Tag Archives: goodbye

Empathetic for Life

6/28/18

This is it, my very last blog post. These blog posts have been a way for me to force myself to reflect and share some of the things I have learned through this experience. An important aspect of the last five weeks is that it does not end here. It does not end when our film is ready to be shared. This experience has ignited in me a newfound passion and anger for the violation of human rights that I witnessed. It is very easy to feel helpless in a monumental situation such as a refugee crisis. What can I really do? I can donate money, I can lobby, I can spread the word. But there is something infuriating that there is little I can do for the people that I met, shook hands with and listened to. When I think about this, I try to be optimistic. I try and remind myself that there are things I learned that I will take with me the rest of my life. That is something I can do. Take this experience with me wherever I go, and make sure to share it.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is the difference between sympathy and empathy. Before leaving for Uganda, I thought that I knew the difference. Definition wise, I did. Feeling wise, I did not. It is easy for Americans to view conflict crises and issues of poverty and hunger in less-developed countries as “too bad”, a statistic or even “just the way it is”. It feels so far away and if it is not directly affecting someone then it is not a priority. However, someone may feel heartbroken watching a documentary or hearing statistics of deaths in a year. This is what we know as sympathy. Feeling bad for someone. Having a common feeling but still feeling pity for someone. I won’t lie, I had sympathy for South Sudanese refugees before I left for Uganda. Once I got there I realized that I did not have to put up a barrier of “me” and “them” and feel bad for them. Yes, these humans have gone through hardships that I could never even imagine. But once I broke down this barrier and opened up my heart to them, that was when the point of this project made the most sense. I was allowing myself to be empathetic and really put myself in the shoes of these men, women and children. I was able to learn historical context about the different conflicts and I was able to ask questions about it. I was able to hear firsthand accounts of humans who were forced to become refugees. I was able to see the lifestyles for these refugees. I was able to see the amount of people in Uganda who fight and advocate for humans, in general. I was able to see the importance of family for Ugandans and South Sudanese, alike. I was able to see the importance of the different meanings of “church” for the refugees. All of these things, I am able to put myself in the shoes of. It is not a foreign land over in Uganda. These are men, women and children, just like me. And when there is empathy between the two sides, I believe this is a closer step to peace. It may take a while, and it won’t be easy, but there needs to stop being a “me” and a “them”. I will advocate for this as long as I have a voice.

I am excited that we will have a tangible account of our experience. I am nervously awaiting to share our film and everything we saw. I know the story will do the communities that we visited in Uganda justice. I will share, share and overshare. I have been “ruined” for life and who knows the difference that could make.  Overall, I am thankful that I have seen what I have. I can better articulate some of the biggest institutional and tribal struggles that have hit Eastern Africa. That is something I never thought I would be able to say. Thank you, webale nyo, to everyone that made this possible. Endless love to each of you.

The last sunset I saw in Uganda

 

Back “home”

6/20/18

It has been two days since returning from Uganda. I have gone through just about every stage of delirium that you could think of. From our journey home to feeling submerged back into American life, it has been hard being back. One of the ways that I have helped with this has been looking back at the pictures I took while being away. Here are some of my favorites that I would like to share.

Some of the students we met at St. Mary’s Adjumani Girls Secondary School
Andrew and the sewing instructor at Jesuit Refugee Service in Kampala (a couple of us got custom-made shirts and dresses from the students!)
From our safari in Murchison Falls National Park
Some reflection during one of our many ferry rides across the Nile
My nightly view in Uganda
Liz with her handmade kite at our farewell BBQ at John’s house

I thought that I would feel a lot different coming back to America. I knew I would be sad to leave Uganda but thought I would be excited to feel at home and have security. But ironically, leaving Uganda has felt like leaving home and security. It has been frustrating to remember my American lifestyle. I lived a simpler and more full life in Uganda it seemed. I have been trying to figure out how I am going to make my life in America feel that way. I know it will be a process and that the fellow participants will help me through the transition.

I would have never imagined that going to places like the bank, the grocery store and, even out to, restaurants would be so hard. Those places seem like such basic necessities in my life, and for so many, they are impossibilities. And after seeing the importance of family and community in the refugee’s lives, all I want to do is to see my family. It is a hard pill to swallow. I never thought I would feel so connected and empathetic towards people and places that are seemingly so different than the bubble I live in. My bubble has been shattered and I think that is the best thing that has happened to me.

Webale nyo, Uganda

6/17/18

In honor of Father’s Day, and that we are starting our journey home, I thought this blog would be fitting.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has instilled in me something that I will never forget. He has always told me to give thanks to those in my life, three different times. “You always thank someone in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end”. He really drove this home. Whether it was a friend who brought me to the movies, or a mentor who impacted me throughout high school, you always thank them a minimum of three times and you always spread it out. This is one of the things I admire most about my dad, although there are many, is his ability to give thanks. He is gracious in the delivery, and genuine in the thanks that he gives. I will always take this from him and strive to do the same.

My dad, Joe, and I circa 2001

If I am going to follow through with it, it would only be appropriate to thank Uganda, the right way.

Dear Uganda,

In the beginning, thank you for being a foreign and seemingly out-of-reach project. Thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone and pushing me to join a journalism project, having never been exposed to journalism. Thank you for introducing me to humans at Creighton that I would not have crossed paths with otherwise (especially since they are some of the best walking planet Earth). Thank you for pushing me out of the summer status-quo and saving me from having to get a boring desk job for the entirety of the summer. Thank you for making me feel anxious before our departure. It reminded me of the rawness of life I would have the opportunity to experience.

In the middle, thank you for the beautiful people of your country for touching my heart. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms. Thank you for not being too mad when we’ve shoved cameras in your face. Thank you for creating some of the most beautiful landscapes and animals I have ever seen in my life. Thank you for supporting these refugees. Thank you for making me feel empathetic in any way I can. Thank you for instilling gratitude, hunger for change and compassion in me. Thank you for bringing us Herbert (our amazing Ugandan guide). Thank you for making me feel safe.

As we come to a close, thank you for making me cry in the Entebbe airport. Thank you for ruining me for life. Thank you for making me want to go back to Uganda, already. Thank you for sharing your richness with us. Thank you for letting us tell a fraction of your people’s stories. Thank you for making me feel closest to a human being as I ever have.

Webale nyo*, Uganda.

And happy Father’s Day, dad. Thank YOU for always encouraging me to walk as many parts of the world as I can. I miss you.

Some of the beautiful giraffes we can thank Uganda for at Murchison Falls National Park

*“Thank you very much” in Luganda

Tying it all Together

Pulling the last few weeks together I’ve learned quite a few things. I can officially say I know how to operate my camera fairly efficiently. I’ve learned to cook a few more meals and laugh a little harder. The trip was nothing short of complicated but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The people I traveled with became my good friends. Nights of mafia and golf/garbage made sure that I would never be able to forget them. And honestly that was probably my biggest fear going in, not being able to make friends. I’m both shy and introverted. I have a few close friends and I rarely stray out of that group but all of the amazing people on this trip made it easy to reach out. Sure they made jokes about one another but the jokes were never said in a cruel fashion and I think that made it safe to open up.

My highlights were the evenings, at least the ones where we were awake enough to hang out. I’ve never seen so many dance parties while doing dishes or people willing to create a feast big enough to feed 16. I can now say from experience that from the outside it’s interesting to watch a group grow closer but from the inside it’s amazing.

Group photo of Backpack Journalism and two vans
 Photo by Nico Sandi and drone

I only had one real lowlight: Operation Streamline. That’s not to say that the information we were constantly receiving wasn’t hard to process or that it wasn’t devastating to see people at their lowest but neither of those things calcified in my mind as much as Operation Streamline did. The callous court room and general disregard for the migrants’ humanity burrowed under my skin. How could I look at our justice system, which was supposed to be just and humane, and not feel like it was missing the mark in a brutal way? I’ve known for a long time in the form of statistics that the justice system was failing but seeing it played out before my eyes took that knowledge to a new level.

The reality of Operation Streamline led me to think about what I can do. And to be honest I still don’t have an answer beyond advocate and agitate. I know that if I remain silent I am choosing the side of the oppressor, therefore each time the opportunity comes up to discuss these issues I must not remain silent. Beyond that I know there will be opportunities to continue cultivating change, I am just not aware of them at this point.

I know that I have been changed by this trip and I look forward to seeing how those changes take root. I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended this trip and I am glad to call everyone in this class my friend. I am also thankful to you, the readers, for keeping up with this blog and supporting us on our journey.

That’s all folks

 

Disclaimer: Every time I’ve tried to write this last and final blog post, I’ve started to cry. Which isn’t ideal because I am in a public place. This is my official apology to the customers and workers of Beansmith Coffee and to Aly Schreck and Maria Watson for putting up with me. Be prepared for sap

I’m not sure how I want to start this last and final blog post. I’ve tried to write the opening at least ten times. But I am struggling to come up with a clear and coherent way to describe all of my emotions. Currently I am depressed, overjoyed, elated, excited, tearful, emotionally drained, full (mentally and physically) and so much more.

Today is the final day that we will all probably be in the same room together. It’s been an interesting 4.5 weeks. All 15 of you have grown into my favorite friends. It’s hard to think back to when we were awkward acquaintances all pretending that we weren’t nervous to talk or show our true selves. Look below to see us all in our awkward glory.

Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.
Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.

But here we are 4.5 weeks later. Best friends. Journalist. B-roll experts. Camera aficionados.

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Head and Heart Full

After a stressful and difficult past year, I almost thought about not coming on Backpack Journalism. My grandma who turn 89 yesterday has been in and out of the hospital for the past year.

Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo
Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo

Before I was about to go on the trip my grandma was hospitalized for the second time with pneumonia. I was anxious to go on the trip because I was worried about my grandma and her health.

While in Nogales, my grandma was hospitalized again. I didn’t tell anybody in the group. I also found out the same day that my 18 year old cousin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I immediately regretted being there. I wanted to be with my family and with my mom. I discussed with my mom going home early, but she told me that I needed to do this trip. That it was important for me to be apart of this. I listened to my mom and decided to handle how it how I usually deal with things. I threw myself into the program. I distracted myself by reading, cooking with the group, hanging out with everybody and being truly present in Nogales.
While it was hard for me to do, my sadness and tears quickly turned into a smile. I was told by a couple of group members that I am always smiling. While I do this unconsciously, I am smiling because of them. They didn’t even know what was going on, yet they managed to encourage and push me to do and be my best. I think that says a lot about the people who were on the trip. They are some of the best people I’ve met. During our last and final reflection, I told the group that I was thankful for them. These rad kiddos are so wonderful that I can’t even begin to thank them. Even now that our trip is done, I am still left with a constant smile on my face.

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Too happy to see the haterz

During the trip something I kept thinking about was what can I do now? So it’s appropriate that Carol asked us this question in our final blog post, What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned?

After meeting and listening to peoples stories I think the best thing I or anybody else can do is to stay informed and to inform others. It’s important to humanize immigration. It’s a complex human rights issue. I hope that because of what I experienced in Nogales I can be a source of information for those who have question or to challenge their thoughts on the issue. By no means am I an expert, but I feel as though our documentary will encourage others to go and bear witness to the conflict at the border.

While I’m not necessarily satisfied with that I think it is important to realize that I can only do the best I can with what I have with where I’m  at.

I don’t want to end this blog post because that means this is all truly over.

I am thankful for all the individuals that I met. I am thankful for John and Carol for bringing this project to Creighton (you guys are amazing).

If I can take anything away from this experience it is to say yes. Thank you Carol for teaching me to be open and to say yes to things even if it is difficult.

Hasta Luego,

Fargie