Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kenya - Day 4 and Coming Home

Today marked the final day of shooting on this production for myself, and I honestly didn't have a chance to catch my breath and get nostalgic on it all. We had alot of footage to capture in a short amount of time, so it came down to the wire for the production team. The day started with early b-roll of the kids going to school and the like, but this time two of the girls came up to me to chat. They wanted to know if I was leaving tomorrow, and asked of I could stay a little longer. They were a little upset that I was so busy shooting this documentary that we didn't get that much time to spend with each other. I told them I had one more night, then I was off…and so I had the day to prepare for a goodbye.

As run-and-gun as the day started, I did have time to talk to Sam a little more and just get to know him better. The kid is smart…very smart. He knows a lot about politics, the world in general, and how people operate and work. More importantly, he doesn't flaunt it. He's incredibly humble, and it shows in the genuine smile he seems to have on a consistent basis. The kid is truly an inspiration, and I know I'll remember him long after this project is over.

We went to Huruma today, which is the sister orphanage to Tumaini. Huruma is also where the mentally handicapped kids stay…and to go there I had to prepare myself emotionally. Here in the States, these kind of kids are surrounded with a huge support system and flooded with love and care, and a good amount of them have the capability of living a relatively normal life.

Here in Huruma, it's a bit different. They have each other and the orphanage, and that's basically it. You want to believe, with all your heart, that they'll be okay, that these people have a chance in the world outside of these gates.

And, when you first enter the place, you can't help but believe that. As Rori put it at one point, the place is filled with love. The manager is a very inspirational and faithful person. She puts God in front and lets her faith guide her life, and that love is paid forward to the people in this place. A young man, Comongo (I misspelled that) is a fine example of this. From the moment you meet him, he treats you like family. He'll grab your hand and dance with you. He'll sing and clap his hands. His smile is infectious, and love pours from his heart unconditionally. I came in anticipating sadness, and left Huruma with hope.

The rest of the was much like the morning hours. We shot interview after interview. At one point we hid in the forest with long lens cameras and shot footage of the school in order to avoid the chaos that ensues when children see a camera. I felt like a sniper at one point. I would set the camera to record, then play soccer with them, then come back and change the angle, then play soccer again. It was fun and stressful, and I loved every minute of it.

Saying goodbye was tough…especially that following morning. You wanted to believe that you'll be back. Kids would ask you, and the only answer I found appropriate was "I'll try." And believe me, I will try to come back.

Shooting this documentary really put the life I lead and the life I want to lead into a grander perspective. I left this place with an extraordinary amount of inspirational stories. There's one of Sam, who had 100 shillings to his name. He was in the market with everyone, and he saw one of the kids that he knew. They had been on the streets together, and the kid hadn't eaten in days. Sam gave him the money…everything he had, just to make sure his friend had food. Sure, 100 shillings is the equivalent of $1.25, but it'll feed him for a couple days, and Sam gave it without a second thought.

Now before you go on chastising the jerk with the Corvette, understand that this is the reality of the culture they live in. It is harsh and unforgiving. Kids on the street 'huff' just so they don't feel the hunger pains anymore. Slums stretch for miles and miles, with people living on trash heaps while others drive land rovers and sip imported water. Students study for 12 hours a day just for the chance and possibility that they might get into a university. Their chances are slim, but they do it anyways.

Then there's our culture. Kids throw tantrums when they don't get a candy bar. High school students drop out of school because they think a diploma doesn't mean anything. College students drop out because they drink and party too much, or that holding a part time job and taking 15 credits is too tough for them. It's not enough to have clothes on your back and food in your belly, and having a family is more of an expectation rather than a luxury. Girls and guys judge each other by looks and wealth rather than the love in each other hearts.

Yet it isn't a terrible world to live in…it can't be. You can't look at it that way. I had a long internal dialogue with myself on that 48 hours worth of traveling back to the States, and I know how easy it can be to feel guilty and angry at Americans. I have little in comparison to others, yet I feel undeserving of the blessings that God gave me. I remember reading the tweets that came in on my phone as I landed home, and all of them were superficial worries. None were thankful about being alive.

That's the key I think…recognizing what life is, or rather trying to figure out what it is. As Americans, most of us don't have to worry about the struggles of living. We all have the capability and the resources to do anything we want…and I mean anything. Most of us aren't willing to fight for it though. We aren't willing to do what is necessary to make our dreams come true. And what does that even mean? To dream?

Now I find myself sitting in a room…packing my stuff again and getting ready to move, and I'm feeling out of place. I was so incredibly blessed to be a part of this project, and to meet and fall in love with these people half a world away. They were so eager to learn from me, but it was I who learned more from them. I don't know what that lesson is, or if there is a lesson at all. I am feeling something though…is it peace? Is this happiness, finally recognizing that I'll be ok? I know I have a great family. I have so many friends that I love with all my heart, and I truly mean that. Yes you, you sitting there reading my blog. I love you simply because I know you. Even if we haven't met…I love you.

It's time again to move on. I've gotten use to this feeling. At the beginning of this journey to accomplishing my hopes and dreams, I had only one fear: that I would lose steam and give up. That, after time, the world would beat me down and force me to settle for second best. I don't think I can give up…no, I know I never will. There is too much love in this world, there is too much hope to give up and become bitter and jaded. There is no reason to feel that you are alone, or that this world is a terrible place. You are alive. You are living. You are loved. That's my lesson I bring back from Tumaini, and as long as you remember that happiness will always come your way.


  1. These were great Abella. This sounds like an amazing project and a truly life-altering adventure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and revelations.

  2. really was an amazing adventure. If everything goes to plan, there will be plenty more to come