All posts by Peter Freeze

Mato Oput

Mato Oput, Reconciliation and Justice. These are the terms we were asked to define and discuss in our latest blog post.

Justice, a word that often brings to mind truth, honesty, and fairness. To me, justice is more than that. Justice is the answer to those bracelets everyone gets as children from the church, the W.W.J.D. bracelets. Jesus was a man who lived to define what justice was. He was the defender of the poor, the sinners, and the shunned.

When I think of how to best define justice, my mind drifts toward the people that I have seen who have lived through the injustices of the world. Those who are neglected, forgotten, broken, hurt, those whose cries are not heard, those are the people that come to mind when I think of justice, because justice seems to have passed them by.

Not because of anything they did, but because of the cruelty of the world, the hardships of the world that most of us have no idea of. The hunger pangs that come after not having eaten in several days, the pain of backbreaking labor in the hot sun to barely slide by each day.

Justice is the equality and calmness in life that we all take for granted. The clothes on our back, the shoes on our feet, the medicine that keeps us healthy, and the opportunity to succeed in life. That is what justice means to me, not the truth, not honesty, but fairness and peacefulness and the opportunity for a non-violent life.

Those are the things that we all take for granted but even when we don’t, we often forget that there are very few who live a life without worrying about many of those things. 

 

It’s been one week since_

So one week and a couple days back and it feels like we have been here for much longer. The whole recovering from the jet-lag didn’t help the week go by, the long days were hard but also productive, and trying to catch up with friends about my trip and theirs has taken its toll.

So after arriving back to Omaha, I have been on one more flight, one more 7 hour car ride, and spent countless hours looking at the amazing footage and photos that we took while in Africa with family and friends as well as with the class.

Focus has been hard to come by while my body was adjusting to life back here, but one thing is for sure, I know how blessed I am to have been a witness. The theme song for our trip was Ben Harper’s “Blessed to Be a Witness.”

The song speaks to exactly what we wanted to do and being back I know how important it is that I maintain that effort to show that I have been changed by the incredibly powerful images that we encountered.

Our hard work in Africa and since we have returned has been worth it and visible. On Friday we got to see a very rough cut of what we hope our documentary will be like. We all got to watch as the story we heard unfolded in a 30 minute video with rough footage and audio.

Needless to say it was powerful to hear all of those voices come together from the different interviews and tell a story together. From the children who have nightmares, to the priests who work with the children, to parents who had kids kidnapped from them.

I know this week will be another long week, but it will be productive as well and I know that we will be able to push through it and see all of te hard work pay off.

Its the “Shants Dance”

June 1, 2011

Today was our last night that we were going to spend in Uganda. So to celebrate we went to a restaurant that also had some entertainment. We watched performances of several native dances and even heard what is the equivalent of a stand-up comedian. 

It was a great night with great food. Our guide Herbert was literally bent over laughing the whole time the comedian was talking. It was funny to hear the comedian but I got even more laughs watching the reactions of Herbert.

We capped off the night with a dance that they invited us to join them in. There were a couple other groups that came down and one of the most notable people there was “Shants Man.” He had pants that he had rolled up to between the length of pants and capris, making them short pants or “shants.”

Now “Shants Man” had some serious dance moves which had us all watching and laughing as we were dancing. There was a lot of flexibility in his “shants” allowing him to do some high kicks, some serious hip movement, even a jig with his feet. It was quite a show!

It was a wonderful way to spend the last full evening in Uganda where everyone was enjoying themselves and had a good laugh at “Shants Man” as well as themselves during the dance.

It is crazy to think that we leave tomorrow, we are all going to miss Uganda! 

She’s not pregnant_

May 31, 2011

Wow today was an early morning. We all woke up sometime around 5am so we could eat breakfast at 5:30am and be on the road by 6am so we would increase our chances of seeing more wildlife on our safari tour of Murchison Falls.

The title of this blog post is a quote from Sylvia, our guide through the park. He had a large rifle that looked like an AK-47 with him. He placed it on the floor of the bus and it was aimed right at my feet. Naturally I did not feel inclined to have my feet right next to the barrel of a gun. So I set my feet in the air awkwardly against the seat in front of me.

Sylvia noticed and ensured me that she wasn’t pregnant_

I thought I saw an elephant_

May 30, 2011

Today was our first full day in Murchison Falls. Yesterday on the drive in to the park we saw some elephants not to far off the road. There were only a couple, and we didn’t really get any good photos of them, but we were promised that we would see more from our guide Herbert.

This morning we took a boat up the Nile River towards Murchison Falls. It was a two hour ride there and one hour back. On the way there we saw endless numbers of hippos, they were everywhere. We also saw a couple HUGE crocodiles, along with some antelope, and water buffalo.

On the way back from the falls we saw a gazillion elephants on the edge of the Nile. There had to be at least 40 or 50 elephants that we could see. There were big ones, little ones. Some of them were in the water, and some of them were on land. There were a couple of elephants play fighting, but most of them were just grazing on the grass in the shade. I took a bunch of photos but have not edited them or really gotten a chance to look at them. Once I do I’ll be sure to post some of the animals we saw along the river. 

A long long time ago_

So it has been a long long time since my last post. I have written posts out in my journal and notebook but never stayed awake long enough to post them to the blog, so you are about to be bombarded with blog posts about things that happened while we were still in Africa. Hope you enjoy! 

That’s a Wrap!

So yesterday we finished our last day of official filming on our documentary project, although I would be surpised if that is the last footage we take. Next we are on our way to Murchison Falls where we will spend the next couple days on the Nile River and in the Wild Life Preserve there seeing lions, elephants, and other amazing animals.

 We have been hard at work and everyone enjoyed sleeping in this morning after a long week or so of filming interviews and B-Roll. We also got to visit the Jesuit school here in Uganda and talked to several students about their experiences during the war.

 A lot of the stories were hard to hear especially those who were captured and taken into the bush, many were captured more than once. The stories we have heard are heart breaking, but eye opening at the same time. 

I cannot wait to report back with pictures of all of the wild life we encounter on land and on the Nile when we boat down the river. We won’t have internet access for a couple days so you might not hear from me for a little while until we reach Kampala.

Life in Africa

So over the last couple of days we have been extremely busy. Traveling to Lira from the airport was a long first day. We spent nearly 6 hours in the car on Saturday driving along some bumpy roads. The exciting part of the trip was the bridge over the Nile River where a lot of baboons waited for cars to pass and throw food to them.

Before we left for Lira from Kampala we exchanged our money at a mall. I think this is the closest I will ever be to becoming a millionaire. I changed my US dollars into Ugandan Schillings and had 705,000 schillings. I was basically handed a wad of cash that made me feel like I was drug dealer of sorts.

Sunday was our first day filming. We first attended a mass at the local cathedral that the Bishop presided over. All of the kids who sat in front of us were so nicely dressed and behaved. They were all very adorable and many which I wouldn’t mind stealing to take back with us to the states. After the mass we interview the Bishop in his residence behind the church.

His interview was very interesting and had some wonderful stories to hear about his life as the Bishop and being exiled for a time from Uganda. He spoke a lot about forgiveness and the importance of it in our lives and especially in the lives of those in Uganda who have been attacked by different groups.

We stoppedatan Indian restaurant for lunch which was delicious and quite filling. In the afternoon we stopped by a shop run by Mr. Otim who helped organize a lot of our trip here in Lira. Many of the girls bought some jewelry from the shop, I bought a shirt which I cannot wait to wear when I get back to the states.

Today we did several interviews with at different locations. In the morning we interviewedatan organization that worked with families to help them help their children recover from time in the bush after being captured as well preventing domestic violence in the houses.

We also stopped at a school which assisted children who had been in the bush transition back to normal life and work on getting them back into the education system. We heard a story from a boy who had spent time in the bush and his time there and returning from it. It seemed as though everyone we encountered had a truly incredible story that I wish we could have talked with more of them.

In the afternoon we talked to Mamma Angelina. She is an inspiring person who has accomplished so much but takes no credit for it. She had a daughter taken from her for 7 years and 7 months, but yet she remained hopeful and positive throughout that time. She was a joy to be around and such a positive energy.

We have seen and done so much in the couple days we have been here that I cannot wait to see what the next week and half or so have in store for us.

T-Minus 11 hours until takeoff

So 11 hours. That is how much time stands between me and the first leg of my trip to Uganda. Unfortunately it is only the first leg and my trip has about as many legs as a spider.

I just finished packing my bags luckily, a little early for me to finish but eh it’s done. So my two carry-on bags have more than my one checked bag has in it because we have to carry on so much camera equipment as well as I am carrying-on my personal DSLR camera so that I can take pictures while there as well.

Honestly I think I could have fit everything I am going to need for the next two weeks in my two carry-ons if I didn’t have to pack the GIANT camera. But I guess the whole reason we are going is to use the cameras there and film a documentary… so that might defeat the purpose if we don’t bring them.

How am I feeling? Wow I have not one single clue what my mind or body is feeling right now. I am anxious, hesitant, scared, joyful, and every other feeling that you could think of.

I am anxious to get there, I am hesitant to start the travel because I hate long flights overseas because my long legs regularly don’t fit comfortably underneath the seat.

I am scared about the whole process and what pressure we have since this is quite literally a once in a lifetime opportunity and we have one chance to capture all of the footage we need. I am joyful because I am going to FREAKING AFRICA tomorrow!

My plans between now and the first flight in the morning won’t involve sleep because I will want to do that on the first couple flights so I can be awake on the last ones, because when we land in Uganda it will be late so I will again need to go to sleep. I guess eating and watching TV will have to suffice for the next 8 hours and then I get to drive eat breakfast and get to the airport!

Next time you hear from me I will be in Uganda! 

 

Fasten Your Seat Belts

Three days until our departure, three books to read on the planes, and three planes until we arrive in Uganda for the Backpack Journalism adventure. 

This summer’s trip will be my second Backpack Journalism trip, but my first trip to Africa. Last year’s to the Dominican Republic (DR) was incredible and and so much fun that it drew me back for another one this summer.

When people ask me why I wanted to go to Africa, my response was “Why not?” I love seeing new places, cultures, people and experiencing something few people may get the opportunity to.

That is what I got out of the DR, new experiences and new perspectives after seeing an entirely different culture. Being able to bear witness to the people we encountered and have the privilege of telling their story is something I can never forget and will be forever grateful for having the opportunity.

I am about to embark on a journey where I meet the people that you only hear about, the hometown heros that make the difference in people’ lives without asking for recognition. People who work for their community for the sole purpose of giving back.

That is why I want to go to Africa, to meet these people and to hear their stories that have changed lives. I know that I will be changed, but how… that I am not sure about. Time will tell and this blog will likely be a way for me to work it out through words.

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