All posts by Gabby Hart

There’s a Reason You Are Here

Our class on the last day in Uganda (Photo Credit: Alison Prater)

To say this trip has been an emotional roller coaster would not only be slightly cliche, it would be an understatement. It’s more like the roller coaster broke down while we were upside down…then it started to pour rain. I’ve seen the pain in people’s eyes behind their smiles, the harsh and unfair conditions in which much of this world lives, and unimaginable suffering. I’ve been overwhelmed, impatient, and frustrated. There’s been times when I just wished I could pause the world long enough to gather my thoughts, but someone pushes fast forward instead.

During our reflection a few nights ago, Dr, O’Keefe said, “You all came here for a reason.” And we did. I did. I was not entirely sure for the majority of this trip (hence the awkward “Meet Gabby” video, there’s a reason I spend my time behind the camera) and I don’t think I will ever be able to reach a definite conclusion, but I’m getting there. I know I brought the mood down in that opening paragraph, but sometimes you have to be overwhelmed to understand and to feel weak to discover strength.

I’ve seen the power of giving, the power of forgiveness, and the power of kindness. I’ve laughed, danced, sang, and smiled. I came here to remind myself who I am, what I want to do, and where I want to go. So yes, these have been two of the most emotionally tolling and challenging weeks of my life, but they have also been two of the best. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a new culture filled with generosity and a welcoming spirit, pretend to be a famous filmmaker with my fancy camera, and learned to appreciate all that I have in my life. Not to mention, I’ve formed new friendships with all the students and teachers on this trip, but I am sure I will dedicate an entire blog to them later.

I can’t believe it’s our last night in Uganda and that I will be on a plane in just about 24 hours. It’s all happened so fast, yet when I look back at it I feel like I have been here for months. I may be ready to go home, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to leave Uganda. Then again, Uganda has earned a special place in my heart so it’s not really going anywhere.

Keep on keepin’ on

Gabby

Don’t let your hearts grow numb. Stay alert.” –Albert Schweitzer

Our Dear Lovely Visitors

Every place we have visited so far has involved a warm and fairly extravagant welcoming. Songs, dances, handshakes, and even hugs are all given to us the second we step off the bus. If you think about it, that would be like a bus full of aliens rolling up to Creighton’s campus and our natural reaction being to chant the fight song at them or give them high fives. I never feel worthy of the extent of their greeting and can’t help wondering if we would greet them the same way if they ever came to visit our homes in the U.S. It’s so vastly different from anything we do, but it is also a much more genuine introduction to their home then a welcome mat on their front door step.

For the past few days, we have been filming different traditional songs and dances in various places and settings. It is amazing to watch even the people of Abia, who struggle to find food to eat on a daily basis, still put what little energy they have into dancing for group of complete strangers. I’ve been a dancer for most of my life, and even though I haven’t stepped in a studio or performed on stage in a few years, I still recognize the joy dancing can bring. Especially in a place like Ave Maria, where one-third of the students are HIV positive, or the small village of Abia, where hundreds of children are growing up in the poorest living conditions, I am sure the pursuit of happiness must not come easily. But watching them dance, I would catch moments where they would smile to themselves or with the people around them.

The students of Ave Maria performing traditional songs and dances in honor of our visit.

I might be making assumptions, but if they’re anything like me, I think dancing gives them a few minutes of escape from the real and often harsh world they live in; an outlet to express any and all of their emotions and a way to share a little piece of themselves with others.

Blogging is becoming more and more challenging as we continue on this journey. There’s so much to say, but sometimes the words just don’t come together in a way which accurately expresses what is actually happening. It’s also interesting to return from playing soccer with the kids in the village nearby observing all of the poverty surrounding us (as well as facing the reality that my soccer career ended after playing with the “Hot Shots” in second grade) and return to the hotel where we all gather with our electronic devices rolling our eyes or complaining about how slow the wireless connection is. We are lucky enough to be in this country, experiencing the lives of all of these people and seeing first hand a completely different part of the world, let alone having the opportunity to share it with friends and families through these blogs.

So now, it is my turn to thank the dear lovely visitors of these blogs and appreciate all of the support we receive. (Now imagine I’m stomping around with a tribal skirt and whistle and it will be slightly closer to the authentic Ugandan welcome experience).

Keep on keepin’ on and if I don’t get the chance to write tomorrow Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Gabby

Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.” –Charles Dickens

Certainly

The last two days have been jam packed with activities ranging from watching Dr. O’Keefe  become an elder (it’s always great to see an authority figure dressed in leopard print holding a bull tail), getting a grass skirt wrapped around me and dancing with the students at Ave Maria, learning just how challenging filming can be, and visiting a fully functioning and thriving radio station in Lira, Uganda.

Today, especially the stress about every part of our video project started taking a toll. Shooting useable footage, taking valuable notes and figuring out where our story is even headed became stressful tasks in this setting. However, as I walked back from playing soccer with the children from the village nearby and the sun began to set, I directed my attention to the sky (strange that I was focused on a sunset, right?) It hit me that the magnitude of the sky is always for certain. I could be anywhere in the world, look up, and the sky will still be there. Sunset gave way to the night sky which is massive in Africa. You can’t help but awkwardly stand gawking at the stars down here. It’s definitely a reminder that the world is much larger than me, and this video project, and it’s impossible to figure it all out.

So even though I may not know the questions I’m supposed to be asking, what our schedule for the day entails, but here are something things I am certain of:

  • I planted my very own tree in Africa! It’s one thing to leave a place and feel an emotional attachment, but I have a living tree keeping part of me alive in Uganda.

    Planting my tree at Ave Maria (Photo Credit: Alison Prater)
  • Ugandans appreciate their beer just as much as Americans. Who knew? Not me, cheers.
  • I’m on this trip with amazing people and I mean that. If you haven’t read their blogs for any reason, stop reading this one and go check them out. I don’t think this trip would be quite the same without their different insights, quirks, and jokes.

    The bottom of the broadcasting tower at the Radio Wa studio
  • I had a great moment today where we visited Radio Wa and got to watch a live broadcast. As someone who always throws “Radio Host” on my list of dream jobs, I was loving it. Even if that’s the closest I get to sitting behind a microphone, I’m content knowing I got this opportunity.
  • Tomorrow is a new day.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

You’re not supposed to understand everything.” –Rob Sterger

If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” –Bill Watterson

That’s What Makes You Beautiful

I don’t know if it’s the mass amount of photography terms and techniques that have been thrown my way in the past few days, or the fact that this is my second visit to the developing world that gives me a different perspective, but everything about what I see creates beautiful pictures.

As we drove through all the small towns, I couldn’t help but notice all of the raw and organic beauty around me. I promise I’m not just using those terms to sound all fancy and sophisticated, it’s a whole different kind of beauty. Something about looking at people who live in a culture that has yet to be slapped in the face with the concept of “ideal” body image and lack an emphasis on physical appearance, catches my eye. I feel like no American person would look as intriguing just sitting on a motor bike, or standing on the side of the road as the people here do. Not to mention, there is no such thing as an American taking a minute to just sit or stand in a public place like that. And if they do, they’re usually seen as crazy people, not potential works of art.

Children waving to the bus as we drove by

Speaking of catching my eye, I make a lot of split second eye contact with the people as we drive by. And for that one moment, I forget about where I am and how different our circumstances may be. For that one moment, we’re just two people, two humans exchanging a look, wondering about who the other person is. It gets overwhelming to visit all of these places packed with people because I constantly see faces and immediately wonder where their life is going, what they do with their time, what motivates them to keep living a life so vastly different than my own.

People are everywhere. And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Sitting outside houses, stores, on the side of the road, on top of trucks, riding bikes, everywhere. Even in the middle of nowhere (and by that I mean along the miles and miles of rainforest) you will always see men on bikes, women carrying fruit, even young children walking alone.

On a lighter, less deep and philosophical note:

I highly enjoyed our eleven hour bus ride to Lira. No, seriously (excluding that chunk where we moved about 100 ft. in half an hour trying to leave Kampala, good times). It was almost like a dysfunctional family road trip, only rather than visiting the Grand Canyon, we drove across the Nile River with baboons chasing after our bus as we tossed bananas out the window for them (True story, I know I can barely believe it too). All that was missing were some quality family sing-a longs. Next time, guys.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems to be.” –Vint Cerf

We are all bozos on the same bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” –Wavy Gravy (Yes, I just quoted a clown. More proof I lack the ability to actually be fancy and sophisticated.)

Insert Image Here

I told myself I would attempt to somewhat organize the structure/subject matters of these blog posts, but it’s really not going to happen so I apologize for my lack of order. Then again, it reflects the chaotic nature of my first two days here in Uganda. I’ve spent probably a solid three hours with my face right next to the open window of our home away from the hotel, also known as our bus, which has left a lovely layer of dirt on my face and hundreds of lasting images in my mind.

One of hundreds of motorbikes that passed by the windows of our bus.

Traffic in Kampala should not even be described as traffic. It’s more like drive where you want, when you want, as fast as you want, because you can. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone through round-a-bouts amidst tons of motorbikes inches away from both sides of the bus. Meanwhile, you drive on the left side of the road here which constantly gives me these split-second moments where I panic and convince myself we’re about to die in a head-on collision. Slightly dramatic and unpleasant, so let’s move on.

We went to a market to shop for gifts and I discovered two main things. First of all, if you ever find yourself in foreign markets with me never, I repeat, never count on me to do the bartering. I had barely figured out the exchange rate of currency therefore I had zero idea of how much money I should be paying for anything let alone demand a lower price. My inability to assert myself aside, I did manage to make some friends in the process. A woman asked what “Creighton” on my T-shirt meant and when I told her it was a school she immediately gave me a giant hug. It was a warm embrace, but at the same time a harsh slap in my face for not appreciating my education as much as I should. I also bonded with my buddy Dennis, a charismatic painter who told me even though I was American he still thought I was “one cool cat.” Thanks Dennis, right back at you.

The boat which took us across Lake Victoria to the Source of the Nile.

Today we ventured down to the Source of the Nile which was stunningly serene, if that’s even possible (I’ll post a picture eventually). We climbed into a rather shaky wooden boat, where if one person would have shifted their weight too much in one direction, there could have been a short documentary produced about the backpack journalism crew swimming through Lake Victoria. There was a moment when we pulled into shore from the boat, and a Ugandan man was filming us on his phone as we arrived. At first I thought “This is odd,” then I looked down at the camera strapped to my own neck. The shoe was officially on the other foot, or I guess in this case the eyes were on the other side of the lens.

As Long as You Love Me” and “Last Christmas” played at the first restaurant we ate dinner at. Backstreet Boys and Christmas music, two things I generally associate with Africa. It was a nice reminder of home (and who doesn’t love boy bands and out of season Christmas music?), but at the same time an interesting display of just how far the United States influence travels.

Those are just a view tidbits of all the images that have crossed my path in these past two days and I’m sure it’s only the beginning. Tomorrow is going to be another long day on our trusty bus, but every day is a new adventure here and I can’t really complain about that.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

p.s. Yes, this does indeed happen every morning as the sun comes up. Just kidding. Or am I? I guess you all need to take a trip down here to find out!

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” -Roald Dahl

Notes from the Window Seat

I took a creative writing class last semester in which my teacher always suggested bringing a notebook around with you and write down any and every observation you make. Whenever I travel, I feel like little pieces here and there go missing, so I decided to embrace the idea of writing everything down, and wrote everything down. I chose a window seat on every single flight we are taking specifically because I didn’t want to end up being that awkward girl leaning forward in her seat for eight hours in order to see out the window.

I won’t post it all up here immediately because some of it is very minor details (such as noticing our flight attendant from Detroit to Amsterdam had a voice alarmingly similar to that of Kristen Wiig’s “Target Lady” character on Saturday Night Live) not to mention I am sharing this computer with eight other people. Here are some highlights for our brief, 26-hour travel day:

  • I think every person in the Detroit airport purposefully gets to the airport late. I have never seen so many people running (which is the least graceful activity when you have a suitcase or duffel bag flopping along side of you) to and from gates. We had about 20 minutes before our next flight boarded which also required us to move at a fast pace. Usually I would try and pull off the “I’m in a huge rush, but watch how swiftly I can still walk” look but since the majority of people were running, I didn’t need to worry about looking like an idiot.
  • As an avid sunset watcher, the one I just experienced probably ranks number one on my list of best sunsets. If I had any sort of influence on the producers of the show Planet Earth, I would suggest filming an entire series from this view point. We’re somewhere between Canada and Greenland, so there’s a bright red sun, with pink and orange clouds, all behind snowy mountain peaks. It doesn’t get much better than that and I would have loved to share a picture with you all, but naturally my camera battery was dead and the thought to use the camera on my iPod did not occur to me until later in the trip as we passed over the Sahara. But isn’t that life? One moment in time truly appreciated to its fullest because it will never be able to be recreated the same way again.
  • We just went directly from sunset to sunrise. Zero nighttime. Thumbs up to a stellar view, thumbs down to the major disruption to my internal clock. For example, according to my body I just ate my breakfast at approximately one o’clock in the morning. Definitely normal.
  • Walking off the plane into the Amsterdam airport was like walking into another world. There was so much for the senses to take in: bright orange and green signs everywhere, flight attendants wearing the PanAmerican style blue suits, hundreds of people walking by speaking all kinds of different languages, and countless announcements in Dutch which kind of just sounds like fancy gibberish if you ask me. No offense.
  • Note to self: first way to feel ridiculously American in a European airport, wear tie-dye.
  • Just flew over the Sahara Desert. That’s one of those places that has only existed as an answer to a question on a Geography map test for me, so seeing it from above was slightly surreal.

At this point, I shifted into zombie status due to the lack of following natural sleep patterns, but I did manage to write “say something creative about sleeping on planes.” Something creative about sleeping on planes. Moving on to the highlight of the travel day:

WE’RE IN AFRICA!

Keep on keeping’ on,

Gabby

Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” -Walker Evans

 

Ready or not, I’m going!

Honestly, I have trouble giving a definite answer to the question, “Why are you going on this trip?” A random assortment of influences combined into one major decision. Rest assured, I did not decide on a whim to travel thousands of miles away to play with fancy cameras just for kicks.

I am not sure when the concept of “bucket lists” became so prevalent in society, but for the past five years or so, I have made countless attempts at creating one for myself to see what the hype was about. My lists generally looked somewhat like this, give or take a few additions:

  • Run up a down escalator (Really living life on the edge in this one)
  • Become a Barista
  • Run a half marathon
  • Learn how to play guitar
  • Come up with a better bucket list (One of my personal favorites)
The official bucket list of MTV's "The Buried Life", four men who are successfully crossing off their items.

However, every single attempt would have “GO. TO. AFRICA.” written as the very first item. So I guess, I am actually trying to prove to myself that even though I am incapable of creating a full bucket list, at least I will be able to draw a solid line through my number one.

As shy or timid as I may seem from the outside, I have an adventurous spirit deep down. It is this spirit that inspired me to apply for the program approximately one week before the already extended deadline (better late than never, right?) I specifically remember calling my Mom to tell her I was going rather than ask her like a polite daughter should have (Sorry, Mom) because there was nothing that was going to stop me from accepting the opportunity for this experience. Experiences such as these, travelling to a new country and seeing a different side of the world, give me the opportunity to be gently shoved out of my comfort zone which is terrifying, but rewarding in the end.

Obviously this trip is more than just crossing an item off a bucket list that does not actually exist at the moment. It’s a way for me to go out and see another small part of this giant world we live in, meet new people with different perspectives and through the process learn a little something about myself as well. Lucky for you all, we have these handy blogs and a future documentary film to share a little piece of the experience with you.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver

 

Meet the Team: Gabby

(I haven’t been able to successfully fill out one of these spaces ever since Myspace made me in the 7th grade, just go with it)

I’m a Junior, Sociology major. I will gladly admit I don’t quite know what I’m doing with it, but I enjoy it and that’s all that really matters to me. I am an obnoxiously proud Colorado native and I still have yet to master figuring out which direction I am facing without being able to see the mountains. My hobbies include anything outdoorsy, eating Trail Mix, appreciating sunsets, baking for my wonderful friends and family, playing the piano, and not practicing writing paragraphs about myself.