Tag Archives: music

Weavings of Beauty

I looked over my notes and questions I would be asking Danny throughout the interview.
I looked over my notes and questions before my first interview.

I had the chance to conduct my first interview with a gentleman named Danny who is a citizen from Nogales, Mexico who volunteers at El Comedor.

I was able to interview Danny, who had been born and raised in Nogales, Mexico. He has been volunteering at the Commodor for seven years.
I was able to interview Danny, who had been born and raised in Nogales, Mexico. He has been volunteering at El Comedor for seven years.

One of the questions that I asked was, “Where do you see God in all of this?”

After a few meditative moments, Danny’s response was, “God is in us.” He explained that even though he prays for things to get better, he sees God in the actions of people helping other people. He emphasized the ability to see migrants as people and not as a statistic. When we treat people with human dignity and interact with them as an equal, our hearts are impacted and transformed. What an incredible response that really embodies the very essence of what it means to be made in God’s likeness.

I’ve always wanted to change the world, to make a positive impact for those who needed it the most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it’s a lot harder than it sounds. But I refuse to be derailed from my goal to change the world. My goals have just have just become more focused. I’ve realized that every person has their own world that weaves through other worlds. When my world collides with another, it is the perfect opportunity for me to take the gifts I have been given to share with another. Our human stories become one, if even for an instant, and we both can benefit. The weaving of all stories under the human race is truly an awe-inspiring mystery.

Even for those of you who don’t believe in God, I hope you believe in the beauty that surrounds us everyday, especially in the face of hardships. Since I have been on this trip, I have seen this over and over again.

Natalia performing at the Commodor for migrants who were recently deported. She invited them to sing along with her and their spirits were immediately lifted.
Natalia performing at the Commodore for migrants who were recently deported. She invited them to sing along with her and their spirits were immediately lifted.

Natalia is a singer/songwriter who used to volunteer at El Comedor. She was born in the US but spent most of her time growing up in Columbia, where she became fluent in Spanish. When she started to hear these stories that the migrants would tell her, she became moved to write songs about their terrifying experiences and turn them into hauntingly beautiful songs.

Maren and I were able to film Natalia interact and play for the immigrants. One of her songs lyrics talked about the fire that burned in their souls to achieve the dream of a better life.

Natalia performed a concert at El Comedor that I was able to help film. A group of men who had just been deported moments before, had been dropped off just as everyone had sat down. The only table left was between my camera and Natalia. While I was filming, I made eye contact with a man and immediately smiled at him. He just sort of stared back at me. A few minutes later, our eyes met again and again I smiled. Shyly, a grin started to emerge from his face. The next time that our eyes met, he was beaming and his eyes twinkled. After dinner, I was conversing with a few other men in my broken Spanish and I could see him standing back and waiting. I went over and introduced myself to him and held out my hand to meet his. I learned that he was from a town in Central Mexico, 20 years old, and traveling by himself. His warm smile is what kept my tears from pouring out. We spoke very few words between us as I had to start packing up our gear, but the smiling seemed to be enough for the both of us.

The bottom image is flipped to make the image look more aesthetically pleasing. However, the bottom image is what the wall looks like that splits the United States and Mexico. The wall in the top photo was painted blue in order to “erase” the wall.

This wall that everyone keeps talking about is ugly both physically and symbolically. It’s brown and metal and not aesthetically pleasing whatsoever. A Mexican-American artist, Ana Teresa Fernández, has painted murals on the wall in different cities at the border. Her project is called, “Borrando la Frontera,” or “Erasing the Border.” Her mural in Nogales is sky blue, meant to look as if the sky had been brought down and the border erased.

We need to believe in the power of our individual talents and abilities to interact with others in a way that can make a lasting impact, even if only for an instant.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity,” Joseph Addison










The other side of the radio

“It’s you and me singing the same song right now and maybe this will bring us together somehow, and maybe there’s a million people all singing along…and maybe someone’s saying a prayer for the first time. That’s enough reason to keep me singing my song, on the other side of the radio. We’re changing someone’s world from the other side of the radio…and maybe this will bring us together somehow.”

I had these lyrics from Chris Rice’s song, The Other Side of the Radio, on my mind today as we went to interview some people from Radio WA. Some things we asked them were about the impact of the radio before and after the war in Uganda. The answers were astounding. In this case, the radio in Uganda is more than entertainment. It’s used for education, problem solving and more.

During the war, the radio was used to communicate with the children who were abducted and forced to become child soldiers. Families and communities used the radio to send a message of courage and hope to the child soldiers and encouraged them to escape the bush and come home. The radio saved over 1,500 child soldiers this way – most of which would never have thought of escaping until they heard their parents’ voice on the radio because of the atrocities that they had committed against the community.

With the kids at the school next to a Radio WA tower

Sunshine, the world, and all your dreams

After visiting the Ave Maria school in Lira, and hearing the students there sing, I think I felt more comfortable than anything else. Most people feel overwhelmed when witnessing a welcome and presentation like that, but for me, I was more excited than anything else.

This trip is all about the music so I tried to focus more on that than on the fact that at least one third of the students were infected with HIV and may not be alive for much longer. So, why not be a part of making it one of the best days of their lives?

Music is more than just making  noise with instruments, voice or dance. It’s emotional, powerful and deep. And for me it was a connection; it broke down the barrier between our worlds.

I mean, obviously I can’t even begin to imagine or comprehend the trauma they have been through, but I think these people always search for the best in everything. Not an ounce of negative energy could be felt from these students – at least when we were there.

I think, more than anything, that they just wanted to share their world with us. And since music is a significant part of their life, it was most important that they share at least the music with us. I mean, we can’t give them everything, but we can give them the attention we don’t even deserve.

The group at Ave Maria Vocational School.

A friend is another self

Today we went to the Ave Maria Vocational School in Lira. We went with the intention of listening to a couple traditional African songs and dances, then getting a couple of interviews. But the thing about Uganda is that things never go as planned.

As soon as we stepped out of the bus the students started singing, which meant whipping the cameras out as fast as possible. Any attempt to go over good shooting tips and talking multi-camera strategy with Tim went out the window. We arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and the students didn’t stop dancing until we needed to leave for lunch at 2 p.m.

Lunch was a much needed break for the group so we could have time to reconvene and strategize. But of course things never go as planned.

After lunch it was more singing, dancing and even skits were prepared for us – with no choice but to just go with it. John was made an elder (officially) of the Lango tribe and we all received gifts from all the other elders and the director of the school.

And there’s nothing like ending the day planting a tree at the school (each of us) and drinking a cold one with the elders.

Planting a pine tree at Ave Maria Vocational School


You know, the fact that I’m going to Uganda hasn’t really hit me yet. I’ve spent most of (well, ALL of, really) my life traveling. I’ve lived in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central America, and many different parts of the U.S. and Canada. I think I’ve become a little desensitized to the idea of traveling to a new destination. Which probably seems strange, but the way I see it: no pre-flight butterflies and panic attacks is pretty awesome sometimes.

A year ago, if you had asked me what I thought would be a new and exciting experience for me, I would probably say this, “God, I would really love to be on my own somewhere in Europe, meet a lot of people, travel a lot, and learn about my roots.” Since this isn’t a year ago though and since I already had that experience when I studied abroad in Ireland last year, my answer to that question is probably more along the lines of “well, I’ve been hearing a lot about East Africa lately…”

But in all seriousness, I think the opportunity to do what I’m about to do is one I’ve been looking for for awhile. In the past few months, I’ve gotten very involved in issues of social justice as well as read up on issues facing different parts of the world, such as the conflict in the Arab Spring, or the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a direct exposure to these kinds of problems, which is something I believe is necessary in understanding how to solve said problems. It is my hope that by going on this trip, I’ll be able to have that exposure I need, while also being able to tell an interesting story through media that others should hear.

Being a Computer Science major, I relish the opportunity to solve complex problems using systems. Being a Journalism major, I’m incredibly interested in information, people, ideas, and cultures. In my mind, the world is one big system, made up of all the people in the world sharing information, culture, and ideas with each other. When it comes to solving problems the world is facing, such as poverty, genocide, economic and social injustice, war, or corruption, I always think that, with such a complex system with infinite potential at our fingertips, why shouldn’t we be able to solve the problems of the world?

It’s my hope then that by going on this trip, I’ll be able to:

1. learn about issues that I’ve read a lot about, but have had no direct exposure to,

2. learn new skills like video shooting and editing,

3. develop my existing skills like writing and interviewing,

4. learn about the people of Uganda and what their story tells,

5. hopefully have some good laughs and good conversation with some interesting people.

Let's hope these people are as fun as this picture makes them seem.


As well, I have some other, more personal goals I’d like to share, which will be part of another blog post I intend to write pre-departure.