All posts by Emily Hanigan

I’m Not Saying… I’m Just Saying

So, I am currently sitting in the Computer Lab trying to finish up the final touches on our rough draft of the film. Instead of doing that, I am writing this blog while Morgan and Jen are eating fruits and veggies, Rachel J is on youtube, and Amy is asking lots of questions. Must be lunch break! Good thing we took a break because all of us are getting a little restless.

Yesterday we were so tired that Rachel, Morgan, and I had a race to see who could swivel around on a chair the fastest. Needless to say, WE were being productive.

The group is so great. Now that we have been back for a week, we are all blending back into our normal life styles. It was difficult at first, but with all the support of fellow classmates and teachers the transition went smoothly.

I love our group. Like A LOT. We are all completely different people, but I think there is a saying, something like… Opposites attract? 🙂 I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Which seemed to be my go to line during the trip, well that and Go Big or Go Home. Turns out I did “Go Big”. I have been sick since we got home and refuse to go to the doctor because that shows a sign of weakness!!! Yes, Mama Zoogs, I am going to the doctor when I get home… No worries.

The video actually looks more like a video today. We started adding B-Roll and editing out the translations. Rachel Belsha and I worked on a 4 minute section of the video for about 3 hours. That’s a lot of time spent of 4 measly minutes… Not to toot my own horn, but those 4 minutes are amazingly good! Beep Beep.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

Spanish: learn it through hand signals.

Going from one of the hardest experiences on the trip to one of the BEST experiences on the trip, Majagual might just be one of the most beautiful places in the world. On the top of the top of the top of a mountain, over looking the vast area of a distant ocean, Majagual and it’s people radiate beauty from every corner.

The last 2 and a half days of our backpacking trip led us to the campo of Majagual, about two hours away from ILAC. It is located on a dirt road that can only be accessed if there hasn’t been any rain recently. The road floods constantly and it’s inhabitants are forced to either walk in the mud or wait til the road dries. For a community based on the cocao crop, chocolate, this year was a thriving one. If you think that chocolate tastes good right off the tree, just ask Morgan about it. Enough said.

When we arrived, we had lunch at Fransisco’s house, where we ate all of our meals, then dispersed and went to our respective families. Rachel Belsha and I became sisters in that moment. Paired together to share in the family experience, Rachel and I linked hands with our new found sister Elena and started our 1/2 a mile walk to our new casa. Our home was great! Two bedrooms, a couch and table, and misquito nets galore. Oh how I love misquito nets… not. After getting aquainted with everyone, it was off to work.

Rachel Johnson, Amy, Morgan, Tim, and myself made a group designed for making bathrooms… yay! With Fransisco leading us, we were in for one great journey! Morgan, Rachel, and I can fake Spanish to an extent, but we were saved by hand signals. When we didn’t understand something, or wanted to relay a message we couldn’t say, sign language was our new best friend. Fransisco picked it up pretty quick and played along great! By the end, he was even singing to us… We returned the favor with a little J Beebs, Backstreet Boys, and S Club 7, good thing there was a language barrier. :/

The sign language continued to prove itself as Rachel Johnson and I had Spanish lessons with our new sisters. Elena and Noelia, Rachel’s sister, spent around 2 hours helping us say words we didn’t know. They are great teachers, and dispite our laughing fits and making fun of Rachel saying the wrong things sometimes, we were really productive. My brother Rafael even helped out a bit too. Hand signals such as walking really fast, rapido, then slowing it down to learn the word for slow, lento, was funny AND fun to do. The girls thought it was hilarious, but loved helping us too. One of the many great things about the campo was the fact that my Spanish understanding and vocab grew immensly. I was picking up words easier and understanding concepts, even though they talk SO fast.

After the two and a half days flew pass and it was time to say goodbye, there was no language barrier. The sadness felt in the room didn’t need words. The tears didn’t need to be gestured out. The love needed no translation. After saying goodbye and getting on the bus, holding my head up strong and trying not to cry, our families ran after the bus and jumped on to be with us one last time. Nothing could hold the tears back then, so I cried. I cried for the goodbyes already said, the love I had for my family, the trip being almost over, and the joy of seeing my parents and brother back in the States. Needless to say it was an emotional ride home.

To the families I just met and the family I have been missing for 10 days…

I love you more than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.


The Road of a Testimony

So this post is a little behind on the time scale of our trip. With all the busy plans and rush packing, there wasn’t much time to sit down and really write out how I felt the last week in the Dominican Republic.

So away we go… After our last day of filming, we had a mainly free Saturday. We had class in the morning with Kyle, to learn about the history of the Dominican Republic and the economic status of the DR as well as Haiti. After our class was over, the whole class took a trip to La Sirena, otherwise known as the Dominican Walmart, except this one is 2, count em 1, 2 floors tall! Whoa.

After an overwhelming search for brightly colored skinny jeans and cheesy souvenirs, we all headed back to ILAC on a bus called a Guagua. Can you say “up close and personal?” Never did I know that on this trip I would be sat on by a complete stranger, sharing sweat and the little breeze that was coming through the window. Nine American students entered a 12 passenger van with around 24, on average, people stuffed inside. It was a great experience, I feel like I should have at least gotten the lady’s name that sat on me because usually when you get that close with someone, you at least know their name.

On to a more serious note. The next morning we traveled to Dajabon. A city that is famous for the market it holds twice a week for Haitians to cross the border into the Dominican Republic and buy groceries they will need for the week. With much desperation and desire, thousands of Haitians cross the border, most sprinting, to get as much stuff as they can before the market closes. I got to experience first hand how the exchange at the border goes about. Dr. O’Keefe, Carol, Erin, Rachel B, and I walked onto the bridge and stood on the edge by the railing. We stood for around 20 minutes, people watching. Small men carrying crates that should be led by 2 oxen, women balancing enormous bags on top of their heads, and children running across with no shoes on. As we stood on the bridge, I suddenly had this feeling of embarassment. Why was I standing there watching these people cross the border to get food? What was so entertaining or interesting for me to people watch for 20 minutes? I had a hard time with that as we started our way back to the bus. This feeling of embarassment was present in me most of the trip. I felt like I was invading these people’s space, when all they wanted to do was go about their day. How rude of me.

After we left Dajabon, we drove on an old road that separates Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The poorest of the poor live on this road, and tears began to fill my eyes as we watched the children run after our bus screaming, “Dame algo”, give me something, it was heart breaking. I don’t think it hit most of us until Elfie, our bus driver, stopped to buy some mangos from a boy standing on the side of the road. We all had our windows down because it was so hot, and an old woman, I’ll say she was around 60 or 70, walked straight to the nearest open window and shoved her hand right in the face of Gaby, then Morgan, and finally Tim. All of us felt helpless because there was nothing we could do. How can you not help out a helpless old woman, a grandma who wants nothing more than a few pesos that we were not allowed to give. A little piece of my heart was changed at that moment; it will never be the same again.

The trip to Dajabon was by far the hardest 2 days we spent in the Dominican Republic. I struggled with many emotions and challenges on that trip. It took so much strength not to give everything I had, including the clothes on my back, to the children, mothers, and men with calluses on their hands. Kyle talked to us about being a witness and how a testimony can change the verdict of a case. I have witnessed. Now I am working of my life altering testimony.

With an understanding of sadness,


Los Ninos de Cien Fuegos

I have made so many new friends on this trip. Most of them fall somewhere under the age of 8 and have the cutest faces. The children of Cien Fuegos display happiness despite the poverty they live in. To them, they are not poor. As long as they have a pair of shoes on there feet, nothing else really matters.

They are very understanding and work with me on my developing Spanish skills. I have fallen for the cutest little girl, who always comes up and pulls my arm around her before she puts hers around me. She puts a smile on my face and helps me look past the poverty. We had reflection tonight and Kyle, our teacher, mentor, and translator, told us that he struggles with the idea of seeing past the poverty. We must see them as people, who live as a community and when we only see the poor, we subconsciencly lessen their dignity as human beings. Playing with these children and talking with their parents really helps me to see them as a whole, not just the poor part. But we must not completely over look the poverty. Today, Kyle saw a woman who was passing her newborn son to another woman. The son was as stiff as a board, a birth defect, and Kyle asked if he was okay. The woman just answered, “He was born broken.” Its hard to look past the poverty when you think that possibly this baby’s condition could have been avoided.

I want to thank and pray for the children I have met on this trip. They have made me stronger and more aware of the world around me. As for a little boy, who is now always in my thoughts, left me today, he left with two things: my “Arch March” bracelet and a little piece of my heart. I hope to one day soon travel back to him. But if I can’t, I hope this video we are making helps him in ways that I cannot at the moment.

Here’s to the voice of the children,

The Heat of Cien Fuegos Was Felt Today!

Today was the last day of filming. I think everyone felt sad to actually have it end. Last night we had a talk about what shots we needed to get and what we needed to improve on. So today everyone stepped up and got some great footage of the slums; people living just above the level of starvation.

I think today was the hardest day for me. I was really sad to end shooting because Pedro is an amazing person and I learned so much from him. He faces problems head on and is not afraid of a challenge . “A man can change his stars” and that is what Pedro is doing for those who don’t have the ability to do it for themselves.

The slums were really hard to walk through today. The people didn’t want to be filmed, and the children were walking around with no clothes on or barely any clothes on. At the end of the day, Kyle took Rachel, Amy, and I with Roberto to the water run off region. They call it “black water” because it is literally black. It consists of raw sewage and smells horrible. This water runs through the city, and at the mouth of the canal there were broken chairs, whole bags of trash, t-shirts, and a plethora of rats. When we asked for directions, a local Dominican told Roberto, “Show these Americans how we live. Please show them so they know. Show them the black water. Show them our reality.” It was so sad; I cannot describe how I felt when he said that to us. It really makes you think.

So here’s to the hope of drinking clean water.


Go Big or Go Home (Va grande o va casa)

So, this is just a little post to keep you guys updated on my status while I’m down here. No parents to help me out, no real knowledge of the culture, and very little spanish vocalized by me equals one bumpy ride.

For instance, Mom and Dad don’t freak out, I already brushed my teeth with the wrong water today! Oh, well it was for like 2 seconds and our translator Kyle told me I’ll be fine. My motto for this trip is now, “Go Big or Go Home.”

Don’t worry, I am not going to go crazy and get myself into trouble. I am merely using this phrase because I want to embrace the culture I am in. I am on foreign soil, and I am going, to use a overused phrase, do what the “Dominicans” do.

I am going to try new food, sweat constantly for 11 more days, probably get a slightly red color from the sun, and live on Dominican time. Want to leave in 15 minutes? Ok, wait 30 minutes and see if they are even close to being ready to go.

Last night we made nicknames for Gaby and Morgan. Gaby is “miwi”, pronounced like kiwi with an M, because any question we ask she knows, shes like a mini wikipedia! Morgan is now know as Shark Bait, oooh ah ah. She made a comment about sharks biting the sides out of one piece bathing suits, the name stuck… need I say more? We all know one pieces suits are “sexy”!

Well anyway, here’s to a long, healthy, fun-filled trip. Time to work on my Spanish skills, and become friends with the locals… Or maybe I will save that for later in the trip.

Sonrie el sol,



Una Problema en Miami


What a trip! Yesterday was filled with excitement, sadness, joy, anxiety, and happiness. Our travels were less than ideal, and we had problems with every flight we were on yesterday. First the weather was too bad in Chicago, so we couldn’t land. When we finally did land in Chicago, the lightning was too bad so we couldn’t get off the plane. After that our flight to Miami was 2 hours late, and we LITERALLY missed our connecting flight to Santiago by seconds. They closed the door right before we got there and refused to let us on! Dr. O’Keefe politely asked the nice man at the counter to help us. 🙂

It was truly Gaby who saved the day. Her brilliant mind got us on the next flight out of Miami for the Dominican Republic, but we were being rerouted to Santo Domingo, which is about 2 and a half hours away… Yay, for long bus rides!

We finally arrived around 3 o’clock in the morning, Santiago time, and didn’t get to sleep until 4. We then had to wake up for breakfast at 8 and finally began our journey through Santiago.

Being here feels like a dream, I still can’t wrap the idea around my head that I am in a foreign country. The money here is different, the traffic is suicidal, the car horns are on continual beep mode, and the people still keep smiles on their faces. This morning was a little scary because we had an electrical wire pole fall right in front of us because a fork lift ran into it and pulled it down; buildings were damaged and I don’t think I’ve seen any of the students move as fast as they did when they heard the snapping noise right above their heads! Ahh such a great way to start the trip.

We took an alternate route back to ILAC, and then traveled into downtown Santiago. It is such a culture shock. Everything is different, the people, the cars, the roads, the stores, and even the time. Nothing goes as planned, we are on Dominican time now!

As I start to immerse myself into this culture, I hope I can be changed for the better, while also changing something here for the better.

Until more adventures come my way…


There are Some Things Time Can’t Buy, for Everything Else There’s Backpacking in the Dominican Republic.

Weeks of summer session, 5.

Hours of class per day, 4.

Professors, 3.

Weeks of class completed, 2.

Adventures, 1.

Spending time in an 84 degree class room, filled with the smell of oatmeal and coffee, while learning a semesters worth of knowledge about film, journalism, and theology in a 2 week session… Priceless.

Although I have learned many things within the past 2 weeks of class, there is one thing that stands above the rest; on a pedestal if you will. That specific thing is… I can’t decide. I tried to think of one specific thing that I could elaborate on. One thing that has really thrown me in a new direction, but to tell you the truth I believe just being involved in this experience has changed me and we haven’t even left for the Dominican Republic yet!

I can tell you one thing I have learned that I truly appreciate, not to degrade any of our academic learning because it has been more valuable than I could have ever dreamt of, but I have loved getting to know and learning about the lives of the fellow students who are beginning this experience with me. For instance: Amy only likes to eat oatmeal on days that end in ‘y’; Rachel J likes to dress like me almost everyday; Scott struggles with his packing list on whether to bring a one piece or two piece swimsuit; Rachel B obviously can answer any question about the DR, just ask her; Gaby throws awesome pizza parties; Jen is the go to girl when no one knows what the heck is going on in class; Morgan loves answering Dr. O’Keefe’s questions; Peter has to super power of invisibility; Carol bakes like Betty Crocker; Tim has a phobia of shoes; and Dr. O’Keefe can rock a bandanna.

All of this information would be left unknown in the mind of Emily had I not taken this class. I have learned so much about these 11 individuals and I know I will learn so much FROM them as we continue to stay together and learn together. Our class is becoming a union, a family living together, sharing together, being together, changing together, and traveling together.

Go Backpacking Class of Summer of ’10

Until we meet again…


Having my cake and eating it too.

“Coming out of Minnesota
I could see the stars had fallen out of line
I look too deep into your words and try to live in mine” –The Color Fred

From now on, I am going to try to start every blog off with a quote or song lyric that relates to my blog. I chose this particular lyric because I just traveled to Minnesota this weekend, and I adore this line in the song. How great a way to speak your mind, while engaging in self truth.

The title of this blog “having my cake and eating it too” normally comes with a bad connotation. I assure you this is none of the sort.

Birthdays are a time of laughter, gatherings, catering of food, and a multitude of presents… when you’re turning 5. As we age birthdays take on an adult meaning. We are expected to work on our birthdays, take the kids to soccer, take out the trash, pay the late bills, and make dinner for the family… when you’re turning 40. So where does that put me, a 20 year old girl, who still acts like she is 6 sometimes. Somewhere between a woman and a child… not to quote Garth Brooks or anything…

This year on my birthday I attended my cousin’s college graduation, which normally happens only once in a lifetime. Today was not about my birthday; silence the phone calls, don’t answer texts, strap on the high heels, put on my best dress, hurry up just to wait, then head to a ceremony of over 1000 graduates, sit 4 hours only to stand for a couple of seconds to scream, “Go Beth” because in that moment birthdays don’t matter… family does.

My quote comes in because after the graduation, I was surprised in the hotel with gifts spralled across the table, my family laughing and having a wonderful time, and crackers and cheese to last a lifetime. Was I turning 5 again?! No, I was turning 20, but having a birthday party fit for the 6 year old that rests in my heart. What a better family to have then one who can bring out the best of both celebrations, and laughter that fills the hallways of a local hotel…

Just being with my family gives me the right to “have my cake and eat it too”.

If you are reading, I love you all very much. The Minnesota trips are always fun and full of memories.

Until next time,

The Impact of a Profile

For this blog, I read the article “All She Has, $150,000, Is Going to a University,” written by Rick Bragg. This article brought emotions out of me that very few pieces of writing have accomplished. There is no comparable feeling than the sensation one gets when they produce a great opening introduction. This is exactly what Bragg achieved. He starts this article with an opening that keeps readers glued to the story, and ends it with a sentence that quite possibly wets those glued eyes. This is the type of writer I inspire to be, this is the type of product I want to produce. I want to capture my audience and to give them goose bumps. I want to change people’s lives with as little as a few words.

As we are assigned a new homework project, making a profile of a fellow student, I am trying to capture as much “Bragg-ness” as possible. Within his story, I got chills multiple times just from the images he puts forth on paper. He puts people’s thoughts into words, people’s dreams into action, and people’s stories into headlines.

There were many parts of the article that caught my eye, but I was really intrigued by the quotes. I have been told that, in a paper, quotes are my strong point. Even though I do not directly plan it, I usually design my paper around the perfect quotes. Once I get started, I know exactly where I am going and find the ideal transition quotes to get me there.   

I know that I need to enhance my reporting skills in order to become a better journalist, but the passion and thrill of making a story come to life is far too distracting and most other factors fade into the background.

I want to change someone’s life by telling their story. If I can make a difference in one person’s life then I believe I have achieved a gift greater than the satisfaction of simply doing a good job writing a story.

To all that are reading, and to all who have been following me:

I hope I am leaving you with some insight into the heart and mind of Emily. I want you to learn about me through this blog, and by the end I would like to speak to you the way this article has spoken to me.

Until we meet again_