Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kenya - Day 3


When I was a kid and I thought of Africa, I immediately thought of that Indiana Jones, over the top, British style safaris. You are all in jeeps with Lemon Squeezer caps and chasing after lions and giraffes, not to hunt them of course, but to just be in their element. It's always been on my bucket list since: to do a proper, authentic African safari.

On day 3 of my Tumaini adventure, I got the chance to cross that item off my list. LIke the night before, I didn't get a wink of sleep. I woke up thinking that Matt was Captain Blood and utterly hating his existence (no offense of course). But, when you have a job to do in this field, you sacrifice when you need it to get the necessary shots. It started like every other day: another beautiful morning in Tumaini with amazing shots of the kids going to school and the grounds.

Today, however, was not the same. After the kids left Matt, my Dad, and myself geared up for Abadare. We felt like soldiers going to war, with our cameras as our weapons and each other as our fellow squadmates. The morning consisted of cleaning our barrels (cleaning the glass), reloading magazines (capturing data and clearing memory cards), and gearing up (fresh batteries and tripods). Naturally, I was stoked.

The car rolls up and I knew immediately this wasn't my Indiana Jones adventure: it was so much better. Most of the Think Kindness team took a standard van, but the production team had a Landrover at our disposal. This car had seating for 8 people, which we used as production gear space. The top of the car had 3 hatches that came off entirely, allowing us to hang out of the car like gunners on a humvee.

We set up the car pretty efficiently. In the front sat Nicole, who was our lookout for the excursion. My dad and Matt were in the second two seats, loaded with a mounted tripod on top of the van. Liz sat in the next row, with all our glass in the seat next to her. And in the back was Digesti and myself, with my 40d on the middle seat and extra glass in the seats next to me.

The gates to Abadare look like the gates to Jurassic park. You drive about a kilometer into thick brush until you see this large electric fence guarding the park. A lone guard shack sits at the entrance to the park. We pick up our maps to see how huge this park really is. To get from one end to the other the short way is about 50 miles, so I didn't feel bad that they fenced the place in.

The day started out slow because I was severely sleep deprived, but the day started off with a serious bang. About a kilometer in the park we hear a rustle behind us. A very loud, huge rustle. Like a freight train comes a young elephant barreling across the road and through the brush behind us. It not only scared the living crap out of our van, but it woke all of us up and from then on out we were in complete film mode.

I was astounded by the amount of animals we actually saw. You see them in zoos or small fields, but never out in the wild and in their element. We saw huge elephants fighting with tusks, water buffalo and wildebeasts near the watering hole, monkeys swinging from trees, warthogs in the brush, and…..well, you get the picture. Best part was we were filming the entire thing with glass that can pick up your nosehair from 300 yards away, so some of the footage is pure gold. Oh yeah, and I got a baboon family crossing the road and 'mating' in the wild. Yes, I'm good…

It wasn't all work though, we had fun throughout the day. I couldn't help but singing Lion King throughout the trip at the expense of everyone else's sanity. At one point I was singing 'Hakuna Matata' (which strangely actually translates to No Worries in Swaihili) and a warthog popped out of the brush. We would talk to the elephants and we booed the antelope at the water hole because they didn't get eaten by lions. I know, I know…it's morbid. But that kind of footage is quite literally gold, and it's all part of the Circle of Life (see what I did there?).

I left Abadare with enough pictures and footage to knock my portfolio out of the park and with a sense of pride in my work. It doesn't really get better than this: shooting film on a safari in Africa.

We got home and I collapsed from exhaustion…literally. I mean I love Matt to death, but the guy was working me to the brink. They gave me the night off to rest.

So far this Africa trip has been a mixed bushel of emotions. There's a natural love that comes from this place. The people, especially the kids, don't care about your background or your job or wealth. They don't care how you look or how charismatic you are. They love you simply because you are breathing. That's all. It's only taken 2 days to develop relationships with these kids that I can have for the rest of my life.

Part of me is inconsolably sad thinking about what these kids have in store for their future. Many don't have families to go back to. Some struggle just to get through school, not because they aren't intelligent but solely because they can't afford a $5 uniform to go. And even if they graduate high school with perfect marks, they'll struggle to find a scholarship to go to university because of where they live.

It's really easy for me to think "How horrible….what can I do to help?", but unfortunately there isn't that much I can do for them. I can give them money, but that doesn't guarantee anything. Most are just content with me being their friend. I feel terrible about it too because the love they give me doesn't feel deserved. I didn't do anything. I'm working on a documentary for them, yes, but I don't know them. I've barely been able to spend time with them and get to know most of their stories, yet they love me like we've been friends for years. Heck, some of them are better friends than some of the ones I have back home (not you reader).

Saying goodbye is going to be tough because I'm excited to get home and proceed with my life and they are very sad to see me go. I have a life to live when I get back…a life to start really. Many things have been put on hold to accomplish this trip, and after I'm done here I need to do my own thing. I'm very scared, but being here my fears seem so petty. They are so excited and thankful just to be alive. If they can do it, why can't I?

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