Tag Archives: Nelson

Blessed to learn and to love

It’s been five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. The whole trip, every single minute of it, was better than I had ever imagined it would be.

I’ve been thinking about how I was going to write this last blog post for the past 24 hours. How could I possibly sum up such a wonderful and impactful experience?  So to save you all from my rambling and incoherent thoughts, I want to share with you what I’ve learned from this trip:

1. Writing a movie script is different than any journalism story I’ve written. 

I’m used to telling stories using my words in my own style, letting others’ voices help me prove whatever statement I’m making. That’s what many journalists do, and that’s the privilege of being a journalist. You get to share stories, and it’s your job to tell the story to others. This experience has been different because instead of using our own voices, we help in another way.  We let our video and our interviewees tell the story. We rely heavily on them, while leaving ourselves out of it. Perhaps that’s what makes the best kind of story; when the subject is able to speak to a large group of others directly with only a little help from journalists.

2. I need practice shooting video, but hey, at least I know what all the buttons on the camera do. 

I can tell you how to set the ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance on a camera. I can tell you that when you don’t have time to set those features, shoot in Program mode. However, I’m not quite comfortable with a camera yet.  I hope to spend more time with a camera in the future (and maybe not with the thought of making an award-winning documentary in mind).

3.  Confidence is absolutely vital to a project like this. 

You need a lot of faith in yourself and in your team members to complete something like this. You need faith you’ll get the interview, faith you’ll get enough b-roll, faith you’ll find a good story, and faith it’ll all come together in the end. (I also learned I’m awful at hiding the times when I don’t have faith in myself; John had to remind me to be confident.)

4.  When you find a culture and a people as special as those in Bethel, you try to soak in everything you can.

I’m still trying to soak in all the lessons learned and the sights I saw. This culture is a welcoming culture, an open culture, a completely different culture than my own. Cecilia let us try on her parkas, pieces of clothing she hand-made and were a part of her culture and identity.  Nelson let a dozen people watch him cry as he told us how climate change is affecting the edge of the world and his life. If you’re blessed enough to be a witness to all of this, you keep a place for those people in your heart, knowing that truly good people, people who care, are out there.

5. Once you become aware of a moral evil or a social sin, you are held accountable for your actions. 

During our last lecture on Tuesday, we talked about social sins and modernity. We reflected on becoming aware of the social sin that has become climate change. Now that we are aware, we are held accountable to help make it right. As Nelson would say, we need to  find a way to say sorry to the land.

Carol asked us,”What is something you can do differently based on what you learned?”

I learned that climate change is not a hoax. I’ve seen the impact it’s had on people and on their culture. I’m now accountable for my actions. I can’t change the consumer society that is affecting climate change, but I can take little steps, like recycling and reusing items, and find out how to take bigger steps in the future.

6. It takes a lot to still love 19 people with whom you’ve spent five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours and 50,400 minutes. 

The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O'Keefe.
The Alaskan family. Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard sometimes. But, in all honesty, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend over 50,000 minutes with. This trip and my whole experience wouldn’t be the same without them.  I  walked out of the classroom today with a happy heart and a feeling of gratefulness.

So again, I’d like to thank Carol, Tim, John and the rest of my peers for a life-changing experience.

Traveling through Identity

The thing about traveling is that once I go somewhere, I am never again the same person. Different air penetrates my lungs, different ideas cultivate my mind, and new people enter my vicinity.

Traveling to Alaska, the things I witnessed and experienced in Bethel changed me.

The air that penetrated my lungs was crisp and clear. It was seemingly untouched by pollution and did not encapsulate me like a blanket, as does the harsh humidity in Omaha. The air was free in the wide-open spaces, and was not disrupted by high skylines. As the air cleared, so did my mind. Without the distractions generally present in the lower 48, I was able to truly connect with the beauty of nature and with my own thoughts. Among the fresh air, I was shown the power of reflection in nature and in life.

One of the moments in which I experienced the glorious Alaskan fresh air
One of the moments in which I experienced the glorious Alaskan fresh air

The ideas that cultivated my mind were different and exciting. I learned the idea of treating food like a guest with love and appreciation, and the concept that food has a memory, which has caused me to think about the story behind the food I purchase. The idea of “military showers” (showers where you conserve as much water as possible) inspired me to be more conscious of my water usage while the kindness and hospitality of the people of Bethel encouraged me to treat other people in a similar way.

The people who entered my vicinity were amazing and inspiring. Rose Dominic showed me the power of forgiveness. Cecelia Martz reminded me of the importance of maintaining culture and respecting elders. While Nelson exhibited more ambition and passion than I had ever seen before.

The air, the ideas, and the people I encountered in Bethel have made a permanent impact on my life. Through travel, my perspectives have altered, my opinions have changed, and the person I was four weeks ago no longer exists.

The Journey Continues

It was 4:30 p.m. this past Monday. I was running on two hours of sleep. I watched many suitcases ride the baggage claim carousel and pulled my bag off when it came around the corner. I grabbed the handle of my suitcase, more than ready to go home, call my mom, shower and sleep.

John, the head faculty advisor, shouted, “I’m going home. I’ll see you all tomorrow at 1 p.m.”

Wait, what?

Reality hit me hard. We entered the classroom on Tuesday afternoon with two weeks of class ahead of us.

The fun goes on and on, and for good reason. Making a documentary isn’t just about filming video, conducting interviews, and gathering information, it’s about editing and cutting footage and picking interviews that communicate to our future audience what about our 10-day experience touched us most.  In short, we have to sum up our Alaskan adventure in 20-30 minutes. It’s an almost insane goal if you think about it.

In order to achieve this goal, we all became friends with Final Cut Pro, if we weren’t already. We spent all day Tuesday  with our new friend, re-naming and organizing hours and hours of video clips.

We then started to transcribe the dozen or so interviews we conducted while in Bethel. That is, we listened to the video of each interview and typed out word-for-word what the interviewee said. It sounds boring. Listen, pause the video, type and repeat a million times. But I had so much fun.

I think I just got lucky, because the interviews I transcribed were not interviews I had the chance to sit in on while we were in Bethel. I had the chance to transcribe Nelson’s interview, which was the most amazing interview we conducted while we were there.

I remember the team coming back from that interview. There were lots of high-fives and the room immediately  filled with energy. His interview was a last-minute interview. We took a chance on him and he told us exactly what we wanted to hear and more.

He’s the most well-spoken 19 year old I have ever heard, and he has an awesome story.  I wanted to be his best friend by the time I was done listening.

I also transcribed part of Anna’s interview. She was a senior in high school who is going to study at the University of Minnesota next year. You could tell right away she was really nervous, and I think I had forgotten how often teenagers use the word “like.” It made transcribing a bit trickier.

After we were done transcribing, I got to know Final Cut Pro a little better. I made multi-cam clips of the interviews and marked important quotes. It’s not much, but I’m glad Final Cut Pro and I got along well.

After that initial work was done, the class was split into essentially two groups: the video team and the writing team. I am part of the writing team, and I’ve been really excited about the work we’ve done on writing the story/script.

We arranged all of the noteworthy quotes into categories like subsistence, fishing restrictions, climate change and Yup’ik spirituality, which are all categories that will make up our story. We then cut out all of the quotes into strips of paper and arranged and re-arranged them into a basic and rough script. It’s like fitting pieces into a puzzle.

The writing team spent Friday afternoon rearranging these quotes.
The writing team spent Friday afternoon re-arranging these quotes.

It’s hard to believe we got back from Alaska six days ago. Since then, we’ve put in four full days of work. It was a short yet entirely long week.

The amount of work we still have left is tremendous, so here’s to one week more and an endless amount of editing.

 

 

 

In the Words of the People

For the past week, I have spent every night writing and rewriting a blog that I have decided can never be written. I searched through my mental thesaurus for the perfect words to describe the great culture and wisdom that is present in this off-the grid town and discussed my ideas with anyone who was willing to listen. However, the more I wrote, the more I erased.

I then came to realize that my words would never be sufficient when attempting to explain the powerful relationship the Yup’ik people have between their identity and the landscape or when trying to emote the heart-brokenness displayed by the natives when they see the effects of climate change in their homeland. The only words that can create this impact, are the words of those who first spoke these truths to me.

Michelle Dewitt explained the complexity of the Yup’ik way of life.

“Cultural identity, language, and lands are interconnected in inseparable ways.”

Patrick Tam told of the unique difference between the Yup’ik subsistence lifestyle and the mainstream American food culture.

“A white man’s food has no memory.”

A man named Fritz warned of the danger tied to the looming king salmon regulations

“Lives could be lost…that’s a guarantee.”

A woman named Rose warned of the danger tied to our mistreatment of the land.

“If the world starts making noise, so will Mother Nature.”

And a boy named Nelson tearily explained that the noise of Mother Nature can already be heard.

“We’re living climate change; this is ground zero for us…We need to find a way to say sorry to the land”

The stories I have heard throughout my time in Bethel are not only important for the people of Bethel, but also for the people of the earth for generations and generations to come.

In the Yup’ik culture, stories are told from generation to generation and carry with them an important lesson or a moral. In continuation of this tradition, I hope that our backpack journalism program will be able to pass on the story of the Yup’ik culture, tradition, and land while promoting the idea that the land is a gift, and we need to treat it well.

The fish I cut and ate for lunch on my last day in Bethel. The Yup'ik people rely on fish such as these every day as part of their subsistence lifestyle.
The fish I cut and ate for lunch on my last day in Bethel. The Yup’ik people rely on fish such as these every day as part of their subsistence lifestyle.

I’m Sorry

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know that I apologize a lot. I tend to sympathize with whoever I am with, and try to communicate that I feel with whatever they are going through. It’s been my way of trying to be there for another person. It’s me verbalizing a hug, or giving myself to that person.

But as if I don’t say I’m sorry enough times in a day, I’ve found a few more reasons to say it.

I’m sorry. To those affected by climate change, especially those here in Bethel. For too long I’ve lived in my own little bubble. Though I’ve always believed that climate change was an issue, I never saw its effects and therefore did not give it much thought. But the lives that it is affecting here in Bethel are real, and it has opened my eyes to the true damage that climate change is having on our world.

I’m sorry. For the times I’ve lived my life selfishly. Living my life with only my future and my plans in mind. The times that I fall into the mind set of forgetting all the other people, communities, and cultures in this world, and taking for granted the connections we all have as a global society.

I’m sorry. For the times I’ve been thoughtless and wasteful; Whether I mean in terms of material, resources, relationships, or abilities. I know that I have been blessed in my life with my father as a strong provider,my mother as a strong supporter, family and friends to rely on, and many opportunities and resources to help me get further in my life. And while I have been blessed with all these things, there are numerous times that I have taken them all for granted. I need to step back and take a look at my life, and keep myself and my blessings in check.

I’m sorry. For not believing in myself to be capable of invoking change and making a difference in this world. Too often I over look my own thoughts and beliefs as small and insignificant. I am only one person, out of millions. With the mentality of “What difference could I ever make?” I am never challenged to take a stand, and work towards change.

Nelson, I’m sorry.
I hope more people, in Bethel and throughout the world, can learn to be as well.

I do owe you thanks, though as well.

Thank you for your dedication and passion for climate change. Thank you for your words. Thank you for touching my heart, and helping me to see the true emotional affects happening because of climate change.
Thank you for inspiring me.