Tag Archives: cultural differences

Alaska, Here We Come!

When I was told that the beginning of this course would consist of a “video boot camp”, I thought it was just a flashy way of saying “introduction to video”. Never have I been so wrong. This week has indeed been a boot camp. After the first four days, here are just a few things that are rapidly firing through my head:

  • I should pack soon
  • A big number means a small aperture…right?
  • Eschatology is fun to say
  • Wait, does a small aperture mean a small f-number?
  • The Fish People
  • No! A small aperture means a large f-number
  • What if I oversleep and miss the plane?
  • f-8 and be there

I’ve learned a lot of things and have been given so much information that it’s hard not to be a little nervous. At the same time though, the things I am most nervous about are also the things I’m most excited about. On one hand, I’m worried about using the video equipment properly, but on the other hand, I can’t wait to put what we’ve been learning into practice. I’m at once concerned that I won’t understand the Yupik culture and thrilled to immerse myself in a world so different from my own.

Just from our short conversations about the Yupik culture, I can tell that these people will have amazing stories to tell. I was a bit awe inspired today when we talked about the Yupik word “Ella”, which simultaneously encompasses the weather, the world, and the universe. One part cannot be changed without having an effect on another. As a Westerner, I have never experienced a culture that places such a profound connectedness between these three parts of the human experience. What a wonderfully wise concept.

I can’t wait to learn from the Yupik people, but I am just as excited to learn from my classmates. Even though I’ve only known some of them for a few days, I am struck by the immense talent that everyone has. Whether it’s an eye for the perfect camera angle, thoughtful insights into theological issues, or a creative way of asking interview questions, each person will contribute to the project in an unique and important way. We may be beginning film makers, but I think we have the ability to do the people of Bethel justice.

The day is nearly here! Before we know it, we’ll be braving the long flights to Alaska and saying hello to Bethel. After months of waiting, our adventure will finally start. To put it in the words of Tim, “We’re going to Alaska, freaks!”

We divided up the food today! We'll have rice and oatmeal for days! Photo taken by John O'Keefe.
We divided up the food today! We’ll have rice and oatmeal for days! Photo taken by John O’Keefe.

By grace we shall live

I’m going to go ahead and say that most people in the United States have the privilege of watching their children grow and mature successfully into adulthood. Likewise, most children in the United States have the opportunity to learn from and have a relationship with their parents. The bottom line is that life expectancy is significantly higher in the United States.

When I set out on this journey (and what a journey it has been), I had no idea what to expect and left with my mind open to learning things that never even crossed my mind. I definitely thought I would go back home with a profound sense of how incredibly lucky I am. I’m pretty sure it’s clear to everyone who visits the developing world for the first time how truly lucky they are. But what I didn’t expect, was to go home feeling angry.

Obviously there are things in life that I cannot change. But these people, they lose many of their children to war and disease. These people lose their children before even having the chance to get to know them, much less be proud of them. Even as I look around the city and in the villages an age gap is definitely visible. Hardly anyone is my age, and if there are, there are very few.

For these people, it’s not that they just lose a family member when a child dies – they lose everything because family is all they have.

It angers me to think that there are parents in the United States, who have the world at their fingertips compared to Ugandans, that consciously make the decision every single day to ignore their children and do absolutely nothing to help them succeed.

I’ve been told that losing a child is one of the worst things in the world. I can’t imagine how much worse it is for the billions of people in Uganda who lose their children when their children are literally all they have. So how does someone in the United States, someone who has everything, deny themselves one of the greatest gifts the world has to offer? How does someone reject a choice that half the people on this planet don’t even have?


Trying to capture video at Abia -- get swarmed by kids.