Two weeks ago I crossed the world. I flew 27 hours from Singapore to Japan, Japan to the USA and finally from the USA to Mexico. It was not a trip I had ever envisioned myself making; Mexico isn’t exactly on the top of “Countries to Visit” list for most Singaporeans. But if I’ve learnt anything in the past two to three years, it would be to never say “never”, only to say “not yet”.
For 10 days I worked with amazing people from around the world at the School of Authentic Journalism 2012. I learnt not from books but from firsthand accounts of journalists and activists and community organisers. Great conversations would sprout no matter where I was, standing in a corner or sitting down at a meal. Everyone had so much to share, and from day one we traded experiences with a vengeance.
This afternoon, after the final session, I walked back to the hotel with Ricardo from Honduras. He doesn’t speak more than a few words of English and I speak no Spanish. Throughout the whole 10 days we had never been able to understand each other or have a conversation. But on our last night at the campus he pulled me out on to the dance floor numerous times (sometimes against my will, but of course all attempts to try to explain myself were fruitless), and without words he showed me how to salsa. (Or rather, he danced salsa and I shuffled where I was led.) And so, even without language, we found a way to teach and to learn.
Every time I participate in a camp or a school, no matter where it is in the world, there is one lesson that I learn again and again: that there is nothing more amazing than people.
It’s why – through filmmaking, writing, photography and journalism – I seem to keep coming back to them, and why I’m willing to climb a mountain to hear their stories when I normally wouldn’t even voluntarily walk up three flights of stairs.
Right now I’m feeling a little heartbroken, because today we said our official goodbyes, a long affair when you have about 80 passionate people. And as we said goodbye I knew that we will never be together like this again, and that even though I’ll always carry the memory of the past 10 days with me, I’ll never be able to go back to taste that mojito or laugh at that joke or feel those hugs ever again. It’s a sudden sadness and emptiness that I feel at the end of every workshop, and it always feels so bittersweet; you don’t know whether to cry for the things you’ll miss or smile for the happiness you’ve gained.
To all the friends I’ve made at the School of Authentic Journalism, thank you so much for all the good times. You guys are living proof that no matter how shitty the world can be – and it can be very shitty indeed – there will always be fantastic people working hard and dedicating their lives to making it better.
And although we cannot solve all the world’s problems right away, we know we will never stop trying.
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