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From Port-au-Prince to Panathinaiko

29 Oct

Leo in Port-au-Prince

Well I’ve finally finished the second Haiti piece I was working on. This one, shot in Athens with a little help from the lovely and ever-so-talented Ms. Sanders, follows Team Haiti during their competition at the 2011 Special Olympics World Games. I followed them during their games, some of their downtime and at the closing ceremonies, which were held in the historic Panathinaiko stadium.

I can’t tell you how incredible it was for these kids to be there. They have never left their hometown, much less been able to travel and see the kinds of things they saw. Special Olympics also had events there to help athletes like the Haiti kids, such as the Healthy Athletes program, which put them all through complete physicals and examined their eyesight, hearing, etc. For athletes from impoverished areas like Haiti, this may be the first opportunity any of them have had to get a physical exam. It was certainly a first for many of the Haiti athletes. Gedeon discovered he needed glasses and he was fitted for some and they were given to him for free. It’s things like this that make Special Olympics such an incredible program and one I’m so glad to have worked with.

Anyway, you can see the video below, or if that doesn’t work you can view it here: http://vimeo.com/31159515

Oh and also, I don’t think we ever published the photos from our trip to Haiti in April. So I’ve uploaded them to my Flickr, where you can check them out! Most of them were taken by Shannon, she’s great with photography! Check them out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbgarner/sets/72157627634402530/

And let us know what you think in the comments!

Love,
Megan


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Getting Our Thesis On!

9 Sep

Hey everyone!

Shannon and I are back from Africa and back from our Arkansas vacations! And now it’s time to get serious about our thesis projects. *gulp* We have until December to get them filmed, edited, get our websites designed and complete about a million other things, so we are definitely feeling the pressure.

But progress is being made! I’ve started a blog for my thesis, and I have some interviews set up next week, so with any luck I’ll be able to at least post a short trailer video sometime fairly soon. If you want to follow along on my thesis journey, you can check out the blog at: http://punishablebydeath.wordpress.com/. And you can read exactly what my plans are on the about page of that blog. I’ll try to post some updates on my thesis here, but mostly, I’ll be posting on that blog, since I don’t want to be redundant. So if you’re interested, go ahead and subscribe. There’s a subscribe box at the bottom of the home page.

Shannon also has a blog going for her thesis, which is a look at the changing face of AIDS in today’s society. You can keep up with everything Shannon is working on and where she is going here: http://lifewithaids.wordpress.com/. I think she’ll be posting her videos or at least some of them as she progresses…so you should subscribe to hers too!

Shannon and I both have to travel quite a bit for our projects, and in today’s trying financial times, grants are hard to come by. So we are both going to put our projects up on a website called Kickstarter. Kickstarter describes itself as “a new way to fund and follow creativity.” They allow people to post their projects on the site and ask for help with funding. There is a target goal that must be reached, or else the project doesn’t get funded. So with any luck, we’ll both be able to make our goals and finance our travels!

My Kickstarter page is not up yet, because I’m waiting on a few more pieces of footage so I can post a great video along with my project description. I’m hoping to have it up and running sometime in the next 2 weeks. But Shannon is on the ball and got her Kickstarter page up yesterday! So she now has 30 days to get her funding. If you want to see Shannon’s Kickstarter page and read all about her project (and maybe slip her a few dollars), you can check it out right here. Wish us both lots of luck!

Love,
Megan

Kenya video posted!

6 Sep

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to posting the video Kathryn and I shot and produced in the slums of Mathare, in Kenya. It’s been almost done for a long time, but I kind of went on a mini vacation while I was in Arkansas after returning from Africa, so it’s taken me until now to make those last tiny tweaks. But now it’s up and I hope you all check it out! And let me know what you think!

You can see it on my Vimeo page, here. Yaaay!

Love,
Megan

Lions and Leopards and Cheetahs

17 Jul

Oh my!

So today was mine and Kathryn’s last day here in Nairobi, and we decided to try and do at least a little bit of touristy stuff before we left. This morning we got up and bid goodbye to our favorite breakfast place here, The Java House (one of the few places you can get real ground coffee instead of instant), and headed back to the slums to capture a few more shots. Then we came back and went to Nairobi National Park to see some critters!

The park was Kenya’s first national park and is a wildlife refuge located only a few meters outside the center of the city. There’s merely a fence separating the wildlife from the metropolis and skyscrapers can be seen from some areas of the park. It’s a pretty big area, made up of approximately 29,000 acres, so you usually have to rent a car to take you through the park to see the wildlife. We didn’t really have that kind of time or money, so we decided to go to the animal orphanage.

Almost immediately after walking in, we were moseying over to the cheetah enclosure, when this guy sidles up to us.
He goes, “Do you like the cheetahs?”
Us: “Yeah, we love the cheetahs, they’re beautiful.”
Him: “What would you say if I told you that you could hold a baby cheetah?”
Us: “We’d love to hold a baby cheetah. I mean, duh.”
Him: “Okay. You just follow that path around to the left. When no one is around, the guys back there by the ostrich will let you in to see the cheetahs. You maybe give them some money. 1,500 shillings (the equivalent of about 15 dollars). Is it okay?”
Us: “Errrmmm…”

So basically, because we were white girls who they knew had money, these dudes totally snuck us into this building out back where there were “baby” cheetahs. Except baby to this guy meant 4 months old, at which point these cheetahs are big enough and feisty enough to do some serious damage. They came running out of their cage and one immediately jumped on my leg, where he proceeded to attack my purse with some giant claws and teeth. Fortunately, it wasn’t my skin. So then our Kenyan friend scoops one of them up with its legs all folded underneath, and plops it into my arms. Kathryn and I took turns holding a none-too-happy cheetah, and trying to take some photos. Except we look a bit terrified in all of them. Welcome to Kenya.

megan and cheetah

This cheetah is not interested in being my friend.

From Athens to Africa

16 Jul

I finally have a bit of time to sit down and write a blog post, and now I have no idea where to even begin. Also, Shannon is in Lesotho with basically no internet, so I’ll have to try and cover everything solo. Lets see…

Athens was great, even if it was completely crazy. We were going, going, going non-stop from the moment we hit the ground, for the most part. It was tiring and at times completely frustrating, having to work with such a large group of people and try to coordinate with everyone, etc. But it all felt totally worth it for me when I got to see my Ecuador team receive their gold medals (Go Ecuador!) and when I got to sit with the Haiti kids on the last night, during Closing Ceremonies. Two wonderful memories that I cherish. I miss them all so much! And I know Shannon was so excited to be reunited with Donghan, her subject from Korea. He competed in the very first Open Water swimming event and took home a silver medal! And he was really excited to see Shannon, even though he is usually shy and reserved. Super heart warming!

On a less upbeat note, while we were there, the protests that have been going on since May 5, 2010 came to a head and violence erupted in the streets after the June 29 passage of another round of austerity measures. The police attempted to evacuate key protest areas in Athens, like Syntagma Square, with motorbikes and heavy amounts of tear gas. There were numerous accusations of police brutality and unwarranted attacks on citizens there. So like any good journalist, we picked up our cameras and headed to the Square, which was only about 10 minutes from our hotel. It was my first experience with such a charged, potentially dangerous environment and its one I’m still ruminating on. I’ll be writing a separate post about it soon enough, and I’ve already posted my photos on my Flickr page. Shannon also has some kickin footage from the event, which I’m sure will be put up at some point for your viewing pleasure.

After protests and running all over Athens trying to cover every event, we were completely exhausted by the time we left for South Africa, but I still found myself not wanting to say goodbye to Athens. It’s so lovely there, and it’s just a more relaxing lifestyle, with more emphasis on enjoying and savoring life and friends and family. I found myself getting by most of the time on the kindness of strangers, like the cab driver who had to stop twice for directions to the venue I was trying to get to. He spoke zero English, but kept reassuring me that we would find it, and when I finally got there and forgot my map, he came back and flagged me down to give it to me, smile and wish me a good day. I had a policeman give me his seat as I waited for my ride, and every single Special Olympics volunteer I asked for directions was overwhelmingly nice, oftentimes walking me to where I needed to be or offering to carry some of my gear. Those Greeks sure are nice. I miss them.

But we had to say goodbye and we headed off to South Africa, arriving during the South African Arts Festival, which is kind of huge apparently. We had four days to just relax and enjoy some of the festival, and try to collect ourselves before jetting off again. We saw some cool shows, like this South African dance-off thing that was incredible, some traditional Rajasthan dancing and music (made me miss India), some South African jazz, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I had no idea who they were, but they are a Grammy-winning all male choral group that sings traditional South African music and apparently, they are a big deal. Like, really big deal. Go read that wikipedia link, it will tell you all about them.

And then we all packed our bags and headed out to shoot our individual stories. Shannon and Brian are doing a story about AIDS orphans in Lesotho and Kathryn and I are filming a story in Nairobi, Kenya about poverty and hunger in the slums of Mathare! I’ll be doing a separate post about Kenya soon and I know Shannon wants to blog about her experiences in Lesotho as well, so more details will be coming soon! In the meantime, here’s some World Games/Athens photos for you to check out. Hooray!

Love,
Megan

Going to Greece!

22 Jun

Longest time between updates ever, I know. Things kind of went haywire after Haiti, with finals and projects and scrambling, scrambling, scrambling. A lot happened between then and now, but basically the short version is we moved into a new place, which we love love love so much more, we worked on a lot of video projects, we passed all our classes in the spring and we just finished our last round of classes for the summer! Which means we are both officially done with college classes FOREVER! AAAAAHHHHH!!!

I feel like my family is reading that line and going “We never thought this day would come!” Whatever guys. Don’t push it, or I’ll go for a PhD!

Anyways, at some point I will get around to posting Haiti pics, because Shannon got some really great ones and we would love to share them with you. Eventually. But that’s not going to happen right now, because we are about to get on a plane to Greece!

We leave in a few hours headed to Athens to cover the Special Olympics World Games, and we are SO EXCITED. We get to see all our subjects from our previous stories and watch them compete and see people like Stevie Wonder! Then when the games are over, we are traveling to Africa to do stories on the United Nations Millenium Development Goals. The MDGs consist of 8 anti-poverty goals meant to be completed by 2015. They include:
Ending Poverty and Hunger
Universal Education
Gender Equality
Child Health
Maternal Health
Combat AIDS/HIV
Environmental Sustainability
Global partnership

The class above us already did some stories on these goals last year, which you can check out here: http://mdg.glocalstories.org/  (you have to click on the stories button in the top right corner)

We will be adding to that group of stories. We will be in South Africa most of the time, but will travel out in teams to surrounding countries to do the stories. Shannon and Brian will be working on a story about AIDS orphans in Lesotho, I will be working with Kathryn on a story about farming in the slums of Kenya and our friend Chris will be doing a followup story to the piece on the website I mentioned about the largest slum in Nigeria. It’s going to be really exciting!

I’d like to promise that we will update often and write amazing blog posts about everything going on and post lots of pictures and whatnot, but we will probably be really busy and whenever we do have spare time, I doubt we will want to spend it in front of a computer. But we’ll update as much as we can, even if it’s just a short post or a photo.

In the meantime, Shannon and I both posted some new videos on our Vimeo accounts, so you can go check them out! Mine can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/megangarner and Shannon’s can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/user5333417. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Love,
Megan

Timeliness Isn’t My Strong Suit

7 Apr

So I’m just now getting around to blogging about Ecuador a good three weeks later. I know, I know, I’m way off. Here I should be blogging about our latest apartment woes or our upcoming trip to Haiti and instead I’m talking about what happened weeks ago. Sorry guys, you’ll just have to bear with me. We’ve been swamped, swamped, swamped!

So Ecuador was a blast. I loved it and was terribly sad to leave and would love to get on a plane going back to Quito RIGHT NOW. I can’t even begin to describe everything that we saw or did or ate, but I’ll give you a brief summary of our time there. I’m also working on our video piece from Ecuador and I cannot wait for everyone to see it. I’m really excited about it and proud of what we got while we were there!

At the Equator

At the Equator

So we arrived in Quito and basically just ate and went to bed, we were so tired. The next day we got up very early and left Quito for Esmeraldas, which is up in the North Highlands of Ecuador, on the coast. We stopped by the monument that marks the Equator, which is a big tourist spot where people like to stand with one foot on either side of the line and take pictures. But because we were there so early, we couldn’t actually get to the monument, so we just took a photo from a ways away. But I mean, close enough, right?

We then had a very windy 5 hours drive through the mountains to get to Esmeraldas. We were flying around some very tight curves at high speeds, so there are no photos at all of all the beautiful scenes we passed. These curves also made my traveling companion, Brian, quite ill. He thought we’d never get there…

Once we finally arrived, we met the 6 members of the Special Olympics Ecuador soccer team who live there. They were all so sweet and so excited about our video project, and I instantly loved them. We talked to all of them (through a translator of course) and decided to chose one of them to base our story around. His name is Carlos and he’s adorable. As seen here.

Johnny, Victor and Carlos

Johnny, Victor and Carlos

We then spent the rest of the day filming the team at the beach as they practiced and filming Carlos at his home, with his family. He has a wife and a 2 year old daughter. The next day we went to the port of Esmeraldas, where Carlos works with his brother repairing boats. The work is dangerous and sporadic, so it’s hard for Carlos to make ends meet,

athletes in silhouette

My new friends on the beach

but he also does some work in Castel

Filming Carlos at the port

Filming Carlos at the port

Nuovo, where he lives, to try and earn enough money. After work, we went with Carlos to another soccer practice and then it was time to eat some deliciously fresh seafood (coconut shrimp, mmmmm), pack up and head back to Quito. Which meant another 5 hours drive, this time in the rain. Which meant another sick Brian. Did I mention poor Brian was sick to his stomach THE ENTIRE TIME WE WERE THERE? Yep. It’s true. I was thanking my lucky stars that I don’t get carsick and don’t have too much trouble with traveling.

Excited at the stadium

Excited at the stadium

Once back in Quito, we spent our third day filming in Liga stadium in Quito with the entire team. Once a month the members from Esmeraldas come to Quito where they meet the rest of their teammates, who also travel in from other areas, to train all together. So this team only gets to practice as a whole once a month. And they are so good, I can’t wait to see what they do at the World Games in Greece! However, they don’t normally practice at Liga Stadium, which is the place where the national Ecuadorian soccer team plays. And since soccer is HUGE there, these athletes were SO. EXCITED. to be playing there! It was so sweet seeing them taking their pictures everywhere and being so visibly thrilled with playing there. We got some incredible footage and I even got to kick a penalty kick! I made them promise not to laugh at me, because clearly I wasn’t up to par. There’s video evidence of this penalty kick, thanks to Brian and our friend Nico, who was holding my camera while I kicked. Maybe I’ll post it tonight if I’m feeling generous…. Oh, we also had a delicious lunch where I was tempted to order Cuy, which is a traditional Ecuadorian dish. It’s guinea pig, folks. But I decided my stomach might not handle that very well, so I went for something still Ecuadorian, but a bit more American-friendly. We also had some of the best ice cream I’ve ever put in my mouth. All natural, made by hand in a copper pot thing. Incredible.

That night Nico took me out for drinks and Ecuadorian snacks at a bar in the old part of Quito, which was absolutely beautiful. There are narrow cobblestone streets with balconies and flowers and beautiful lights everywhere, and it was like something straight out of a movie or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book. I fell in love with Quito that night. And I also had some delicious cornbread snacks. I mean, cornbread? Come on. I’m in.

The view from the Cathedral

The view from the Cathedral

The next morning was the only time we had a bit of time for ourselves, as we were filming pretty much 24/7, so we got to drive around the old part of Quito and see the churches, which was fantastic. There was a Gothic cathedral there with a tower you can climb all the way up, if you’re willing to brave some very narrow, very vertical, very questionable stairs. Brian made it up one set, but I had to go up the next two sets on my own. My legs were like jelly and my palms were sweaty, but I made it up. The view was totally worth it.

After our morning off, it was back to filming at the stadium, at which point it decided to rain. A lot. So Brian and I had to wrap the camera up in my scarf and hold the umbrella over everything to keep from getting the gear wet, while we ourselves were quite drenched. Such is the life of a journalist…

And after the game it was time to say our goodbyes to the athletes. I totally lost any shred of professionalism and got all weepy while telling Carlos goodbye. I honestly cannot wait to see him and all our Ecuadorian friends again in Athens. Everyone we encountered was so kind, welcoming and warm. From Nico, our guide, to Victor, the sports director for Special Olympics Ecuador, to Lucho, a Special Olympics staffer who was our driver, to all the athletes, everyone bent over backwards to make sure we had a good time and got what we needed while there.

So that’s my Ecuador summary, and if you want to see all my photos, you can check them out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbgarner/sets/72157626205543915/. I hope you like them!

Love,
Megan