These blogs are really for the students. Occasionally, a faculty member will chime in and contribute a post. Some years I’ll post more than others (you can click on my name as a contributor and see my past posts). This year, I haven’t been posting at all. The students have been writing nice blog entries, though. It’s always a joy to watch them grow on these trips, and I’m thankful to be included, as a filmmaker, an artist, and as a traveler/explorer, but mostly as a professor.
Reflecting on past backpack trips, I’ve become closer to most of those students. I think John is often a father figure for them, and Carol another mother, but I’ve always felt like students felt less connected with me. I probably joke around too much, but this year it might potentially be worse because I had so little to do with the front end of this project, and I was even forced to leave for Uganda two days later because of my responsibilities with the Museum of Alternative History.
The backpack project is John’s brainchild and he’s ultimately the driving force, and Carol is always involved early on. I don’t get in gear until the cameras first get pulled. I’m already creating the film in my head as I reconstruct interviews in my mind, wondering what b-roll we will need and how the puzzle pieces will fit together. That’s my real job: teaching students to be filmmakers, but later I become the main editor once we are back. Long after the students are gone for the summer, I’ll still be tweaking the film, so I suppose that’s always been my main contribution — after the project ends.
Still, I wish I got closer to the students.
I have a history with Africa. I used to live here, back when my wife and I first started dating. We’d been dating only a year, or so, when I got the job offer to move to Bophuthatswana. We were apart for nearly half a year.
I could write about that. I could write about past backpack trips. I could write about the students. To be honest, most likely I won’t post often on this trip. I feel like I’m on autopilot, this time, learning my new place. It’s been a while since I’ve been on one of these, though not by my choice. It’s good to be back.
If I post anything after this, it’ll likely be about something more personal than I’d normally write. Again, you can read my old posts about the trips, themselves, if you’re looking for posts about experiences.
I’ll just leave it at this: I’m happy to be here with my colleagues and these students.