Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

confusing cab ride home

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Been back for 2 weeks, today. In Takaungu I was pretty disappointed with how impossible my journal seemed. In the past I have been writing non-stop. I have a box full of journals, tons of words, misspellings, poems, joy, screeches, tears and silence. I though for sure on this trip I would produce the journal of all journals. A dusey. I thought I’d be writing furiously going through books and trips to Mombasa to replenish the pages that filled my thoughts. Not this time. Nothing.

So hours and hours of flying filled with more wild adventures, then landing in Seattle to find that my ride gave up on my delayed plane and just left. It was one of the most confusing cab rides in my life. One would think that I would have been a wreck to come home to without one hug, not one welcome back, not one smile.

Nothing. But it wasn’t sad. Why? Because I was absolutely numb up until now.

Now, on a rigorous schedule to numb myself even more, now the trip is churning. Either ‘intimacy’ with a new, strange lover, regular wine intake, and feeling overwhelmed so I just stare into space, pace around, change my clothes over and over and over…. Though in-between all of these self-inflicted distractions my experiences in Kenya are trickling out now. I am writing furiously, thinking furiously, speaking and describing the trip in spurts when someone will listen.

Today Jeri Rice, on my magazine assignment cried within 2 minutes after I told her about Rabuor. I have been working on this project for a magazine that was assigned to me with rapid-fire. It was in my lap before I walked in the door. Today I told Teri Rice about the orphans in Rabuor, and what it’s really really like over there. She was deathly silent and really fighting the tears. She wiped her eyes several times as I rambled on, my words not flowing but spewing out of me, blast by blast like we were there, like I was reporting.

Reporting. That is how I have been dealing with what I saw. It has been much easier to tell people what I learned from those interviews, from those kids. Better than for me to just quietly sit and think about what the hell just happened. I tried that once and didn’t just cry. I moaned like a girl who lost her mother who lost any idea of what is good and fair and joyful in this world. I didn’t scream, I just felt just a very deep sadness that resurrected from that trip. It makes me wonder where the hell is justice. Not political not religious, just basic sense. None of what I saw both in Takaungu and Rabuor makes sense. From the deepest organ, vein, capillary, breath, drop of blood, electric synapse, every single piece of my life was sad that moment, the moment I decided to stop and think about what the hell just happened.

There are my pictures and then there are my words. Nothing can touch the stories that I have to tell and that I don’t even know I have. I have made at least 5 people cry since I’ve been back. The rest who were listening asked if I was going to publish anything about this trip. “I’d love to read about it”. I know that feeling. Something like: I can’t really deal right now, but this is the only way I can and I know I need to.

“Sure”. No plans, no email, no nothing, but I know she meant it. This is just an extremely non-committal emotionally timid pace. It’s ok, I know. That’s why we found each other here.

Anyway. So telling people about it rather than me really thinking about it. That is the plan. So I have had an interview, public speaking engagement, am writing an article and The Seattle Times will be interviewing me in a few weeks, was just on TV. So good, these are scheduled times for me to coordinate my raging emotions.

Emotions that I am actually scared of. I am terrified to really think about what the hell just happened. Even teaching the shiny happy teaching project revealed the real story about my students. One is most likely a child prostitute in order to eat and hopefully make enough money to go to secondary school. Drunk men are in and out of her house to visit her mom, the weed dealer and most likely brown sugar when things are rough. Great. And then the men go into the bedroom with her and tell the visitors “You can leave now”.


Then there is another student who is on the verge of experimenting with ‘brown sugar’ a really really bad cocaine derivative. Yes, he is the really pretty boy orphan who I prayed to God and his parents every night that I would push him so hard that he would become addicted to Bridges and computers and learning. I made a promise to his dead parents that I would personally watch him and send him home when I saw him hanging out with the brown sugar crowd. And I did. And I was the asshole but guess what. That kid loved me more than anything and he knew exactly what I was doing. Khamisi just turned 17 and is as beautiful as God. I am terrified to think about who else might find him beautiful. Yes, thank God for Bridges. Thank you God. And to the parents, please forgive me for leaving, I had to come back but I tried my hardest. I really did. I think he’ll be ok if I stay in contact.

Jesus. How the hell did this happen? I mean, how is it that I can fly for about 20 or something hours and come home to my pile of assignment which, translation, means pile of money. And checks to cash and find that I paid my rent before I left, how cool. I forgot. How the hell does this happen? How the HELL am I supposed to get home and ‘hang out’ with my friends who complain about…… nothing.


Jesus. It’s amazing but I think I figured it out. I think I got it. I am really the one to go through all of this really evilness in order to tell the stories and mentally take people there. “AIDS is knocking at your door. What are you gonna do”. That is what will read below my orphan pictures at the lab, to start with. You know, what the hell are we dong if we aren’t trying to fix things?

It is a tough job. But you know what? I really wouldn’t have it any other way because when I see those suburbanites at the edge of their chair with tears in their eyes totally still. When Phil pulls me aside and says I want to you to do whatever you want for Bridges. I want you funded and working with us at whatever capacity you want. When people ask to see my words. When people take the time to from work and call me to tell me how awesome they think my work is. When I come home and find flowers on my doorstep with a note that says, “We are proud of you”. When people I don’t eve know in Africa listen to my deal and step back and say, “Thank you, I am proud of you”. Man. I’ll keep working. I’ll keep absorbing this world as much as I possibly can. That is my job. I see it now. Just bear with me world, God, and Khamisi’s parents up there in heaven. Bear with me. I am going to change things. I am going to make things better for as many people as I can and if that means I have to be the messenger of all of this sadness, it’s ok.

Written by amandakoster

September 13, 2006 at 3:54 am

Posted in kenya 04

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