No to nostalgia

RainWe finished the film, even with 4+ days without power; our main actor walking off set mid-scene; and people never turning up when they said they would. We screened it on my laptop in a dark classroom on my last evening in Kazo, to about 20 people, and it was kind of special to feel proud of something that I had not done: the guys had done virtually all the actual shooting, acting, editing.

But there’d been too little time (or energy, or electricity) to do all that I could/should have done. I could have done a camera class with the teachers and P2 class, could have helped Eliab with his CV, could have helped Godfrey with his dance website and Joseph with his exam prep, could have helped Shakul and Baker create flickr accounts, could have given Poul more time on my computer to play with Photoshop, could have done more editing with Daniel, could have taught Juliette how to use Excel and Word, could have made that brochure for Ronald, could have done more photo sessions with everyone, especially the latecomers, could have pushed further on the AIDS issue that was always sort of there but never properly discussed. I could have done more for so many good-hearted, courageous people. Maybe I need to come back.

Before the nostalgia sets in, I’d better remember the worst bits. Luckily (maybe), I’ve been writing them down all month.

The fly-swarms in the outside pit-toilet. The heavy rain that battered deafeningly on the metal roof, turning dust roads into slime. The power cuts that lasted and lasted, but still did not stop people broadcasting Celine Dion songs on their mobile phones. White bread and Blue Band spread. The snotty toddler next door who kept grabbing me and the mangey sorry-looking dog that followed me. The kids and the men everywhere, shouting MZUNGU MZUNGU MZUNGU at me; the women who asked for money, the bus driver who asked for food. The father who told me to take photos of this person and that person, the NGO director who kept asking me to do more things in ‘my spare time’ and to ask my friends for donations. The kids who spent most of the class accusing each other or wailing at the injustice of it all, and the teacher correcting them in his bad English – or just ignoring them and trying to sleep with his head on the desk. The screeching pastor, every morning / evening. The lax approach to time, to making promises, to spelling and capital letters, and even to telling the truth.  Everywhere, it seemed, people who only want you for your help, your money, or your exoticism, and no one – so it feels, in the lowest moments – who you can have a normal conversation with. An uncomfortable mix of pity and irritation at how their education has failed them, and a heavy sense of the pointlessness of trying to change any of it.

Still, it was worth it.

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