All posts by Morgan Braaten

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to work we go

So we’re back in lovely Omaha.

The weather is gorgeous, which is so very rare right?  Right.  And so naturally we are all outside taking full advantage of that right?  Wrong.

We are in the computer lab.  All the time.

We have over 24 hours of footage between all of us, and only need about 15-30 minutes of it.  

So we edit.  We edit our little hearts out.  We organize footage, and mark quotes in interviews, and put together clips of B-Roll.

Tim is running all over the place trying to help all of us at once.  Haha thank you Tim.

However, fun is never absent from our group for long.  

We just had a pizza party and a nice karaoke moment including The Black Eyed Peas and Lady GaGa.

So, I have been called over to the other side of the room to continue editing for Jen. Duty calls. Until next time–peace, love, and the Seven Dwarves.

Insert Song Lyrics Here ______

We are home.  Well, h-omaha, at least.  Back in the country.  

And this song just came on my ipod.  Cue the Fray-

“But this is how the story ends…

Or have we just begun?” 

We are not in the Dominican Republic anymore, but this journey is far from over.  We were able to experience so many things, and now the true test begins, because it is time to tell the stories.  It is time to take what we have seen and use it in a way that will make a difference.  We’re just getting started.

I never thought leaving would be so hard.  

I mean, it was a very intense 10 days.  I thought that by the end, I would be ready for a good nights sleep and all sorts of food that’s terrible for me.  But what I realized is that I would trade it all.  

What is a night in a comfortable bed compared to a night at the top of a mountain surrounded by fire flies?  

What is McDonalds compared to coffee at sunrise with people you love?

They are small things, and I would trade them in a second to go back.  When we were in the plane from Santiago to Miami, I cried.  The second the wheels left the ground I started crying because I just wanted to tell the pilot to stop.  

This experience proved to be so much more than I was expecting.  I can honestly say it’s changed me, and that wasnt something I thought would happen.  I fell in love with a country and its people, and all it took was 10 days.

10 absolutely amazing days.

I am SO glad we all have a week in Omaha together.  If I had to say goodbye to the DR and my new family all in one day, I would have been a mess.  We have all gotten so close, it’s amazing.  Every single person brings something to the table.  Haha it’s seriously the most cohesive group I have ever seen.  Go team 🙂  You all mean the world to me.  

So, what to do on the first day back?  Great question.  Answer-laundry.  Lots and lots of laundry… 

While listening to all the new music we found of course 🙂

Can I get a Plomo?

Coffee and Concrete

Campo. Was. Amazing.

Majagual is on top of a mountain.  You can see all the stars and the ocean.  It’s beautiful and tropical, but it’s the people that really make it what it is.

We were all split up into groups of 1 or 2 and given families.  We had sisters and/or brothers, and parents and grand parents, and it was like we were really part of the family.  Their hospitality was amazing.  I think I was offered coffee about every 2.4 seconds.  And it was SO good!  I love coffee 🙂  So I was very happy with all of this.

While we were in Majagual, our job was to lay concrete floors for people and build bathrooms.  So, you know, we’re all just working hard, it’s almost lunch time, and then POW.  The incident.

I was trying to hold the opening of a concrete bag so all of it could be poured out, and then it decided to all come out at once.  So it shot up, right into my unprepared face.

Turns out, concrete in your eye is not a good idea.

Who knew?

So, I got an impromptu shower by water bottle.  I was freaking out.  I thought for sure my eye was going to turn into concrete. 

Just to be safe, Kyle took me back to Santiago to get it checked out.  2 hour drive.  I really didn’t want to go because we were leaving Majagual the next day 🙁

But it’s a good thing we went.

The concrete that got in my eye burned my Cornea.  Hahaha.  Oops.

So I got some fabulous drugs that I have to take for a couple of weeks, and then we’ll be good to go 🙂

So back up to Majagual, another 2 hour drive, (pobre Kyle), and I was with my family again.  The next day we had to leave, and that was so hard.  There were tears all over the place.  I was just holding my little sister for as long as I could.  I didn’t want to let her go.   

The campo experience was completely amazing.  We were accepted into this community and really able to see a little bit of how they live.

The people of the Dominican Republic never cease to amaze me. 

Algo? (Episode 2)

So after Dajabon we headed to the road that acts as the border for Haiti.  It was the most intense drive of my life.  First of all, because the road was completely ridiculous hahah.  But what made it so intense was the things we saw.  Haiti is an extremely poor country.  I have never seen poverty like what we saw today. 

When we were driving, we were constantly being chased down by kids asking us for money.  They were probably about 5, if not younger.  They were skinny, and had bloated stomachs, which shows the malnutrition and starvation they were faced with.  Everytime I looked at them, all I could think about was what I was doing when I was 5.  I was learning to ride a bike, and crying because I didn’t want to go to dance class [I have always been a terribly awkward dancer].  And these kids are chasing down buses and cars begging for anything.  It broke my heart.

On the way back, Elfi (our bus driver, aka coolest guy ever), pulled over the bus because he wanted to buy mangos from a family on the side of the road.  He bought 82 mangos.  82 MANGOS.  hahah.  But while were stopped, a woman, probably in her 60’s, came over to the bus and came up to our open windows.  She reached inside and just kept repeating, “Algo?  Algo?”  Which means anything.  She was asking us to give her anything.

She was right in front of me, and there was nothing I could do.  It was so hard.  It made everything so real.  It is one thing to see that sort of poverty on TV, or even through a bus window.  But when her hands are open right in front of you, asking for anything you can give…it really hit me. 

We have seen too much to not make a difference.  It is hard, and it’s not a comfortable situation to be put in, but if we can use what we have seen to make any sort of change, it will be worth it. 

Algo? (Episode 1)

So last night was a blast.  Multiple games of dominoes, mafia, and chicken taco all in one night?  SO MANY GAMES. 

(I love games)

Today was very intense though.  It was probably the hardest day I have had down here so far.  We woke up early and went down to Dajabon.  In a nutshell, Dajabon is a town that borders Haiti.  All that seperates them is a river, which has 1 bridge.  So every monday, there is a huge market.  People bring all sorts of things, from chickens to bananas to plastic chairs.  And on that day, the Haitians are allowed to come over to the Dominican Republic and buy things at the market for a certain amount of time. 

It was the most chaotic situation I have ever been in in my life.

There were people everywhere.  It was blazing hot and people were running and pushing and driving and yelling, and I kind of became numb to it because I just could not figure out how to deal with everything. 

Anyways.  We saw a lot of things that weren’t ok.  The bridge is controlled by the government, who is supposed to regulate everything.  Instead, they pull random people out and make them pay them money to pass.  It’s so corrupt, but the people can’t do anything about it.  This place is insane, so rather than fight for their rights, they just pay the money and move on.  I saw it happen at least 4 times in half an hour.

Something I didn’t know, Haitians speak Creole, which is a mix of spanish and french.  I thought understanding spanish was rough, but today I had NO idea what was going on.  It was frustrating. 

(Continue with the journey on Episode 2)

Gameplan

ALRIGHT

so

this is going to be my last post until…hopefully tomorrow night.  We shall see.  Why you ask?  Because we have a very busy couple of days! 

Right now, I am taking the few minutes I have before we go to church to fill you in on this.  So, church, lunch, and then we’re off to a town just outside of Dajabon where we will be staying the night tonight.  In…a dormitory?  I think? 

Anyways

And then tomorrow from there, we go to market day at Dajabon.  SO EXCITED.  It’s going to be so interesting to see.  And after that, we head back to home base here at ILAC.  So we will be back monday night, and I’m going to try REALLY hard to post something, because it will  be one of our last chances to! Becauseeee

TUESDAY MORNING WE LEAVE FOR CAMPO 😀

I can’t wait.  We all live with one other person in someones home from the campo we’re staying in.  So I feel like I am going to have a ton of stuff I want to tell you about that, but I can’t until Thursday!  Cause that’s when we get back to ILAC.  So.  I’ll do my best to say a quick adios tomorrow.  Mmk?  Mmk 🙂

Oh, hey, there’s a spider crawling on my computer screen.  Hahaha.

Silly spider.

El Fin

And today was a day unlike any other…

Today was our last day of filming in Cienfuegos…I have come close to crying a couple of times since we left, because honestly I just was not ready to say goodbye 🙁

For a little bit today we split off into smaller groups.  I am so glad we did because it gave us a chance to interact with the people more closesly, even if it was only through broken spanish and hand gestures.  Words are great, but sometimes a smile says all that needs to be said. 

I have never felt so welcomed in my life.  Which was so unexpected…I was fully prepared to feel awkward and unwanted.  Our filming is with great intention, but none the less, it is intrusive.  If someone pointed a camera at me and my family while we were going about our daily routines, I would give them a very strange look, quickly walk away and hide behind the closest door.  However, they were so understanding, and they wanted to help. 

I was expecting what I would have done.  And that’s where I made my mistake.

The people we have met are not me.  Instead, they are everything I hope I can one day be.  They are loving and friendly, and so grateful for everything they have. 

Ya…now I am crying. 

I just…ah I don’t even know.  Today really hit me hard, in such an amazing way.

I am sitting alone in the computer lab crying. hahah, so I think it is time for me to call it a night.  Tomorrow we have some free time, so I may attempt to put up some pictures.  Unless I’m too busy playing dominoes 🙂

Surprise :)

This is a short blog, that is really a continuation of my last one. Turns out there is a space limit on these things.  Who knew?  Not me. 

So.

Today was very different, but so very awesome 🙂

WE WENT TO THE BEACH!!!!  You say, “Wait wait, that is not what your calender of events said you were doing on Thursday.”  And you would be correct.

Turns out, today is a National Holiday.

HAPPY CORPUS CHRISTI EVERYBODY!!!

So to the beach we went.  Sosua, to be exact(ish).  It was BEAUTIFUL.  White sand.  Clear water.  The Carribean and I get along very well.  The sun and I, however, do not.  I am a tomato.  Emily is wicked great and let me use her aloe 🙂  What a nice lady. 

So there were many adventures at the beach.  Examples?  Ok.  Examples:

  • Banana boat.  It’s funny, cause we paid to be on the boat, but spent most of our time in the water.  Mr. Peak was responsable for that.  Haha but it was a blast.
  • Shopping 🙂  Bartering was done so well.  Good job team.
  • We met Richard!  He’s 8, and he’s my new best friend.  We drew lots of pictures in the sand. 
  • Lots of singing, lots of bonding, LOTS of pictures, and lots of relaxing

Plus so much more.  It was an awesome chance to regroup and get ready for another intense day of shooting tomorrow.  Which I am so excited for. 

Due to having to wake up at an earlier than preferred time tomorrow, I am now going to bed. Buenos noches 🙂

Arriba los pobres del mundo

The last couple of days…I don’t even know how to describe.  My emotions have been about as consistent…as something really inconsistent. 

Yesterday was our first day shooting.  So we all loaded onto our fabulous Gringo bus (yes, that is actually what we call it. all day, everyday).  We drove down to Cienfuegos, met up with Pedro, and began.  At first it was really hard.  Everyone was trying to find their role and get a hang of things. 

Soon enough, that was accomplished.  Everyone stepped up and figured out where they were needed. 

*Air high five to everyone*

The techonology was a lot to take in, but the community was a whole other thing completely.  It was not what I was expecting.  

First of all, it was SO big.  We were walking around trying to get the feel of everything, and (don’t hold this against me) but I totally started to lose my breath.  However, to my defense, we were going up a lot of hills.  I’m just saying.

Secondly, to quote Aladdin, it was a whole new world.  There were dogs running all over and chickens just chillin in the street.  But it is a lot more than that.  It made me realize how perspective can change everything .  There were 2 main things I had to take a step back and try to figure out, because it was so different than what I was used to:

  1. We were standing by a gate, and a police car drove by.  The little boy next to me, probably about 6, said “It’s the police, we’re safe now.”  I have taken safety for granted.  When I see the police I have a terrible tendency of thinking about the speeding tickets they have given me.  (I mean what? I don’t speed).  He was so comforted by the police being there, and it was really touching to see.  His smile was priceless 🙂
  2. This one was really hard for me.  Cienfuegos used to be a town centered around sweatshops.  However, they were closed down because the companies using them found cheaper labor in China.  When the sweatshops closed down, it left a majority of the people with no way to support themselves or their families.  So, it has led to them going to the dump of Cienfuegos everyday and digging through garbage for scrap metal or anything they can sell to make it through another day.  I have never had any positive connotation with sweatshops.  But hearing about this situation from the people dealing with how it has impacted them made me have to reconsider how I view things.  Sweatshops are by no means ideal.  But compared to digging through garbage?  A whole community has sprung up ON the actual dump, because that is where they spend all of their time now.  It just really made me remember that perspective is everything, and that you can never assume anything.  You have to put yourself in others shoes.  If you only rely on your own experiences you will never fully understand another persons point of view.

So it was a huge day.  There was a lot going, and it was a lot to take in.  But it was incredable.  The people were AMAZING.  They were all smiles and just wanted to tell their story, and that is what we want to do.  We want to help them be understood.  Which, oh hey, brings me to my title.

When we were driving back to ILAC, I saw some graffiti on the wall.  Usually I say, “ohhh graffiti, bad bad graffiti.  tisk tisk.”  This one was a lot different.  It wasn’t fancy, it was just words.

Arriba los pobres del mundo”

Roughly translated, “Lift up the poor of the world”

I kept staring at it.  I tried sooooo hard to get it on film, but the bus was moving too fast 🙁

It just connected.  Lifting up the poor means helping them, but it means more than that.  It means understanding them.  And that is exactly what we are trying to do with this documentary.  We want to know their stories and their experiences, and tell them to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen. They are people, and we are people.  That is what it comes down to.  We’re in this together. 

It was a very moving day.

(I seem to have run out of space.  The description of today is in my next entry. On to part 2!)

Blogs are fun, because the computer lab is air conditioned :)

We are here 🙂

After a lot of obstacles, we finally made it.

Here is a run down of what has happened thus far:

  1. Missed our plane from Miami to Santiago 🙁  We were right there!  We watched the plane leave, with Rachel on it. Completely terrible. I couldn’t even appreciate how movie-esque it was because I was just too frustrated
  2. Gaby used her powers of persuasion to get us all on a flight at 8 to Santo Domingo.  Gaby was awarded all the cool points. 
  3. Landed, got off, went through customs, andddd half of our bags were missing.  Why only half you say?  No one knows!  It is very strange indeed.  We are hoping they will be found by tomorrow.
  4. 3 hour bus ride.  3 HOUR BUS RIDE.  [which puts our time travelling for the day at 18 hours.  It was a very, very long day.]

But we made it 🙂  All of us are in Santiago at the ILAC center and I personally couldn’t be happier. 

The sleeping situation for the girls is borderline comical.  We are all in a room about the size of a dorm, that is stuffed with 8(ish?) sets of bunk beds.  It’s crowded.  Which makes it a very good thing that I love every one of them.  It’s really just like a giant slumber party every night, with princess bed coverings (also known as mosquito nets) to top it all off.

So, that was quite the adventure.  But the fun doesn’t stop there!  Hahah not even close

The game plan today was to go downtown and walk around a bit.  So we all went to go exchange our money for pesos.  Everything was going quite smoothly until we heard a loud crack and saw powerlines hit the ground.  “WHAT HAPPENED!?!”

  You ask, terribly intrigued.  Well.  Background information.  Yesterday, they paved the road.  Awesome right?  Right.  Unless you’re a trucker who has previously been able to fit underneath the low hanging power lines.  The tar raised the road just enough so that he couldn’t fit any more.  One of the lines got caught on his truck, unawares to him of course, and he pulled it until the telephone pole snapped in half and and disconnected numerous power lines. 

So. That was intense.

After it had happened, it got a little crazy because the roads are really narrow, and the truck and the power cords were blocking everything. Which also put us in an interesting situation, because we couldn’t get back to the ILAC center.  Luckily, our wise leader Kyle knew another way.  A hop skip and a jump later, we were back safe and sound.

Then we went downtown!  Which was very cool. 

Hahaha my favorite part of the day was this resteraunt I saw.  Ok, So the water down here is unsafe for us to drink right?  Right.  It’s due to a bacteria in the water that we aren’t used to.  The myth is that Moctezuma II, who was the leader of the Aztecs, made the water undrinkable to all but the native people after he was defeated by the Spanish Conquistador Cortes.  So, when people drink the water and get sick, they got “Montezumas Revenge!”

(Hurray for history)

So.  The resteraunt?  It was called Montezuma. 

Silly resteraunt.  Probably not going to eat there.  Just because the irony of it all would make me laugh the whole time.

Alright so there you go 🙂  Update complete.  Tomorrow we start shooting!  Should be a grand old time.

So goodbye for now…FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 😀