Tag Archives: adventure

Adventure Time

While in Arizona we were able to do some sightseeing mostly of cacti, mountains, and old Spanish missions. Here are a couple of my favorite photos from our more touristy experiences…

DSC_6472 copy
This is Saguaro National park. It is filled with cacti and mountains. This is what the desert looks like. Below is not what the desert looks like, at least in the American Southwest…
Thar_Khuri
I did not take this photo as I have never been to the African desert.
DSC_6495 copy
Continuing on what the desert actually looks like, it is filled with plants like this. When going on our off trail desert hike it was a constant struggle to avoid these prickly bushes.
DSC_6509 copy
One of the coolest things we saw at Saguaro National park was when a rainbow circled the sun.
DSC_6229
This was taken at a Jesuit mission in Arizona. It was ornately decorated and was a nice reminder of the  American southwest’s past  that felt, and is, much older than America itself.
DSC_6267 copy
This shrine was inside a mountain, or what some non-Midwesterners would describe as a large rocky hill, at a Jesuit mission. This was a nice representation of the religious undertones of our entire experience on the border.
DSC_6332 copy
More Jesuit stuff at missions…
DSC_6353 copy
A flower in one of the park’s gardens. It was nice to see some color in a terrain full of neutrals.
DSC_6562 copy
On our last day before heading back to Omaha we went to Patagonia lake where the water was so clear that the mountains and trees clearly were reflected in the water. Which, again, is amazing to me as someone who’s clearest body of water back home is a manmade murky pond no one really ever swims in.
DSC_6431 copy copy
Though this was taken on a work adventure to Sassabe it was somewhat of a tourist event as we sat and just watched the mountains and the grass for a couple of hours.
DSC_6452 copy
Since I have the attention span of a squirrel, watching the mountains for two hours ended in me playing with the settings on my camera and getting this photograph.

Our time in Arizona felt like a big adventure and I only have these few photos to prove it.

Building America

On Tuesday morning, my alarm went off at 3:45 am, and after a few hits of the snooze button and a couple cups of coffee, our 16-person backpack journalism squad rolled out to a local hilltop neighborhood to film some sunrise b-roll. As the sun inched over two neighboring cities of the same name, a long and looming copper wall became more and more evident rising and falling with the dessert hills.

Over the past four days, we’ve spent equal amounts of time in loaded silence and hysterical laughter. Hearing stories that challenge our understandings of life in all its forms makes us forget how tired we are from dessert heat, emotional roller coasters, and 12+ hour days. During late nights and early mornings, I’ve had many opportunities to blog about how this experience has been so far, but I just haven’t been able to find the words.

Every interview, conversation, observation and reflection makes me more and more confused about the reality of migration. The Olivia Pope ‘fixer’ in me gets frustrated with every new piece of information, as it makes a realistic solution seem even further out of reach.

My fixer instinct was particularly defeated in seeing a train marked with “Union Pacific – Building America” cruising past downtown Nogales on the Mexican side, through a gate opening in the wall, and straight into the US. As this train is “Building America” by delivering cheaply produced goods from Mexican factories to American consumers, Mexican citizens wait in line for 20 years for the chance to be called American and treated as such.

This raises the question — how deeply rooted and systematically unjust is the relationship between the US and Mexico, and how does that relationship trickle down to affect individuals every day? Union Pacific, headquartered in downtown Omaha, employs dozens of Creighton students. Are they contributing? I love to eat avocado toast for breakfast, and “Avocados from Mexico” brand avocados are tasty and cheap. Is my avocado addiction to blame?

Father Peter Neeley, a Jesuit and the Assistant Director of Education at Kino Border Initiative, believes that the dehumanization of migrants comes down to American people valuing things over people. We care a lot about keeping the prices of our favorite goods and foods low, and as a result, economic dependence on cheap Mexican labor continues. Yet, criminalization and dehumanization of migrant populations stimulates a culture of fear despite economic dependency.

For me, comprehending all this comes down to a single quote: “to live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, and not love things and use people.” With this in mind alongside inspiration from the love and passion of the people that have dedicated their lives to working towards resolving this issue, it seems that hope and faith can be found in knowing that the sun will rise over the wall again tomorrow with a solution somewhere down the road.

The Goose goes South

The first week of bootcamp was officially over and I was more than ready to get on the road.

After 10 hours of driving through Nebraska and Colorado, we found our way to Raton, NM. We will get up early once again tomorrow to set off for our final destination.

My van members that let me sleep on their shoulder, talked in weird voices, and sang for the ten hour drive.
My van members that let me sleep on their shoulder, talk in weird voices, and sing for the ten hour drive.

There are two other Marias on this trip so my companions have taken to calling  me “Goose.” In high school, my friends gave me the title. At first I despised it. There’s nothing cute about geese but they refused to change my animal because it was “perfect.” I couldn’t make any sort of connection besides the fact that I walk with my feet out.

Their reasoning was deeper than I had originally thought. They explained that I tend to not be afraid to confront people if something is bothering me. They talked about the exuberance that I bring into a room when I walk in. I’m protective of my friends and committed to team work. I had never really thought of myself like that and once I reflected on it, I became a proud goose.

Once my classmates had brought out my spirit animal name again, I decided that I really wanted to use those traits these next few weeks. I’m excited to get to know the traits and qualities of my other classmates and give them an animal to be proud of. Geese are team players and I want to build up my incredible backpack team. I can’t wait to encourage them to do their best work and see all of us develop as not just as individuals, but as one.

Faith That Does Justice? Faith in Injustice?

After 72 hours of backpack journalism bootcamp, I lie in my bed absolutely exhausted and overwhelmed at how much information we’ve received, but confident that we’re making notable progress.

So far, we’ve spent some time learning about the art and technique of videography, foundations of feature writing, and introductory theology. More than anything, I feel as though today marks a huge turning point — the foundation has been set, and it’s time now to dive in.

We all have the skills now to “fake it ’til we make it” and from this point forward, I feel as though we’ll be applying these last three days of information constantly, pushing ourselves to live and breathe light meters, to begin to raise questions about our own personal definition of church, and to think about how to ask those same questions of others in a respectful but intentional manner.

Much to my surprise, I’m pretty excited to see how the theology class ties into our project. I was expecting videography training, dos and don’ts of interviewing, and a crash course in good storytelling, but the biggest curveball for me so far has been wrapping my head around tying theology into our agenda.

We’re working our way towards a better understanding of ecclesiology — the study of church. Specifically, we’ll be discussing the definition of church within the context of border culture in Nogales.

This past fall, my understanding of church expanded tenfold when I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to join a million and a half others in celebrating Pope Francis’s visit to the US. As we held hands and recited the Our Father, giving each other peace in the streets of downtown Philadelphia, I had goosebumps witnessing faith and mass ritual bring people from all over the world together in prayer. My own definition of church changed that day, and I’m looking forward to seeing how migrant culture challenges that even further.

Christian traditions are practiced all over the world, but with each culture brings a new interpretation and understanding of faith and community. As we continue to prepare ourselves technically and emotionally for this border immersion experience, I have found myself newly ecstatic to experience and absorb a new and different definition of “church,” as understood by the people of Nogales.

In the midst of such trial, transiency, and systematic injustice, how do migrants keep their faith? How do those serving humanitarian purposes in that area find strength to keep working towards a distant goal? How do those negatively affected by an increasing number of immigrants strive to live like Christ?

The Stories Still to Tell

Alaska. When I think of this place, I no longer only think of dog sledding, the snowy expanse, and drilling oil. I no longer see the population of 735,132 (provided by the United States Census) as a simple number.

What I now think of when I hear Alaska
What I now think of when I hear Alaska

When I think of Alaska, I think of Bethel. I think of the rolling tundra, the hazy blue sky, and the providing rivers. I think of the people, and I think of their stories.

And boy, did they have stories. After 13 interviews and even more interactions with the people of Bethel, I heard countless tales. It would take an entire two-week long documentary to share all of these stories and opinions with the rest of the world. And so, as a writing team, we had to reduce over 13 stories, to a single, 25 minute-long film.

The script we have written is good. It is true to Bethel and it shares the people’s commitment to a subsistence way of life and their fear that it, along with their culture, is coming under threat. It includes the difficult economic realities as well as the visible proof of climate change evident in the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta.

Yet, I cannot help but shake the feeling of shame at the fact that some of the stories will be left untold. The people of Omaha will not learn of the tragic cultural trauma the Yup’ik people underwent, nor will they grasp the full reality of the fishing restriction problem.

It is simply impossible to learn and write the story of all 735,132 people of Alaska. In the midst of all of these stories, we must simply choose which to share and which to save. We pick, and we choose, but at least I can find comfort in knowing that the 13 stories that were shared in Bethel will live on in my heart as well as that of the entire Alaska team.

Our job as journalists will never be over. There are always new stories to tell and new cultures to explore. Though our Alaskan film making adventure is coming to a close, I know that I will continue searching for new people to talk to and new stories to tell.

Bethel … House of God

Someone who may read my former blogs would said: “Poor Tony, he always find himself

Bethel, one day I will come again.
Bethel, one day I will come again.

obliged to make up new terms for his blog’s titles”. But believe me, this time I am not creating something new, Bethel literally means “House of God”! Its origin go back to the Ugaritic language – one of oldest alphabets in the world – which was discovered in Syria, my country… Continue reading Bethel … House of God

The day I embraced the mosquitoes

Tim Guthrie, Alaska, 2014
Tim Guthrie, Alaska, 2014

As any other kid who born and raised in a big city – I born in Aleppo, Syria.With a population of 4.5 millions – it took me years and years to understand the nature, though I always wanted to be in unity with nature, as much as I can, because I still have a lot to learn. Continue reading The day I embraced the mosquitoes

So It Begins

This is only the second day of the trip and there have been many firsts for me already. I was on he shortest flight I’ve ever been on and the longest. I slept in an airport, and landed in the smallest airport I’ve ever been in. Just the process of flying here has been an adventure. It has sparked mindset that I want to try everything and anything. I’ve never been a real adventurist and just seeing the mountains from the plane above and out the window of the Anchorage airport made me think “I wonder what it would be like to climb a mountain.” I have never thought about going mountain climbing in my life. It always seemed too dangerous for me. But just being here and experiencing things I have never experienced before has in a way brought me out of my comfort zone and makes me want to continue to push the limits of that zone. Hopefully as the trip goes on I will have experienced more new things that get me out of my comfort zone and keep me wanting more.

Time feels so different here. Maybe it is the constant daylight that confuses me. It will be 9:00 at night and it looks like it is 3:00 in the afternoon. Surprisingly I do not have trouble sleeping. I am so tired from all the activity during the day that I can sleep through the bright light. The room I am staying has no curtains on the windows, so there is light just streaming in. I use the cycle of light and dark at home to plan out my day. When the sun is rising, it is time to get up. When the sun is starts to set it is dinner time. Here it is hard to tell what time it is based on the light. Maybe I just cannot tell the time here because I am not constantly checking my phone.

The first two days without phone service has been a little bit weird. I keep wanting to check my phone. I do not think I even realized how much time I spend on my phone at home. I constantly check it for messages, phone calls, emails, and just to see what time it is. Here I have no phone service so I am not getting my usual messages from friends and family. It is kind of nice to not have that constant distraction. Without it I am really bonding with the people around me. I think this world needs to be less in the digital world and more in the real world.

I fee like when I go home the three things I will have to readjust to are the time, light cycle, and my phone. I feel like after two weeks of 24 hour sun, time will go by so fast with the darkness. I am going to get used to no night. I will also have to get used to being back in central time, which is three hours later. The last thing I may have to readjust to is my phone. I may not be as addicted to it as before, but I feel like I may start not paying attention to it. Since it is always on silent, I may miss phone calls and messages because I will be used to not having a phone. I hope I won’t miss too much living in the real world. I really do enjoy spending time with people and not having everyone text 20 different people at the same time. Ok. 20 is a bit of an exaggeration, but how can you have a real conversation in person with someone when you are having so many other conversations going on at the same time?

Adventure is out there!

What a whirlwind of a week it has been! After five days of “video boot camp,” with several journalism and theology lectures mixed in, I have already learned so much in a short span of time.

Practicing with a camera during "video boot camp" using Rembrandt lighting. Photo by John O'Keefe
Practicing with a camera during “video boot camp” using Rembrandt lighting. Photo by John O’Keefe

The Backpack Journalism team will be leaving for Bethel in less than 48 hours, and now the trip is starting to feel real as I bring out my luggage and start packing. Even though my to-do list is long and I don’t know how I will fit everything in my bags, I can hardly contain my anticipation for this incredible adventure.

I view my decision to go on this trip as by far my most adventurous life choice, so it is only fitting that my motto for this experience is “Adventure is out there!” which comes from the delightful Pixar movie “Up.” If you haven’t seen it, please go watch it because it is the perfect film about taking risks, learning from the people around you and pursuing your dreams (this just so happens to be the Backpack Journalism Project in a nutshell for me). Here is a short movie clip from “Up” about the spirit of adventure.

Just like young Carl in the video, I am stepping out into the unknown as I spend two weeks in a completely new place filming a documentary. I have never left the country, nor been away from Nebraska for this length of time. I’m not going to hide the fact that I am pretty nervous, but I don’t want it to keep me from learning and growing.

As someone who loves to listen and soak in everything around me, I hope to be present and appreciate every moment while I am there without feeling too overwhelmed. I know that the first few days will be a lot to take in, but it will all be a part of the process of gaining greater awareness about the Bethel community and the world.

I also want to maintain joy and enthusiasm like the character Ellie during this, at times, very intense experience. During our class discussions throughout the week, we talked about potential storylines for our film. One topic we will explore in Alaska is climate change and its effects on the Yup’ik culture and way of life. Climate change is an issue I care about very deeply, so I’m fascinated to witness this challenge firsthand and excited to potentially bring the story to light. In the midst of long days of setting up video equipment, looking for the best shots and finding the next person to interview, I don’t want to forget our purpose for being there and the passion I have for this project.

Although I’m still not completely sure what to expect when I arrive in Bethel, I am already inspired by the Backpack Journalism team. We will be guided by great teachers and will have the support of each other as we experience Alaska together.

I am ready to dive in, forget my discomfort and experience the adventure that will be Alaska.

The Stories to be Told

Alaska. Its’ snowy expanse often disappears from my radar, just as the white landscape physically disappears in the winter. Though I rarely think of Alaska, when I do, dog sledding, snow, and oil are the only words that come to mind. I never think of the 735,132 people, who according to the United States Census call this state home, nor do I consider the lives that they live and the difficulties they may face. I am drawn to the Alaska backpack journalism trip because of the 735,132 stories that are so rarely told.

Alaska is home to 735,132 people with immensely unique perspectives, cultures, triumphs and difficulties, and I am extremely excited to be able to share even one of these stories with the world. The beauty in journalism for me, is in the communication and learning that is able to take place once a story has been translated from the experience to paper, when it can be shared among people of different cultures, different religions, and different nationalities and creates a connection between people. I believe that journalism has the ability to make humans more human, as it brings to people the ability to empathize and care for people all across the world in all different situations.

As I embark on the Alaska backpack journalism I will have a chance to take part in this connecting of people through their stories, and I will be able to give a voice to people in Alaska who are rarely heard. I will learn first-hand how to best absorb the stories of people and translate them to audiences miles apart, and I will have an amazing cultural experience of my own.

I hope to one day travel the world discovering untold stories and sharing these stories with the world in hopes that people will in turn alter their lives in regards to what they have learned. Throughout the Alaska backpack journalism trip, I hope to gain experience in this type of work and learn how to best go about making this a reality. I hope that through our work bringing to light the Salmon fishing dilemma we can in turn move someone to action in regards to this issue, or that through analyzing the cultural and religious aspects of the Yupik tradition we may aid someone as they attempt to gain a more global religious understanding.

The work we do in writing and creating the documentary in Alaska, will only be as successful as the impact our work has on people, and I cannot wait to begin creating this impact.

Blog 1 image 

Piggybacking