All posts by Scott Peak

Why I am sitting inside on a beautiful day

Each of us has something to do, whether pushing through hours of footage or creating a story out of different quotes or paring down interviews or b-roll. But we are all in this together. And if I may say it, we are getting pretty good as a team doing all of these things.

We are taking apart this video for a good cause. Our mission at the beginning of this trip was to interview this guy named Pedro who lived in a trash dump. Our mission now is to accurately tell the story of a deacon who has spent his life trying to transform the trash dump and surrounding area into a live-able and safe environment. This is a big task for 9 students under the age of 22. How are we going to accomplish this task set in front of us?

We are going to work together. And push each other a little bit. I can sense that we are starting to feel the tension of having a lot to do and only a little time to do it in. This is where our teamwork comes in. I learned that we work well as a group while we were in the Dominican Republic. We can do this.

To those who are waiting on this video, it should be a moving story. Cannot tell you the length or the exact content at this juncture but I can tell you that I trust the people editing this story. We are going to tell the right story about Pedro and we are going to do our best to accurately represent Cien Fuegos. Their story became our story and we are going to tell it right. As Morgan has said, “Game on!”

These stories are going to be tough to tell

I have had a lot of time to reflect in recent days, mostly because of certain airlines and the Chicago O’Hare airport not getting along, and I wanted to share some of those reflections.

1. I experienced a lot in the Dominican Republic. I believe that each and every one of us on the trip did. It affected each of us differently, but each of us was affected by the experiences we had. I hope that the members of this trip are able to share that common experience and let others know about it.

2. This documentary is going to be tough to put together. If we were to share every single story that we heard or experienced on this trip, the documentary would be a) very, very lengthy and b) a never-ending editing process. So we are going to be cutting out a lot of information to share the most moving parts with you, the viewer.

3. Traveling to the Dominican Republic has changed my view on the world and has given me a lot of questions to answer. Things look different when viewed under the lens of another culture, and I believe that has been very good for me. Seeing a “middle class” country and then coming back to the States has been a bit off-setting. Am I going to be able to share my time (as opposed to money, material goods, etc.) just like the families we stayed with in Majagual? How can I fight for human rights and for people who are marginalized, like those we saw in Dajabon and on the International Highway? Will the stories I tell influence someone else to do good?

4. I hope to travel again someday, and someday soon. Seeing the immaterial wealth of another culture and of a people is something I would like to continue.

The stories I experienced and heard over the past two weeks are some that I will carry with me and remember for the rest of my life. Ask me about them, I would love to talk about them. Thank you for all of your support and for reading my blog. I do appreciate it.

Saturday: A day of rest, learning and guaguas

Woke up, had breakfast, and went to the classroom to learn about the history of the Dominican Republic from Kyle Woolley. I took a few pages of notes and learned a few things along the way. It makes me a little nervous for the trip to Haiti because of the strained relations between the two countries but it makes me look forward to learning more as well.

In the afternoon, we headed to La Sirena (similar to a Super Walmart) on a guagua (taxi/bus/crammed van) and went shopping. It was crazy to see all the things that were sold and for how much. I was also impressed with how large the store was but all in all it was a fun trip. We headed back to ILAC via guagua and it was crammed full of at least 25 people. It was pretty warm but we made it back safe and sound.

Hearing the lecture Saturday morning also pointed something else out to me: I have learned so much over these few days I have been in the Dominican Republic. My education has been nowhere near classroom based but has been out in the world. I have had my eyes opened on more than one occasion to the realities of injustices in this world of ours. I look forward to doing what I can to help tell the stories of what I have seen so far in these few short days.

Friday: Getting the footage and making new friends

Our last day in Cien Fuegos began with breakfast as usual at 8 am and we packed a lunch so that we could spend the whole day on location. We took the gringo bus to the soup kitchen and church to meet up with Pedro again. He met us and then wanted to take us on another walk to Escuela Santa Lucia.

We split into two groups, and I was in a group with Peter Freeze, Amy Engle, Morgan Braaten. Since Friday was our last day to do any shooting in Cien Fuegos we had to make sure we shot awesome footage. And awesome footage, we shot. We started down the street and started working as a team. Each of us shot what looked good and things seemed pretty good to start. After a few minutes, we came upon the fire station, where Peter was able to get us invited inside the walls to shoot. This fire station is the only fire station in Cien Fuegos and serves 125,000 people. Something worth thinking about: the safety of that many people. The firefighters let us take their picture and video of them beside their fire truck, which was really cool. Mad props to Peter for both being the Spanish speaker of the group and getting us permission to shoot a ton on Friday.

We got footage of a bunch of different people along the way to the school but the one that stood out most was that of a man Morgan saw playing the guitar in his house. The guitarist, Alfonso, was very willing to play a song for us and it was a heck of a song. Although I did not catch much of it (my Spanish is still a little shaky), it was a moving song to watch and video being performed just for us. I am hoping it is used in the documentary somewhere.


Both groups met up by the school and then headed to get some more shots of neighborhoods closer to the actual dump. After this, we headed back to the soup kitchen (kind of our base of operations while in Cien Fuegos), and had our lunch. We moved on to keep interviewing and broke into separate groups and I stayed at the soup kitchen. The kids always seemed to be floating around and it was great to see the people of the community using the center for their meetings. It added ambiance to our video, and although it may have screwed up our audio, it was worth it because we were guests who were hosted graciously by the members of the church there.

We came back after the interviews and getting more cool shots, and headed to ILAC to have dinner. We had a reflection to cover what we had seen and experienced over the days in the Dominican Republic. I saw that each of my classmates were having different experiences but we were all in this together and were each moved by these experiences. We were let off for an early night and I got to bed right around midnight, which was fantastic.

Thursday: Only a picture can do this beach justice, and I didn’t have a camera

Beach day! We woke up, had breakfast, got ready and headed out on the gringo bus to go to the beach with Tom Kelly’s class that was on their last day. It was about 2 hours to the beach. We headed to Sosua Beach, which was absolutely gorgeous, and was also a Dominican beach and not a touristy beach. The water was a clear blue just like you see on post cards and was warm enough to just run right in. I sunscreened up (multiple times throughout the day, in case you were wondering Mom), chatted for a bit and walked down the beach to see all of the vendors.

The vendors are a completely different story here. While in America, there may be open shops for you to walk in at your own leisure, the Dominicans actively try and get you to buy from them. Peter, James and I were scouting out some sandals for Kyle and Peter got into a heated debate with one of the shop owners about how much he would pay for a certain type of sandals. It was fun to watch and the guy remembered, twice as we passed by, the price he offered and that Peter was coming back to get the sandals. It was crazy to see every other store (it seemed) having someone trying to get you to come and buy something with a person outside the store.

I ended up purchasing a ride on a banana boat (big straight yellow inter-tube with spots for 5 or 6) once we got back from the walk. I was told that the most fun you could have on one was spinning other people off of the tube. So I did. I let us get way out on the water (we were all wearing life jackets) and then I tucked and rolled bringing everyone off the boat. After that first excursion into the water, whether the next watery spills were my fault or not, I got blamed for them. Oh well, it was a ton of fun and I think the guy driving the boat was out to get us off the tube more than I was. Well worth the bargained 100 pesos it cost each of us (thank you Peter).

We played some catch with a football in the water with Tom Kelly and his class. This turned into a king of the mountain game on top of a floating banana tube in the ocean, which was a lot of fun. Peter called me in to have me go inter-tubing with him and Chris Boitano. The catch was we would be filming it when we were on the tube making things a lot more interesting. The camera was in a waterproof housing-so no one worries and we grabbed on and we took off. Check out Peter’s blog post on the matter but it was a ton of fun and we wiped out pretty big a couple of times. Made for some good video. I have a copy of it now so let me know if anyone wants to see it.

After this I went to the shore because people were getting ready for lunch. Lunch was a fresh cooked red snapper, fried plantains, French fries and some salad. It was really good food just served on Dominican time, meaning that it was a little late and showed up when things were ready, not when we expected them to be.

We spent a bit more time on the beach chatting, enjoying the scenery and taking some pictures then headed home. Came back having felt the sun, and being a little beaten up, everyone went to the library at ILAC to review footage before the next day. All in all, it was an excellent day (even though I am still feeling sore as I write this a few days later).

Wednesday: More excitement than can be put into a blog

Woke up, had breakfast, enjoyed some cereal and the like, had some excellent coffee and then packed up to head into Cien Fuegos. We took the gringo bus (no Dominican would ride in one) and ended up next to the church where Pedro preaches. Our group was taken on a walking tour by Pedro, a very energetic old man who has been at work in Cien Fuegos since 1975. As we stood on the top of a hill overlooking the entirety of Cien Fuegos (dump included), Pedro told us the story of Cien Fuegos and how he was involved in fixing some of the problems.

I noticed an incredible amount of humanity in this place that was sprawled out around us. We had our technical difficulties but seeing how every person treated us and reacted to what we were doing was astounding. Such friendliness to people they had never met, seeing the “Americanos” walking around and saying hello and having children flock to us was unbelieveable. This is where I picked up a lot of my small talk in Spanish because otherwise one is going to have a heck of a time interacting with all of the people around.

After shooting and interviewing Pedro and other community members and walking through Cien Fuegos, we headed back to ILAC for a quick lunch and then headed back out to do some more. As part of the group was interviewing the next set of community members, Peter Freeze, Rachel Belsha and I headed out with Roberto (someone from Cien Fuegos and who works with Pedro) to take some B-roll of the school we had been past earlier. Peter worked at the school during the past semester and though he knew the way, but Roberto had other plans to take us on a back route to the school. After seeing Roberto’s house, taking a few sets of stairs, going up a number of back alleys, saying hello to numerous people sitting outside or working we ended up directly in front of Escuela Santa Lucia. Peter was impressed because he had never taken that route to school and I was blown away by the number of people that were around and more of the reactions to us. We got the video we needed and headed back to the church.

After the group at the church and soup kitchen next door had finished, it was decided that we needed to get at least a little bit of footage of the dump itself. Background on this was that the last group to go had not been able to get to the dump because the law had changed. We rode in the back of Kyle’s truck and Tim and Peter shot stills and I shot some video as well. It was an experience shooting video and intruding into people’s lives as they were just trying to survive. It was something I had trouble with but knew that if I did not shoot the video then I would not be able to tell the story as it should be told. It was a tough lesson to learn but it was good to experience. We headed back to ILAC for dinner and reflection and Kyle had us start to acknowledge some of the feelings and emotions that had come up during the tough day of shooting.

More than beaches and baseball

This time in the Dominican Republic has been nothing short of incredible. My life goals and things on my “bucket list” have increased by quite a few items. Spanish is slowly coming back to me and I am becoming slightly more comfortable with all that I learned in high school and college. I have found that I would really like to be able to communicate to these people in their language, and as close to fluently as possible. I would like to hear more stories about people all around the world and I would love to challenge myself and travel to places that need stories told. May be a lofty goal but why can’t I aim high?

To catch everyone up a little bit since my last post, on Wednesday our group went into Cien Fuegos, a very impoverished neighborhood built up around a trash dump. More on that in a bit. On Thursday, we went to Sosua Beach for a bit of relaxing and we went with Tom Kelly’s class, which was a blast. On Friday, we went back to finish up shooting in Cien Fuegos. On Saturday, we had a lecture on the Dominican Republic by Kyle and headed by guagua into Santiago to go shopping at La Sirena.

For more depth and storytelling fun: click here to go into my blog.

La ma_ɬ

Last night after all of the hullabaloo getting into Santo Domingo, we had a two and a bit hour van ride to the ILAC Mission. Peter and I, being the only two male students, were placed in a dormitory all to ourselves. This room is rather large and spacious for the two of us, beds were stacked three high, we only took up the bottom two on the far side of the room. We both fell asleep to the girls clamoring next door catching up, and woke up for breakfast four hours later around 8am.

The coffee was excellent and the food was simple but good. The fresh fruit is going to be a bonus every morning. This morning was cantaloupe and watermelon.

After breakfast we went to change out our American money into Dominican pesos. As we were standing exchanging money, a truck with a forklift on the back drove past and the tall part hooked on the power lines above our heads and the truck kept going. Two telephone/power poles cracked and wires snapped, leaving power lines in the streets. All the while, our class was trying to convert money and not look too out of place. We looked out of place anyway. 

Following this power line fun, we could not walk down that section of the street as there were lots of people milling about and a truck that was stuck in the middle of the street with wires all over it. Kyle Woolley, our tour guide, translator, and leader extraordinaire, took us on the scenic tour to get back to the ILAC Mission. We saw many houses and got to see another section of the Dominican life.

After this fun tour, we regrouped and got in a van to head to the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration to get a small history lesson and overview of the next few days of travel. We got to see where Cien Fuegos is located and saw plenty of the city. We walked down into the business district for a few minutes to get a little slice of life and then we headed back to the van.

The van ride to and from the monument and from the airport last night showed me another fun aspect of the Dominican culture. The drivers drive in whatever lane they feel is necessary and from what I can tell, at least at night, road signs and red lights are very optional. During the day there is more order to the road but it has been interesting to see the drivers drive wherever they want and rules get made by each individual driver.

As for overall atmosphere, it is hot and humid here in the Dominican Republic. I somewhat expected this but I don’t know if you can ever really fully prepare yourself for the stickiness. I will try and find some way to remain cool, but I am not minding the weather too much as of yet.

The plan for this evening is to check on baggage arriving today for the six people who have yet had any luggage in the DR. If the baggage does not arrive then we are going to go on a shopping trip at La Sirena, the local Wal-Mart type establishment. I lucked out and had all of my luggage arrive but I am hopeful that everyone else’s luggage arrives soon.

I am writing this during our siesta time, in the afternoon, and may actually go take a nap if get around to it, otherwise I may be touring the grounds of the ILAC Mission. It is truly beautiful here and hopefully some pictures will find their way up onto the blog soon to show off the Mission.


This morning was an excellent reminder of how food can bring people together. I saw smiles and a group that I am proud to be associating with and trusting on this five-week process. I have found myself being surprised by this group more and more over these two weeks. We are starting to feed off of each other and are figuring out the strength of everyone else in the room (sorry Peter, I am looking forward to you joining our group in person as opposed to through voice recorder).

As I sit listening to music, figuring out what I am going to pack for the trip, I think of the people who have supported me going on this trip and have made it possible for me to go. My family has been very supportive of the trip and has made it possibly for me to travel to the DR. Through all of the phone calls, emails and figuring out details, I have found the support of my mom and dad and want to send a huge thank to them. My brothers and sister have always been very excited to hear about the trip and have been encouraging me as I get ready to travel abroad. A big thank you to them as well. A final thank you goes to my girlfriend, as she has put up with stressing out and figuring out what to pack and what to write for the class. And to all of my friends who have shown their support, I send my thanks and gratitude via this electronic means. You have been wonderful throughout the process and I cannot wait to fly off in a few days and share my adventures. To my classmates and to my professors, you make up the class I am in but you are also about to experience the DR as I am about to. Thank you for being beside me and supporting each other on this trip.

Thank you to all the readers of this blog for my and others’ posts. You are what makes each and every one of the participants of this trip ready to travel to a foreign country and report on that experience. Thank you.

Bring on tomorrow

I have been through a lot of journalism classes in my time at Creighton and I do not think, scratch that, know that I have never had a class like our backpack journalism class. Not because it is a two-part extravaganza between Journalism and Theology. Not because we have three professors (four if you count Angie dropping by on a regular basis). Not because of the four-hour classes. This class is different because of the students. 

I come to class every day expecting to learn something about journalism or theology and take something away from it. I have found that I was taking away more than that because of the group. We are bonding as a group and I think this was noticed by all at the pizza party. My many thanks go out to Gaby for hosting all of us because it really was a time to see each other outside of the context of the classroom. It gave us a chance to joke around a bit and ensure the theology reading wasn’t getting us down.

I look forward to tomorrow. And the tomorrow after that. And that is going to be somewhat of a mantra during this trip because I look forward to learning with this bunch. Are Emily and Rachel J. going to match tomorrow? And what flavor of oatmeal is Amy bringing tomorrow? Who will be called on first, Morgan or Jen? Will Gaby have more computer questions for Tim? Rachel B., can we make sure to ask you a few more questions about the DR and speaking Spanish tomorrow? Peter, I am sorry but you may have missed out on a lot of lecture, but we are getting better about reminding Dr. O’Keefe about the recorder. Maybe tomorrow will be the day we remember on time.

Emily I know that I took your style of writing on this one but it really fit how my mind was thinking about the course. If I need to change it I will.

So bring on tomorrow. I am ready for it. And let’s do this thing right and have a blast in the DR. I will probably bring coffee to class tomorrow, and apple crisps. Maybe I will bring two bags, one of them just to share.

Quick thought before bed: Anybody else be up for bagels or something as a group some morning? I can pick some up on the way to class. Just an idea, and yes, Amy you can still bring oatmeal.