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Dwayne Says Goodbye…For Now

Dwayne has been back stateside for a few weeks. His research in Walla Walla is well underway, his certified nursing assistant class begins in a few weeks, and the weight of senior year responsibilities is beginning to weigh heavily on his conscience. Even his silver dyed hair is almost fully grown out to it’s original brown hair, leaving glorious frosted tips in it’s wake. The time has come for me to officially close the curtain on my time in Denmark so that I can turn my gaze fully towards the future. There is no better way to reflect on these past four months than through a final bog post.



Dwayne, Quwini and Baby

            My last few weeks in Denmark were undoubtedly some of the best of my life. It was during this time that I realized my newly formed relationships in my kollegium and my rugby team were beginning to strengthen and deepen. I began to feel like an integral cog in these systems and not just a temporary visitor. I know that I had left a deep impression on these people, my departure would be felt for some time, and I would be remembered. This is an achievement that I hope to pursue during every stage of my life, and it is not something that is easy to achieve. It requires genuine human interaction, compassion and vulnerability. It cannot be purchased, and one does not need to travel halfway around the globe to find it. This being said, there is something romantic about making these sorts of connections with the sorts of people that you will only be able to see again after years have passed.

           All smiles after Dwayne’s final CBS Rugby game

Academically, I’ve achieved a deeper gratitude and understanding for the subjects that I’ve gained a budding passion for during my time at Whitman. My course in human health and disease introduced me to the mindset of a physician, the intricacies of human pathology, and a real perspective into just how strenuous a life in medicine really is. Meanwhile, my course in European documentary filmmaking further revealed my love for narrative storytelling, key differences between American and European documentary, and my inexperience as a documentarian.

Dr. Dwayne

As a double major in biology and film and media studies, I was hoping that one of my interests in medicine and documentary would become more important to me than the other. As a result, I would know where to focus my academic interest and time. Instead, I’ve learned that these two subjects intricately compliment each other in ways that my words haven’t been able to do justice to yet. Suffice it to say, I feel that being a physician will make me a better filmmaker, and vice versa. To my surprise (and perhaps yours), pursuing a career in either of these fields is very scary to me, and for very different reasons. In film, I’m scared that I lack any real experience, that I will be demotivated by a lack of financial and temporal structure/progess, and that I will search for immediate validation when there will often be none. In medicine, I’m scared that I will not be able to reach the towering academic threshold, that I will be thrust into monumental debt with no escape, and that I may be forced to eschew my other interests and friends. Trying to actively pursue both (within somewhat localized means) seems almost ludicrous. Fortunately, there is nothing that Dwayne loves more than a ludicrous idea.

To conclude this blog, there is one crucial question that must be answered. If you happen to see me or want to contact me, what do you call me; Devin or Dwayne? The short answer is that I respond to both, so it doesn’t really matter much to me. The fact is most people at Whitman know me as Devin already, so there isn’t much point in going by Dwayne unironically. If anything, by calling me Dwayne you acknowledge that you have read my blog or seen my instagram, which is a sort of nice validation revealing that you know something about my current outlook, headspace and personality.

What is the future of Dwayne, you may ask? There is no doubt that here will return in full force during my next major trip. Although I certainly haven’t made any plans yet, Asia is shouting Dwayne’s name, and he desperately wants to answer her call. Ideally, he’ll be able to implement a project focused on old age and documentary filmmaking, expanding on the work he has done in Denmark (shoutout to the Watson Fellowship?). In any event, he’ll definitely be hanging out with old people and making movies somewhere in the world. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these blogs as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Love, Dwayne

Dwayne Presents Entropy: A Short Film

One of the reasons I chose to come to Denmark was because DIS allowed me to create a class schedule unique to my particular academic interests. At the moment, I’m fascinated by old age and the struggles that it puts onto elderly individuals, especially in a culture where we tend to shuttle our old out of sight. One of my post-graduation goals is to develop a documentary film project focused on a cross-cultural exploration of old age in order to determine if there is any way to soften the difficulties associated with aging in our society. For my European Documentary Film class final project, I decided to do a sort of preliminary exploration into this topic. This work portrays my first experiences setting up interviews on my own, and looking back there is so much that I realize I could have done differently to improve the final product. That being said, I’m certainly proud of this piece and am excited to begin developing my next project. I would recommend watching it in 720p HD for the crispest image. Enjoy!

Dwayne’s Family in Europe

In this blog post, I would like to compare and contrast two experiences that occurred while I was travelling with my friend Nick Horst during our programs independent travel break. Family, hospitality, immigration and “genuine” travel seem to be the common themes that connect these two events. I believe the best strategy for framing this post is to dive right into the stories, then finish with my own critical thoughts and analyses.

The first story takes place on a rainy afternoon in Brussels. We had only scheduled a single afternoon in the city, and we were using the internet in our hostel at 3pm trying to figure out the best way to spend our limited time. So far, a visit to the grand market with a waffle and beer was the only thing we had planned. While looking at a map of the Brussels suburbs, I noticed a small waterpark called Oceade that was open until 9pm. Although Nick was hesitant at first, I knew that we had to go.

Unlike American waterparks, Oceade had almost no staff or regulations. Nick and I jumped into the slides at the same time, rolling around while trying to do tricks with our inner tubes. I hadn’t felt such childish fun in a long time. After a few hours of reckless sliding, we headed to the sauna center where we met three large bellied, mustachioed Romanians.

Although they were all married with kids and looked middle aged, the oldest was only 24. They invited us to dinner at a Romanian restaurant in the city, an offer that Nick and I would never refuse. After getting dressed and greasing up our hair, we packed into their car and drove into the city. While driving, one of them started a facebook live and told Nick and I to pretend that we were in Los Angeles with them for their friends; needless to say it was simultaneously strange and hilarious.

What struck me most about these three Romanians was their commitment to family, hospitality and structure. All were married with kids, highly religious, worked six days a week and spent their weekend going to the same sauna and eating at the same restaurant with each other. Nick and I were the first guests that had joined this weekly ritual of theirs; apparently they had once invited some Canadians who had refused. They repeatedly told me the lengths they would go if their family (or Nick and I, their new lifelong friends) would go to if they were ever needed. 5 years, 10 years, 20 years down the road, Nick and I would always have a place to stay in Romania where food and money would be available if we needed it. There is no doubt that this sort of commitment to family is lacking in many American families; would you leave work and drive 200 miles if your uncle’s car had suddenly broken down? Moreover, they were offering us, strangers, the same hospitality they would offer their family members.

The second part of this story takes place in Umbria and Le Marche, two countryside provinces in central Italy about an hour from Rome. We travelled there to visit my extended family, a branch of my family tree connected solely by my grandfather’s mother who immigrated to Colorado from Pergola and married my great-grandfather, a Welsh coal miner. Nick and I spent two days in this beautiful area in an incredible farmhouse, and the hospitality that we experienced was unbelievable. I ate some of the best meals and wines of my life and felt re-connected to a side of my family that had really only interacted with my grandfather. Few spoke good English, so to communicate we had to find a middle ground of English and Italian. As such, the amount of Italian that I learned in such a short time was unbelievable. One of my proudest moments was having a fully Italian conversation over a cigarette with the oldest man of the household during a big family lunch.

There is no doubt that my experiences in Brussels and Italy were very similar; these are two cultures that live and breathe hospitality. As soon as Nick and I were recognized to be a part of their circle, there was nothing that they would not do for us. However, there was one crucial difference between the two that has been nagging in my mind; whether I was family blood or not. It has become very clear that the only reason Nick and I were welcomed in Italy is because I was part of their family. Often the family’s loud conversation revolved around exactly who I was related to and how (he is Carlo’s grandson, who is Nonna’s son, who is your cousin, etc.). I remember one man in particular who had freckles, brown hair and a red beard like I do. After I called him “mi familia”, he said jokingly, “let’s hope so, or else I would have to go get the gun”.

Moreover, although my experiences regarding my family were generally incredibly positive, there were moments of intense racism, sexism and homophobia. They are highly anti-immigrant and strongly believe that women should be below men. It seems clear to me that a lot of this sentiment stems from how closed off their community is. They have lived in the same small towns for generations and know almost everyone; of course they are not going to be welcoming to someone who looks different and does things differently. Like I mentioned above, the Romanians accepted Nick and I despite our foreign status. However, it is quite possible that they were so accepting because they were foreigners themselves; Romanians in Belgium separated from their homeland. Who knows how different our experience would have been if we were in their hometown sauna. Ultimately, these experiences reminded me just how inhospitable Americans and Danish people can be. There is so much that I can learn to do make my family, friends and strangers feel welcome while in my company.