Monday, April 27, 2009

A Final Goodbye

For my last blog, I thought it would be only appropriate to give a reflection on my experiences during Border Beat this past semester.  It is hard to believe this semester has already flown by and it is time to graduate.  When I knew I would have to keep a blog for this class, I was nervous because I had never kept a blog before and I found it hard to believe I could write about one topic relating to the border for an entire 15 weeks.  However, I chose a topic that interested me and therefore the blogging process was simple.  Each week I enjoyed finding new and interesting people to write about and share their experiences with all of you.  These people were from various parts of the world who have all come to the United States for a new life for one reason or another.    

Each blog became more complex because at the same time I was learning valuable multimedia information and techniques in Border Beat.  I can honestly say that this class taught me more than almost any other class I have taken at the university.  Also, the information has been valuable and important to the world of journalism.  I learned tools such as Soundslides and Final Cut Pro, which are key concepts to know in the journalism industry today.  Online is the future to journalism,  and I am so happy I took this class to learn all the different aspects that go alone with online journalism.  

Not only have I learned key information, but I had an unbelievable time along the way.  I was able to visit places throughout Arizona I would  never have been to if I had not taken Border Beat.  In the beginning of the semester I was nervous about writing eight stories along with two special projects.  However, I did something a little different to make the stories more fun and interesting.  I traveled to Bisbee, Ariz. with Laura, another Border Beat reporter, to do a story on a Panama hat maker.  We spent an entire day in Bisbee and therefore we did a four part series on the store and the man behind it all.  It was fun, interesting, and turned out to be a really wonderful series.  I did the same thing with Laura towards the end of the semester when we visited Ruby, Ariz., the second most well preserved ghost town in Arizona and only five miles from the Mexico border, where we met with the caretaker of the town and spent the entire day learning about Ruby and its history.  Again, we did a four part series on the town, its history, and much more.  

As for the special projects, those were fun as well.  I was able to go to a free trade coffee corp. in Douglas, Ariz., and spend the day learning to roast coffee.  Here Laura and I produces a four part multimedia project about the coffee corp. For my second special project two other reporters and myself went on a Mexican Riviera cruise and was able to write some fun stories and put together video and slideshows of our experience on the cruise.  It has been a fun, yet a challenging semester.    

If I can give some advice to future Border Beat reporters, its to have fun and learn everything.  If there is an opportunity to come in and learn Final Cut Pro with John, then do it.  You will be so happy you did.  Learn and practice everything you learn.  When you learn soundslides, utilize the tool in your stories so you have it down.  Also, produce  stories that are interesting to you.  Write about topics that you have an interest in or else you won't have nearly as much fun or learn as much.  I  learned a lot because I was interested and engaged in the topics and stories I was covering.  Lastly, ask Jay for advice and story ideas because he always has some really interesting stories to cover and his advice and critiques are extremely valuable.   

I feel privileged to have been a part of the Border Beat team.  I learned a great deal about the United States- Mexico border and became friends with many of the other reporters.  Each person was able to contribute to this truly wonderful online publication throughout the semester.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog about those individuals who have come to the United States from various places around the world for a new life.  Thank you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Experience With Crossing The Border

The semester is coming to an end and this is one of the last time I will be writing to all of you about those individuals who have come across the border and into America. I thought for one of my last blogs I would write about my own experience of crossing over the border.

In the Spring of 2008, I ventured to Florence, Italy where I studied abroad for five unbelievable months. I studied literature and writing while overseas, and was able to follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous writers and literary scholars of all time, including Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, who studied in Florence during their time.

My roommate Katie and me sitting in the Arno River ledge during our first day.
Photo By: Elizabeth Pfordte

Before traveling to Florence I had been to Europe once before with my high school senior class, but I did not truly appreciate the history and beauty as I did when I lived there. Living in a foreign country was an entirely different experience than visiting several countries and only spending a few days in each.

I have traveled to nine different European countries, and each one is unique with so much rich history to offer, but today I will focus on Italy, since that is where I spend a majority of my time.

After living in America my entire life, it was quite a culture shock when traveling to a country where the only words I knew were ciao (pronounced chow and meaning hello), and grazie (meaning thank you). Thankfully were required to take an Italian speaking class during our study abroad, but until class started I relied on my nearly fluent Italian speaking roommate to help communicate for me.

The thing that surprised me the most was how many and how well Europeans spoke English. If they were to come to America, there would not be many people who could also speak their language. I almost never had a problem communicating with an Italian because they almost all spoke English.

Another thing that mesmerized me was all the beautiful architecture that surrounded Florence. My apartment was three blocks from the Duomo, one of the largest domes in the world. It was an incredible to be able to walk next to such a magnificent building everyday on my way to school.

The Duomo on a sunny day in Florence

While abroad I realized how different life is in Italy compared to America. One of the things I loved most about living in Italy was being able to walk everywhere. The only time I took a taxi or another mode of transportation other than my feet, was when my roommates and I would go to the airport. I would most likely walk at least three miles a day, but I loved every moment of it.

The Arno River

The grocery store was one of my favorite weekly activities. Two of my roommates and myself would run along the Arno River a few times every week and then venture to the massive San Lorenzo Market. There we became friends with our favorite butcher who would cut us our meat for the week and our favorite deli where we would purchase our turkey and cheeses. We also found our favorite fruit stands where the woman would always give us a small bag of oranges for free, and she always had the biggest smile when we would come visit each week. Lastly, we had our favorite bread maker. Florence doesn't add salt to their bread so it is always very bland and requires much oil and vinegar when eating. However, we found a woman at the market who makes fresh focaccia bread every morning with salt.

It's the little things about living abroad that I miss the most. I miss the simplicity of their life. They take time off every day for nap time where almost every store is closed for a two hour period each day. At first it was frustrating when I would go to get something and the store would be closed right in the middle of the day, but then I learned to appreciate and love it. I miss the easy accessibility of being able to walk everywhere and having the train station a two minute walk away where we could catch the train to other parts of Italy for a small price.

At the very top of the Duomo during sunset.

I learned that many things are much easier in Italy, such as not really needing a car in Italy, but then America has a lot to offer that Italy doesn't as well. Such as how Florence only has two McDonalds, a handful of Chinese restaurants, one Mexican restaurant, and a few other ethnic restaurants I could count on two hands. America is full of different ethnic foods, where Italy is proud of their home cooking and feel pride in featuring those restaurants with only a few ethnic restaurants to offer.

I could go on for hours about the differences between America and Italy and my experience abroad, but I won't. Each place has their own uniqueness and things to offer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Changing Face of the Arizona Snowbird

This past weekend I went home to Phoenix, Arizona to spend time with my family for the Easter weekend.  During a get together my parents hosted on Easter, I met a couple by the name of Teddy and Celia, and their children Teresa, Christian, and Joe, who are relatives to Jan and Michelle, a couple I did my blog on previously during the semester.  

They reside in Stavanger, Norway for a majority of the year, and move to Phoenix, Arizona during their time off.  It is required by Norwegian law that residents receive five weeks holiday each year.  

Teddy is a terminal manager of a freight company in the oil business, while Celia is the manager of a clothing store in their hometown.

Teddy loves to spend his time golfing in the warm Arizona weather, while Celia enjoys spending her time shopping in the many malls in the Phoenix area.

Teresa is nineteen and attends school in Norway, learning to be a carpenter.  College in Norway is different in that they teach students a trade instead of graduating with a major and minor like American schools.

Christian turned thirteen on Easter and enjoys sports, especially soccer and during his birthday at our house had a soccer theme birthday cake.  

Joe is seventeen-years-old and enjoys spending his time on the computer.    

No longer is it grandma and grandpa from the midwest who come during the winter months to Arizona during the snowbird season, now people come from all over the globe to enjoy the sun, space and beauty of the Arizona desert.       

A video on Stavanger, Norway

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Helper

This past weekend I had the unique opportunity of visiting Ruby, Arizona, located in Santa Cruz County, nestled in a bowl of the Montana Peak, thirty miles west Nogales, and only four miles north of the Arizona/ Mexico border. Ruby was an old west mining town that was the leading producer of lead and zinc from 1934 to 1937. 

However, in 1970 the mine shaft collapsed and Ruby shut down as a mining town.The rich history behind Ruby includes many murder stories of Mexican bandits who would come across the border and kill visitors and residents of Ruby. Now, Ruby is considered to be one of the most well preserved ghost towns in Arizona.

While I was visiting, I was able to spend time with a man who calls himself Sundog, the one and only resident of Ruby, Arizona. He is the caretaker of the run down town who's responsibilities include collecting an entry fee, providing a map and brief history lesson of the town, cleaning the outhouses, and tending to his garden full of herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Sundog relaxing on his chair

However, there is much more to Sundog than meets the eye, because after spending time with him I learned one of the things he enjoys most while caring for the town of Ruby. He helps those who are crossing from the border through the desert with basic needs such as food and water.

Sundog describing the old mine shaft

Since Ruby is located so close to the Mexican border, only four miles, he often receives visitors who need a place to rest along the way. He said most of the travelers come with coyotes, and they often do not stop through Ruby, but those who are traveling alone or in groups find themselves stumbling upon Ruby, and the small house perched on top of the hill belonging to Sundog. 

During my visit, Sundog received a visit from the volunteer group, Samaritans, who are a Tucson local group of people committed to helping border crossers in the Sonoran Desert when they are in need. The individuals provide the border crossers with food, water, communication equipment, medical assistance, maps, and individuals survival packs.

Many people ask, well isn't that illegal? However, according to their website, "It is never illegal to provide water, food, & medical assistance to another human being in distress." In addition, border patrol is aware of the group and sets limits for the volunteer group as to where they can travel.

Samaritans came to Sundog to ensure he had plenty of water and food packs for the travelers. He described that he was awakened at 7 a.m. by a large group of travelers just that morning to wiped out half of his food and water supply, "But don't worry, if ever some of them come and I am out of food packs I'll just give them some of my own food supply. That's not a big deal," he said. Sundog said he enjoys helping the travelers and they are always very friendly to him.

In addition, Sundog told us of other Mexican travelers who come through Ruby, only these visitors are there to stay for the entire summer. They are known as the Mexican bats. Upon my visit I had heard of this unique phenomenon, but listening to Sundog's stories were much more fascinating. He said during mid April to early May the colony of bats make their way to an enormous cave located in Ruby. He said once all the bats have finally migrated for the summer, to watch them leave as the sun is setting is an unbelievable site to see. 

The cave that becomes home to the Mexican bats from mid April to late August

"It takes all of a few minutes for all the bats to leave the cave. And
 when they return in the morning the sound is so loud it wakes me up," said Sundog. He said even though he has seen the bats every summer of the six years he has resided in Ruby, "I never get tired of watching it. The site still sends chills up my spine every time I watch them."

Sundog is able to meet people from all over the world who come to Ruby to see what it's all about. He said people come from all over the world, "Especially Germany. I meet a lot of Germans." Sundog is also able to help out struggling travelers from the border and view the beauty of the Mexican bats who come for a visit each summer.

Sundog at the old post office, the site of some Ruby murders.