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Sunday, June 15, 2014

¨A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving¨- Lao Tzu

So was back in February I saw a flier in the student union.

¨Travel Reporting Grant 

My immediate thought was Wow! That sounds like the dream! I had only been back in the U.S. a few weeks after having spent 5 months studying abroad in Thailand, but I was ready to be back in Thailand before I had even left. I knew I would go back some day, but I didn´t think I could pull it off this summer. I had also found a new interest in community based journalism, specifically film and documentaries while I had been in Thailand. Why community based journalism? Why film? Katie, you change your mind about what you´re interested in faster than the weather...you may be thinking if you know me. Well, I believe that the stories of a community across the world are as important, as valuable as a local story. The problems of a community struggling from the social, environmental and health impacts of a gold mine in Thailand are important for everyone to hear. So rather than complain about how ¨no one knows what I know¨ I´m going to inform. Good writing is a powerful tool, but seeing the faces behind my stories, seeing the places they love and want to protect, hearing the quiver in their voice when they speak of a family member who died of cyanide poising from the mine, that captures the story I want to share better than my writing ever could.

So I walked in the office of a Davidson professor, Jeff Rose, who I had never even had for class and pitched him my idea to go back to Thailand. He loved it, I pulled together all the application materials, and submitted.  (It wasn´t really that easy, but this is a blog...I´ll try to keep it interesting)

In mid-march I got an email that I had been chosen and I realized I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime. I now had $4000, support from Davidson and support from The Pulitzer Center to go back to Thailand, live in Na Nong Bong for 6 weeks and give being a community journalist a shot! 

I booked flights, had friends picking me up at the airport, had the visa all figured out, and it all fell apart. Part of me was devastated. I was so excited to go back, but the reasons I couldn´t go back were way bigger than my dream project. It was selfish to be upset about the Thai military rule affecting my summer plans, Thailand and my friends in Thailand had real problems. 

Fortunately for me the Pulitzer Center was extremely flexible and understanding about the fact that I couldn´t go to Thailand this summer. They had picked me to do a project and when I couldn´t do it my editor said OK pick another project. Read the news see what interests you. 

My jaw dropped. I thought going back to Thailand was the opportunity and now I could go wherever I want to do a story! So I looked for a story:
- Gold mining in Rosia Montana area of Romania
- South Africa and the production of parks and game reserves
- South Africa and just about every mine that has ever been created (diamond, gold, etc.)
- Indigenous coastal BC resistance to the tar sands pipeline (sending oil to China)
- Ecuador and the battle between Chevron and the Amazon
- Nigeria and one of the oil companies (Texaco?)
- Aboriginal issues in Northern Territories of Australia
- Pebble Mine in Alaska
- Charcoal production in Mexico or other rain forest countries (South America)
- Shrimp farming in mangroves (El Salvador, Guatemala, etc)

...there is no shortage of environmental (in)justice issues to be passionate about.

But even when I thought I was going to Thailand I had been following a story in Patagonia, Chile. A huge environmental (in)justice movement in Chile against a Megadam project. I have dreamed of Patagonia for years and so given the opportunity to go do whatever story I wanted...this was it!

The Pulitzer Center had no problem and now I'm writing a blog from a hostal in Patagonia. I have slowly been making connections in Patagonia, but I unfortunately don't speak Spanish very well. The day I arrived Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, announced that the Megadam project was not viable and would be put to rest. A very exciting announcement for everyone in Chile...or not?

So here I am writing blog posts I should have written before I left, but I´ve been in Patagonia for about a week now and I finally have my feet under me again. I have a very loose plan, but fortunately that's just the way I like it!

So keep reading my blog because this should be interesting.




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