Letting go of fear

On fear, my namesake Eleanor Roosevelt wrote,

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

So upon coming to Northeastern, I decided to do one thing every six months that absolutely terrified me.

I’ve held pretty solidly to that over the past four years. Some were more planned, some less so. After completing my first semester, which was intimidating in and of itself, the fear-tasks are as follows:

Competing in a beauty pageant. Taking a co-op in New York. Working said co-op, with the talented crew at MSNBC. Passing up an incredible career opportunity to take care of myself. Recovery. Applying to a five week reporting dialogue in Greece. And finally, taking two graduate level classes which I believed I had no business being in, as well as three tough undergrad classes in my last semester of school. 

Growing up, my mom always told us, “You’re already at no. Just ask.” I’ve been trying to apply that mantra to life, with an increasing amount of success as the years go by. A lot of us let the fear of rejection and failure limit us, stunting our growth. But I’ll amend Roosevelt’s passage; we’re not going to always succeed. Failure is inevitable and invaluable. If I didn’t learn to fail at the beauty pageant, I highly doubt I would’ve succeeded at everything else on the above list.

In every single one of those scenarios, I doubted my abilities, my resolve and my resilience. I certainly didn’t think I could handle being in a foreign country, reporting on crises that I didn’t really understand, and navigating language barriers at every turn. Yet here I am, on the other side, intact and improved.

Even yesterday, before my final story was completed, I complained to Bridget that I wanted to just scrap it and give up on it. Thankfully I didn’t, because I now have a product that I’m incredibly proud of and excited about.

Why did I want to scrap it? We didn’t have enough B roll, we didn’t have enough interviews, I wasn’t going to do it justice, I wasn’t going to sufficiently convey the importance of the work these amazing women are doing. It doesn’t matter why. There’s always a million excuses when fear is in the way.

But with Bridget behind the camera shooting my stand up, I thought about all the work Suma and I had done to get here. All the interviews we did, all the people we spoke with who wanted to shed light on the lack of reproductive health care for refugee and migrant women. I thought about all the women who suffered in camps, on the run, and in temporary apartments. This was bigger than me and my fear–to let my own insecurities impact someone else would be the true failure here.

What’s next on the fears list? I’m not so sure yet. But whatever it is, I know I’ll wind up returning to this blog to remind myself that whatever the task is, I will rise to meet it.

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Even the rain can’t stop us from shooting!// Bridget Peery

Final Story Is Live!

VIDEO: The state of healthcare for refugee women and children

Video by Ellie Williams ·

ATHENS, Greece – Tucked between cafes at the edge of Platia Viktoria in Athens, the Amurtel Center for Refugee Women and Babies has been providing free prenatal and postnatal care for refugee and migrant women in its specialized center since October 2016. Its staff and patrons call it the calmest place in the entire city. But now, a lack of funding threatens the safe haven.

Take a Break: how to forget

“”Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.”

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth, V.v.,”

–Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, II

I had initially begun this post yesterday afternoon, so perhaps it’s fitting that I started it intending to talk about tomorrow. But tomorrow is here already, which probably sums up my time in Greece: time here is flying by me, yet the pace of life here moves so slowly, I’m having trouble focusing.

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Me, as out of focus as I feel writing this. Silo(e)scapes, 2017, Zenobia Touloudi.//Bridget Peery

Yesterday, we went to the exhibition of Tomorrows: Urban fictions for possible futures at the Onassis Cultural Center. Essentially the basis for it is examining the manner in which architecture and design will provide alternatives for our future. I loved this because it’s entirely speculative and yet planning for a future, all the while basing the prediction of the future on the past.

There’s this interesting Autostraddle essay on science fiction’s inability to comprehend gender identity, because while the authors could imagine entirely new biomes, they couldn’t comprehend a world without gender binaries. Author Cheryl Morgan writes,

The authors don’t generally try to predict what our world will look like in years to come. They may suggest possible futures – perhaps ones we need to guard against – but often these imagined futures are simply discussions of the present dressed up with spaceships and aliens as a means of encouraging the readers to think outside of the box.

It was on my mind today as I looked at the designs, because they are based on scenarios that we believe to be plausible, such as climate change or the surveillance state. They are responses to these current issues, thinking outside of the box.

Which isn’t a true criticism, merely an observation, but it did get me to thinking. As journalists, we’re reporting on the past (although the recent past generally speaking) intending to alert the public in the present, while at the same time, leaving the reports for the future as a testimony of the past and present. Much like Erich Berger and Mari Keto’s Inheritance, we have to think about what we’re leaving behind and what we hope the future will inherit from us.

What am I leaving behind? What is the world inheriting from me?

One work, titled Air Shake, I unfortunately can’t find any information online about but here are the webpages of the two primary architects, Lydia Kallipoliti & Andreas Theodoridis, as well as a fascinating conversation on the Architecture of Discourse. The basic premise was the use of air and its pollutants to cure various diseases that our environment will cause. In one case, the architects assert that sensory overload produces anxiety. The solution? Forgetting.

What am I forgetting? What is forgetting me?

Lean In

As we wrap up our time here in Greece–although I’ll be staying on to sightsee with my mom (Hi Mom!)–it’s a lot of crunch-time stress and reflections upon this trip. I touched upon this in my first post on this blog, that this is an opportunity to elevate the voices of those I meet with. That could be indie game developers, who I met with Cody. It could be volunteers working to ensure women have access to contraceptives, with Suma. Or refugees and migrants who choose to share their stories in the hopes that it would make a difference.

Continue reading “Lean In”

Sundays are for…not the boys

If you’ve been following Brandon’s blog at all, you know that Saturday’s are for the boys.

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Brandon in his classic garb.//Bradley Fargo

But Sundays, not so much. Technically they’re our free day, although today I actually wound up accompanying Cody and Bridget to a games expo, where I got the opportunity to shoot some interviews with several developers and play some really entertaining games. Plus I got my first virtual reality experience! It was a simplistic soccer-based game, in which a cannon shoots a soccer ball at you and you have to head it in to the goal. Sounds simple, no?

It was not simple! Or it was, but I was not very good at it. I also was not great at the other game we played, called Moribund. But thankfully, Cody and I are speaking with some VR developers this week, so I’ll get another shot at trying some games I hope.

Bridget and I left the games expo without Cody, who stayed to keep interviewing, and went to get lunch. We went back to Etnico, a small restaurant we passed the first night in Athens, and where we had dinner with Brandon and Danny Friday night. The restaurant calls itself “alternative street food” and makes a series of Mexican, Arabic, and Indian dishes. And with the amount of 2004 RnB playing our first night there, I was basically in heaven.

When we returned today, it was much quiet, around 4:30 in the afternoon. Over curry, a quesadilla, and some sangria, Bridget and I wound up discussing the question I imagine many of us have been grappling with over the course of this trip: what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Or maybe it’s just me, with graduation behind me and the (continuing) job hunt looming just over the horizon.

But I knew when I came on this trip

But I knew when I took my first journalism class

Look, I’ve known I want to help people since day one. When I was five, I wanted to be a chiropractor because I knew my mom went to one to help her and so I thought that would be how I could make the world a better place. And here I am, 17 years later, not a chiropractor. Or a cop. Or a lawyer. But a journalist. Hopefully making a difference.

Maybe this sounds too cliche, or too personal, or whatever reason people wall themselves off from being honest and vulnerable–but what is the purpose of living if not to try to make the world a better place for everyone else living in it? Maybe, as some have told me, my viewpoint is naive. But waking up to read about the London Bridge attack wasn’t even shocking at this point. I guess I have disaster fatigue. Over lunch, Bridget asked the painful question on both of our minds: will it ever end? 

Probably not. People have been hurting and killing each other since the beginning of time. But in spite of all of that, people have been helping each other too. In times of strife and terror, strangers step in to help one another. My hope, through all of the self-reflection time I’ve had on the various buses and hikes of this trip, is that I can be that stranger, stepping in to help in some way. Documenting the stories of those doing good, those suffering, and most critically those who are doing good in spite of their suffering. That is why I’m here.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall a few photos from today.

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A fitting find as we walked to the games expo.//Ellie Williams
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We found Chinatown today! On the edge, a sign for the Beijing Olypmics hangs.//Ellie Williams
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Bridget, displeased to be forced to spend yet another day with me.//Ellie Williams
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This photo doesn’t do the curry justice but alas, it was eaten too quickly before I could snap another one.//Ellie Williams
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I desperately attempted to befriend this cat today, who reminded me of Nova. But they weren’t having it.//Ellie Williams

Athens, Take Two

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the subway till I got on the train today to return to the hotel from an interview with Suma.

In Thessaloniki, we rarely rode the public bus due to the bus strike, so I was used to taking cabs everywhere. Even in Boston, I avoid the bus when I can. I just don’t know it as well and far too frequently miss my stop. Which I did today, on my way to the interview, much to my frustration.

But overall, day two in Athens went well! After a brief tour of the neighborhood with our handler Theo, I wandered a flea market with Bridget and Cody, in search of gelato for breakfast. After, Bridget and I stopped at a leather goods store and each got a purse at a significant discount, thanks to Bridget’s expert haggling skills. I personally hate haggling, as I hate shopping, but I can’t resist beautiful leather. And my trusty Il Bisonte bag (a handmedown from my mother) has torn. It’ll take some time to break this bag in, but in no time it’ll be as soft as the twenty year old one I’ve been stuffing with maps and zoom recorders.

Cody even found a guitar shop, where he bought himself an acoustic guitar! Cooler still was this creation, which the guys at the shop called a Slideboard Guitar.

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How cool is this Sideboard?//Ellie Williams

Plus, at the suggestion of Suma, I finally got to eat something other than Greek food! Nothing against the Greeks, but I needed a break. Back home, I eat a lot of Asian food, but when we go out to eat, there’s always a million options. In Thessaloniki, we ate a lot of gyros. Like every single day. It’s kind of gross now that I think about it. I probably ate more mustard in those two weeks than I have in the rest of my life. But today was such a welcome break to the endless pita!

The one downside so far–and this isn’t Athens so much as our hotel–is that the wifi is abysmal. I thought it was bad in Thessaloniki, but at least it worked with some haste. I’ve been uploading the same 4 minute video to YouTube for about 8 hours and it’s only at 9%. It’s going to be a long night.

On to Athens

We’re officially checked into our hotel in Athens. We left Thessaloniki early Tuesday morning and despite the warnings from Carlene and Mike, I failed to get enough sleep Monday night. A combination of a late night phone call (sorry Bridget!) and some general agitation about leaving our three-week home.

Agitation about sums up my feelings about Thessaloniki as a whole to be honest. I didn’t love the city and I couldn’t pin point why until a few of us began to wander Athens in search of an elusive Thai restaurant for dinner tonight. As I glanced up to the buildings looming over me, I realized why: Thessaloniki didn’t feel like enough of a city to me. Call me a New York snob but I like my buildings massive, my pedestrians purposeful, and my ability to see the sky limited. Thessaloniki is a beautiful area, but didn’t meet these utmost important criteria. Bridget accurately compared it to North Hampton. Not a bad thing, just different than say, Boston.

Also, bad pizza. And that’s not just coming from me–some individuals are working on a covert project to rank pizza in every city and town we go to. So far…the results have not been good.

But Athens! Athens is a city. After getting lost–which I’m fairly certain was not actually our fault, I just don’t think this restaurant exists–we found a fantastic, if touristy spot in the middle of the square with delicious traditional Greek food. Unfortunately the pizza was subpar, but the food otherwise was some of the best I’ve had in Greece.

I’m looking forward to getting a better handle on the city in the coming days, but already it’s looking up.

Speaking of looking up, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday traveling from Thessaloniki to Athens, with stops in Meteora and Delphi which were simply incredible.

While I’m not really religious, I did grow up in the (Presbyterian) church and I’ve always felt a sense of peace in churches. Religion, to me, is a form of story telling, whether ancient or modern. So it seemed fitting that a group of journalists got to witness the story telling, in somewhat grotesque paintings, of eternal damnation.

But the story telling doesn’t stop there! Wednesday, we drove to Delphi, the home of the Oracle and Apollo’s sanctuary. This has been one of my favorite excursions of the trip so far, as it wove together my love of archaeology and mythology. Plus, I finally have proof that Molly’s dad was right: the Greeks did steal their artistic styles from the Persians!…and the Egyptians and “orientals”. And while I’m not entirely clear on who the orientals are exactly, I was excited to get a shout out. (I’m not slandering either, this is all straight from the mouth of our wonderful tour guide Vicky.)

I’m excited to hit the ground running tomorrow, as Suma and I go to a women’s center to yet again cover the refugee crisis. (Click for captions)