Sitting in what can only be described as an oblong shape, (why do groups always suck at making circles?) we all began our last reflection as a group. It was quite the experience. We laughed, we cried, we did it all. We all echoed the same sentiment: gratitude. We were all grateful for the community that we had formed together as a group and the ties that we had formed with the community in Bethel. When we started this trip, I wasn’t really sure how everything would go. Everyone I had heard from who went on previous backpack journalism trips said that it would change my life. They were right. As dramatic as it sounds, I know that I cannot go back to being the same person that I was before I went to Bethel, Alaska. Bethel taught me about many things. It taught me about climate change on a personal level, about subsistence living, historical trauma, and native american– specifically Yup’ik– traditions in comparison to the Western way of life. I have long been a believer in the dangers of climate change. However, it was completely different to see how it was affecting individual people. I learned of the struggles that the people in Alaska are facing to hunt and gather what they need to survive because of the effects that global warming has on the habitats around them and also because of the pressures of Western society. When the missionaries brought modernity to the villages in Alaska, they tried to sever the ties that the people had to their native cultures. Rose Dominic– a Yup’ik woman who teaches about historical trauma– gave us a workshop that changed my views on the Western way of life vs. the native traditional life. Coming back to the “lower 48,” I know that I cannot continue to contribute to climate change. I have to be conscious of my effect on the world and my views on the people in it. There are so many cultures like the Yup’iks that deserve a chance to uphold their traditions, but cannot do so if the rest of the world fails to take them into account and to respect their way of life and their beliefs. It is my responsibility to share Bethel with the world and to hope that they will love it, and that it will touch them as much as I have.
Mari and Claudia strike again. my favorite new way to tell someone i love them when I’m laughing too hard to actually say it.
whenever Tony was called upon, it was a sure thing that his personal catch phrase would come to the surface and be echoed by the rest of the group time and time again.
Who knew one card game would invite a fire in Tim? Blurted out at any moment, BS became the ticking time bomb of all of our group catch phrases.
Bananagrams was the surprise hit of the trip. Nichole rallied the group around her to play at any time.
6. where did TJ go?
7. he’s probably on a walk
Six and seven are a mated pair. Our spontaneous TJ was often found to be the missing member of the group. Almost every time he would wander back in and tell the group of an amazing experience he had on his own walking adventures.
8. Tim’s fart noise
If we only learned one thing from Tim Guthrie, it was that if you don’t know what to say, a fart noise will always do you right.
9. Tony Shalhoub
Mari was on point again when she compared our resident Jesuit to the american actor. No one could deny the resemblance, and it stuck so well that his name even got changed to “Tony Shaloub” in the GroupMe.
click here to check out our Tony and compare!
Everyone’s warm feelings were shared for all when we began to read all of the profiles we had written about each other. Caludia commented on Scott’s profiles of Mari telling him it was “fuzzy” and it caught on from there.
During our travels to Bethel, Alaska, TJ and I were offered the opportunity to pursue a story on sled dog racing and the K-300 dog race. Sarah Stanley– our group liaison to all things Bethel– was able to set us up with multiple people and opportunities to film for our project.
Originally, we were planning on focusing on the administrative side of the race, but when we were offered an unexpected opportunity to interview Myron Angstman, our story took a new direction. Myron Angstman is one of the founders of the k-300 dog race in Bethel, Alaska. He was the man who came up with the idea of having a race in Bethel after he participated in the Iditarod. Before we interview him, we got a tour around his property and dog training facilities.
Angstman and one of his team were gracious enough to give us the chance to ride on the back of his all-terrain training vehicle while he took the dogs out for practice run. TJ and Haylee rode in the truck next us– attempting to film the dogs from a different perspective– while Morgan and myself climbed into the back of the ATV, sat on the rain-soaked board that served as a bench, and hunkered down for a rain-drenched and wind-blown ride.
When we got back to his property, we went into the dog yard to film the dogs up close and got to see just how different the personalities of each dog were. Some were playful, others were observant, and one was systematically chewing through his fourth house… They pulled down a sled for us to look at, and when they asked if we needed anything else, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview Myron.
Stepping into his office, we set up the little equipment we had. Truthfully, all we had one lonesome (mini) iPad and whatever questions we could come off with off the tops of our heads. It turned out to be a great learning experience. And who can say no to a story about race dogs, anyway?
check out our video here!
As time passes here in Omaha, I am reviewing more and more of the B-roll that everyone has shot and the sequences that have been put together. Some of the footage has already been matched to clips of interviews, so we are trying to narrow down the rest of the footage to “the best of the best”, so to speak. That is intimidating.
I know I have good footage that I have taken. However, looking at the quotes that are being included in the documentary, I am not sure that my footage necessarily fits those. To be fair, I think some of my footage is blurring together in my mind, so there could easily be something I forgot that could make it in the film, but as I look at all of the amazing footage there is, it is hard to imagine that much of any one person’s footage could make it.
Talking to some of the other students, I think my fear is shared by everyone. No one wants to be the person who doesn’t have any shots in the film. (or only has one boring shot while everyone else gets their nice scenery shots in.) On the other hand, everyone here is really supportive of the overall good of the film and of each of its contributors. We all know that the project is bigger than any one of use because what is important is the story that it tells.
It is possible that the only shots of mine that will make it into the documentary will be a sequence of a woman getting water. (watch out for orange nail polish) It’s also possible that there will be many shots I took, or none at all. What I know for certain though, is that the film will turn out amazing no matter what. I am proud of the work I did and I know I will be proud for everyone in the group when the movie is completed.
Coming back from Bethel, it has been a process of really hunkering down. From naming and organizing video clips to transcribing interviews, trimming quotes, and putting together B-roll sequences, it has been a lot of hard work. Not only have we been working as a group, but we have all been individually working on our own papers and projects too.
For instance, TJ and I have been working on our iPad mini story. It is a piece about sled dogs and the K300 race. While it was definitely a fun process to go film the dogs, putting together the video was not exactly a cake walk.
I will take a fair amount of credit for our troubles. Prior to going to film, I had plugged in my iPad to charge right next to Erin’s. In my hurry and excitement to leave and go see puppies, I accidentally grabbed Erin’s iPad instead of mine… I ended up having to film on her iPad and then Tim downloaded the footage onto the drive with the rest of the trip’s footage so we could get it later. However, that was more easily said than done.
Monday morning (June 30), TJ and I came in at 8:30 to work on our video. Class wasn’t going to start until 10:30 that day, so we thought we would have sufficient time to get a good part of our movie done. Of course, getting the footage from the computer system onto the iPad was much more of a process than we bargained for. We spent the entire two hours (and part of our actual class time) trying everything we could think of to be able to access the footage in the iMovie app on the iPad. None of it worked. In the end, we had to talk to Tim and ask for help. Tim told us we should probably just do our project on the computer and, luckily, Carol agreed when she heard everything we had tried.
Obviously, I do not have the best luck with technology. However, I have come to accept that I will probably always be fixing my stupid mistakes. As long as I am willing to buckle down, try everything, and put in some hard work and time, everything will come together in the end.
Sitting in the Church lobby of the Catholic Church in Bethel, Alaska, Madeline Zukowski is dressed in a yellow quarter zip, rolled blue jeans, and matching blue hiking shoes. She settles into a swiveling desk chair that has a ripped cushion and squeaks rather alarmingly as it turns. I take a seat next to her in an equally suspicious folding chair, and as the light streams in a window from behind a hanging crucifix, i flip out my standard issue notepad and hit the record button on my iPad– ready to fire away and find out everything I can about her.
Madeline is one of those people who is approximately three parts shyness and one part sass. She has intelligent eyes and the corners of her mouth are quick to turn up in an eye-crinkling smile. Legs crossed and fingers interlaced, the first piece of information that I get from her is about her major. Madeline is a news and PR double major. When I asked her how she became interested in journalism, I knew I had struck gold. Madeline proceeded to describe a day in seventh grade:
“ It was rainy, and a Saturday, and I was really bored.”
Her hands became animated as she went back in her memory to pulling out an American Girl magazine.
“It had a list of ten things to do when you’re bored and one of them was to make your own magazine/newspaper.”
Fixated on that idea, she threw together a five page magazine of her own and gave it to some of her sister’s friends. It was a hit. The only hitch was that she had used all of the printer ink in the printing. The savvy 12-year-old that she was, Madeline began to sell the magazines for 25 cents a piece in order to pay back her dad for the ink and continue to print future issues of what she had dubbed “Kids Klub.”
As the questions continued, the picture began to come together of who exactly Madeline Zukowski was. This quiet and determined figure knew what she wanted and went after it.
“I have always been a very quiet person, so for me to go up to someone I don’t know and say, ‘Can I interview you?’ and then proceed to interview them, has been a challenge.”
However, she does not let that challenge stop her. Madeline has always loved the idea of working at the New York Times. She knows that getting a job as a writer for a newspaper or online publication will be hard, but she has ambitions that would see her working as a well-known writer at a well-known publication in the future. She has continued to hone her interviewing skills, and to learn as much as she can about multi-media, video, PR, and news. This woman, with her blonde hair and open smile, may not seem intimidating, but I would argue that she is a force to be reckoned with.
The last few days have all sort of blurred together. One thing that has stood out though has been the overall sense of adventure and spontaneity that we have all taken on.
At the beginning of the trip, most of the group was tentative to do things they hadn’t done before. (At least when it came to working the equipment) however, as the days passed, the welcoming spirit of the community in Bethel helped us to open up.
Speaking for myself, I never imagined eating fish eggs, moose, caribou, seal, or Eskimo ice cream, but now I have eaten all of them. I also didn’t know I would get the chance to ride on the back of a 4-wheeler being pulled by a team of sled dogs. It was an amazing experience and I can only look forward to more adventures as the last few days wind down.
You know those camping/hiking/generally outdoorsy photo spreads? The ones where sunshine is peeking through tall grass, there is a ridiculously attractive family, and there is usually a dog running around in the background? Well, looking through the photos of the last two days, I realized that Alaska has somehow transformed all of us from grimy college kids who may or may not have showered in about 4 days into National Geographic photo stars. (at least in our minds) I am convinced that it all boils down to the vibrancy of the river life here on the Kuskokwim. Hidden marshes and rustic fish camps abound. Suited up in as much rain gear as we could find, 16 college students tramped through mud, hacked through grass, cut down trees, and basically ran on the energy given to us by our spirit of adventure. Maybe it is all in my head. It is very possible that I am still merely riding the high of fresh Alaskan air. However, I do believe that Alaska has given us a new energy that is evident in our work and in our attitudes toward life.
I am relatively sure that at some point in all of our lives we have pulled out many movie quotes. Amongst them, I am guessing that this has come up a number of times: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Spiderman forever instilled in humanity this unforgettable line. Whether you whip out the classic line out of seriousness or complete mockery, it is equally as great, cliche, and cheesy in every situation.
Thinking back on the day, responsibility (or lack thereof) seemed to be a reoccurring theme. At the beginning of our time here in Bethel, I somehow became the “Keeper of the Key” to the girls “cabin.” As should have been predictable, today I had the inevitable moment of temporary heart failure when I thought that I lost the key. Fortunately, I was just being my usual unobservant self and later found it hidden behind the zipper of my coat’s inner pocket… oops.
On a more serious level, the rest of the day was spent at a workshop on Historical Trauma that was put on for us by Rose Dominic and Ray Daw. The workshop provided the group with both an academic and personal understanding of the traumas that have occurred in Alaska and in the Native American population as a whole.
At the end of eight hours of intense discussion and conversation, there was really one thing which I was able to take away: responsibility is key. It is the key to learning, to prevention, and to healing for the future. I learned so much today that I cannot possibly convey it all, but I can say that I came away with a much deeper appreciation of the position I have in life and the responsibility that I have as a human being. It is a responsibility shared by all of mankind, no matter what “power” they perceive themselves to have or not have. It brings together a global community and today I have become more aware of my place in it.
It has been a strange couple of days. My body is still trying to make sense of 24-hour sunshine and 50 degree days in the month of June. Knowing myself I will probably just get the hang of it all when it is time to leave… I can only hope that my strict training regime of bi-weekly all night study crams and Netflix bingeing will carry me through this week.
The day before we left, I made the not-so-wise (but completely worth it) decision to make the three hour drive back to Kansas City to go see the Backstreet Boys perform. Driving back, between reminiscing on the perfection of the concert, I began to realize that I had a growing knot in my stomach.
The confusing part for me was that I could not decide if the growing knot I felt was stemming from excitement or nervousness. After several hours of internal debate, I decided on my view of the trip. Basically, it boiled down to a hot shower.
The thought is this: You know when you really need to shower– and you know that it will feel amazing– but for some reason, the thought of actually getting into the shower just seems like a lot of steps and work are going to be involved so you also kind of dread starting the process? Well, I realized that I was thinking of this trip in the same way. I knew that once we got to Alaska that I would enjoy myself, but there was also a knowledge that there was going to be a lot of work involved in both getting to Bethel and in making the documentary that was, in a way, off-putting.
Once we got a four-hour nap under our belts here in Bethel we took a walking tour of the town. It was then, taking pictures as I went, that reality set in for me. I had turned the metaphorical shower handle on, and am finally ready to enjoy the process of documenting Bethel, Alaska.