Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kenya - Day 2

Day 2 of Kenya started…well, a little painful. The mattress provided by Tumaini is something of a mix between a Temperpedic and concrete. I spent most of the night thinking "am I really comfortable or do I feel like I'll have back problem for the rest of my life after this?". Luckily, our film schedule is limited so waking up at 5am to film was an absolute priority.

We roll to the front just before dawn to film the kids getting ready for their day. Strangely enough, their rituals aren't much different from ours. They get dressed, gather school supplies, eat, and are off to school. I was quite surprised how normal it was…well, except for the school hours. The kids go to school from 7am-5pm. Yeah, that's right American kids…10 hours of school a day. Next time you start complaining about how much you hate school, just remember a Kenyan is literally schooling you.

After a short break Matt decided to get an interview from a kid named Sam. Sam is a sophomore in high school, and he just got done studying in Maine at an American high school. The kid is immediately personable: he greets you with a smile and is very well spoken. He tags along and goofs around with you, and it was very easy to develop a friendship with him. Sam talked about the problems in Kenya, and how he wants to become a lawyer to help out here. He's a guy with a head on his shoulders and enough passion in his heart to do whatever he wants in life. I already starting praying for him, hoping he finds his break.

Watching Matt interview Sam was something of an exodus for me. The film quality was near perfect, and it was my first experience with how Matt interviews people. It is a natural conversation: very fluid and organic. He draws the tough answers from people without being abrasive. It's a style I hope to adopt myself someday when I'm doing my own documentary work.

I did have a dream come true today: I got to play soccer with true Kenyans in Kenya. I was pumped and ready to go, and so when my dad and Matt rolled out with the cameras I got into my state of mind. We walked to one of the local high schools and watched as they got their game on…and I was immediately intimidated. It wasn't their skill persay, because frankly they play bumblebee soccer. They are all about flair and high kicking, and often a play can never produce. No, it was the field I was playing on. The grass literally goes up to your knees, so you can't see the ball half the time. You're sprinting full speed through the brush dodging boulders the size of my calf that are shaped like death spikes just waiting for you to trip and impale yourself.

Naturally, my heart was racing as I was playing with the Kenyans. I look up and see that Matt and my Dad, who were taking pictures off to the side, were gone. I was alone at a high school in Kenya. Apparently, they bailed because a group of kids mobbed them asking for pictures…crazy. I stayed a little while and decided to socialize with the high school kids.

It didn't take long for me to make some new friends there either. It started with one guy just asking me questions and walking around, and it wasn't long before I was having a conversation with about 30 high school kids. They would ask me about America, I would ask them about Kenya. They would poke fun at me, I would poke back. It was very fun and nice to be the center of attention, and to have these kids teach me about their culture in the least abrasive way possible. Rori and Brian told me that it looked like I was teaching because the entire field was empty and they were all around me. Fun times…

It isn't all work, and so for the first time in a couple of days, I got to enjoy a Coca Cola. Let me explain how Coke works in the third world. You find a vendor, often in these sketchy shacks or storefronts. There is no refrigeration, just a crate to keep everything cool. You roll up with your 30 shillings (about 40 cents) and buy a Coke in a glass, half warm but tasty nonetheless. Here's the kicker: they reuse the glass. You have to return the glass after your done, which means that I potentially shared a Coke with the entire nation of Kenya. Eh, totally worth it.

After that we walked down the road and it was time for all the little little kids to get out of school. They walked by the dozens down the road and us, 6 Americans with cameras, were perfect targets. We didn't stand a chance… Within seconds, like a pack of vicious velociraptors, they surrounded us and attacked. They all wanted pictures of themselves, and would swarm you just to see themselves. They would giggle and squeal when they saw their faces on the screen, and I probably got some of the best pics of the trip thus far in that chaos of little bodies clawing their way at your piece of the western world.

At the end of day 2, I'm very much enjoying myself. I've met a ton of people and it will be very hard to forget the faces of these children. Some of the older ones gave me Swaihili words to learn, others just wanted to know my story. And even though I'm helping to tell theirs, I know that we have a lot more to learn from them than they do from us. Something is magical about this place…in spite of all its hardships. I hope to find out what that magic is.

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