It’s Not a Small World, After All

We’re finally here. And it smells like a bonfire everywhere… just how I remember it. 

Sometimes I forget that we’re in Africa, especially when I sleep. But the mosquito net hanging over me always reminds me that, yes, I’m on the other side of the world. Mosquito nets are such a funny thing because I always feel strangely comfortable under them, like I’m in a little cave or under a canopy, which is so contradictory to what I can imagine Africans think of it as. They view it as something that they are lucky to have–something that protects them from the possible death that is malaria. Our worlds are so different. 

We got to talk to so many people today, which was wonderful. There is nothing I like more than talking to them. Forget the incredible animals, forget the beautiful scenery, forget the awesome food, all of which are still wonderful, but the people are the most interesting part, I think. We took lots of beautiful pictures of the kids. They always look so serious at first, when they stare at us. Sometimes, when I smile at them, the seriousness will stay, but I’ve found that if I hold a smile long enough, then they’ll slowly reciprocate the action. I love when they smile. It’s so much better than seeing a white person smile because their entire faces light up with happiness. 

We filmed today when we attended Mass. That was scary. I felt like a big intruder. Sometimes I worry that they view us as annoying westerners who come to their country on big, white horses thinking we’re going to save the day, when in reality, there is so little we can do. I think they view our group differently, though, because they know that we’re going to share their stories.  

That’s the other thing we’ve realized: what we’re doing is the best we can really do. It seems like we’re just intruding and exploiting everyone we film and photograph, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s more important for us to tell their stories than it is for us to just hand them money or clothes or toys. And that’s good, considering the fact that telling their stories is exactly what we’re doing. 

But at the same time, it’s a little disheartening to realize that no matter how hard we try, we can’t fix anything. We can bring awareness and maybe make one person’s day better, but that’s it. We can’t stop the government from pocketing the people’s money, we can’t put every child who is uneducated in school, and we can’t wipe out malaria or AIDs because those problems are so much bigger than we can even comprehend. 

Maybe I’m wrong. And maybe this whole post is me trying to justify everything that we’re doing, but it’s what I think at the moment. It’s a big, complicated world, I’m realizing. I’m young and naïve and am slowly realizing that the more I see of the world, the bigger and more complicated it seems. I think that’s what we’re going to continue to learn this week. Everything is so much bigger than any of us think.  

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