All posts by Gabrielle Mock

Pedro and Co.

These were some of my thoughts on our last night in Santiago before traveling to Majagual that I wrote in my journal:

Pedro and co. are so amazing because they are creating their own choices and choices for their kids.

They might never actually have money to spare. But they might someday reach a place of less worry, or even of security. Then maybe their kids will have even more power and choice in their futures.

In history we can see that people–individuals–can become successful from an early life od very little means, but this is somewhat the exception. Individuals can fight a system, form relationships, and break out of a bad cycle of poerty, for example. But can whole communities do this? Not generally.

This is why Cien Fuegos is so phenomenal. The people of Cien Fuegos are working as a united force towards change. Roberto or Luis aren’t trying to help themselves and get out of Cien Fuegos, they are spending their lifetimes to better the lives of others. Only as a community can change happen to benefit the whole community.

Pedro is re-inventing the wheel in terms of how to escape or lessen poverty. It is not about gambling on luck, or praying  for intervention, or coercing or killing the way out of Cien Fuegos. Pedro showed us that fixing his community is about, every step of the way, doing what is best for the community. It is about breaking everyone’s challenges into digestible pieces and assigning a group of leaders to each problem–he calls this a Neighborhood Watch Group.

Poverty is constant and stuck. It is ingrained in this culture and it dependent on the institutions that maintain it. But Cien Fuegos has shown that a community of like minded people can together acknowledge an injustice they all experience and make tangible progress towards ending it.

Majagual

Staying with a host family in compo was one of my favorite aspects of our trip to the DR.

Dominican hospitality is remarkable! When we arrived, each family member greeted each of the group with a hug and a kiss as if we had known them our whole lives and were returning home. Lunch, and especially coffee, was given to us and kids played near the house constantly checking on us, as if to make sure we haden’t left yet.

The first afternoon we were supposed to begin working with concrete and my family suggested that we go take a look at it and that if we weren’t interested we should come back for more coffee and sitting–this is when I knew I would like compo! 🙂

Majagual is breath-takingly beautiful. From the front porch of my house you could see layers of lush green mountains all the way to the ocean. The first day it was several hours before some of us even noticed the ocean. We weren’t used to seeing the ocean near mountains and the sea was so blue it melted into the sky.

There are palm trees, a lot of grass, Cocoa and coffee bean trees. Each of the houses on the street are dainty and most are brightly colored with tropical greens and pinks. The homes are very open to visitors as well as fresh air and the chickens that wonder around. The road is horrible. It is dirt with many holes and there seems to be a steep hill upwards and downwards between each house–seriously. By the afternoon I could see how geriatrics must be very healthy here.

The first night Morgan and I went for a walk down the street and several people stopped and again gave us hugs and kisses and asked us how we liked their town. One funny man kept suggesting words like “pure” and “tranquil.” He seemed to have guessed that we were from the city and thought their compo would seem quite to us–which it did! But no one that we spoke to seemed to understand when we stressed how beautiful Majagual was to us. Only a another man we met who had spent some time living in Europe could sympathize and appreciate the unique beauty of Majagual with us. I supposed when you grow up in the most beautiful place in the world it might be hard to imagine that other places were not as beautiful.

My family was so kind! I loved being in the kitchen with the women of the house. I’d often ask how I could help and I would try to sneak in to do a few dishes before they noticed and stopped me. Eventually after bothering them enough to let me help they gave me little jobs and this was the best! I felt like I had gained admission to a secret club of the kitchen. They were so funny in the kitchen: telling jokes and picking on each other and me. Very serious conversations occurred in the kitchen as well. I’m guessing these only happened while I was there because they knew I couldn’t understand a thing! Amazing smells came from that kitchen: I had the honor of stirring a huge vat of chocolate over a fire and squish the plantains between frying rounds (yes, you have to fry them twice!)

In compo I often heard “Mi casa es su casa,” or more lengthy versions of that. I dont speak spanish, but my kitchen companions loved it when I tried to say in spanish, “My house, my kitchen”–Like who would want to be a part of the kitchen? But  helping in the kitchen was when I began to understand life in the compo most fully, both the challenges and the community. It is in the kitchen that I decided I am for sure coming back to the DR for the fall semester.

We were only in compo, literally, three days, but somehow I genuinely miss the people I met there. They made me feel so welcome and close to the family. It takes very special people to be so memorable from a two night sleepover.

Big Week

Feeling good but we had a heck of a big week this week. I have alot going on in my head.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of suffering.

I don’t think that I can grasp the type suffering we saw this week. I know its there–it exists; but I also know that I cannot fully comprehend it. I sense myself not being fully aware or sympathetic because I cannot simulate the experience of this level of suffering in my mind. The affliction we have witnessed the past couple of days is not the kind I can imagine. Empathy is an important  tool for me and I cant use it in this situations.

When I think about things that have been hard for me or might be hard for me in the future, I am sure that I could probably get through anything. But the thing about any difficulty I have experience is that it always ends–there is always the end of the race, or an end to the all-nighter, or the trip. I can get through all any of my challenges because they ll have an expiration date.

But the hardship we observed this week doesn’t end. The kids in Cien Fuegos will still be hungry tomorrow; they will still be uneducated; they will still get sick and not have access to care. At the boarder there will still be racism and blatant organized crime; bribing and harassment will still continue. Haitians will still have to cross the boarder illegally under dangerous/inhumane conditions and Dominicans will still make a ton of money off them.

When I have to do hard stuff it is because I choose to put myself in that situation, and in any instance I have the power to end it; to quit at any time. People in poverty, in most cases, do not have the power to end their troubles.

 This is when the rest of us with a grain of power or influence have to perk up and pay attention–do something.

First Impressions

We arrived in the DR late last night after a bit of a crisis in Miami. Because our plane from Chicago was delayed, we missed the flight to Santiago by literally moments! but ended up getting 12 seats on the later flight to Santo Domingo and drove to the ILAC center during the night. It was a rough drive since we all were so tired. But eventually (aka 2.5 hours later) we made it to the center and were able to sleep from 3:30-8:00.

In the morning we got up, had breakfast, and went for a stroll around our new neiborhood. There are some really nice houses, most of which look new or half finished, some fields, and a few shops. We walked on a road that was under construction to be paved–Kyle said the project started in 1994 and was still being finished (!!!!) For clarification, this did not look to me like a very difficult or long road to pave. It seemed though that work was always picked up around election time, and then dropped a few weeks later..getting the picture?

The stores we passed in our neighborhood are as to be expected from a latin american coutry. They are small, very brightly colored, with men in faded clothing sitting in front or wondering in and out, talking with one another.

The poorer looking houses in the area are small and sometimes look as if constuction on their houses wasnt completed–just like the road. Often the houses have gardens as front yards teaming with bannanas and squash and maybe beans. The gardens overflowed from their plot of land, but still didnt look like they would produce much food. Colorful laundry dried on the fences–although it is so hot, I cannot imagine anything drying fully in this heat and humidity.

The nicer houses are interesting to me because they are only, say, 10 yards or less from the significantly lesser nice houses, yet a few were even extravegant. Not to be mistaken though, they had high iron gates between painted cement walls all around the property; making an obvious show of the divide between the newer and older houses. Some of the houses had greek or roman influences, which seemed out of place; one house had grapes decorating its iron fence.

The fields interspersed between all of the houses and the stores looked fertile and green for the most part, but the earth is rocky and the gardens seemed unorganized. Fences around the fields look to be made of found wood and thin wire–just enough to establish a boundry, but not enough to keep anything in or out.

We also visited downtown this mroning. It was full of shops and little homes/apartments. The shops, again, were brightly colored, many had pasted advertisements on their walls to attact costomers. There were high cement walls again, working to keep something in, or Santiago out. Also little gardens with sitting areas were dispersed across the city–much needed oases amoung the rushing cars and people. The city is hot and loud, but still oddly calm–like everyone knew where they were going and what they were doing and everyone else was just in their way.

Todays been a good start for our trip: low key and calm. I expect the pace to pick up tomorrow.

Bye for now

Things we’re learning..

I would argue that the most important things we have learned so far in these courses are about video and editing. Practicing with the camera and using final cut is helping us see what shots we well need once we get to the DR and how to construct them. Confidence with the camera is going to be one of the biggest challenges for me in the DR, so practice is good. We need to be very conscious and intentional about getting all the shots we want from the DR while we are there, so the more dialogue we have about these before we get there, the better. 

Talking about feature writing last week and a little this week helps as well because we are going to be constructing a story when we get back. So in addition to the way all of our shots look and how they will technically fit together, we need to consider how they will help tell the story and convey information we think is important. We are all working on our profiles and maybe realizing how hard it is to get the info we need for a story in a short interview. This is another good thing to recognize before we get to the DR.

In Theology 342 we’ve covered a lot of material! Mainly the goal has been to see how the Church became what we identify as the Church today. Hopefully this will help us detect all the ways the Church is present in the DR. Today especially focused on Catholic Social Teaching which also will help us immensely in DR to understand the work that Pedro does and even how the oppression we see exists to the present.

We are also continuing to learn about each other which will surely only strengthen our documentary and add to the value of the experiences we will have together in the DR.

Some of the things we covered this week…

Hi there!

This is Gaby again and I am one of the Creighton students lucky enough to spend some time in the Dominican Republic this Summer, camera in hand. We (some students, some teachers…all explorers) are leaving the continent with the intention of experiencing Dominican culture and making some friends along the way. We are especially focused on how Catholicism is expressed in various settings across the Dominican Republic and being able to capture life and theology through the practice of backpack journalism. 

Backpack journalism–for those who don’t already know, as I didn’t–is a form of Broadcast Journalism that requires the journalist (us) to be reporter, cameraman/woman, editor and producer of stories, often in remote places that are inaccessible to regular field reporters and camera crews. [Courtesy of Wikipedia] Each student endeavors to be the individual backpack journalist, but we are going about it together. Once we return with footage of both beautiful and more challenging aspects of the DR, we will put it all together in a film to share with all of you. 

Journalism is new to me, advanced camera and editing skills are new to me, and blogging is definitely new to me. So this is an adventure into more than just the country of the Dominican Republic, but a chance to pick up new and useful skills. 

The first week has started out well. Dr. O’Keefe has introduced us to some well known and some lesser known facts about the development of Christianity. Vatican II is basically blowing my mind. I have been Catholic for 20 years and I feel like I’m learning so much stuff about this religion for the first time. Its very frustrating, but also exciting. I think I definitely need the weekend to process some of the texts we read this week and things we discussed.

Playing with Final Cut is super fun too! Final cut is a sort of superior way of editing film, and is the type of program I’ve never been able to just figure out on my own. I have had the program on my computer for two years and I am finally learning how to use it! Mr. Guthrie is awesome at telling us what we absolutely CANNOT forget (like to press the record button–oops!), what we sort of really should remember (to get all of the camera angles and hold for 15 seconds), and what most of us probably don’t need to know cause its too advanced (I have no examples because I am one of the people that probably don’t need remember it).

Talking about journalism and feature writing is so far looking like it is going to be the biggest challenge for me. I discovered from interviewing Rachel that interviewing is NOT as easy as it looks! And that feature writing is way more complicated than I thought. –Being able to appreciate a well written piece, is much different than writing one on your own. It is also looking a bit daunting to write about our friends who will probably read this profile. I want to make Rachel read as amazing as she is, and not limit her awesomeness by my newness with feature writing!

Luckily our traveling group is small and becoming more intimate everyday. Just tonight I went to the new movie Robin Hood–which was surprisingly good–and when I got in the car with the other girls I was going to the movie with, Morgan was there, yaay!! So one by one, even unintentionally, those who don’t already know each other well are beginning to.

Will check in later will more updates on our progress next week!

Bye!

Gaby 

About Writing..

I suppose the best way to preface a blog is to describe my experience with blogging up till now…however, I really have no experience with blogging, but I like to write in general. 

Writing was mostly a chose when I was younger. It tool too long, I obsessed with every word choice, and thought every paper I wrote had to have some great revelation. I felt that writing made me very vulnerable. However, senior year of high school my attitude towards writing changed when I took three writing-intensive classes at the same time. It became necessary for me to write a few short papers a night. This meant that the whole process of writing (brain-storming, working out mechanics, revision, etc.) all had to be expedited. I didn’t have time to mess around with all of the things that made me previously dislike writing. This intensive year of writing may have limited some creativity I could have developed, but writing is now a skill for me rather than just a challenge. If I needed to write I could do it efficiently and effectively, even id not poetically. This frequent writing also helped me develop a style, I think. And it definitely improved my confidence in writing and eventually lessened the weight and perceived important of each piece I produced–not everything I write has to be a masterpiece, it can just be an effective expression of ideas. 

I can identify two styles in which I write. I can write scientifically, or casually. I learned how to write scientifically from lab reports and scientific essays, as well as from high school debate. Lab reports have a very clear methodology; report the facts, in a very prescribed way, and state the most obvious conclusions about these facts. Practicing debate in high school helped me as well because it taught me how to organize my thoughts into a clear and persuasive format. Introductions, contentions, rebuttals, conclusions, etc. are really just paragraphs. Science and debate have both helped me learn hoe to write things like a formal e-mail, a research paper, or a persuasive essay. I learned how to write casually from another two things: Facebook, and the heavy course load I took in high school. The courses senior year helped me practice writing efficiently and not drawing a 2-page paper out all night–although I can still manage to do this if I’m in the wrong mood. To develop my writing skills I practiced just siting own and writing. This sounds simple, but writing can be complicated or nerve racking, so acquiring the confidence to just write a paper from start to end, a string of consecutive sentences, was an accomplishment. Facebook helps me practice casual writing as well because I write almost daily to me friends from home and need to be able to quickly express my most important thoughts of the day and still engage in wordplay with them, all in a minute or two. I find casual writing to be a very important skill.

Using various amount of my scientific or methodological writing skills and my more casual skills I can usually alter to write whatever I need to write.   

Creative writing is my biggest challenge. Inventing a story or poem makes me VERY uncomfortable. I prefer to report facts or my own thoughts in as straight forward a manner as possible. I can appreciate when something is written beautifully or poetically; but even then, I think that things should only be written poetically if it helps express the subject more faithfully. Love is an obvious example of this. The feelings of love cannot be conveyed in a scientific paper. Someone who has never experience love or seen something breautiful wont understand it just by being told facts.

I’ll stick to casual writing or reporting facts. In this blog I’ll just practice expressing my thought and experiences as authentically as possible. I’ll leave the creation of art through words to those more talented.