Today is Saturday, Aug. 29, which means that tomorrow, my good friend Darren leaves the States to spend the schoolyear in Jordan.
Darren, who is/was a photojournalism student at MU, will be studying Arabic and International Studies in Amman under the Council of International Educational Exchange’s program there. He also spent this past summer in Irbid, the northwest region of Jordan near the West Bank.
Of course, all of us are going to miss Darren a lot — especially since this is our senior year and some/most of us will be graduating in May, a week before he returns from Jordan.
Darren is also my oldest friend at MU.
I “met” him in August at one of the first Maneater staff meetings, at the end of which all photographers gathered in the back of the room to pick up assignments. Even though everyone else disagrees with my memory, I clearly recall seeing Jason, Joel and Darren — among others — and being terrified of them. (Why? Because back then, I was a teeny freshman who assumed that anyone as big and tall as those guys had to be a sophomore.)
Darren and I officially met a few weeks later, at a September event at the Student Recreation Complex. He was on assignment for The Maneater. I was taking advantage of the free food at the event. He raised his camera. I held up my hand.
“If you’re with The Maneater, don’t take a photo of me; I’m on staff, too,” I warned him.
Later, he ambled over to where I was with some other people, and we started to chat. Then he asked for my name. I told him.
“Wait — you’re Chris Dunn?” was his reaction.
Apparently, for the past three or four weeks, Darren and the other photojournalism freshmen had picked up on my name frequenting the Maneater‘s photo bylines. And apparently, the entire time, everyone assumed I was male because my name is Chris. (This assumption was to become a recurring theme.)
Thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We’ve done a lot.
In March 2006, Darren and I, along with every other journalism student at MU, did our part to cover a Neo-Nazi march in Columbia. Two and a half years later, in Nov. 2008, we saw another group of Neo-Nazis parade their outdated ideas — this time, it was in Jefferson City.
He shot a few assignments when I was the Maneater photo editor, lent me his camera body for the first MU football game I ever shot and took me to get Trops on my 21st birthday (which was a Monday, which meant we drank alcoholic smoothies while studying for an exam). We’ve elbowed each other countless times to keep awake during certain journalism classes. He, Jason and I went to see Sgt. Matt Eversmann of Black Hawk Down fame give a talk at MU.
We’ve had numerous discussions about whether photojournalism is a dying field, whether he should stick with it or pursue another field of study and whether journalism school is a complete waste of time. More than a year ago, he lent me his copy of Friday Night Lights just because he loved it so much and wanted to be able to talk about it with someone else. (I’ve since read the first five chapters. I hope to finish it by the time he gets back.)
We’ve also gone to a Taylor Swift concert with Chelsea and Jeff, and that in itself was a landmark event.
In short, I’m going to miss Darren. A lot of us are going to miss Darren. But I know he’s going to have a really fantastic experience in Jordan, hope he updates his blog more often (hint hint!) and can’t wait to see him again in May 2010.
Safe travels, Darren!