Road to Rome: Our Blue Roots

By March 18, 2017Blog

Hi there, this is Briee Eikenberry and I am the project producer for the Blue Roots Project.  

In less than 2 days, the Blue Roots Project team and I will travel to Rome for World Water Week to facilitate the #MyWaterStory campaign we built in the Creative Projects and Research Labs at the Center for Emerging Media Design and Development.  

To document our journey, we will publish a weekly blog titled Road to Rome. These blog posts will show our experiences (both physically and mentally) before, during and after our trip. Jennifer Palilonis, the Center’s director and Faith Kellermeyer, the Center’s project manager will chime in, too.

#MyWaterStory is a global conversation that asks people from around the world to think about water as it relates to their everyday life.

Today, our Road to Rome blog post features our own Water Stories that come from the deepest parts of our hearts. Collectively we cherish the moments we have with water, perhaps because of the activities, people and environment that influence us in our everyday lives.

Read our stories and submit yours too, using #MyWaterStory on social media.


When I was 18, my family of 21 took the first really big vacation we’ve ever been on together. We traveled to Greece and spent 14 days being tourists in some of the most beautiful cities and countrysides I’ve ever seen. This experience was huge for me. It was my first international trip, the longest I have been away from home and the first time I got to experience something BIG outside of my little hometown in Yorktown, Indiana.

Perhaps my most treasured memory was sailing for 7 days straight in the Aegean Sea. My family took a tiny boat that held a maximum of 100 people and toured the small islands off of Greece and Turkey. My favorite place was the beach at Mykonos, a tiny little Island off of the Cyclades.

Prior to this trip, the only beaches I had been to were Cocco Beach and South Padre Island where the water is green and stingrays great you as soon as you come into the water.

The Mykonos beach was different. The water was a deep, dark blue. It made me feel connected to the world, in a way that I have never felt before. I felt so small but big enough that I would come back home changed, cultured and aware. This moment made me see that water for me is different than water for you, and I think that is the most beautiful thing.

This is my most memorable moment with water.


The Mykonos, Greece beach



Plungė, Lithuania. Photo by Aistė Manfredini

During the summer of 2010 my photo album became filled with images of forests, prairies and pristine bodies of water in Lithuania. It was also filled with images of my now 90-year-old grandma laughing and drinking sweet liquor.

My great-grandma Adelė has spent the majority of her life living in a small town in Lithuania called Plungė. My great-grandfather built their modest brick house along with a barn for raising poultry and a pond for bathing and washing clothes. Adelė planted beautiful gardens and orchards that were used as their main source of nourishment. They were hard workers and lived self-sustaining lives.

When I was a kid, my cousin Lukas and I spent our summers eating cherries in great-grandma’s orchard and playing Marco Polo in her lily-filled pond. When we were not swimming in the pond, Lukas ran around barefoot chasing lizards while I weaved dandelions into crowns.

As I reflect on these memories, I can’t help but wonder if future generations will ever experience such beauty, in a place where the environmental conservation is put on the backburner and clean water is commoditized.

Will future generations be able to freely swim in pristine ponds, oceans or lakes? Will they live in a world where nourishing food and clean water is a priority?


I was 17, a senior in high school the first time I saw the ocean.

The first time I went to the ocean was with friends of mine.Their family vacationed at Topsail Island in North Carolina every summer. The summer before my senior year, they invited me to go along.

I still remember the moment I saw the ocean for the first time. We had just picked up the keys to the rental property and were close enough to the ocean to see it–blues, grays, greens and light browns whizzing by my window next to the captain’s chair of their minivan. I took a photo with a disposable camera that after it was developed was unrecognizable as a shoreline. But it’s the sensory memories that stick with me anyway–those colors I could see even from the car, the seeming drop off of the world beyond what you can see looking out into the ocean and the taste of salt in the air when the driver rolled down his window.

I felt adventurous during this trip, probably a result of my age, but also because of all the new experiences. I recognized the vastness of the ocean but exhibited a recklessness and abandon in my encounters with it. The power of the ocean, of which I would later learn, was mostly lost on me.

The beach house on Topsail Island, N.C. where Sarah stayed in 2006. A roped off area to the left of the stairs protects a sea turtle nest.


I traveled alone for the first time at the age of 14. The church we attended planned a mission trip to their sister church in Ensenada, Mexico, on the Pacific Coast of Baja California. Though I was never completely religious, my parents hoped that each trip I traveled might lead me down the path of Christian enlightenment. I just wanted to see the world.

The first thing they told us upon our arrival in Ensenada was: Don’t drink the water. Each day we traveled to and from our campground in the hills to our sister church in the barrio. Our hosts, the pastor and his wife, were gracious enough to cook for us and let us use their bathroom and kitchen while we worked to repair and renovate their small, plaster church. Everyday our hosts reminded us to use the hand sanitizer we brought with us instead of washing our hands to eat. They gently asked us not to flush the toilets in the most polite way they could.

We dug weeds from the hard earth for hours in the sun with our Aquafina water bottles clutched to our sides. And every night we cooled off in the dark under the canvas overhang of the courtyard evening service.

Many of the children and adults on that trip cried as they prayed for an end to poverty, for the health of their families, for the strength to overcome one last obstacle. But as I looked out at the graffitied walls of the buildings outside the chain link fence surrounding the church, I did not cry. I did not cry because I was thinking of the pastor’s daughter I had met earlier that day. She was seven, and the barrio, her family, and God were the only things she knew. She did not need our tears, our pity or our prayers. Those that survive cannot afford such luxuries. Each day, she drank the water we were being protected from without having to be warned.

In a week, we would be leaving, driving back across the border in our makeshift bus, back to our lives in our air conditioned houses and icemakers. But she and the rest of the people we met, whom we would write about in our college admission essays, would not only survive, but thrive from the water we were not allowed to drink.

Tree outside our mission campground in Ensenada, Mexico.