Tag Archives: journalism

Now What?

Last night, I went out for dinner in the Old Market with a few of my close collegiate friends. Our outing was a bit of a momentous occasion for me. Here I was, post-Africa, away from the empathetic fold of my Backpack Journalism family, about to reconnect with the friends I hadn’t seen since the end of spring semester, and by extension, the Creighton community I had left behind in order to seek out global relationships and bear witness to human suffering. On paper, this reunion was a litmus test for my reintegration into young American society – or at least, proof of my capacity for camouflaging with what I like to call “former normalcy.” I recognized that my companions might not be up for any challenging conversations or personal revelations about what I had experienced in Uganda, and so I was determined to resume our friendships with patience and an open mind. If push came to shove, I was even willing to pretend that I hadn’t spent the last several weeks battling guilt, depression and disorientation over the trauma I was exposed to on the margins.

But of course, despite my carefully laid designs and premeditated persona, I wasn’t able to mask my ruined self. I suppose I haven’t yet absorbed the lesson that “man plans and God laughs.”

As I’d predicted, nobody asked me about my trip beyond the politely superficial “How was Africa?” Though I knew it was coming, that question caught me completely off-guard. How could I even begin to effectively articulate the emotional rollercoaster, the raw humanity, the transformational spiritual journey that was Africa? How could I possibly condense such a monolithic, life-changing experience into a precise, bite-sized narrative for people whose inquiry was not born from genuine interest, but instead out of obligation to acknowledge that lumbering elephant in the room? We asked only to show you that we noticed your absence, but we hope you don’t bring down the mood by rambling about injustices from across the globe that we had no part in, understand?

So, I mumbled a few vague sentences about Backpack Journalism, half-hoping somebody might take the bait and pry for a deeper response. Nobody did.

For the rest of the evening, my friends chattered about budding romances, academic victories and summer blockbusters, while I found myself drifting further away from the discussion and into my own bleak thoughts. I couldn’t stop internally labeling their weekly news and drama as trivial. Whenever a friend revealed the pivotal turn they’d taken with their significant other or a mild blip from their daily routine, my mind wandered back to the harsher moments in Africa.

“Did you hear that so-and-so are dating now?”

Girls as young as twelve-years-old are being married off to men in their thirties or fifties because parents only see their daughters as wealth. Sometimes, relatives kidnap these girls from school or threaten them at gunpoint because they’ve already eaten the dowery of cows. 

“I needed to stress bake today, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have any eggs.”

Refugees stand in lines for days to receive their monthly rations from food distribution sites, even though the grain they’re given is rotten and practically inedible. If they forget their registration cards or miss the distribution days, the chances are extremely high that they’ll starve to death. Already, the rations aren’t enough to prevent the children from starving in the settlements. 

“I’m so sick of our country’s divisive politics!”

The rebels and government soldiers in South Sudan are beating, maiming, and killing innocent people without discrimination. We met a refugee whose house was bombed by soldiers because he was neighbors with the opposition leader. He is only one of the 1.4 million  refugees who fled into Uganda after civil war broke out in South Sudan. 

I knew I wasn’t being fair. I knew I was choosing to be the downer friend. But I couldn’t staunch the feelings of isolation welling in my heart. Surrounded by the people I loved and valued as instrumental characters in my college experience, I felt utterly alone.

After my friends dropped me off at my apartment, I did the only thing I can think of doing when I’m feeling upset and profoundly lost: I called my mom.

I don’t know what it is about mothers, but they must possess divine powers because they always say exactly what you need to hear. Mom is no exception. I swear, she’s equipped with a sixth sense that registers my thoughts before I voice them (or become conscious of their existence). Sometimes, I think she knows me better than I know myself.

After listening to my frustrations over the phone, Mom told me that she’d suspected I would feel sequestered from my friends upon returning home.

“You just got back from one of the most eye-opening experiences of your life, and as you said in your blog, you’ve been ruined because of it. There’s going to be a cognitive divide now between you and the people who haven’t taken the opportunity to explore what the world has to offer beyond sightseeing. But that’s also just a fact of life; our personal histories are filled with unique adventures, tragedies, and junctures that separate us from one another. The thing you have to remember is that while you’ve lost some of the innocence you had before, you’ve also gained access to a special community of individuals who understand exactly what you’ve been through.”

She is absolutely right. As much as I feel disconnected from some of my American associates, I have also become strikingly close to the Backpack Journalism team. We’ve formed a rare bond with one another, an unparalleled kinship that can never be severed by time or circumstance. I’ve also developed a mutual understanding with people I’ve never spoken to, friends of my parents or extended family members who have done missionary work in Africa, or who have left the comfort of their homes for service on the margins. These acquaintances have been with me throughout this journey, covering me with love as I’ve endured a suffering they know, leaving me encouraging messages and reassurances that I am not alone. We are in this together.

Mom continued.

“So, you’ve witnessed social injustice and trauma in a way you never have before. What are you going to do now?”

What am I going to do now? There’s the million dollar question.

Actually, I’ve already given this question a lot of thought, even before we finished wrapping our film in Uganda. In my first blog, I explained that I felt compelled to bear witness for the people who have been pushed aside to the margins; I had a growing fire for providing a voice to the voiceless. Now that I’ve reached the other side of Backpack Journalism and become cognizant of the real emotional toll witnessing presses on your soul, have I been scared away from pursuing this kind of work? Has reality proved that I’m not strong enough to be present with people who are suffering?

The answer requires me to be brutally honest with myself. And I’ve realized – after letting the question settle for long time in my mind and my heart – that I have, without a doubt, found God’s calling for my life.

I am a storyteller. I am a journalist. And I am meant to tell the stories of those who have been forgotten by this world.

After earning my Bachelor’s degree, I plan to return to the margins as soon as I can. Whether that looks like joining Jesuit Volunteer Core, taking on a journalism fellowship, or discovering my own means, I’m dedicating my life to being with the people who need help most; to utilizing my gifts as a writer to restore their human dignity; to show marginalized individuals that yes, your story is important and you matter.

I also feel like such a response is my spiritual gift. Throughout our Backpack Journalism expedition, we asked our interviewees to share how mercy manifested through their work with refugees (Pope Francis called the Church to a mission of mercy and compassion in 2016, and as Jesuit-educated scholars, we were interested in seeing how people translated his message into action). From its basic definition, mercy means showing compassion or forgiveness toward someone rather than exacting punishment or harm against them. But mercy also means having sensitivity toward others’ suffering and willingly giving yourself to attend to their needs. I believe that such mercy is possible through God’s guidance and my compliance, and that Christ has called me to a lead a life of sacrificial love for others.

When I shared my newfound resolve with Mom, part of me expected her to object. After all, I am her only daughter and I am essentially going into the danger zone, committing myself to a potentially treacherous lifestyle for the sake of witnessing. I’d completely understand if my parents were uncomfortable with the risk (although, I would still pursue such journalism even if they were adamant about me staying away from world crises).

However, her next words were the most empowering thing she has ever said to me:

“Isabelle, I believe that this is what you were meant to do. God’s given you a gift, and you’re using it for His works. Wherever you choose to go, whatever story you decide to pursue, your father and I support you.”

Backpack Journalism has finally come to an end. We left, returned and worked hard to create a documentary worthy of telling the refugees’ experience. We’ve grown so much through this program, and I hope this program has grown through us.

I concluded my first blog with Isaiah 6:8 as a way to open my heart for the experiences God would give me. He sent me, and it was the most important work I have ever done in my life. Now, I am ready to continue it.

Send me again, Lord. Send me again.

Finding the Story

The Backpack Journalism team enjoying some well-earned pizza after several long days in the editing room. (From front left to end: Lizzy, Izzy, John, and Matt. From front right to end: Andrew, Jacob, Nat, and Zack.)

One of the Backpack Journalism program’s greatest perks: the journey doesn’t end once your plane lands back in the United States. Unlike other Creighton FLPAs (Faculty-Led Program Abroad) which conclude in their destination country, Backpack Journalism continues in Omaha for approximately one and a half weeks, allowing us students to process our eye-opening experiences overseas with the people who have taken the physical (and spiritual) odyssey with us. It’s also a time for us to come down slowly from the daily heightened emotions we endured in Uganda, as well as a final period of cherishing each other’s companionship before breaking for the rest of summer.

But the last phase of Backpack Journalism isn’t just reflections, relationships and rainbows; we don’t let up on the gas pedal either. Rather, our team works harder than ever to find the story we want to tell.

If you aren’t familiar with editing videos or have never tried to string together pieces of a documentary before (don’t worry, I was naïve going into the editing room, too), you might expect the composition process to be one of the easier parts of filmmaking. After all, when you strip editing down to its basic components, it’s just combing through the footage you’ve already taken, scripting a story from the interviews or lines you have, and testing different sequences to find whatever arrangement delivers the most compelling storytelling.

Of course, developing anything that remotely resembles a rough cut is much more complicated than you’d initially think. First of all, even if you go into the editing process with a general idea of the story arc you’d like your film to take, executing that narrative depends entirely on the clarity of your interviewees’ answers and whether your shots visually reinforce those statements. In our case, we realized that some of the points we wanted to hit originally – radio and its peace-building role in the settlements, inaccessibility of soap for the refugees, and the different challenges posed against urban refugees versus rural refugees – were not strong enough segments to include simply because we didn’t have enough footage or direct quotes to translate the complexity of these ideas. We also had to rearrange chapters in the story or spend more time focusing on particular elements so that the documentary would be less erratic and more tonally consistent.

Another challenge with editing is finding the balance between talking heads and b-roll. You need your interviewees to provide context for the content onscreen, but you also can’t economize on your b-roll by allowing dialogue to operate as a primary storytelling device (that would be a violation of the age-old “show, don’t tell” rule). At the same time, your b-roll can be used to elevate the story or manifest an emotion visually; but again, without context from your interviewees, the message may get lost in translation. Even when you decide what interviews you’re going to include or what footage you can incorporate, it’s still hard on you as a filmmaker because you inevitably have to give up great shots or poignant quotes for the sake of telling a focused story.

Did I mention that editing involves transcribing all your interviews and organizing every piece of information you’ve gathered on your interviewees? Because that is also a huge part of working in the editing room. It took us over two full days to transcribe 24 interviews (29 if you count our group interview of teachers as one transcription per interviewee), so as you can imagine, quite a bit of patience and meticulous listening is required during the early stages of editing.

So yes, finding the story is not a straightforward process. I think John sums up the challenges of effective storytelling best: “It’s all a puzzle. We only have the pieces right now, and we’ve got to figure out how they fit together before we can start looking at the bigger picture.”

In a way, I feel the same about my reintegration back into the United States. I feel like a lone puzzle piece that no longer fits in the space I occupied before. I’ve got new tears and scars on my edges. The image on my surface is not as clear as it once was. Perhaps I belong  in a new picture.

Luckily, I’m not trying to solve this puzzle on my own. I feel incredibly blessed by the presence of my Backpack Journalism family, who not only empathize with my struggles, but also understand them. I don’t know how I would be able to make sense of my new, ruined self without  the genuine friendship and honest conversations I’ve received from these compassionate, insightful, and fiercely loving students.

We’re finding the story together. And along the way, we’re also finding ourselves.

What I Took for Granted

Photo by United Nations Girls Education Initative.

Sometimes when I’m working on a creative project or experiencing a new environment for the first time, I like to jot down random observations or thoughts that have struck me throughout the day, usually in bullet points. This little written exercise serves as my way of reflecting back on what I’ve noticed in the surrounding world and how I’ve felt about it. In addition, the practice helps me collect material for potential poems, short stories or blog entries that I may write in the future.

While we were in Uganda, one of the observations that cropped up regularly in my nightly note taking was the realization that most of the basic needs refugees and nationals struggle to address are things that I’ve taken for granted. As we gathered stories and interviews for our Backpack Journalism project, I found myself shocked time and again by the challenges facing East Africans, particularly in terms of their security and education. I started compiling a list of these difficulties, keeping track of what surprised me most so that I could develop a newfound appreciation for what I have.

Things I’ve Taken for Granted:

  • Sleeping without a mosquito net.
  • Food on the table.
  • Having the choice to eat or leave food based on its taste (Growing up, our family had this rule that if you tried the food on your plate without complaining, but didn’t like its taste after a few bites, then you wouldn’t have to finish it. The only exception to this parental policy was broccoli; you were required to eat ALL of those).
  • Drinkable tap water or easy access to clean water.
  • Soap.
  • Paved roads.
  • Owning pets.
  • Effortless communication with friends and relatives through texting, email, calls, or social media apps.
  • Close proximity to hospitals or health care centers.
  • No tuition bill for attending public elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • Quality education.
  • The encouragement I received from family and teachers to perform well in school.
  • Having parents who supported my desire to pursue higher education, both financially and emotionally.
  • Feeling on par (and sometimes superior) intellectually with the boys in my classes.
  • Getting good grades as my number one responsibility before college.
  • Books for my own reading pleasure.
  • Easy access to feminine hygiene products.
  • Not missing school because of my menstrual cycle.
  • Sex education.
  • Experiencing a full childhood and adolescence before I turned 18.
  • Receiving gifts on birthdays and holidays.
  • Being valued as a human being, NOT a future bride. 
  • Having empowered women to look up to in my life.
  • Extended relatives who would never traffic or exploit me should something happen to my immediate family members.
  • Knowing my rights.
  • Sleeping under a roof.
  • Sleeping in a bed.
  • Living in a small room with only one other person (Shoutout to my freshman roommate, Rachel, and all our rowdy times in Kiewit 728), not my whole family.
  • My privilege to travel outside of my home country.
  • No bribes with local law enforcement.
  • Never experiencing a violent conflict firsthand.
  • Never fleeing my country due to a violent conflict.
  • Living with the future in mind rather than being worried about the day-to-day.

This is Water

Under the sun’s harsh glare, a father shepherds his family of six through the fenced compound that makes up the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control offices in the border town Nimule. The father instructs his children to stand quietly while a guard wearing a menacing rifle over his shoulder sifts through another family’s belongings, checking for concealed weapons or other forbidden objects.

Next, the father leads his family to a water pump; the kids splash tepid water against their skin, attempting to wash away the grime they’ve carried from the bush and dusty roads in South Sudan. The water also provides some relief against the sweltering heat that permeates the compound, but the mother drags her younger sons away form the water spout so that the thirty individuals behind them have a chance to clean themselves.

From there, the family waits outside a small doorway with approximately sixty other refugees, all anxious to get through their basic medical check-up. It takes half an hour before the family is finally funneled into the meager examination room and seated shoulder to shoulder against the wall. The examination room is nothing short of chaotic. Medical personnel quickly assess their patients’ health at a glance, only pulling aside those who require immediate medical attention. Some refugees beg for further assistance in Arabic or broken English, but only one translator is present to relay their demands to the other overwhelmed staff members. Babies cry as doctors force medicinal drops down their throats. Children fidget with the tags on their wrists while parents stare forward into the dingy room, their eyes hollow, their minds loud.

After their stop in the medical room, the family shuffles through the Immigration Registration office. The father exchanges their names for identification papers and gives his thumbprint for a bar of soap, a box of sanitation pads, and protein bars – four per person. These, along with the clothes on their backs, make up the family’s only belongings as they struggle in the uncertainty of facing tomorrow.

We’ve documented a lot of misery over this trip: students unable to afford their school fees or scholastic materials; girls worried about being sold into early child marriages; refugees suffering from hunger pangs in the wake of food shortages. Throughout the process of filming these hardships, we reminded ourselves that the footage was necessary to tell our story. However, witnessing this particular family’s ordeals from behind my camera lens felt wrong. I felt like a vulture circling the weak. Who am I to film a family at their most vulnerable point?

This question has rolled around in my mind ever since we left Nimule. Receiving an on-site perspective of the refugee experience has challenged my understanding of journalism in general. I was never intellectually ignorant of the ethical implications concerning reporting  live trauma, but I was emotionally ignorant of the toll such practices take on the journalist’s spirit. I also keep thinking about that family, wondering where they are now and hoping that they are doing better than they were yesterday.

As I reflect on the sorry scene at the border town, I’m reminded of an essay by David Foster Wallace that I read in a freshman theology class. In the essay, Wallace tells the story of two young fish who are unaware that they are swimming in water. He proceeds to explain that the “immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” Essentially, he argues, it’s easier to wander unconsciously through life, existing within the “default-setting,” unaware of what you’re missing; but, the ultimate freedom of human experience – uncovering the “Capital-T Truth” – is to consciously engage with your reality and choose how you will respond. Only in this way will you realize that “this is water.”

Documenting suffering is morally challenging, but I believe that the longterm effects of sharing these kinds of stories warrant the discomfort. By reporting, we are able to advocate for the marginalized, to remind the powerful that these people exist and that they need our careful attention. Witnessing is hard, but the reality is if we don’t tell these stories, they won’t be told. This is journalism; this is water.

When we finished following the family around the compound, we asked the father how he felt going through the immigration process. We wanted to know if he was feeling hopeless, if he experienced any doubt after uprooting his family from South Sudan and arriving in Uganda with absolutely nothing. The father replied that while their situation was still desperate, at least they were out of immediate peril. His answer startled me in its honesty. A chance to live is better than a resolve to die.

We ended our interview with the family by asking the father what he hoped for for the future. The father told us that he hoped to put his kids back in school, to see his children complete their education and build a better future for themselves.

This is the refugees’ hope. This is the refugees’ experience. This is water.

The Nile River.

Discovering a Generous Heart

It’s impossible to predict the new experiences you’ll gain when you enter a foreign space for the first time. For instance, I never imagined that I would feel adventurous enough to suck on a tilapia’s eye (I wish I could say that I managed to swallow it like the other brave students who attempted stomaching the Ugandan delicacy, but I couldn’t stick it out once I tasted its salty cornea). I also didn’t expect to let go of my inhibitions and dance like no one was watching at a cultural performance, crazily swaying my hips to the African drums and laughing uproariously with other uncoordinated visitors from all over the world. And I most certainly did not anticipate the incredible generosity and welcome I have received from the Ugandan people.

Uganda is not a comfortable place to live by any means. 84 percent of Ugandan youth are unemployed, and only 46 percent of college-educated people have jobs. There is a significant economic divide between the poor and the wealthy few; the majority live on less than $1 USD a day and struggle to meet basic needs such as food security or healthcare, while the rich minority reap the benefits from the financial disparity. Malaria, a tropical disease transmitted through mosquito bites, is a real threat, but the simple antibiotics that may help reduce risk for parasitic infection, such as Doxycycline, is not affordable for individuals  living below the national poverty line.

However, despite having very little and struggling greatly, the Ugandans are some of the most generous people I have ever encountered. They are generous in their compassion for other people, quick to sympathize and offer aid if possible; they are generous in their love for Christ, demonstrating their devout faith by connecting God back to all things; they are generous in their time, patient in listening to another’s story and ensuring that individual feels heard; and they are generous in their laughter, taking great joy in the simple pleasures of life.

One moment of generosity that particularly stood out to me  involved a seven-year-old boy we met during our first afternoon in Kampala. While we were enjoying a late lunch at Caffe Java, the restaurant staff brought out a large chocolate cake to the boy, who was celebrating his birthday with his family. After blowing out his candles, the boy cut the cake into multiple bite size pieces and began moving from table to table, offering peripheral restaurant patrons a bit of his dessert.

When the boy reached our group, it took us a few minutes to realize that he wanted to share his cake with us. In the United States, we don’t give food off our table to strangers; such a gesture probably wouldn’t even occur to us. But here was this child, who did not have much, unselfishly giving up his cake for people he did not know, making sure that every one of us was fed. I couldn’t believe that a seven-year-old was capable of such love for his fellow human beings. It was a profoundly touching and humbling experience.

A storm rolling over Lake Victoria, the largest freshwater lake in East Africa. This is also the site of the legendary eyeball-eating incident, which was not as delicious as the boy’s cake.

For the rest of our time here and beyond Backpack Journalism, I want to practice the same generosity that flows through the Africans’ hearts. I will work to offer more of myself to others, to give attention more than I receive it. And maybe one day, I will be able to emulate the same generous spirit as the boy who felt compelled to share food from his table.

It’s funny — I imagined that Uganda would change my heart, but I never expected to be moved so quickly.

Pre-Travel Thoughts

We’re one day away from leaving, but I still don’t think what we’re doing has fully set in. While I travel often with my family, the farthest I’ve ever gone from home is Canada. Now, over the past six weeks or so, I’ve thrown myself into an adventure halfway across the world to participate in a project to help others. The living conditions will be different, to say the least. We’ll be traveling all around, with plenty of long interview days to come. The things we see may be sad, horrible, or confusing. At its core, we’ll be living in a different world for 18 days.

I don’t regret it.

I’m very eager to both learn the story of the people in the region, as well as share it with others. This last week of boot camp covering the social atmosphere of Africa has taught me even more about what we’ll be stepping into. The numbers of Sudanese refugees alone in the world has surpassed the two million mark, while Uganda is housing one million refugees within its borders. This region of the world is in dire need of help and direction, and I was shocked to find out how many people the situation has affected.

Map displaying the border between Uganda and Sudan

South Sudan’s situation has indirectly drawn the nation of Uganda into the mix as the two share a border. Thousands of families looking for a safer place have found themselves moving from their country and into Uganda. Because of this, the northern region of Uganda has experienced a change in composition over the last several years. The notion that people just a day of travel away can live out a life different than mine in virtually every way is something I’ve been familiar with for the last several years, but can still bewilder me at times. Being born in the United States and gifted the life I have is a blessing in itself. I hope that this trip can bring more people to ponder this idea, and what can be done to help others.

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.

Because of Backpack…

I anticipated that I would finish the five weeks with new knowledge of immigration, the ability to turn a camera on and other practical skills every journalism student should know. I had no idea that the knowledge would change me. I know, I know that it sounds incredibly cliché, but it’s true.

Because of Backpack… I am a seeker of truth.

Because of Backpack… I am margin traveler.

Because of Backpack… I am a listener.

Because of Backpack… I am a team player.

In my first blog, I wrote about how I am a “Yes Woman.” And even though I found this trip by saying no, it taught me that it is almost always right to say yes. By saying yes to the early morning B-roll, the extra interview, the longer explanation… I have learned so much and gained an incredible amount of confidence. It is Because of Backpack that I have grown as a writer, a film maker and as a friend. Saying yes, even to something that scared me, has been the greatest decision of my life.

Because of Backpack… I am thankful.

 

My teammates. My friends.
My teammates. My friends.

 

So, what is something I can do differently based upon what I learned? I can stop worrying about needing to say no and start embracing my love of yes.

For now,

Natalie

Piece by Piece

My comfort zone is located in several odd locations: any rollercoaster, local coffee shop, or airplane.

However, you won’t find it anywhere near spicy food.

You won’t find it by a scorpion.

You definitely won’t find it behind a camera.

After two weeks of hanging out with all of the above, it felt incredible to be welcomed back with words.

I was in my element in Hitchcock 203. The satisfaction of seeing the story sprawled out on the surface was spectacular. (Side note: I love alliteration. Can you tell?) I loved collaborating with my teammates and organizing our hundreds of pages of material. It was much harder than expected to make the cuts; I wish our movie could be a day long, but I don’t know any film festivals with that requirement.

Overall, I loved reading the interviews again. That’s when I knew we had something special, when I was excited to read an interview that I already knew by heart. The writing team would shout out great quotes from the transcript they were reading and we would all comment on how much we adored it. Praise for our people became a regular pastime in that room. I hope… No, I know that we will make them proud.

I have a wonderfully excited feeling about this film and I cannot wait for you to watch it.

The Piecing Process. PC: Carol
The Piecing Process. PC: Carol/Aly

More to come,

Natalie

Memorable Quotes of CU Backpack 2016

With this year’s CU Backpack trip being my first, I was expecting a variety of different interviews and different outcomes. Our professors told us that in the past, some interviews had been flops and couldn’t really be used in the final cut of the documentary. However, every single person we interviewed on this year’s trip were absolutely stellar, without a single bad interview. And with these stellar views came some stellar quotes, as well. Here’s just a few of some of the most memorable ones for me:

  • “The only law is love your neighbor.  Now you tell me how putting up a wall is loving your neighbor.  You tell me how deporting women and children back to a place we know they will get killed is loving your neighbor. It may be loving yourself because you want to hold onto your things, but we are making decisions based on material things, not on human beings. And that is no way shape or form something that we cannot tolerate as American citizens.”  – Father Peter Neeley, S.J.
  • “The wall that’s a few miles from here would not be there if there weren’t walls between our ears, all of our ears. We have walls. We’ve built walls. We don’t even know that they are there, cultural walls. And until those walls are taken down, the other ones won’t fall.”  – John “Lil John” Heidt
  • “If you go along the wall and then you see it, it’s pretty ominous, right. It’s like a scar, it’s a step backwards in history, and it will one day be looked at by people and wonder what we were thinking. It represents the worst of us, our ignorance, our fear and our arrogance. That’s what it represents. And when you have those things, those are powerful.”  – Isabel Garcia
  • “[The migrants] are people with dignity who deserve everything, it is just that evil that makes them feel they don’t have any rights. I am sure you have seen at the comedor that people come in with a certain face and they leave with another face. Being treated well as human beings with dignity really lifts their spirits.”  – Sister Maria Engracia Robles Robles, M.E.
  • “What we try to teach people when they’re in the Comedor is actually because you are made in the image and likeness of God, have inherent dignity, as a human being you have dignity. Because of that dignity, you have certain rights. These aren’t rights that a government can give or take away, these are your rights because you are who you are, just because you were born, just because God created you.”  – Joanna Williams