Tag Archives: Alaska

Learning through Doing

Yesterday, we all sat crowded around the projector in the Murphy media lab to watch a rough cut of what will eventually result in our final project.

photo-5

Just two weeks ago, we came to this same media lab with over 90 hours of footage, thousands of different story ideas, and with little to no video editing experience.

We have spent countless hours editing, writing, re-editing, and re-writing. Coffee, bagels, and Carol’s delicious cream cheese bars have powered us through as we attempted to develop a concrete story idea, but through it all, we have come up with a great film and learned journalism from an extraordinary perspective.

It is amazing that within the short span of two weeks, I now feel confident in trimming and marking video clips in final cut pro. I have learned how to create a storyboard as well as the importance of a concise narration. In addition, I discovered the tricks to Morgan Freeman’s narrating voice and the importance of reflection when creating a film.

I have learned more about journalism in this short 5-week period, than I have in my past two years of journalism classes and internships. I was able to witness and be a part of the entire process of making a documentary. From the interviewing, to the filming, to the editing and the writing, I have been able to see this project through and through.  The intense bursts of hard work were tiring, and sometimes seemed endless, but in the end I found it is what I love about the world of journalism.

From now on, I will never again watch a documentary in the same way. I will now analyze each shot that was used, looking for hints of foreshadowing and considering each word of narration.

Though the film still remains nameless and is nowhere near finished, I am confident that it will be a great and inspiring film!

Finally Seeing

If I had to choose one lasting image from my trip to Alaska, it would be the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.

exitglacier

I have never had any doubt about climate change, but viewing this glacier somehow made me see the issue in a new way, as if I had not fully grasped the situation our world faces.

I recently watched “Chasing Ice,” a documentary created by photographer James Balog, who uses time lapse images of glaciers to tell the story of climate change. It is a spectacular yet jarring film that shows how drastically glaciers are melting around the world, including sequences from Alaska.

To see a disappearing glacier before my eyes was an unforgettable experience.  I initially was excited to discover that we would be visiting the glacier, but during our hike up to Exit Glacier, I felt anxious about what we would find.

Yes, the glacier was extraordinary. But because of its noticeably shrinking size, I immediately felt saddened by the sight before me.

I admired the shades of blue on the ice but then observed that it was losing its pristine white color and instead acquiring a grayish tint from the rocks surrounding it. I saw the deep cracks throughout the glacier and a stream of water flowing down the ice mass.

A few weeks ago, Kenai Fjords National Park posted a picture on its Facebook page that illustrates the progression of the Exit Glacier’s ice melt. The changes are staggering.

If I return to Alaska someday and visit Exit Glacier, what will it look like? It’s a startling question to think about. Depending on how far into the future it may be, the glacier could look strikingly different.

It all depends on how quickly we act because we are running out of time. I see progress being made, but there is still so much more we need to do to curb the affects of climate change. I still have hope that our world leaders will be brave enough to take these necessary and urgent steps before it is too late.

As we put together our own documentary, a goal for the film is to tell the personal side of the issue and how it is truly affecting people in Bethel. Like “Chasing Ice,” I hope that our project will in some way make an impact on the community and shine a light on climate change to those who may not have seen it.

 

The experience of a lifetime

At the beginning of the Alaska trip, I really had no idea what to expect.

We all had an idea of why we were going to Bethel and a vague series of expectations about all that this trip would bring. However, for me, the 15 days spent in Alaska far exceeded every expectation that I had.

I started out knowing nothing about videography or editing, and very little about interviewing. I ended this program with much more knowledge in all of those skills (well, mostly in editing and interviewing…yay C Team!).

Traveling with a group of people and living in constant close quarters with those same people definitely taught us all about tolerance and patience.

However, that was a highlight of this trip. Getting to know this group as well as I did really added to the experience. It was so great to hear everybody’s differing perspectives on just about everything. That highlight just reinforced the lesson I learned in Bethel, that there is not a one-size-fits-all perspective or philosophy. Each person and culture hold something that is inherently valuable because they are so different. This group, along with the Yup’ik people, collectively taught me that there are so many different fabrics and colors that make up the tapestry of life.

That definitely surprised me. While I was expecting to learn life lessons from the natives in Bethel, I was caught off guard by all that I learned from my peers.

My peers made the trip a happy one, despite the questionable living quarters and the insane amount of misadventures (and mosquitos).

The incredible ability of the Yup’ik people to respect the land resonated deeply with me. I think many people, including myself, take the Earth and all it offers for granted. That is what I am trying to put effort into changing in my daily life. Also, the Yup’ik spirit of giving. They are such a giving people, who truly practice the idea that whatever you give you will get back tenfold. Just another lesson that I can, with effort, apply to my daily life. And I intend to do so.

We have all learned so much, about the camera equipment, about ourselves, and about people.
Learning is exhausting, and I think we are all still mentally drained from our hard work in Bethel and more recently in the classroom. We are exhausted, but enthusiastic.

I can not wait to see the final results of our labors, none of which could be possible without Tim, Carol, or John. Each of which brought their own unique, important contributions to the team.

This has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I will always be grateful for every single moment of this Backpack Journalism program.

 

 

C Team Forever!
C Team Forever!

 

QUYANA, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

Quyana

It’s almost time to wrap things up.

The end is nigh, and it’s staring me in the face.

There are some people who need to be thanked.

John O’Keefe: The master behind the madness, John kept it all together. He worked for over a year before the trip to make contacts and find threads for the project. Without him, we wouldn’t have a story. Johnny Intensity pulled through.

Tim Guthrie: Tim is a true artist. He miraculously taught us all video and photography to the point of competence within a week. Then he had enough confidence to throw us out in the field and let us do our thing. What a guy. Without him, we would have NO FILM.

Carol Zuegner: Carol had her eye on the ball. While the rest of us may have been goofing off or letting our attention slip, she was on point. She worked tirelessly with the writing team to ensure high quality, thought provoking, story-oriented questions, took copious notes that turned out to be invaluable, and discerned where the story was headed before the rest of us even knew it.

Nichole Jelinek: The logistics queen. She shopped for us, she managed equipment for us, and best of all, she drove us to the Tundra for late night time-lapses. Nichole not only was a great helper, but a phenomenal companion.

The Student Crew: Each person brought their own skill and personality to the table. The result was one of the most dynamic teams I’ve ever worked with. Y’all taught me what it means to live in communion.

The Interviewees: These people allowed us to set up a bunch of intimidating equipment around them and ask them difficult questions about a trying time. That takes some real bravery. They gave us the story.

The People of the YK Delta: They welcomed us with open arms. I would walk the streets and strike up conversations with random people. Fifteen minutes later it seemed like we had been neighbors our entire lives. I guess we had, in a way.

Sincerely and truly, from me to all of you,

Quyana

A Job to Love

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

These wise words by Confucious have been playing through my mind ever since I graduated high school and the most commonly asked question became, “What would you like to do with your life?”

Hearing this question, I always responded, “I want to do what makes me happy, I want to be adventurous and I want to make a difference in this world”. Yet, I always knew that this was not the answer my relatives, teachers, coaches, and friends were wishing for.

The truth was, I did not know the answer to their implied question. I had many passions and interests, but did not know how to mesh them into a single career that I would love.

After the backpack journalism program however, I can now confidently reply that I would like to be happy, adventurous, and make a difference throughout my career as a journalist.

Working hands-on to create a documentary film, I have come to the conclusion that journalism is what I love to do.

I love the adventure that awaits in every story, interview, or location. I relish in hearing fascinating stories, and I am motivated by learning about social justice issues. The spontaneity of the development process keeps me on my toes and I am energized by the complex writing and editing required.

Most of all, I love that through journalism, I am able to tell a story that needs to be told to the people that most need to hear. With a career in journalism, I see that there is a real possibility of making a difference in the world and I hope that this possibility begins now, with our Bethel documentary.

Journalists in action shooting footage in the Alaskan Tundra
Journalists in action shooting footage in the Alaskan Tundra

 

Seward: Heaven on Earth

After a beautifully scenic descent into Anchorage, and after making sure everybody had their baggage (ahem, Tony…), we walked outside into the beautiful Alaskan air to meet our tour guides. Patrick (or Francois, according to Claudia) and Todd met us outside of the baggage claim area in their Levis and crew neck sweatshirts. They were personable and welcoming, just like everyone else we had met in Alaska so far.

Welcome to *paradise
Welcome to *paradise

From Anchorage, Patrick and Todd drove us to Seward, which is on the Kenai Peninsula. It was about a three hour drive because we kept stopping to look at the beautiful scenery. The water with the backdrop of the mountains was breathtaking.

Hours after our departure from Anchorage, a tired group arrived in Seward. This beautiful coastal town was truly one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. I think the group would agree that even though we were in the middle of this place, it still didn’t feel real. It felt like we were living in a scenic postcard.

That night we all got to sleep in real BEDS, which was absolute Heaven. After spending so many nights on a floor in a sleeping bag, a clean bed felt better than ever. We also all were relieved to have easy access to showers and unlimited warm water again. Even Nico finally showered (his first time to shower since we left Omaha).

My glacier and I
My glacier and I

On our first full day in Seward, we were lucky enough to ride in a big boat to see some ocean wildlife and glaciers. That all-day boat ride was probably my favorite thing we did in Seward. The dreary weather that day was perfectly suited for seeing whales and sea otters, among other things. The glacier was enormous, and we got to watch parts of it falling off. The ride back to the dock was amazing because the skies cleared and we were able to get some incredibly beautiful photos of the mountains and some animals.

The next day was our last day in Seward, so as Patrick and Todd drove us back to Anchorage to catch our flight, they stopped at a wildlife reserve. We got to see moose, caribou, bears, and wild eagles, just to name a few.

That night as we slept peacefully and comfortably in the Anchorage airport (haha…), we all dreamt of the beauty that is Alaska, and reflected on what an incredible few weeks it had been.

Both Bethel and Seward offered such different experiences and I am so grateful to have been able to see both sides of Alaska, the native aspect and the tourism aspect.

Quyana, Alaska, for showing us your hospitality and beauty.

I will be back!

(Sea) Lions and Bears?! OH MY!

Seeing the wildlife was my favorite touristy thing to do.
Seeing the wildlife was my favorite touristy thing to do.
Our trip in Seward was certainly one to remember. Just I was starting to get used to the wide open spaces in the tundra while we were in Bethel, we flew into Anchorage (cell phone service?!) and were immediately on our way to be a tourist for the weekend in Seward, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. It certainly was a change of scenery going from tundra to being surrounded by tall trees, massive snow-capped mountains, and the sea. I couldn’t help but get progressively more excited as we traveled deeper into the mountains and Kenai Peninsula. Our tour guides were the best, and certainly knew all of the places to stop to get the perfect Alaskan pictures. Some of the places we stopped at included the largest Alaskan water plane “airport lake”, a lookout point towards Denali, and a stop by the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign.
That Saturday we saw tons of sea life. For the first time in my entire life I saw killer whales, whales (sadly no dramatic jumping out of the water pictures), sea otters, sea lions, and of course LOTS and LOTS of tufted puffins. When we got to the glaciers, it was like seeing a giant monster slowly steeping into the sea. It was amazing and really cool to see the ice breaking off into the ocean. However, at the same time it was hard to grasp the fact that these glaciers are calving, and very rapidly. It wasn’t until the next day when we hiked right up next to the glacier that it really struck me that the climate is changing up here. In the car about 6 miles away form the glacier we started seeing signs that marked years dating back to about 1800. As we got closer and closer to the glacier and saw a sign that read about 1960, we were only 2 miles away from the actual ice. When you think about it, thats 2 miles. Melted away in about 40-50 years. Thats when it hit me that this is climate change thing we hear about in the lower 48 is real up there in Alaska.
We then started the trek back to Anchorage. We ate dinner and enjoyed the summer solstice festival (longest day in Alaska!) in Moose Town. We stopped at the Alaskan National Wildlife Refugee where we saw caribou, moose, reindeer, LOTS of bald eagles, foxes, owls, and (my favorite) the BEARS! I was only about 6 feet away from one of the bears at one point (of course doubled up and electrically charged fence in between us). This trip for sure made a lot of firsts for me that I will never forget!

As our trip is finally winding down, I keep reflecting back on my experiences in Seward and in Bethel. The people we’ve met and the sights I had the privilege to see have touched us all in different ways. Some stories touch others more than others. Some stories teach us to reflect on our own lives and way of living more. Seeing really made me believe. And in some stories we find connections and friendships with the people we’ve talked to. No matter what, I realized that each person and everything has a story waiting to be told. 

 

River flowing through the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula.
River flowing through the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula.

“Stanley Corp. The Everything Man.”

“Stanley Corp. The Everything Man.”

Stephanie Tedesco & Kari Welniak

Writers.

 

Stanley Corp is not just your typical guy. He can do pretty much anything. Seriously! He builds furniture for almost anything and anyone, he knows how to do maintenance work, and he built and takes care of his fish camp off the shores of the Kuskokwim River in Bethel, Alaska. And his profession of choice is barbering.

 

What brought Stan to Bethel? His sister was living in Bethel when he was in search of work. Bethel held many potential opportunities. So one Saturday Stanley Corp arrived to Bethel and was working right away that Monday. Stan has been there ever since.

 

Stan stays involved with his community by participating in Church activities and inviting groups to have a real Alaskan fish camp experience. He makes everyone feel at home by starting a warm fire and starts up the grill to make hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon, and s’mores. He showed us how to fillet a freshly caught salmon and play basketball Alaskan fish camp style.

 

On top of staying involved with his community in Bethel, Stan loves his job as a barber. Stan gets to know all of his customers and a lot about the town. He treats every customer individually and loves to get to know them for who they are and not from what he hears. He is always giving out advice to his customers that keep coming back.

 

His top advice he gives out to a lot of young people that come into his barbershop is to take pre-marriage counseling before getting married. It worked for him and his wife. It taught him a lot about not having jealousy and never holding grudges about the past.

 

At a potluck that was hosted at the Church, Stan was more than glad to make an appearance. He loves to socialize with longtime Church members and newcomers. He knows how to make everyone feel welcome. He is glad to share his knowledge, life experience, and advice with his customers. He even has a sense of humor and likes to laugh. His signature smile and laugh will always leave you with a smile on your face.

 

To learn more about Stan and hear more of what he has to say about barbering, watch our video! https://vimeo.com/99769605 

Living Ignatian green … Meet Hannah Mullally.

Intimacy with nature
Intimacy with nature

Hannah broke all the stereotypes of both: living in country, and living as only child. First because she enjoyed the simplicity of her town “Seward, NE”, a town of 6-7 thousands of population. Moreover, she moved out to the country when she was in 1st grade. The second stereotype was living as a single kid, she invited trees, sun, and stars into her life and they became her friends. With her imagination, she was the contemplative person who appreciates everything surrounding her, and the Ignatian person I met. 

I matched a lot of common points between Hannah and St. Ignatius of Loyola. And I want to illustrate them for you in light of the lovely conversation we had in Bethel.  Continue reading Living Ignatian green … Meet Hannah Mullally.

Traveling through Identity

The thing about traveling is that once I go somewhere, I am never again the same person. Different air penetrates my lungs, different ideas cultivate my mind, and new people enter my vicinity.

Traveling to Alaska, the things I witnessed and experienced in Bethel changed me.

The air that penetrated my lungs was crisp and clear. It was seemingly untouched by pollution and did not encapsulate me like a blanket, as does the harsh humidity in Omaha. The air was free in the wide-open spaces, and was not disrupted by high skylines. As the air cleared, so did my mind. Without the distractions generally present in the lower 48, I was able to truly connect with the beauty of nature and with my own thoughts. Among the fresh air, I was shown the power of reflection in nature and in life.

One of the moments in which I experienced the glorious Alaskan fresh air
One of the moments in which I experienced the glorious Alaskan fresh air

The ideas that cultivated my mind were different and exciting. I learned the idea of treating food like a guest with love and appreciation, and the concept that food has a memory, which has caused me to think about the story behind the food I purchase. The idea of “military showers” (showers where you conserve as much water as possible) inspired me to be more conscious of my water usage while the kindness and hospitality of the people of Bethel encouraged me to treat other people in a similar way.

The people who entered my vicinity were amazing and inspiring. Rose Dominic showed me the power of forgiveness. Cecelia Martz reminded me of the importance of maintaining culture and respecting elders. While Nelson exhibited more ambition and passion than I had ever seen before.

The air, the ideas, and the people I encountered in Bethel have made a permanent impact on my life. Through travel, my perspectives have altered, my opinions have changed, and the person I was four weeks ago no longer exists.