Tag Archives: experience

People make experiences

6/18/18

These blog posts have been a really amazing way for all of us to reflect on our experiences. And even though this blog is against one of Carol’s “blog rules”, I feel as though it is a giant part of my Backpack Journalism experience. So here it is. My perspective on the 11 other people I have gotten to know the past 4 weeks.

Our family from left to right.
Top: Brick, Matthew, John, Andrew, Tim, Zach, Jacob
Bottom: Liz, Carol, Izzy, Me, Ben

This is our group. Although not my favorite picture, I think it shows the anxiousness and awkwardness of our mini-family (before we became one).

Brick has taught me a lot about very useful life hacks, like how to use a pocket knife and about the textures of just about every food. He is also the most compassionate father and partner and every parent should talk about their kids the way he does.

Matthew is the most determined, focused and reliable person I think I’ve met at Creighton. During the first week of learning the cameras, he made it his mission to master the technique for the project (but unfortunately he has not mastered the game of “Mafia” yet). You will see some beautifully shot B-Roll from him in the final cut of the film.

John and I have found out that we are more similar than our demographics would predict. John’s intelligence and consistency has kept us focused and motivated during our travels. We would not be here without John (and his bandana), and his care for this program shows through everything (especially every meditation he leads us through).

Andrew is going to be everyone’s favorite doctor. I have enjoyed hearing Andrew’s chuckle throughout the program and his compassion for people has inspired me during our travels.

Tim is the coolest person for any inspiring artist to look up to. Tim has shown a vulnerability and bravery to us that I will take with me forever. He is the life of the party and some of my favorite memories of the trip include nights when he was the narrator for the game “Mafia”.

Zach could possibly be stuck in the body of an opinionated 50-year old, but he also has the most attentive and absorbent brain I have ever witnessed. Think of the most random fact that you know, and I would bet money that Zach already knew it.

Jacob’s quick wit and dry humor has been very appreciated. He is very thoughtful, reflective and pensive and is able to take any of the jokes anyone throws at him about being from Northern Iowa. I also noticed him reading “The Myth of Sisyphus”, for fun. So, enough said.

Liz is Creighton’s absolute gem. I am not the only one who thinks this. Everyone that knows Liz, knows how compassionate, enthusiastic and down-to-Earth she is. I have really appreciated her making me play hacky sack, watching the smile she puts on little kid’s faces and the random questions she asks (that she genuinely wants to know the answer to).

Carol, by default, has turned into the “mom” on the trip. But she is the coolest “mom” I have ever met. Carol makes everyone she talks to feel like the most important person in the world and she has the most admirable way with people. I’m grateful for our bus chats and for her bubbly “Good morning!” every day.

Izzy is an absolute rock star. She makes me proud to be an empowered woman. She is a story-teller, a writer, an advocate, a horrible riddle teller, a wise soul, and above all, an amazing friend. She is going to be doing huge things for the women walking this planet, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Ben is the most present and focused person I have met. We had a few close calls with losing him in Kampala but he connected with every single person we met. He is relatable, open with everyone, has the most contagious laugh and I’m so happy that he is my friend.

Well, if you haven’t eaten any cheese today, there’s your fix. I am a firm believer that people make experiences. I am grateful that this experience included these people.

Why Backpack Journalism?

There are few things that bring back memories of my childhood quite like sitting down at the kitchen table in the early morning hours to read the local newspaper. From the time that I learned how to read, I was infatuated with the newspaper and would excitedly spring out of bed at 6:00 am on the dot in order to ensure that I had as much time as humanly possible to read about everything going on in the world around me before school. There were two sections of the newspaper that really stuck out to me – the sports and world news sections. By reading these two sections, I was able to experience all of the “important things” going on in the world without ever having to leave the comfort of my hometown situated snugly along the U.S. – Mexico border. In particular, stories about far off places with seemingly unpronounceable names in Asia and Africa captivated my imagination and filled me with curiosity. One day, when I was about eight or nine years old, I remember telling my mother that I would go and visit these far off places and write stories about them as a journalist. I remember her just sort of chuckling about my constant comments about this dream. Nevertheless, I insisted that one day I would really visit these far off places and write about them as a journalist. 

Fast forward a few years and suddenly my home snuggly situated along the U.S. – Mexico border and its sister city just across the Rio Grande were the center of the news stories that I loved to read. Witnessing these stories firsthand was completely different than reading about them. Corruption, poverty, rampant crime, and bloodshed became harrowing realities instead of far off issues that others had to deal with. With these horrors, my childhood innocence and almost everything that I had loved about my home disappeared.

Almost as quickly as these horrors descended upon my home along the U.S. – Mexico border, they disappeared without a trace. Even though they have disappeared from the the front pages of newspapers across the globe, the horrors of what took place never truly left my mind. Instead, they have left a lasting impact that has inspired me to truly be the change that I want to see in the world. These horrors have inspired me to strive for justice and to seek out ways in which I can bring justice about.

For me, the Backpack Journalism program represents a truly amazing way to bring about justice and awareness in the world that I live in. It allows me to tell the story of people living on the margins of society suffering from a violence much like that which struck my U.S. – Mexico border home. I truly feel that the way to end the world’s suffering is to highlight the issues faced by marginalized members of the human population. If more people are aware of the things plaguing human society, there are sure to be more people willing to go out and fight for justice and bring forth positive change. As a future journalist, Backpack Journalism offers me the opportunity to make a difference in the world around me by utilizing the skills of my future profession – while at the same time fulfilling my childhood dreams. That’s why I am participating in the Backpack Journalsim program.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.