Carlene Hempel's Travel Blog

Reflections from a journalist and teacher abroad…

Goodbye for now…

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Well, as usual, it takes me about a week to collect my thoughts enough to present a final post. Today, I put the finishing touches on our online magazine by posting our centerpiece coverage – which is a special report of the Syrian refugee crisis. All told, we have about 40 pieces on our site, ranging from politics and business, to arts, culture, religion, sports and the environment. It was a monumental effort by all, to be sure, but in the end, I think everyone on the team – 18 journalists, a second professor and a teaching assistant – can attest to the quality and the importance of the work.

This time around, the Dialogue had its challenges. Never before have I had to defend the profession of journalism to students who questioned its value in the face of reporting on crisis. They worried about journalistic tourism, and wondered whether reporting for an academic program, with an admittedly small online audience, was reason enough to dive deeply into our subjects’ lives. My answer then (and always) is that of course there was reason to do this. The point of the exercise was to train them to function as professional journalists – to make them understand what it takes. They know now, and they know they can do it. I think the best way to explain my lessons to them is to share what I wrote to them in an email on the morning after our return. Here’s an excerpt:

You didn’t fuss (to me) about having to go back for more and more information, or data, or interviews, or context, and I appreciate that. While I have picked up from multiple blog posts how unhappy many of you were with the work at times, you did the right thing to soldier on. That iwhat professionals do – people who, like you, feel annoyed, or frustrated, or anxious, or fatigue. They feel it, they deal with it, they move on and they create great journalism. And that is what I see when I scroll through the site: great work. 
 
It is not by accident that this was a tough job for you. I designed it that way and I wanted it to be like that. The promise (was it a warning?) Mike and I made way back in those meetings during spring semester was that you would feel, at times, crushed by this experience. But, also, that you would prevail. And look … you did. My heart is full of pride for the packages on that site. The writing, the videos, the photos… the narrative, the voice. The scope of the pieces – from arts and culture, to sports, business, politics, religion and the refugee crisis – is remarkable. The experience you had, and what you went through to produce such fine journalism, is yours. You can talk about it, write about it, point people to it, return to it yourself. It will live on in your resumes and also in the skills you gained and will benefit from moving ahead.
 
This was a class, but the environment and the work were designed to make you function as a professional. And again, as we promised, you will notice the difference in yourself when you return to regular classes at Northeastern. I know that you will be able to handle anything that comes at you – because you already have.

 

And so there it is, or there it was. I have heard from only two, save for an email and one lovely hand-written note passed to me as we walked off the plane. But I hope the lessons learned will resonate as these students move on in their careers. They did indeed do wonderful work. They have indeed distinguished themselves. And they absolutely, without question or caveat, made a difference in the lives of the people they reported on. I am truly proud of everything they did. For now, I’ll fall quiet until I pipe up during the planning of the Cuba Dialogue, set for May and June next spring. Until then, I leave you with one last picture, snapped of me by lovely Suma Hussien as I hiked Mt. Olympus in the rain. It was magical and mythical – this place where the gods dwelled. And with Zeus as my witness, I know that someday I will return.

 

Carlene Hempel on Mt Olympus

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June 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm

My family, come and gone

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It was a magnificent 10 days with my family here in Athens. They departed this morning, leaving an echo of their laughter (and of the kids’ fighting) that I can still hear in my lovely flat. Farewell, beloved. I will see you again in three days. (Click on the photos to enlarge and read captions.)

 

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June 10, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Where is that music coming from? And an accidental footpath…

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Last weekend, after a day spent visiting ancient, rock-top monasteries (more on that in another post), we settled in for the night before moving on to Delphi. Meteora, which means suspended in the air, is right next to the village dwarfed by the massive sandstone rock formations atop which monks built impossible monasteries, some only accessible by hundreds of stone steps or pulley systems. That night, recovering from a fever and scheduled for a late night-edit on a student’s story, I didn’t have much time to explore. But I made sure to step out to catch the sun setting on this breathtaking landscape. It turned out to be one my favorite quiet moments in Greece so far. I’ll let the pictures and captions below take it from here. (Click on the images to read the full captions.)

Struck by how beautiful it was in that old part of the city (older part maybe… as it was all old), I set out again in the morning to retrace my steps and experience the same view in dawning, rather than the waning, sun. But at one of the many junctures in a maze of ancient narrow streets, I decided to take a right rather than a left. Here’s what I found: (Again, click on photos to read captions.)

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June 3, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Travels in Greece

See pink…

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Last weekend, we made our way up the many steps of Mount Parnassus to the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, what Greeks considered to be the center of the world. The monuments including the Sanctuary of Apollo, and the history of the Oracle – through which Apollo spoke – were mesmerizing. There were so many beautiful pictures to take of the ruins, and the valleys below, but I noticed a bit of pink around the edges, and wanted to remember that too.

And here are a few shots of the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site itself.

 

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June 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Travels in Greece

Arrived…. and everyone is sleeping…

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Geoff arrives Greece

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June 2, 2017 at 6:54 am

Here they come…

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LIla and Cal on place to Greece 2017

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June 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm

My lovely team, with me in Meteora

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Carlene Hempel Greece Dialogue Meteora

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May 31, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Travels in Greece