Tag Archives: #alaska2014

A Certain Feeling

I’m at a point in my life where a lot is uncertain. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a job for the rest of this summer. I’m not sure what I want to do after I graduate, I’m not sure where I’ll end up in a few years. Out of all this uncertainty, wanting to go to Alaska was the one thing I was certain about.

Now, here we are at the end.

I’m still not entirely sure what it was that drew me to it; The posters, knowing people who have been on CU BackPack before, just the thrill of the experience of a lifetime. But now, as the last day as an official group comes to an end, I just look back on the past five weeks and think of how proud I am, of myself and of my entire team.

We started off uncertain of so many things. We were uncertain what we’d find, how to work the cameras, exactly how intense Johnny I really was, and how this trip would stay with us. Now, with a rough cut in production, and a chance to reflect on all that’s happened, I just want to climb to the top of a mountain and shout, “LOOK AT WHAT WE DID!”

Team, we did it. We got that B-Roll, we worked those cameras, we met some amazing people, we bonded all together, and now we’ve put together a story. A story that does the culture, the stories, and the people of Bethel a great justice. And that is something we should be very proud of ourselves for.

Being in Alaska was like a different world for me. I was able to put my phone away, and ignore the comfortable world that I’m accustomed too, and experience the real, raw, harsh, and yet absolutely beautiful world for an entire two weeks.

We were given the opportunity to step into someone’s life, and learn from both the good and the bad. So while we were there for the greater purpose of making our documentary, we were also there to learn.

So to answer the question: What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned? I would say, Live with an awareness

John and Carol summed it up perfectly today as we wrapped things up; something chose us to participate in this experience, and therefore we are both blessed and given the responsibility to act based on what we witnessed and learned.

To live with an awareness comes in parts: to cherish, to expand, and to preserve.

Cherish the things we’ve been given, whether that means in life, relationships, the environment, and things we’ve learned. Seeing the importance these types of aspects play in our lives is crucial. Expand then means to share what we learn with others. Keep the conversation going. That then can lead to more knowledge, discussion, and sharing. Finally, preserve what we know, have, and share. Work towards making a difference.

While my lesson may be vague, the things I learned and experiences I had are far from it. I truly hope I can go forward from this point with a sense of certainty that I learned something and acted with that new knowledge.

Either way though, I do know for certain that this experience will never leave me. Thank you so much to Tim, Carol, and John, for working with us, and allowing us to be a part of your incredible mission. And thanks to my people, all of y’all. I have absolutely loved working with you all; we couldn’t have gotten a better team!!

Quyana, from the bottom of my heart <3


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.

Top 10 Catch Phrases of the Trip

1. classic!

thank you Mari and Claudia for introducing us to a way to swiftly bring to everyone’s attention all things ridiculous.

Classic Nico making a model face in the back of the picture...
Classic Nico making a model face in the back of the picture…

2. ily

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.

Some of the girls hugging it out and sharing the ily vibe by Exit Glacier.
Some of the girls hugging it out and sharing the ily vibe by Exit Glacier.

3. okkkkey

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.

Our sassy Tony
This photo taken by Stephanie Tedesco perfectly portrays our sassy Tony

4. BS!

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.

Tony Homsy caught us in the middle of a game of BS
Tony Homsy caught us in the middle of a game of BS

5. Peel!

Bananagrams was the surprise hit of the trip. Nichole rallied the group around her to play at any time.

Bananagrams was a bonding experience for all
Bananagrams was a bonding experience for all

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.

TJ gets close to the edge on a stop along the way back to Anchorage
TJ gets close to the edge on a stop along the way back to Anchorage

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.

Tim's goofiness strikes again in this picture taken by Stephanie Tedesco on our boat tour of the bay in Seward
Tim’s goofiness strikes again in this picture taken by Stephanie Tedesco on our boat tour of the bay in Seward

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!

A flickr Creative Commons image of Tony Shalhoub.
A flickr Creative Commons image of Tony Shalhoub.

10. Fuzzy!

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.

Fuzzy picture for my fuzzy feelings for all of you. Kudos to Tod (one of our Alaska Adventure tour guides) for taking this picture.
Fuzzy picture for my fuzzy feelings for all of you. Kudos to one of our Adventure Alaska Tours guides Tod and Patrick. Thanks for taking this picture Tod!

A layered learning experience

Today is the last class of Backpack Journalism, Alaska 2014. I recall when the project was in its beginning stages. When those involved were names on a list and email exchanges, and when the program plans were tentative notes on sheets of paper. Now it’s a year and thousands of miles later. It’s hours of video and many faces later, and over the last few weeks those faces have been paired with the names and stories.

Some of these stories have merged into one in the mini documentary. Other stories will be remembered from our experiences with the program. I am still struggling to find an adequate answer for how Alaska was. Alaska was amazing, but Backpack Journalism is a large part of this Alaskan experience. I have been referring people to the blogs, because there is no short answer to describe the program.

Backpack Journalism is a layered learning experience inside and outside of the classroom. Students learn about film making, interviewing, writing, and reporting through a Theological kaleidoscope. The program is also about experiencing another culture and hearing people’s stories and their histories. It’s about getting to know peers and professors, and it is also about understanding the world we live in and learning truths about oneself.

Learning happens all lifelong. This year I have realized that new feelings, good and bad, will also arise throughout life’s happenings. Alaska was full of these moments. Before Alaska I’d never experienced the challenge of walking across tundra. I spent my childhood digging in Nebraska dirt, but never knew what tundra felt like on my fingers. I’d never tasted moose or seal, and had never seen a whale. One night as I dug into the tundra with my bare hands, just because I was curious, there was a moment when I thought I might know what it’s like to be my three year old niece. I understood, and maybe remembered, why digging into the land could be intriguing. As I watched whales for the first time on one of our touristy days I understood why, for a three year old, dandelions, butterflies, and any bird flying over head were reasons for awe and sometimes a tiny celebration of sorts. All these happy distractions are new to her. The tundra and whale watching were new to me. I could not stop smiling as I watched some of them dart through the waves and a pod of Orcas at rest. If I were three I probably would’ve tried to go overboard.

In Alaska we had many moments of humor and lightheartedness that helped to get us through the intense times. We heard a personal story of family tragedy and historical trauma that for many is more like a current trauma. And during a town hall meeting we heard an elder Yup’ik man explain the need for subsistence living off of the Kuskokwim River, but with the help of an English translator. Here was an American, a Native Alaskan, who was speaking his Native language in America, and it wasn’t English. Having first experienced the Bethel, Alaska, and then going to the touristy part of Alaska in Seward I had an unexpected feeling that we didn’t belong there.

The irony of that feeling is that there wasn’t one moment in any part of Alaska where we did not feel welcomed. While we were in a land caught between different cultures, languages, and different value systems there seemed to be a search for a balance between the Yup’ik and Native traditions and Eurocentric traditions.

I had tried to go into the program without any expectations about how it would go, but my thoughts were that it would be students learning how to interview and how to film. However, from what I have witnessed, heard, and experienced myself it is so much more than that. It has been an eye opener about another culture and about American history, and it has been a time for personal growth and awareness. The program also provides an opportunity to get to know individuals in a way that could not happen in a regular semester. Backpack Journalism is five weeks of almost non-stop interaction with one another, from the long hours together to the constant connection through the GroupMe App for text messaging and updates at all hours.

Something great that I learned about this group of people is that they are funny – the levels of sarcasm and laughter were high. I think an important part of life is to take something away from every experience you have and to learn something from the people you meet along the way. I believe that years down the road there will be moments from Backpack Journalism that we will be reminded of, whether it’s the intense moments of a tragic story, the welcoming Alaskan people, the hilarious or insightful moments from Creighton students,  or the simple things like touching the tundra. There will also be a great documentary on important issues as a result of the student’s hard work  and as proof of the faculty’s dedication to this layered learning experience.

Beauty in All Directions

First of all, I just want to say that this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I never thought that I would completely fall in love with a culture, photography, and a group of classmates as I have now. Even after I committed myself to going on this trip, I still didn’t imagine how wonderful it would turn out.

The open tundra
The open tundra

I came into this class with almost zero photojournalism experience. During the first day of video boot camp, I thought that I would never remember any of what we were learning. I was overwhelmed with information. About a week later though, I was out on the tundra, taking shots of the river, and setting up interviews. By the end of the week, filming almost seemed like second nature to me.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve told almost everyone about this, but the absolute highlight of the trip for me was our boat ride on the Kuskokwim. The overwhelming beauty of everything that was around me cannot be put into words. Overwhelming beauty was kind of a theme for me during this trip. A lot of my classmates probably got used to me getting overly enthusiastic about things, sometimes to the point where I couldn’t form coherent sentences. Everything from the sweeping tundra, to the clear Kuskokwim River, from the midnight sun, to the wisdom of the people is too exquisite to describe.

A heart in the tundra
A heart in the tundra. (Photo courtesy of Tony Homsy)

When we talk about the highs and lows of the trip, it is hard for me to think of an actual low. Yes, there were moments that were hard or difficult, but that doesn’t mean that they were not good moments. One of those instances was when Rose talked to us about historical trauma. Her raw emotions touched me deeply and made me extremely sad, but it was also beautiful in its own way. It was one of those rare times where a connection is made with another human on a level much deeper than sympathy. I feel so incredibly privileged that she shared her story with us.

Alaska is gorgeous and this trip was life-changing, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing if I didn’t go with such a fantastic group of people. In a little over a month, we formed our own type of family. Every member contributes something unique and valuable to the group. I’ve learned just as much from them as I ever have in the classroom. I think I’ve had a smile on my face for the majority of the past five weeks. This group of people is truly special, and I could not be more grateful for each individual’s friendship.

Our wonderful family
Our wonderful family

Going forward from this trip, it seems like so much has changed. The way I look at the world, how I see our resources and my understanding of culture has greatly shifted. All of this change can be a lot to handle at times. However, I know that there is one thing I can change based on what I learned while in Alaska. Going forward, I am going to change the way I interact with the people around me. Through this experience, I’ve learned that everyone has a story to tell. I may not recognize the story right away, but I have to keep listening until I do. A person is so much more than they appear. Behind the outer shell, there is a soul that has memories and experiences you will never know about unless you ask and listen.

Bethel has taught me to see the intricacy in the dull and the beauty in the plain. Wonder and mystery can be found all around you. I won’t attempt to try and convey the depths of this wonder and beauty because, as I’ve said before, there are simply no words. Instead, I will leave with a Navajo saying that we heard while in Bethel:

“Everything in front of me will be beautiful,

Everything behind me will be beautiful,

Everything on my right will be beautiful,

Everything on my left will be beautiful,

Everything above me will be beautiful,

Everything below me will be beautiful,

Everything around me will be beautiful,

Everything that comes from my lips will be beautiful.”


The experience of a lifetime

At the beginning of the Alaska trip, I really had no idea what to expect.

We all had an idea of why we were going to Bethel and a vague series of expectations about all that this trip would bring. However, for me, the 15 days spent in Alaska far exceeded every expectation that I had.

I started out knowing nothing about videography or editing, and very little about interviewing. I ended this program with much more knowledge in all of those skills (well, mostly in editing and interviewing…yay C Team!).

Traveling with a group of people and living in constant close quarters with those same people definitely taught us all about tolerance and patience.

However, that was a highlight of this trip. Getting to know this group as well as I did really added to the experience. It was so great to hear everybody’s differing perspectives on just about everything. That highlight just reinforced the lesson I learned in Bethel, that there is not a one-size-fits-all perspective or philosophy. Each person and culture hold something that is inherently valuable because they are so different. This group, along with the Yup’ik people, collectively taught me that there are so many different fabrics and colors that make up the tapestry of life.

That definitely surprised me. While I was expecting to learn life lessons from the natives in Bethel, I was caught off guard by all that I learned from my peers.

My peers made the trip a happy one, despite the questionable living quarters and the insane amount of misadventures (and mosquitos).

The incredible ability of the Yup’ik people to respect the land resonated deeply with me. I think many people, including myself, take the Earth and all it offers for granted. That is what I am trying to put effort into changing in my daily life. Also, the Yup’ik spirit of giving. They are such a giving people, who truly practice the idea that whatever you give you will get back tenfold. Just another lesson that I can, with effort, apply to my daily life. And I intend to do so.

We have all learned so much, about the camera equipment, about ourselves, and about people.
Learning is exhausting, and I think we are all still mentally drained from our hard work in Bethel and more recently in the classroom. We are exhausted, but enthusiastic.

I can not wait to see the final results of our labors, none of which could be possible without Tim, Carol, or John. Each of which brought their own unique, important contributions to the team.

This has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I will always be grateful for every single moment of this Backpack Journalism program.



C Team Forever!
C Team Forever!


QUYANA, everyone!






Still Hard at Work

Coffee is the fuel of our lives.
Coffee is the fuel of our lives.

It’s been over a week now since we have returned from Alaska. For some reason, I had the idea in my mind that the majority of our work would be done once we were back in Omaha. Yet again, I was wrong. From the day we returned, we have been hard at work. Each day it seems that I’ve learned something new about the film making process. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned: Continue reading Still Hard at Work

Along For The Ride by: Claire Storey & TJ Moore

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!

Crossing My Fingers

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.

My one shining moment?
My one shining moment?

Making It Work

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.