the group to go shoot footage down a different road in Cien Fuegos. I was enthralled with all that I saw. It took us nearly 30 minutes to get 100 yards, letting ourselves become a part of the culture we really were on Dominican time. The coolest part was Pedro, aka Peter talking with so many people outside on their front steps. As soon as he explained what we were doing they were all more than willing to let us film them, welcoming us into their space, a herd of gringos, completely invading their lives and yet they were totally okay with that.

We got some amazing shots of a young man playing guitar, completely impromptu and absolutely incredible. We got his signature, you know, just in case. 😉 Then in the afternoon we got more interviews but the best part was that we all sat around and purposefully listened to the interviews, learning about the people who had so willingly opened their home to us. Listening to the role of the church within the community I was in awe at the faith of these people who had so little. We have so much and yet rarely give as much thanks and praise for any of it. It was extremely humbling.

Leaving Cien Fuegos last night was extremely hard. This neighborhood was more than the run down homes, trash in the street and dirty clothes which seemed so jarring when we first arrived. The people of Cien Fuegos may not have the material goods we’re accustomed to in the United States but after hearing their stories, it is apparent that the spirit and hope of these people is what makes them truly rich. The love they have for one another and God is apparent in all that they do. I hope to never forget the emotions I’ve felt while with them.

As emotionally tiring as the last couple days have been, this entire next week is going to be equally tough as we travel to Dajabon tomorrow to the Haitian border and then the Campo (a Dominican village) on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll update again Monday night when we get back from our adventures at the market at the border. Until then, I love you all!

– a.e.

Dancing, Laughing, and Cultural Overload

Hola from Rupublica Dominicana! 

 Okay, so I can’t admit to have learned much if any spanish yet, but my intention to do so has sky-rocketed since coming to this amazing place. 

These last couple days have been an absolute whirr of commotion, not something I didn’t necessarily expect but thats the reason for my blogging negligence, sorry! 

We have been crazy busy doing amazing things here in the D.R. From interviewing Pedro and others from Cien Fuegos, playing with adorable little kids who were enthralled with all we were doing, to heading to the beach today and for sure standing out as blonde haired blue eyed gringos, every moment has been an experience. Tomorrow we head out to Cien Fuegos again for our last day of shooting the documentary. It’s sad that we only have one more day to get video since we’re just now getting the hang of it but I know we still have so many adventures to come. 🙂 

I’ve posted a few pictures above of the things we’ve been doing, hopefully they give you a glimpse of what I’ve been experiencing. Feel free to e-mail me, I love reading them when I get a chance at night. Miss you all! Love you! 

 – a.e.  

More than a journey …

I promise I haven’t been negligent in procrastinating this blog post, honest I’ve been thinking about it ever since 6:30 this morning when I got up with the best of intentions to write it right then. But I wanted to do it right. 

Today was our last day of formal class, our last day of class in the U.S of A, our last chance to ask any questions to clear anything up before Monday’s departure when it really will be “game on” as my favorite Morgan Braaten aka sharky says.

While I continue to make a to-do list, one of my favorite things to keep myself organized, I remember a nugget of wisdom I got off a Dove chocolate wrapper recently, “Life is not one big to-do list.” I couldn’t have asked for a better reminder. 

This trip is not about our agenda, though I know we will work with everything we can get. This trip is certainly not about my agenda, as I left my favorite spot on campus, the gym, for the last time for two whole weeks. It’s about taking the things that we’ve learned both in these two short weeks as well as throughout our entire experience as Creighton students, and attempting to make a difference in our world. 

My goal for these weeks is simple, to love every moment, live every moment, and leave the experience knowing I gave it my all. It’s not going to be easy to let go of everything and just let things come as they will, but allowing myself to embrace rather than resist it is the first step to becoming a fuller and more enriched person overall. 

Spiritually, I can only hope this trip will open my eyes to God’s grace as well as challenge me to understand my own faith journey, where I am, where I’m going and where I’d like to be. From writing my blog for the Creightonian this past year I have become much more aware of God’s presence in all that I do, but going to an impoverished nation I have no doubt my faith will be tested.

Okay, so the flood gates have officially opened and all that I have been mulling over all day is at risk of taking over our home page. Lord, give us wisdom as we impart on our journey together, but more importantly this journey with you. Thank you for the opportunity we have been given to get a glimpse of the true people of God, and for giving us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in their lives. Amen. 

– a.e. 

Sandwich, Chips, Fruit, Drink, or Dessert?

As I sit here trying to write this blog post I keep typing in sentences, pressing command+A and deleting it all. I start off with one thing, and realize I want to go in another direction, and then halfway through that thought begin to think, oh wait! no! I should start this way! And I’m back to square one.Quite frankly however, that’s exactly how my mind is working and feeling in this second week of class.

Now a bit further into all of the material, connecting the theology lessons to what we will be encountering in the Dominican Republic, talking about potential interview questions for Pedro and piecing together sequences, the experience is finally becoming more and more real. It has finally hit me that in just one week’s time we will be having class in the DR and although I am excited I am also very nervous.

Out of all the diverse things we’ve covered in just the short amount of time that we’ve been in class, I find it nearly impossible to determine the one thing that is more important than all the rest. That’s like asking what my favorite part of the meal is, the sandwhich, chips, fruit, drink or dessert. Each aspect is individually unique, yet essential to the whole.

The theology portion of the course has certainly been interesting so far mostly because I don’t have much experience with the Catholic Church and so I have found it intriguing to learn about its history, conflicts and main teachings. I especially enjoyed learning about Catholic Social Teaching this morning because it puts into context some of the things that many Creighton students are so passionate about. 

Shooting video has also been a challenging yet extremely beneficial process as I am realizing how much work goes into getting good footage.  Creating our own videos was great because it made me realize just what things I needed to shoot in order to make the video coherent and gave me ideas of what I can definitely improve. 

Lastly, I have enjoyed the writing portion of the class,in which I was able to interview Morgan and write about my experiences in this blog. Although I am fairly confident in my interview skills it was fun to talk with Morgan and learn about her beyond the classroom setting. Although I was hesitant to start another blog this will be a great place to collect my thoughts as well as read what my classmates have to say.

Overall, although I may feel slightly overwhelmed at times, each aspect of this class is proving to be important to it’s over-arching goal of creating a team of Backpacking Journalists. In just one short week I will be writing from a computer in the Dominican Republic! 

Processing. ((insert Final Cut Pro spinning transferring icon here…)

Holy cow this week has gone by fast! As the title above indicates, I am still trying to get myself to process everything going on around me this week. From theology podcasts, to learning how to shoot video sequences, to a bit of writing on the side, it is definitely a lot to process. As I sit here looking at the keys below my fingers the rest of the room begins to spin, making me feel like the processing icon from Final Cut Pro. 

Starting off the week with theology I was interested in finding out what we were going to cover, and was glad to cover a bit of the history of the church in order to better fully understand the church in the DR. I’ll admit that I slacked a bit on the theology since then as moving has kept me busy outside of class. But tonight, listening to the podcasts by Dr. Michael Lawer I was greatly intrigued and interested in learning about the ecumenical council of Vatican II. I am excited to hear more about it tomorrow in class! 

The JMC portion of the experience has been rewarding although it is proving challenging as well. Although I am lucky to already have some reporting experience from the Creightonian and other articles, the video portion has proved to take some practice. Despite recording footage for over an hour last night, this morning in trying to put it together I found that I had missed shots, or quite frankly didn’t have much interesting content to work with. I may try recording more this weekend in attempts to get better at it. Practice makes perfect right?

All in all, although it’s overwhelming, the trip is becoming more of a reality. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to spend time with the group that is going and I can’t wait to spend the next four weeks with them. Considering how fast this week has gone I can only hope I can discipline myself to slow down and take a second to enjoy the ride! 

 

For the love of writing…

In terms of schoolwork writing has always been my strongpoint. When I was a little kid my brothers and parents were constantly reading so that came second nature to me. Encouraged by my mother, I won a grant for a book I wrote when I was 5 about my best friend Maggie, a developmentally disabled girl who lived on my street. In middle school my love of writing continued and I even had a book published about all of the people who had inspired me throughout my formative years. In high school I pursued my passion for writing in combination with a new found love of design as editor of my high school yearbook, writing and editing copy for the sports section. 

Since coming to college my love of writing has continued to grow. Papers and essays have always come easily to me so in terms of class work I have been successful in using those skills to convey my understanding of course material. In writing for the Creightonian I have found that I love talking with people and finding out their story in order to write articles. Most enjoyable however has been the blog I started for the Creightonian this past fall. I love having a place to gather my thoughts, forcing me to think more deeply about my faith and its presence in all that I do.

What I love most about writing is that it is all mine. I love putting words on a page, being able to use my voice to make them say exactly what I want to convey. When I write, I often begin by finding a quiet place where I can just sit and think for awhile. Looking around a quiet space void of many distractions I gather my thoughts before putting them together into sentences. Once I am finished with something like a blog post or article, I read it out loud to myself in order to make sure that it flows and makes sense. 

I am excited to get an opportunity to do some more writing for this experience this summer. I hope to expand on the reporting skills I have already developed and develop my interview skills further, something I think the language barrier will force me to do. Overall, I can’t wait to embark on this new adventure!