Tag Archives: Packing

Stuffing the suitcase

After one week of an intensive academic bootcamp, during which I have learned about editing, camera work, theology, and journalism, I am equal parts exhausted and eager. I have not done an eight hour school day since my high school years and after this week I have don’t know how I did it. Perhaps I am so tired because everything I am learning is so new and also so exciting. The knowledge I have gained in this boot camp is not only making the trip to Alaska seem more real- it is also making the program I have been dreaming about for over two years finally tangible.

Designer Diane von Furstenberg once said:

I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase.

So as I spend a quiet Friday night at home developing a Target list and figuring out what needs to fly with me to Alaska, I’m discovering what is essential to me. I will be bringing the following essentials:

  • A journal to write down everything I see, hear, and experience so that I am able to look back on this trip in the future
  • Layers, as the temperatures will be in the mid 50’s while our group is there. Here’s hoping plenty of sweatshirts fit!
  • My “Day by Day” prayer book so that I am reminded to take quiet time for myself to reflect upon and process internally the culture shock and stories I am being a witness to
  • Plenty of hats to hide my hair so that it isn’t apparent that we will only be showering ever three or four days due to limited natural resources in the region
  • An open heart and a willingness to be vulnerable in response to the hardships I will see and the inevitable internal change I will experience
  • A sense of adventure! A spirit which is sometimes hard to embody due to my Type-A personality, but if I push myself out of my comfort zone I know I can find it

    Me on the back of a donkey I spontaneously decided to ride with on vacation in Mexico a few years ago.
    Me on the back of a donkey I spontaneously decided to ride with on vacation in Mexico a few years ago.

It’s hard to believe that in only a few days I will begin my trek to Alaska but I could not think of a better time in my life to go or a better group to experience it with. Wish me luck with my packing, TSA interactions, and flying! The next time I post I will have feet on Alaskan ground!

Bootcamp Complete

But wait, we actually leave in 2 days?

This has been one of those weeks that is both incredibly long and yet nowhere near long enough. In just one week, we’ve learned the equipment, had theological discussions, prepared our potential story and learned about leafy spurge. We’ve created videos, shared views on culture and expressed our hopes and fears. So, are we actually ready?

Today, we had our first reflection in which two Backpack Journalism alums came to join. The shared that they too were overwhelmed at this point and asked the same question: can we actually pull this off?

But they reassured us. Because despite all of our fears, we’re all in this together. And I can’t think of a better group of people to be together with. Perhaps because of the many hours we’ve spent together already, somehow after just one week we have developed into our own Backpack Journalism family.

Other than all of the proper lessons and discussions, we’ve laughed and stumbled together. Bags of rice were divided up and a small portion of us discovered that we’re all Hufflepuffs (according to Pottermore). We’ve shared excitement over discovering that our iPad Minis have Photobooth (get ready for lots of selfies!) and we’ve compared hours wasted on Buzzfeed.

So yes, I think we are ready for Alaska.

Except for maybe packing, that is.

As you can see, my packing is not very far along yet.
As you can see, my packing is not very far along yet.


Lights! Camera! ALASKA!

We practiced how to set up all the necessary equipment and did interviews on each other. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes!
We practiced how to set up all the necessary equipment and did interviews on each other. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes! Photo by Kari Welniak

“Lights! Camera! Alaska!” is the perfect phrase to describe how I feel right now. I believe that we all are ready to take action and use the skills we have learned throughout this week and fulfill our purpose of this trip. Even though this week of bootcamp has taken a little bit more of my energy each day, I find myself getting even more excited each day. I can already tell from just this week that this will be one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had so far in my life which only makes the excitement grow stronger. Everything about this week has been inspiring in many different ways. Each person in our group contributes their uniqueness in a very special way and I can even feel the beginnings of our family. There is definitely something to be learned from everyone in our family! It is almost like we are one giant family going on an “education vacation” (Term coined from Madeline Zukowski’s blog. Check it out! http://cubackpack.org/alaska2014/its-an-education-vacation/).

I am most looking forward to trying new things that will push me out of my comfort zone. I think the first step of my going out of my comfort zone is leaving my home of 20 years, Omaha, Nebraska, and going basically off the grid away from friends and family for 15 days. However, it will be rewarding in the end when I can finally cross off “Alaska” on my bucket list.

To me there is some scary element into raising tough, thought-provoking questions that creates some uneasiness in some people. These questions range from climate change to the effects of cultural domination. However, this week has really inspiried me to feel that it is our duty to raise these questions because it will create more social and conscious awareness not only in myself, but in the people that we talk and show the final documentary to. We have touched on these topics briefly in class this week by discussing and reading articles. However, it will be interesting to be able to elaborate more on these questions by asking the people who are directly affected by it in Alaska. I find this exciting and inspiring because it is a different type of research than what I am used to.

I have also discovered that playing with the camera equipment and iPad minis can be really distracting yet really fun. I’ve already caught myself a couple of times producing little short movies and thinking in the mindset of a filmmaker, “Oh that would make a great film!”. I also find myself using photography and videography terms (f-stop, aperture, ISO, rule of thirds, etc.) when taking so-called “professional” Instagram photos. Is the possibility of a future of a becoming a journalist, director, photography, or producer in my horizon? Maybe i missed my calling when I was little and would produce a family newspaper by interviewing my brothers and sisters (Mom, Dad, Amy, Sara, and TJ remember these?) Who knows! I am still pretty dead set on becoming a dentist, but I think the skills and lessons that I have learned will broaden my view and awareness in our world.

My only minor concern for this trip is the plane. I am terrified of planes! Oh well, this trip is all about going out of our comfort zone, right? 🙂 It probably won’t settle in completely that I will be in Alaska until I am on that plane. Alright, time to start packing!

Peace out, Omaha!

P.S. – How crazy is it that my next post will be in Alaska?!

P.S.S. – To only prolong my packing here are some cool Yup’ik phrases:

Hi. Waqaa.
How are you? Cangacit?
I’m fine. Assirtua.
Thank you. Quyana.

Packing Things With Meaning

When something looks or sounds simple from the outside, it may seem boring or just ordinary. On the other hand, when something is found to be packed with a variety of aspects and meanings, not only will that item become more valuable, it also becomes more dynamic and influential.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 12.57.27 AM
All packed up on coffee, maps, lessons, equipment, discussions, and excitement!!

While I’m not sure I can actually explain the craziness and dynamics of this past week’s “bootcamp” I can for sure tell you how valuable it has been. Mentally, we’ve had our brains packed with all kinds of information from settings, story ideas, interview practices, F-stops and ISOs, laughter, and preparation. It’s been great seeing how everyone is playing their strengths, packing what they’ve learned, and really seeing the team come together.

In a similar way, I’m becoming more and more excited about our immersion into the Yup’ik culture and its people. The Yup’ik people effectively pack meaning and importance into their culture, and I want to learn about them. The way they see meaning in such simple and beautiful actions and words astounds me; Words like “ella” that come together to mean weather, the Earth, and the universe. Compressing so many different meanings into one word just makes me want to learn more!

The fact that we are leaving for Bethel in just a few days is daunting to me. I know that time will move quickly, with how busy we’ll be. Therefore, I want to be sure to pack my Alaskan experience until I have to jump and sit on the case to be able to zip it all tight.

Rolled up somewhere in my sleeping bag are the things I’m worried about and my hopes for the trip. I want to be an active contributor to this project and my team. I don’t want to mess up, but I want to challenge myself,  and learn something new. I want to really get to know my team members as well; I mean some of us only go as far back as bootcamp. Establishing a community with this group to continue on after this month is really important to me.

Now while my personal packing (like actually putting things in my physical suitcase) is lacking, I know Sunday and this experience will be here before we know it. I just hope I don’t  forget something.#PackingAnxiety.

Baby I Was Born This Way!

At an amusement park in Japan. I am to the far right!

I believe I was born with a travel gene. My parents  both started traveling internationally at an early age. My mother spent her 18th birthday exploring Europe and my father took family trips exploring Mexico and Ireland. My mom lived in both The Ivory Coast and Japan.   When my parents were first married they spent months traveling around the world. As I child they taught me an appreciation for other cultures and the important things a person learns from the world in traveling. I was able to travel to both Japan and Mexico as a child. I have fond memories wandering a Japanese toy store looking at the Japanese Barbie Dolls, and playing in a park covered in cherry blossoms.  In high school, I was given the opportunity to travel to both Panama and Costa Rica with a program called Global Challenge. Since then I have had a severe case of wanderlust.

Going into college I knew that I wanted to study abroad at some point and time. Unfortunately, that did not ultimately work out. I kept looking into various programs Creighton and the Catholic Volunteer Network had to offer. I have had many friends who have gone on the previous backpack journalism trips. Between facebook creeping albums in an attempt to live vicariously through pictures, or speaking to students if even just briefly about their experiences in either Uganda or the Dominican Republic, I knew that the program was something I needed to seriously look into.

After looking into the trip I decided that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Though I knew nothing about video making or journalism, the chance to learn about a culture so different from my own was something I just couldn’t pass up.

Now, approximately 32 hours before I leave, I am looking at the clothes, medicine, cameras, and other backpack journalism essentials sprawled across my floor and I am quite honestly a little overwhelmed. So much to pack. So much unknown. I have been learning the ins and outs of making a documentary these past couple days and still have a lot to learn, but I know with practice and help, it will all come together.

I am unbelievably excited to start a new adventure. I can’t wait to board the plane and get there already!

So Ready

It’s funny how time passes at such a warped speed when you look at the past in terms of life events. My first trip to Uganda (and first time out of North America) marks a fairly large event in my life. In some respects it feels like the whole experience happened in another life, and in some ways like it was only a week ago.

Some memories replay themselves nearly every day. It’s weird to think that I will be standing in some of those precise memory hot spots in less than a week. Thinking about certain things can trigger pretty vivid recollections; I can only imagine what’ll happen when I’m physically there.

memory hot spot
Some places we revisit will bring back more emotion than others.

I only wish that everyone else who was on last year’s trip could join me in validating that what happened wasn’t actually a dream; I know they all want to.

When I made the last assigned blog post for last year’s trip, I can’t say that it felt very final. In all honesty, I don’t think I had enough time to think throughout the whole 5 weeks to make anything soak in all the way.

And that’s what I’m most looking forward to this year. If I said anything at all about Uganda is predictable, I’d be straight up lying to you; however, I think I’m at a mental advantage. The uncertain feelings and unnecessary nerves that I’m sure are plaguing all first-timers on the trip have been replaced by a maybe-too-relaxed contentedness.

Last year, I made and re-made packing lists a week prior to the trip–I just finished writing this year’s list before I started this post. I think I’ll be making a trip to Target tomorrow night and then packing, but I’m really not concerned about it.

I’m still jittery, but it’s not because I feel apprehensive at all, it’s because I just want to be In Uganda right now. So what I’m trying to say is that I’m going to use the money I get for my grant project to buy a teleportation device.

But seriously. Last year, I learned how little physical things matter when compared to emotional and mental needs. Regardless of how disorganized and unprepared I might seem concerning packing things and buying things, I’m so ready.