Tag Archives: experience

What do I say?

As  I lay in my bed after a long day of editing, I find myself missing my airless air mattress that I spent two weeks sleeping on.

I miss the dry heat.

I miss the people we encountered.

I miss the car rides (kinda).

I miss Nogales.

When I came home Saturday, I was immediately asked by a friend how the trip went. But I couldn’t for some reason come up with a clear and concise way to answer her question.

Why?

Because it’s complicated. The immigration crisis is complicated. There isn’t just two sides to this story. The narrative intertwines and intersects different perspectives creating a web of conflicts, relationships and mistreatment.

I can’t compile a paragraph and just explain everything that happened the past two weeks.

How do I explain my emotions when I am so unsure of what I am feeling? Over the past two weeks I’ve felt, mad, ignorant, ashamed, upset, hopeful, excited and unsure. And I am still processing all the experiences and information that I’ve received.

During our interviews we asked the question, “What would you say to people who think they are not responsible for migrants because they are not US citizens?” The response we received every time was, you need to come to the border, you need to see what life is like for the migrant.

And we did just that.

This trip transformed my thoughts on immigration. Through our interviews and experiences,  immigration was humanized. It is easy to disassociate ourselves from it because of distance or lack of interest.  But it’s important to humanize immigration.

When you have to stare at something directly in the face you begin to break away little pieces in order to find the problem. It’s not an easy thing to face a problem so head on. When you do, you realize that you are apart of the problem. We all are. We are not helping fix the current immigration crisis by how we are currently living. People are arrogant of what is actually going on. You might think you have a grasp on what is happening but it is not until you are there facing it head on that you can truly grasp and attain all the conflicts that are happening just in Nogales.

I think what it ultimately comes down to is that there is no easy solution. There are problems not just in Mexico but in the United States. The problem all across the border are effecting all of us, yes all of us. We are all contributing to it.

So how do I explain that to somebody?

13346985_1035058013253834_8998588272767148667_n
Getting the b-roll.

Well, my hope is that the film will give people just a taste of what is happening and then that will  invite them to learn more and to ask those complicated questions.

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.

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

A Different Practice

Today was a nice change of pace. For a new experience, a small group of us attended the Russian Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Right after Sunday morning mass with Brian as our Deacon, we grabbed our cups of coffee and piled up in the car.

This was the first non-catholic mass I’d ever been too. I’ve had a number of friends go on to study different theologies and participate in different services, but I’d never really been presented with an opportunity.

Claudia, Hannah, and I with our head scarves.  Photo courtesy of John O'Keefe.
Claudia, Hannah, and I with our head scarves.
Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.

For the women, we had to wear long skirts and cover our heads with scarves. The liturgy was very traditional and structured. Though it had similar qualities to that of a catholic mass, it was still a new thing to me. The entire 2 1/2 hour service was sung, and we stood for the majority of the time. The church was adorned with beautiful icons and pictures. But out of all the different aspects of this service, I was surprised to find that my favorite was the set up.

The space was all open; no pews, no excessive space. Then up in the front area, a wall covered with icons and beautiful pieces blocked the entire front room. The persider would go in and out between rooms throughout the liturgy. I was told later that it was a representation of the border between the divine and ordinary.

It was a simple concept, but one I was not used to. I felt that I had always participated in a parish community that valued equality and mixing of the sacred and ordinary. Instead, this community practiced the opposite. Separating the two as a form of respect and setting the boundary of holy truly was a new concept, yet one that I surprisingly liked.

Though in today’s society, in which we constantly encourage each other and institutions to break down walls and have all things open, the Orthodox liturgy proved to me that it doesn’t always have to be that way. Sometimes having that wall of respect complements the ideals of mystery and sacred. I was so glad I got to experience it!

Carpe Alaska

There has been so much going on that the days and experiences are starting to all blur together and just feel like either one longgggg day, or an entire month. Yesterday was no exception. I’ve never had a day feel quite so long and so short all at the same time.

It all started with the opportunity to be behind the camera for an interview. This time I was on my own (accompanied by Tim) and really getting things going. Each time I’m feeling more and more comfortable operating the cameras and just more confident in my abilities. We interviewed a girl named Anna, a recent high school grad, about her experiences growing up in Bethel, and a few things about culture and climate change.

After listening to her perspective and rocking my detail-oriented style, we headed back to base camp. From there I was offered the opportunity to go for a walk and take some pictures. I normally would have just wanted to stay in and play some card games, but my gut pulled me out the door; and thus the dream team was born!

#DreamTeam Myself, Hannah, Morgan, and Stephanie
#DreamTeam Myself, Hannah, Morgan, and Stephanie

We went out on a whim of an adventure, and MAN was it incredible. It all started when we ran into some natives. Sadly, we bore witness to a common trend in Bethel as at least one if not more of our new insta-friends was very intoxicated. Nonetheless, they were still very friendly and talkative, and we took photos and laughed. And then the magic kicked in.

Mid-conversation, across the river, a moose and her two calves emerged from the bush, and we all exclaimed in excitement;, grabbing our cameras trying to get a shot. Either way, we were all so exhilarated that we gleamed, and started to head back to the social hall. Then we stumbled upon a woman with a yellow Finch that had recently ran into a window. The bird was still trying to fly so we all got some great shots of him. We finally arrived back inspired and pumped up for the remainder of the day.

#LayersOnLayersOnLayers
#LayersOnLayersOnLayers

For the near eternity that was left of the day, I was assigned to the group that was going to see a local village off the Kuskokwim river. We bundled up and prepped our equipment. We ended up taking a hour boat ride into the sun to see never-ending meadows, beautiful skies, and incredible wildlife. I was already amazed by the time we got to the village. We only got to stay for a short amount of time, which a lot was taken up by being swarmed by adorable kids, but it was so unforgettable. The B-roll aside, the images and scenes we saw will forever be with me. It all truly was a blessing to experience.

Ending the day with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn and jamming out with Hannah to “It’s the best day ever!” from the Spongebob Squarepants Movie soundtrack really just tied everything together.

I’ve really learned how incredible this trip has been, and how to fully experience things I just have to get out there and see what I can while I have time. Just realizing that this experience is completely in my hands just makes me feel so empowered and ready to take on each individual day. Good thing tomorrow is only a day away!! #MusicalHumor  #PopLockandFocus   image

Outside Looking In

At 2 a.m. on our flight to Anchorage, I was awoken by the clamoring of ice cubes, and the crisp sudden snap of a soda can tab as the refreshment chart fumbled its way through the isle for the second time.

It surprised me that I had dosed off, so as I blinked my eyes awake, I glanced around to get readjusted to my surroundings. Then I noticed it. As I stretched, reaching into the cracks of available space, I caught a glimpse of a new light coming from the base of my window cover. I raised it slowly at first, as to not wake my neighbors, but as more of the view was revealed, the quicker I raised the cover.

Row 39 was suddenly flooded with a tranquil blue glow, and a single sigh of admiration. Coming from the moon and bouncing off the snow-covered mountains down below, the light conveyed a beautiful scene of the landscape. The feel quickly changed from tranquil to excitement, as I was overcome with joy, pressing my nose against the glass to get the best view possible. Then, one-by-one as my neighbors woke up, we all shared the same sense of awe and child-like excitement and wonder.

image

Then I learnt what it felt like to be on the opposite side of that window; To be a mountain that unwillingly chose to stand out.

Shortly after arriving in Bethel and getting settled, one of our guides, Sarah, took us on a walking tour of the town. As we trenched through the sandy mud between the spaced-out houses and buildings along the sides of the roads, we were greeted with a similar gaze of wonder. Cars and people passed by, with faces pressed against the window, following us for as long as their view could allow. Buildings where groups of people ran to the windows, as if to watch a parish parade on a warm summer day. Suddenly toys, bikes, and pets became boring, and we became the center of attention.

As Sarah put the town on display, it seemed more to me that I was the one on display. A group of white students, coming to see what this town is all about, almost making it their business. With all the pressing issues currently facing Bethel, I slowly gathered a sense of pride and independence coming from our onlookers. However, It wasn’t until a  whisper of “Go home” from a passer-by hit my ears that I both realized and understood.

In the past, the people of Alaska and the Yup’ik culture has had people come and try to convert them, change their ways, and potentially turn them into something they were not. Now, in a time where their very livelihood is threatened, and change and fear sit on the horizon, the last thing they may want is outsiders.

I don’t expect to change things here in Bethel, I don’t even think at this time it’s possible. I’m not even sure I’ll have an impact here. I know there are many things I still don’t understand, but that instead is why I’m here; to learn.

In our time and preparation for this trip I’ve grown more and more interested and invested in these people and their culture.

I only come to help tell their story.

Packing Things With Meaning

When something looks or sounds simple from the outside, it may seem boring or just ordinary. On the other hand, when something is found to be packed with a variety of aspects and meanings, not only will that item become more valuable, it also becomes more dynamic and influential.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 12.57.27 AM
All packed up on coffee, maps, lessons, equipment, discussions, and excitement!!

While I’m not sure I can actually explain the craziness and dynamics of this past week’s “bootcamp” I can for sure tell you how valuable it has been. Mentally, we’ve had our brains packed with all kinds of information from settings, story ideas, interview practices, F-stops and ISOs, laughter, and preparation. It’s been great seeing how everyone is playing their strengths, packing what they’ve learned, and really seeing the team come together.

In a similar way, I’m becoming more and more excited about our immersion into the Yup’ik culture and its people. The Yup’ik people effectively pack meaning and importance into their culture, and I want to learn about them. The way they see meaning in such simple and beautiful actions and words astounds me; Words like “ella” that come together to mean weather, the Earth, and the universe. Compressing so many different meanings into one word just makes me want to learn more!

The fact that we are leaving for Bethel in just a few days is daunting to me. I know that time will move quickly, with how busy we’ll be. Therefore, I want to be sure to pack my Alaskan experience until I have to jump and sit on the case to be able to zip it all tight.

Rolled up somewhere in my sleeping bag are the things I’m worried about and my hopes for the trip. I want to be an active contributor to this project and my team. I don’t want to mess up, but I want to challenge myself,  and learn something new. I want to really get to know my team members as well; I mean some of us only go as far back as bootcamp. Establishing a community with this group to continue on after this month is really important to me.

Now while my personal packing (like actually putting things in my physical suitcase) is lacking, I know Sunday and this experience will be here before we know it. I just hope I don’t  forget something.#PackingAnxiety.

My Alaskan Adventure

As the date of our trip rapidly approaches and we prepare, it still does not feel real. The fact that I am going to Alaska to film a documentary still hasn’t sunk in. Perhaps it won’t sink in until I step off the plane in Bethel. Even though I don’t feel like this is really happening, the excitement is still there.

This is going to be a completely new experience for me and I have no idea what to expect. Experiencing the Yup’ik culture and way of life is intriguing. Actually getting to be there and trying to understand it is definitely something I am looking forward to. Learning culture in a classroom or from a textbook is nothing like experiencing it. Different cultures have always been fascinating to me. The fact that I get to experience a culture I am not used to is definitely on my list of things I am looking forward to.

Another thing I am looking forward to is creating this documentary. I have done a lot of video in the past for class and for fun, but nothing quite like this. I’ve never really had a video team to work with. It’ll be interesting and fun experiencing and working with all of the wonderful students and faculty going on the trip.

Being somewhere I’ve never been is both worrisome and exciting. I like new things. It’s something out of the ordinary. It’s different. I am excited to be somewhere new and cannot wait to explore. However, being somewhere I have never been before is also a little frightening. The fact of not knowing what to expect in a place that I have little knowledge of may get a little overwhelming.

For the most part I am nothing but excited for my Alaskan adventure. It will be something unlike anything I have experienced before.  Can June 8th just get here already? Can’t wait to be in the air, flying and on my way to Bethel. 

“Experience is the Master” From Tuesday July 3rd. What I learned in Africa.

Motorbike that I got this quote from. It was outside the Radio WA tower.

Our final blog post is supposed to be what we learned about journalism, theology, the world and ourselves. Because this is so broad, I am going to try to use a list with a comment for each day I spent in Africa. I put them in order with the most important at the end. This is what I learned:

  1. I need to return to Africa to learn more about world, the religion, journalism and myself. “We learn who we are in the process of discovering who we are not.” Thanks to the past month I have a better understanding of who I am not, who I want to be and who I can be. It is a refreshing and welcomed clarity that has been a long time coming.
  2. Time is relative. Sometimes it will feel like I have a lot and sometimes it will feel like I have a little. But the moments that matter will be the ones when I am not keeping track.
  3. No matter what happens to me, I am okay.
  4. “The world is not like west Omaha. 90% of the world is just as poor, helpless and isolated as the people in Abia. Abia is what the world really looks like.” –John O’keefe.
  5. “When you sing, it is as if you pray twice.” –Choir member at Uganda Martyrs’ Church, Lira.
  6. There are certain concepts—self-confidence, self-pity, self-loathing, self-deceit, self-denial and self-indulgence—that seem only to exist in America. I have learned: they do not belong elsewhere.
  7. As I told Jason a couple of nights ago: “Yes. I am a Christian. No, I am not sure that I was before Africa. I guess I thought I was, but not like I am now. No, I don’t know who or what God is. But I know that I need him. I know that my friends and family need him. And I know that he is my teacher, my leader and someone I should always emulate to be like in my life.”
  8. Journalism is all around us. Wonderful things exist in extreme pollution, poverty, disease and warfare. There is always beauty among the rubble. A story exists that someone doesn’t have the words for and a story exists that someone else doesn’t have the ears for. There is always knowledge among the ignorant. There is always beauty and knowledge to be shared.
  9. The church and religion have the power to change—to fix—the world. Not because of what they preach, the power they bestow or the salvation they provide, but because of how they bring us together in a world were we see only light not darkness, only the calm not the storm, only strength not weakness and only peace not violence.
  10. I don’t know what it was about Africa, the people I went with, or the people I met there, but those two weeks in June were the happiest, the saddest and the most alive I have ever been. Africa shocked me. Silenced me.  And then gave me words and a voice I didn’t know I could find.
  11. I have a voice. I have a strong voice. And I have a strong head. And I have a strong heart. I am so lucky that I have the ability to observe, to report and to share with those that lack these things.
  12. I will have hard and easy times in my life. During the easy times there will be two sets of footprints in the sand: God’s and mine. During the hard times there will only be one set. Those are the times that he carries me.
  13. The most important things in this world—trust, empathy, happiness, celebration, hospitality, gratitude, assistance, faith, admiration and friendship—do not need a common language.
  14. Regardless if you have known someone two years or two weeks, there are certain people’s souls that your heart will call home and others that will kick you out. Never let go of those that welcome you after two weeks.
  15. No matter what, I always have more to give. Even when I am tired, sick, sweaty, sad, lonely, underappreciated, poor, homeless, disappointed, lost, hopeless and unconfident in my actions, my achievements and myself… I can still lift others up to a place I can only one day hope to be.

I read the above probably 20 times before I published them. I mean every word. And now I only have two left to say to the people of Uganda, those that we interviewed, the people of Abia, the students of Ave Maria, the people who paint the signs, the soccer kids from the village, Herbert, Fred, Nicole, the boy in the green shirt, O’Keefe, Carol, and the students that went with me (especially Teresa and Chase), all of whom have changed me for the better and for good in a way I could never have done on my own: Apwoyo Matek.

Thank you for the experience

 

Home Again, Home Again

It’s crazy to think that exactly a month ago, we were arriving in Kampala, dazed and exhausted from travelling across the globe. I’m getting on yet another plane tomorrow, except rather than going off to another daring adventure, I am returning home to Colorado. Not only will the less than two hour plane ride feel like fifteen minutes after spending such extensive amounts of time on planes, I will be coming home with a different mindset than I have ever had before.

Sure, I will still spend the flight glued to the window even though I’ve taken this flight on countless previous occasions; I will still notice all of the strange happenings that occur in airports; I will still be the girl who awkwardly smiles to herself when I witness two people reuniting; I am still living the same life I was before I left for Uganda. I hesitate to call these kinds of trips “life-changing” because what really in my life has changed?

I am lucky enough to remain a student at Creighton, my major has not changed (although Carol will be happy to know from now on any of my extra credits will be dedicated to Journalism courses), I work at the same job, eat the same food (except I’m still taking an indefinite break from bananas), and surround myself with the same people. My life did not change, but my perspectives and my attitudes did. I do not look at anything in quite the same way I did before, but I think that’s something that comes with experience, not necessarily from going to Africa.

I think it is important to remain level-headed in all of the future situations in which I will witness the ignorance of others when it comes to knowing how the rest of the world lives. Just because I went to Uganda does not make me a superior human being. I am a more knowledgeable person with a different set of priorities who, if anything, should be willing to share and talk about my experience with those people, to describe the culture, to enlighten them, and to bring them into my “home.”

If home truly is where your heart is, consider Uganda a new addition on my continuously increasing list of homes.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. ” -Maya Angelou
Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes