Tag Archives: #jmcawesome

Backwards Fear

The biggest fear people have when it comes to immigration from Mexico is that we are letting criminals and drugs stream over the border. To a fairly large extent, this is true. The problem comes with our government’s inability to separate the drug trade from people who are crossing to escape violence and reunite with their families. Because this distinction is not made, all Mexican migrants are essentially treated the same. People often ask why migrants can’t simply cross the border legally. There is a 20 year waiting list for Mexicans to get a visa, even though immigration into the U.S. is actually the lowest it’s been in 50 years. Waiting 20 years is probably not a viable option for immigrants fleeing from violence, or trying to get to the family they’ve been separated from. So, all migrants are forced to cross illegally. Many of these illegal immigrants carry drugs across the border. Border security has been increasingly heightened and militarized, making it harder than ever for migrants to safely make their way into the United States. So, these migrants have very few options. This is where the cartel comes in. They know the border and the surrounding areas extremely well. They are able to successfully go back and forth across the border with no problem. In this way, they become many migrant’s only hope. Migrants pay thousands of dollars to cross the border under the cartel’s protection. This means more revenue for the cartel and more backs to load their supplies of drugs onto. Essentially, by making the border inaccessible to anyone, we are causing migrants to aid in the very practice that we fear most about immigration: criminality and drug smuggling.

This knowledge and this frustration that I have developed over the course of this trip is what makes this trip different from any experience I’ve ever had. It was such an intense few weeks of learning and growth that led to so much understanding about the complications and misconceptions of the issues at hand and I don’t think I could have found that anywhere else.

The wall between Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona.
The wall between Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona.

Freedom of Aid

On Saturday, our group went on an interesting adventure. We followed a soft-spoken Quaker man, whose white hair was longer than mine, into the desert in order to gain a better perspective on what migrants go through on their journey north. Our fearless leader, “Lil John” as we called him, took us under barbed wire fences, over walls of rock, and through uneven rocky brush lined with heavily thorned desert plants under the early morning desert sun. I went through 4 bottles of water.

As we moved from the cattle path to the migrant trails, the reality of where I was didn’t really hit until crawling under the second barbed wire fence of the day. While brushing myself off on the other side, someone pointed out a discarded sweater. It looked like it used to be white, but was torn, weathered, and caked with dirt, turning it a stained dark brown. It appeared a migrant had discarded it right before crawling under the barbed wire we’d just come through.
As the trail continued, I noticed the occasional rusty can littering the sides of the trail. After a while, we reached an opening in the valley trail. A small shrine had been erected out of a natural opening in the side of a small cliff. A tree branch to the right of the shrine had gallons of water hanging from strings with messages of prayer and good will written across them in Spanish. On the ground lay several more gallons of water, as well as cans of beans. The shrine itself was decorated with candles, crosses, and images of St. Mary.
It was an incredibly surreal place to see in the middle of a trail that meant death and pain for so many. In the midst of illness, death, injury, and pain that lines this journey for so many, there is a small ray of hope and comfort. Ironically, that aid is provided by a group of activists from the very same nation that at once draws and rejects people. The same country that hunts these migrants down on this journey, also produces people who aid them on the way.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t know what to think about this juxtaposition. I guess it reminded me the more positive aspects of The United States’ system after two weeks of feeling frustrated by my country’s continuous blunders. Out of all the backwards policy, the ability and the choice to help people in need still remains.

Lil John showing us the migrant trail.
Lil John showing us the migrant trail.

The Dividing Line

Due to our very long and rigorous schedule, I find myself behind on posting my blogs. As soon as something happens during the day I write it down  in my notebook, but as soon as I think about writing the post for the blog, something even more amazing occurs. So please bear with me as I try and explain the current hectic and crazy happenings that are occurring in my brain.

 Tuesday was a really hard and difficult day. We got up at 4:00 a.m. in order to get some broll of the sunset in Nogales. It was a beautiful event to witness. I’ve never gotten up early to watch the sunrise and watching the sun peak up over the corner of the mountains and on the wall was a beautiful experience to witness.
It was interesting to see the actual physical presence of the wall that divides these two countries. But, when I look out at the sunset, all I see is the warmth and joy that is the sun and for those moments, it seems as thought there is no current crisis involving a country that deserves the same basic and natural rights as any human being.
The rest of the day consisted of going to the women shelter, lunch in Nogales, interviews and a walk through Nogales.
I have never felt like a minority in my life. That was the first time I’ve felt out of place in the world and that I didn’t belong. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared of who I am and where I came from. That moment of walking through Nogales was one of the first times I’ve felt ashamed and mad at myself for having the life I have.
After we left the commodore, we went to have lunch. In order to get there we took the bus. We all stumbled onto the bus and filled it with our equipment. People from Nogales stared at us just as much as we stared at them. I struggled to make eye contact with those on the bus. I didn’t want to encroach on their environment anymore that I already felt I had. The next individual who boarded the bus was a disheveled looking man. He was caring some of his few belongings in a plastic baggy. He began to ask the occupants of the bus for money.
I watched as many of my fellow students avoided eye contact with the man.  I struggled with what I should do. There was this internal struggle to help the man but to also pretend like I was invisible and I couldn’t see the man and that he couldn’t see me. Later during our evening reflection, we talked about the bus ride. The man went up and talked to Nico. He asked him to translate into English that he needed money. Nico replied that we had no pesos. The man was persistent and continued to ask Nico to ask us for money.
During our reflection, Nico told us his thoughts and feelings he was left with after the bus encounter. He asked us why we acted as thought the man did not seem to exist to us. Why do we treat some individuals who we’ve never met with care and compassion and others with little to no love or care? Where do we make the distinction? I know Nico’s asking of the question wasn’t to make us feel bad or ashamed of what happened, but I did. I felt pretty ashamed of being American.
I know that I will have more experiences with this kind of feeling or interactions. I am wondering what the solution is . I know that there is no easy solution or easy answer to any of this.
I like to think of myself as a very compassionate and giving person, but for what reason did I treat this man as though he should be ignored? I am thinking that maybe it was because he made me uncomfortable, because he was asking for money or because he was dirty. All of these could be reasons for me wanting to not look at him. But If him and I are both on this bus, both trying to do our best in life, then why didn’t I allow him to feel as though he was important.
We are taught in our life that avoiding eye contact with an individual is a sign of disrespect. It is important to show eye contact so that people know that they are being heard. It allows you to make a deeper connection with a person.
Wednesday: blog post to come
Today we got to kind of relax. This was one of the first days that we actually got to do some touristy stuff. We went to the Old Jesuit Mission. It was very pretty and we got some of that b-roll. We also were able to take some photos of each other which was nice. Afterwards we went to this great place for lunch. It was muy delicioso. Our next adventure was a park where we just walked around. And then we took some more broll.
Tonight will be a night to relax and reflect. The trip thus far has been extremely difficult but also very rewarding. It has been great getting to know this wonderful group of people. I am absolutely dreading going back to Omaha. I find myself even now as I am lying on my inflatable mattress that I was at the commodore. I wish I could be there helping in any way I can. But for now, I will take in the relaxing day and get ready for another eventful day in Nogales.

 

 

 

My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll
My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll

Storytelling with a purpose

As the two white Creighton vans pulled out of the McGloin parking lot this morning, it was and still is difficult for me to fully comprehend what’s ahead. Nothing is ever what you expect it to be. This past week has been amazing and surprising and I’ve learned so much but we’ve only scratched the surface.

A big part of me still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be doing this. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: I have an amazing opportunity to capture people’s lack of opportunity. In my first ever college journalism class, the first thing my teacher emphasized to us was the centrality of storytelling in journalism. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with this idea of long-form, narrative journalism. In my first ever Creighton class, my theology teacher emphasized to the class the importance of using your degree for social justice. That is also something that has stuck with me. That’s why I find it so incredibly humbling to use the power of storytelling to hopefully do some good in the world.

It’s scary to be actually moving forward with this work because it’s something that I care so much about doing in the long-term. It’s also incredibly exciting. I feel confident in what I’ve learned so far, but I’m definitely nervous about applying this knowledge in a real and meaningful way.

The amazing group I get to work with!
The amazing group I get to work with!

Turning “What Ifs” into “So Whats”

Tomorrow is the day! We embark on our journey to Nogales, Arizona, right on the edge of the United States/Mexico border. I’m an absolute mix of emotions from “eep!” excitement to “Oh God, what have I gotten myself into” nerves.

I could probably write a lengthy narrative as to why I am excited for this experience, but I’ll keep it short and sweet for this blog post. Somewhere along my life path, I began to understand the beauty of humanity in combination with the beauty of photography. As an optimist, I have found I tend to look for the good in people, but the world in which we live today doesn’t always depict humanity this way.

This is where the nerves come in. How do I portray the migrants who pass through Nogales in a way that tells their story without losing their human element? How do I explain their hardships but maintain dignity and respect for each individual? Or other worries that have crossed my mind: What if I don’t ask the right questions? What if the camera or microphone malfunctions? What if we get back to Creighton and we don’t have enough b-roll?

While I am a worrier to my core, I won’t let the “what ifs” control my experience, but I’ll let the “so whats” take the reins. After understanding the experiences of migrants and immersing ourselves into the city of Nogales, we’ll ask ourselves, “so what do we do now?” The answer is our documentary, viewed through the lens of a Jesuit education, which will hopefully be a response to the “so what” of migration, but most certainly not the only answer.

Even though I’m going into this experience with a combination of nerves and excitement, I know this adventure will be both a challenge and an opportunity for growth. This is my first significant moment to utilize my journalism skills in the field and I’m extremely fortunate to be given this opportunity. I hope I can be a voice for the voiceless and tell the stories of migrants and people of Nogales to the best of my ability without losing their human dignity.

Arizona/Nogales Backpack Journalism Group
Here’s our film fam during our last day of pre-departure preparation, ready to film, interview, and bond. If you were ever wondering what an awkward family photo looked like if everyone met each other five days prior, here it is.

 

Privilege of Speech

Hi. I’m Maria.

It's me.
It’s me.

This is my first blog post for backpack journalism, two days late. I’m sorry (Carol), but I wasn’t born on time either and I’ve been cursed ever since.

But to be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. The writing prompt was to talk about myself and why I chose to participate in this adventure. Easy, right?

Wrong.

Over the past year, I have learned so much in my courses at Creighton, particularly this past semester. The course that has made the most impact is my International Mass Communications class (Thanks, Carol). I was told at the beginning of the semester that this class had changed students lives. I didn’t expect it to change mine. I suppose this class was a main reason that I signed up for this trip.

I realized that I was taking my freedom of speech for granted. I am lucky to live in a country where it is deemed a fundamental right. Others aren’t as lucky to have such a privilege. This class helped me realize that I need to be using my voice for those who don’t have one.

 

 

 

 

 

10:30 p.m.

Overwhelmed.

Exhausted.

Anxious.

Insecure.

It has been three days since the start of Backpack Journalism 2016. I am physically and emotionally drained. Even now, as I am writing this blog at 10:30 p.m. I can barely keep my eyes open. I am reaching for the special k bars that my mom sent me back with in order to keep me awake.

This has been a tough week. I’ve had moments where I’ve thought about giving up and moment where I’ve had break-throughs.

Coming in to this program, I knew little to no information on cameras and how to use them. My biggest fear (and still to some extent) is how to use the camera. But, luckily I’ve had some really great and patient teachers who have allowed me to fail and to triumph these past few days.

When I go to bed (hopefully soon) I know that my head is going to be running in circles about aperture, shutter speed, ios and white balance. I am not confident in my abilities with the camera right now, which is making it very hard. I am constantly questioning myself and what I think is the right or wrong way to do something. Hopefully my head shuts up soon so I can take a step back and let my head and hands to connect.

Today, after a pretty long and successful day, a group of us went shopping to get some “adventure pants.” Look for a picture soon! It was nice to be able to talk about our current feelings and reservations thus far. I left feeling better and a little more secure and confident in my abilities.

After shopping we went to the Holy Family Shrine a place I have never been to but have seen incessantly on fellow backpacker Maria Watson’s Instagram.

The Holy Spirit is a presence that calls us to create an environment where God can express his love to us through miracles and everyday actions.  The inspiration for the shrine  came from the idea that the place was intended for travelers. To help them seek out the intervention of Holy Spirit, to be at peace, to heal, to be comforted, to pray and to discover or re-discover the power of Jesus. It is a place of peace and rest and solitude for people of ALL faiths and allows the Holy Spirit to have free access to their soul.

What a better way to end my day then to go to a place meant for travelers to recharge and reconnect with themselves and God. I hope to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during the journey to Nogales. I already can see his presence in my friends and fellow backpackers. I plan to keep the image of the shrine in my head as I begin this journey in Mexico and Arizona.

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A very tired Maria and Maria watching the sunset in the middle of nowhere at the Holy Family Shrine. Notice Maria’s hat. It’s new and very soft. If you ever meet her, touch the hat, you won’t regret it

Going to the shrine allowed me to recharge my brain and to gear up for another long and fun day in Hitchcok 205.

11:05 p.m. Time for bed and one more special k bar

Cool Trip, Cooler Department, Coolest School

Love this place, love this department #JMCAwesome
Love this place, love this department #JMCAwesome

Hello to anyone reading this blog! My name is Catherine Morehouse, I’m a rising junior here at Creighton, and I’m double majoring in Journalism, News Track and International Relations.

I’m so, so excited for the opportunity to go on this incredible trip! The first time I ever heard about the journalism backpacking program was when I was actually a first semester freshman at Boston University. I was pretty sure I wanted to transfer and pretty sure Creighton was the school I wanted to transfer to. It had originally been my first choice school, but a variety of factors had led me away from that direction and towards the east coast instead.

The main factor that had led me to BU was the strength of their journalism program, and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t have good opportunities to pursue journalism if I decided to switch to a school that wasn’t necessarily known for its journalism program. However, after looking into the backpacking program, as well as other aspects of Creighton’s journalism department, I realized Creighton had plenty of opportunity for me to get involved and do really cool things as a journalism student. The backpacking trip really intrigued me though, and was something I was really hoping to have the opportunity to get involved with.

Flash forward 1.5 years later and here I am at the best department at the best school on earth! I’m so happy to be here and to have this incredible opportunity. I feel like I have so much learning ahead of me in the next few weeks and I am beyond excited to see where we get at the end of it all!

 

Looking for Alaska? Looking for Purpose.

As a young, enthusiastic, and life-filled youth with the entire world under my feet, I’ve always wanted to travel. There are so many places I want to see and things I want to experience in my life time.

But not just travel anywhere. When I say I want to travel I mean to very specific places. These places are often locations that I feel drawn too, whether for a silly reason or a very specific symbolic one.  But no matter what the reason, I know I’m meant to be there.

In a way that’s what happened with this trip to Alaska. I had heard about Creighton’s Backpack Journalism trip on my first day in the journalism department, and I’ll admit, back then I wasn’t so sure I’d ever go. The idea was so profound and out-there for me, that I got an uncomfortable feeling; the kind where you know you’d be out of your comfort zone. So I ended up putting it out of my mind.

Fast forward about a year and all the sudden I was seeing posters again for this program; but something was different. Something was drawing me in, causing me to say “Yes, this is where I want to go; where I should go.”

Now I’m still not exactly sure what is was that drew me in. I’m still not sure what this trip will bring me, or what I’ll learn or experience. Trying to figure it out for myself, however, I realized something. I’ve gotten to go to some beautiful places in my life already, and there are many more I still need to see. But I have yet to go someplace that has challenged me to be more beautiful. *me trying to be all poetic

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But what I mean is, I have yet to go to a place where I can take something back with me to keep throughout my life that isn’t  some corny souvenir. I’m looking for an experience; an experience of a lifetime. A reason for being somewhere other than my own pleasure. A chance to maybe make some kind of difference, or to learn something that can lead me to that. A chance to really get out of my comfort zone, and experience something new. A chance to meet new people, and learn their culture and their story, while simultaneously learning about my own.

This is a trip with a purpose – obviously – and yet it isn’t. There is so much opportunity in this trip, and while there is still so much unknown, so much I can hope for, expect, and anticipate, one way or a another this trip with be three things: inspirational, reflective, and life-changing.

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, and I don’t know exactly what I’ll see when I’m there, but what I do know is that this is will be no ordinary trip; but somehow it will be beautiful.

“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”
― John GreenLooking for Alaska