Kelsey Kremer stayed up late one night several months ago, writing her paper, going over it at a cousin’s house, making sure it was just right, the day before it was due.
But unlike the papers she wrote in college, or Eric Upmeyer’s classes at Vinton-Shellsburg High School, where she graduated in 2009, this project had a purpose that Kelsey could clearly see when she received the assignment: A chance to work for a couple of weeks in China, telling the stories of the people she would meet on the other side of the globe.
Kelsey, a photojournalist and social media reporter for the Des Moines Register, recently returned from that trip to China. She shared some memories about the trip, and what it took to get there, with Vinton Today.
“I actually kind of had to apply for the China trip,” Kelsey recalls. “Our editor sent an email to the photo staff announcing the trip and told us that if we were interested in going we needed to answer a handful of questions.”
Those questions included past international reporting experience, why she wanted to go on the trip and what kind of stories or multimedia would she want to produce while there.
“I took it seriously because this was an opportunity of a lifetime,” Kelsey says. “I did some research and was over at my cousin’s house having her and her husband read all my answers the night before it was due.”
Basically, Kelsey’s paper told her bosses that she wanted to go because it would be an opportunity to expand her world view and tell good stories.
Later, in late April or early May, Kelsey received the call from her editor while on a trip home to visit her parents, Jon and Kristina.
“I was actually driving back to eastern Iowa when I found out I was going to China,” Kelsey recalls. “And I definitely had a small freak out session in my car.”
Along with reporter Kyle Munson, Kelsey left on Sept. 18, and returned Oct. 3.
Kelsey’s assignments included the ground-breaking for a new Iowa-based demonstration farm that seeks to combine the skills and unite the hearts of Iowans and their Chinese counterparts, as well as stories about Iowa’s former Governor, Ambassador Terry Branstad. She visited and created a video about Tiananmen Square, the site of the famous protests of 1989. She and Munson wrote and told video stories of life in China, its food, and even compared riding a bicycle in Beijing to RAGBRAI.
She also had time to enjoy some of China’s culture and historic sites.
“One of my favorite moments was visiting the Forbidden City,” Kelsey says. “I was actually in a really bad mood when we started the tour but it softened completely by the end. We were walking through right before it closed around 5 p.m., and by then the crowds had really thinned out, which makes it look like a completely different place, the smog had cleared a little bit and the sun was setting, the combination of the light and the setting was just beautiful.
One of the most surprising things about China is its beauty, Kelsey says.
“I went into this trip with pretty low expectations because I really knew very little about China. I was immediately struck by how beautiful it was.”
Kelsey found China as crowded as an American who hears about China’s constant population issues would expect. But, she says, it was a manageable crowd.
“There are people everywhere, but I think my experience making my way through crowds while working was good practice for the streets of Beijing and Shanghai,” she explains. “Not knowing the language was not as scary as I thought it might be, and I never felt too far away from home since we were there reporting on Iowa connections.”
The food was an adventure, Kelsey said.
“Dumplings were always good,” she says. “The best spot we found was a dumpling restaurant around the corner from one of our hotels in Beijing. They chefs made the dumplings in the doorway and cooked them in the street. We ate there three days in a row and by the last day the people who owned the place knew us and our order.”
But not all of the food was as delicious as those street-cooked dumplings.
“I tried donkey meat,” Kelsey says. “It was not good.
4th Regional Emmy Nomination in 4 years
Less than a week after returning from China, Kelsey and other DMR staffers attended the Midwest Regional Emmy presentation at the Mall of America. While she did not win this year, as she did last year with her story about Camp Tahigwa, Kelsey, a 2013 ISU graduate, has received four nominations her four years at the DMR. Her nomination this year was for a multi-media piece on a writer and artist Bruce Hopkins about his struggle with Alzheimer’s.
All of the stories and videos Kelsey and Kyle created can be found on the DMR web site HERE.