Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

just got my contact sheets back

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I just got my contact sheets back yesterday. To fly from Mombassa to Nairobi to Dubai, layover for 24 hours to Frankfurt to Chicago and land 3 hours late in Seattle to find your ride left. To then call a cab and arrive home alone.

And before that I was in awe for 9 weeks straight. In awe of every second and every breath. 9 weeks before that I landed in Takaungu, eventually, on April 6. It took 4 days to get there, four cramped days.

Now I was at Phil Borges (founder of Bridges) studio yesterday. We had our first meeting since I returned. The meeting to start meetings for the rest of my life. There is so much to cover. So, in between so much seriousness I said, “Want to see my pictures? I got my contact sheets back”.

Susan and Phil, though reacting to ringing phones and constant questions, stood still for long enough to be affected. I went though image after image, “Here are my students, here is the family I lived with, here is a typical house, cornrows and Madrasa students.”

“Oh, this is Caxton”. My categorizing rhythm stopped. They could tell.

“Who is Caxton”?

I sighed. Where do I start.

When I arrived in Rabour, Sara and Leticia were already there along with Loyce’s family. Everyone was relaxing which was good Sara said, since they’d been working really hard all week and that will start up again next week. I arrived on a Sunday, on a blazing day in Kisumu. Sara’s sandals were covered in melted tar. I was still jittery from the kamikaze pilot that flew vertically for no reason.

“Hey”. Here we were in Africa. In Kisumu, western Kenya. I flew from Mombasa, eastern Kenya where I had been living for 5 weeks. Blasé hugs and hellos. No big deal, for either of us. We had both been to Africa before. Nothing was a surprise at that point.

An absolute God of a man picked us up, David. He was our driver. He was nearing a full basketball scholarship in Houston until George Bush decided that Kenyan’s were a threat. Personally I thought David and his genes would have been an asset to America. In any case he picked us up and off to Rabuor we went.

“There is no electricity or running water. The squat toilet is… it’s fine”. OK, still no surprise.

We were sitting in the living room. I met everyone and immediately forgot their names. There was chai of course and ambition. The three mazungus were ready to work, but first let’s relax. Fine.

“I think I should meet the people I am going to document next week”.

“We better leave now before the sun goes down”. Oh right, no electricity. Kennedy, Loyce’s brother, the assistant chief to the village took me out. It was a beautiful walk around this remote place. It was much different than coastal Kenya. Very lush, different trees and textures, a different language, I mean besides English.

In Rabuor people are mostly from the Luo (1 of ?? in Kenya) tribe and they speak Luo, English and Swahili. But to each other- Luo. It is about a 45 min drive outside of Kisumu, which is the 3rd largest city in Kenya right on Lake Victoria.

So I walk around. Just a peek and a heads up that I would be coming back later.

Kennedy cautioned, “We can’t tell them when Amanda, because they will leave their house, or change everything. Don’t say when you’re coming back”. I really didn’t say much of anything. Just hello, what’s up, jambo, habari, mambo veepee, and then quaheri. They thought my Swahili was cute.

I passed through the village, through homes, shambas, along side cows and dodged chickens. Kennedy efficiently introduced me to my soon-to-be (subjects).

Written by amandakoster

September 13, 2006 at 3:19 am

Posted in kenya 04

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