And I did. Frankie Lewchuk was a clean-cut high school football star when I knew him as a teenager; he's the last person I would have thought would become addicted to crystal meth. For the past year, Melissa, Juan and Frankie, along with Amanda Brand and Josh Cutler, have carried around recorders to once again document their lives.
Their personalities, and their stories, couldn't be more different. But the process was the same as it was in the mids. They recorded more than 40 hours of sound: scenes, conversations and late-night thoughts. All this was edited and shaped into the documentaries that make up Teenage Diaries Revisited. As a radio producer, going through hours and hours of raw audio diary tapes is like mining for gold. Ninety percent of what a diarist records doesn't end up on the radio.
But every so often they capture moments from their daily lives that are completely unexpected, and say so much. There are some stories that can only be told by those who live them.
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Over the years, many listeners have asked about Josh, who recorded his teenage diary about his struggle with Tourette's syndrome. One of the things that made Josh a great diarist is that I never knew what he was going to say next. Sometimes he didn't, either.
I always thought he was kind of a metaphor for an audio diary. There is something magical about handing someone a tape recorder, because you never know what will happen. Lucky accidents are part of the DNA of radio diaries. Amanda was the first diarist I ever worked with. She taught me why teenagers make good diarists. Amanda — in her self-described "industrial gothic" style — drove around with her friends aimlessly on a Friday night; she burped while walking around her house; and she recorded an intimate and difficult conversation with her parents about her sexuality. The teen years are a time when people are beginning to discover themselves and their world.
They are curious and impatient for their life story to begin. Unlike many adults, teenagers have an inherent belief that whatever they say is important, and that people should pay attention. As a teenager, Amanda knew she was gay. Her parents told her it was just a phase.
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Today, Amanda's new diary reflects how far her parents — and the country — have come since the project debuted in Another advantage in working with teenagers is that they have a lot of time. That's one thing you lose in the transition to adulthood. The diarists in Teenage Diaries Revisited are busy.
They have jobs, some have children. They have less time to play around with a tape recorder. And that's another thing that's changed: They aren't using tape recorders anymore. The other difference, this time around, is that the diarists not only created portraits of their present-day lives, they also revisited their teenage diaries. All the diarists told me it was both uncomfortable and mesmerizing to listen in on their teenage selves, knowing how things would turn out. As Melissa says in the beginning of her new diary: "[When you're a teenager] you never think what could possibly happen.
So Eunice and Bosco had a few chances to try and escape whenever their group would divide into smaller ones. They realized that maybe this was a chance to get away. And so they tried a few times but were unsuccessful at first. I think the Lord's Resistance Army was somewhat weakened and more isolated in the country, right?
And there were radio broadcasts that featured people who had escaped, so they knew that this was happening, and people were returning to society.
There was a radio station that would play messages from rebels who had escaped or had been captured and who were saying on the radio, I'm safe; I'm alive; other people should try to escape. But the rebel leaders would tell the abducted children, you know, these are lies. The military executed these rebels right after they made their messages on the radio.
So even though Eunice and Bosco heard these messages, they were a little uncertain as to what would happen to them when they escaped. But they felt like it was worth the risk. And then does Bosco hear her on the radio, and that how he - is that how he knows that she has made it safely home? He - after a couple of months, he hears her on the radio. And actually, at that same time, he's with another rebel commander who says that, actually, you know, this is Eunice, but I'm sure she's dead, that the - that we know the military executes rebels after they've escaped.
But he does hear her voice, and that ignites this inkling, this feeling in him that he needs to be - get free too. He's out in the bush with two other soldiers, and he suggests, hey, why don't we make a run for it? What happens? Well, he suggests that, but the other two rebels don't agree. And so Bosco just makes a drastic decision, and he decides to shoot them just in a kind of a - and in a rapid, sudden decision. And then from there, he escapes from them and tries to make his way home. And he was so desperate to get to Eunice, to get to their child and to get back home.
DAVIES: So here's where the story takes a fascinating turn because Eunice is home with her mother, having been through this horrific ordeal. And he wants to come and find her. What's her attitude towards welcoming him back if he makes it?
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OKEOWO: So it's interesting because they're not the only couple that that went through this that were paired together in captivity and then later escaped. And people in northern Uganda, people in their community, their families, they watched these couples with fascination because whenever the women decided to reunite with the men they were paired to in the bush, they were often shocked and appalled. They couldn't understand why the women would agree to be with men they were forced to be paired with.
But for Eunice, it made sense to her. This was a man she had grown to trust, and rely on, and to love and with whom she had a child. And she wanted to be with someone who understood what she had been through. When I read this, where she said, even if they hadn't had a child together, that she would still want him because she wanted someone who understood that experience, and it - I have to say, it reminded me of stories of combat veterans coming back with PTSD, and their strongest bonds, in some ways, are with the other soldiers or Marines in their unit.
There's - because just no one can quite understand what they've been through but people who have shared it.