Tag Archives: spirituality

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

Wow, today is the last official day of Backpack Journalism… and I don’t even know what to really say (but of course, I’ll think of something).  I am more just in shock with the fact that…

…it’s over.

For starters, I think that it is a given for myself that, not today, or tomorrow, but give it a week or two and I will be having some serious Backpack Journalism withdrawal. This experience is a perfect example of how life can fly right past your eyes when you blink. It feels like just yesterday that we were all worried and packing for the trip, but at the same time it feels like a long time ago.

I find it extremely hard to sum up all that this trip has done for me, and I am sure that it has done things for me that I don’t even have a grasp on yet.

These 5 weeks have helped me visualize things that I would like to do with my future, and directions I would like to lead it. It gives me a “hey I went on/did this, so I’ll be able to do this!” kind of vibe, if that makes any sense. It has helped me develop skills that I never thought I would learn, and an experience I could have never have gotten in any classroom.

Another thing this trip has done is reintroduce a passion into my life. For the longest time in college, I felt myself just drifting through my classes, getting sucked into the zombie routine of going in and out of class, not giving much thought on the future instead of the present. This experience, I can honestly say, has helped me think of my future, and all the doors that can be unlocked.

Something else to note that this trip has done for me, is that I will be forever plagued and gifted with awareness. I guess this trip was an “ah-ha” moment for me after all, or “when I first became aware”. I know that (even if they are just small things), I will be conscious of what I am always doing, such as taking long showers, wasting the gift we have here of electricity, and wasting food (which according to the Yup’ik people is a mortal sin). It has helped me to take a step back from my consumer lifestyle, question something you don’t even realize you are doing, and ask, “should I be doing this?”

I would like to say another thanks to John, Tim, Carol and Nichole for making all of this possible. It really means a lot to me that you all go out of your way to do this for students. Before the trip, I didn’t really doubt that we were going to go and make a documentary.  I just couldn’t really wrap my head around HOW we were going to do it in such a short time span, it is really amazing all that we accomplished while there. Even though I still have my self doubts about working the equipment and being involved and all that, I was glad to help and be a part of a team, I think that’s really the thing that I will miss the most.

Overall, this trip was nothing that I expected. Of course, I’m not sure I really knew what to expect. I can honestly say that this trip has done so much for me. It has helped me gain firsthand experience in areas of film/video in the best way possible. It has let me look into another culture through the eyes of the ones living there, and see what they value, what they believe, their struggles, and really who they are. It has taught me about myself, and what I believe, who I really think that I am, and even though I’m not exactly sure what it is yet, it has done something for me that nothing else could have.

I am trying to keep the “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” attitude, and even though I will miss everyone on the team, I am overjoyed and so thankful that I was given the chance to experience this.

What is one thing I can do differently based on what I have learned? (Carol’s question). The one thing I can confirm that I am taking away from this is that opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on your door, you can’t just glide through life expecting the doors to open up for you, you have to take the step outside of your comfort zone and go seeking opportunities. That is one thing I am going to attempt to do different, look for opportunity, and try to make things happen for myself (something I need to keep in mind).

With that, it has been a wonderful experience to say the least, I especially need to thank Johnny Intensity for opening up these doors, and helping me grow in my life, and helping my spirituality grow in ways I never knew possible. And for being the Dad of the trip to all of us (you all know it’s true).

Until next time…

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The best team I could have asked for
The best team I could have asked for

Settling Back In

This week has felt long but now that its over, it feels like it flew by. We continue to work on editing the film, cutting clips, saving good shots, and moving on to whatever the next task happens to be. Its a lot of busy work but I don’t really mind. Its cool to see progress being made.

I’ll say that it does feel weird to be back, the world definitely does not stop turning for you because you leave for 2 weeks and have no cell phone service. I suppose it’s just odd to jump right back into the routine again. It’s also weird to find myself being conscious of things like how much water I am using (even though one of the first things I did after getting back was enjoy a 20 minute shower), what I am eating and just  things like that.

I can also say that one of the things I miss is not having cell phone service. Yes, I enjoy communicating with the people I choose to, but I have realized that over half the time it’s calls, e-mails, and things I could really go without. Speaking of things I could go without, another thing I miss about Alaska is that there was no McDonald’s for miles. I am ashamed to say that I have been there three times since being back. So while I am ecstatic about being home, I have to say I could go with one less phone call from the Red Cross, and one less tempting McDonald’s around the block.

Being in Alaska (I think at least) has helped to shape me a little more spiritually. It was truly a gift to be taken out of this culture we are all in and shown beliefs from a different perspective. The Yup’ik people have something special up there, and by listening to them I have learned a lot. They seem to have this deep connection to the earth, while also having a connection with the universe. They see people as people, past the walls of religion or beliefs, and for the most part are the most welcoming and accepting people I could ever imagine. They have this amazing gift, their perception that doesn’t seem present here in the lower 48. It has been quite interesting to see the difference.

Overall, I am glad to be back home. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time up there, I also missed things like driving, cooking, and people of course. I am sure that my home will always be down here, but I know that a little piece of me was left up in the mountains.

photo by Stephanie Tedesco
photo by Stephanie Tedesco

 

Culture, fish, and spirituality

As I spend more time in Bethel, I realize that traditional culture is deeply imbedded into everyday life. From the food the people eat to the landscape that they live on, everything can be tied back into native Yupik tradition. As a person from a Eurocentric society, I find this concept hard to grasp. I don’t consider the German and Irish ways of my ancestors when looking at the world around me. In fact, I know very little about my cultural roots. Maybe that’s why I can’t help but feel a little envious of the Yupik culture.

This culture can be so empowering. I was lucky enough to get a small taste of it when I gutted and filleted a salmon a couple of days ago. I was taught to use an uluaq in the proper way, how to strategically cut the fish, and how to correctly prepare it for a meal. Most importantly, I learned to cut off as much meat as possible, because every little piece is valuable. I’ve never had a more satisfying meal in my entire life. Simultaneously, I felt a refreshing freedom from the modern world and a connection to the natural world around me. Yes, someone else caught the fish, and no I didn’t do this in a fish camp, but for a brief moment I was a part of the Yupik culture.

The native culture here can be just as humbling as it is empowering. As part of a presentation that was given to us, we simulated how a traditional Yupik society functioned. At the center is spirituality, represented by a hand drum and smudge. In the circle directly around spirituality is the children of the society. Myself and three other of the youngest members of our group comprised this circle. Around the children sat the Elders. Traditionally, it was the Elders who passed on cultural wisdom to the children. In the next circle was the mothers who took responsibility for caring for the family. The final circle was where the fathers stood. They functioned as the protectors and providers of the society.

Sitting in the middle of the circle, surrounded by so many people, I felt such an overwhelming sense of safety and protection. A sense of love and importance. There was no question of where I belonged in the society and no danger of being left behind. In a world that’s so complicated, our circle was beautifully simple.

The simple beauty of the Kuskokwim River.
The simple beauty of the Kuskokwim River. Photo courtesy of John O’Keefe.