Tag Archives: #blessed

Final Post

Five weeks ago I walked into a room with 13 strangers in it.  The majority were journalism majors and they were all older than me.  I asked myself, “What are you doing here?”  I had no idea that I would have an experience of a lifetime.

Now I have 13 new friends who I know I can always say hi to.  Getting to know them as a group and on a personally level is one of my favorite things from the trip.  I have gained confidence in my abilities to write and in being able to talk to strangers and not be shy.

I’ve learned so many things on this trip that I cannot share them all in this blog.  The thing that will stick with me the most is the stories I heard in El Comedor.  Before I went down to Nogales I thought of immigration as huge political mess, which it is, but now that I have faces and stories that factor into this mess I am on the side of allowing more migrants to seek asylum in America.

Being with the migrants made me the happiest.  Hearing their stories was very moving and inspiring.  They also made me think of how lucky I really am.  Also they made me think how I can help in this large issue of immigration.

One thing that I will do differently based upon what I learned is to just live each moment like it’s my last.  This trip was a true blessing to me and one I will never forget.

A Certain Feeling

I’m at a point in my life where a lot is uncertain. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a job for the rest of this summer. I’m not sure what I want to do after I graduate, I’m not sure where I’ll end up in a few years. Out of all this uncertainty, wanting to go to Alaska was the one thing I was certain about.

Now, here we are at the end.

I’m still not entirely sure what it was that drew me to it; The posters, knowing people who have been on CU BackPack before, just the thrill of the experience of a lifetime. But now, as the last day as an official group comes to an end, I just look back on the past five weeks and think of how proud I am, of myself and of my entire team.

We started off uncertain of so many things. We were uncertain what we’d find, how to work the cameras, exactly how intense Johnny I really was, and how this trip would stay with us. Now, with a rough cut in production, and a chance to reflect on all that’s happened, I just want to climb to the top of a mountain and shout, “LOOK AT WHAT WE DID!”

Team, we did it. We got that B-Roll, we worked those cameras, we met some amazing people, we bonded all together, and now we’ve put together a story. A story that does the culture, the stories, and the people of Bethel a great justice. And that is something we should be very proud of ourselves for.

Being in Alaska was like a different world for me. I was able to put my phone away, and ignore the comfortable world that I’m accustomed too, and experience the real, raw, harsh, and yet absolutely beautiful world for an entire two weeks.

We were given the opportunity to step into someone’s life, and learn from both the good and the bad. So while we were there for the greater purpose of making our documentary, we were also there to learn.

So to answer the question: What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned? I would say, Live with an awareness

John and Carol summed it up perfectly today as we wrapped things up; something chose us to participate in this experience, and therefore we are both blessed and given the responsibility to act based on what we witnessed and learned.

To live with an awareness comes in parts: to cherish, to expand, and to preserve.

Cherish the things we’ve been given, whether that means in life, relationships, the environment, and things we’ve learned. Seeing the importance these types of aspects play in our lives is crucial. Expand then means to share what we learn with others. Keep the conversation going. That then can lead to more knowledge, discussion, and sharing. Finally, preserve what we know, have, and share. Work towards making a difference.

While my lesson may be vague, the things I learned and experiences I had are far from it. I truly hope I can go forward from this point with a sense of certainty that I learned something and acted with that new knowledge.

Either way though, I do know for certain that this experience will never leave me. Thank you so much to Tim, Carol, and John, for working with us, and allowing us to be a part of your incredible mission. And thanks to my people, all of y’all. I have absolutely loved working with you all; we couldn’t have gotten a better team!!

Quyana, from the bottom of my heart <3

My Aha moments.

My “Aha” moments.

Dog selfies on the boat that took us to Stan's fish camp!
Dog selfies on the boat that took us to Stan’s fish camp!

Last Wednesday we had the privilege to participate in an all day long workshop with Rose Dominic, a Yup’ik woman, and Ray Daw, a Navajo man. Rose and Ray hold these workshops for villages allover the main Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and throughout Alaska. These workshops are intended to help the people through their healing process and understand what happened to them when change was brought about so rapidly and suddenly to them. Many of my classmates have already written about the workshop because this day was a very important day for all of us. I believe the workshop really set the course for our documentary and helped us get rid of our Eurocentric views and really understand what life was like when missionaries came and boarding schools were set up. Not only did it help us understand what happened, but I believe it made us feel, know, and understand what it means to be and live in the Yup’ik culture.

My Aha moments so far on this trip:

  • When Ray stopped in the middle of his speech and sang his Navajo song and explained what Aha meant. Aha means when you are experiencing a moment of happiness and wonder that you just have to sing from the mountaintops. That is what an Aha moment means.
  • During Ray’s song I flash backed to standing and looking out on the hill in the tundra that took forever to walk and climb to. We saw all of Bethel on one side and on the other tundra that just seemed to go on forever.
  • Realizing how isolated we are in Bethel. There are no roads, highways, or streets that lead anywhere outside of Bethel. There are only roads within Bethel with no stoplights.
  • Sitting on the bank of a river and diving into my fresh salmon caught 20 minutes earlier.
  • Listening to the Yup’ik people tell their story in all of our interviews.
  • Enjoying the golden hours and the sun set that lasted about 4 hours all with my new friends Arvin and Connie and with my camera crew, Nico, Tony, and Tim.
  • Meeting people that are just so welcoming and will come up and talk to you.
  • Sitting by the warm fire on a cold day at Stan’s fish camp.
  • Going to mass and hearing the Yup’ik songs at the beginning and finding myself catching onto the language and singing along with the Yup’ik hymnal towards the end of the mass.
  • Learning new Yup’ik words.
  • Taking walks along the Kuskokwim river and chatting with friends.
  • People gifting us with native food and just being so generous.
  • Waking up in the morning and walking out to the lake behind our little “cabin” and seeing a complete reflection on the lake
  • Playing basketball Alaskan fish camp style at Stan’s fish camp!
  • Going to sleep with the sun still up and waking up with no alarm to the sun. goodbye annoying alarm!
  • Wondering how blessed and random it was that I got to go on this trip and the trip to the fish camp. The universe has a weird way of working doesn’t it.
  • When Rose explained what a family structure meant in Yup’ik culture. At the heart of a giant circle is spirituality. That is surrounded by the young people and children in the tribe. Around the children is the elders who provide the wisdom and teach the children the ways to live. Around the elders are the women of the tribe who care and nurture for everyone. Then around the women are the men who protect and secure the tribe. She showed us in a demonstration and had us actually sit in a circle. I got to be a child in the center!
  • Realizing how blessed I am and what a great Alaskan family i have here. I know for a fact that these are some great people that I have the privilege to share this experience and journey with them.

Cheers to the beginning of week #2!

Walks along the River are the best!
Walks along the River are the best!