Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

Leftovers.

with 2 comments

by Amanda Koster in Eldoret, Kenya.

I ordered fish last night and like most dishes in Eldoret so far, with it came a heaping pile of oily, soggy french fries. I don’t touch them because they’ll make me fat. And, if I were to indulge there is no ketchup here.  Instead there is some sugary, syrupy sweet and sour sauce died pinkish to possibly resemble what westerners would call their beloved Heinz Ketchup. Deal-breaker.

I pass the fries off into the up-for-grabs center zone of the table. 7 of us are out to dinner. Somone says, ‘give them to the street kids,’ the street kids in Eldoret, outside the restaurant sniffing glue, homeless.

I am torn. On the one hand definitely, why waste anything.  The kids outside the restaurant are hungry, homeless, orphaned, dirty, reckless and high on glue. They will eat them.

On the other hand I remember Raj, our SalaamGarage tour guide in India last September, had another perspective. “Buy them their own meal.” Then he made a face like your guys are arrogant western assholes. “Why give them your leftovers. Give them their own plate of fresh food.”

I still see his point. I think to myself today, imagine your whole life people feeding you the food they don’t want. Not getting your own meal just for you start to finish. What does that do to a person?

Bryant and I asked the waiter when we are finished to pack up the ‘chips’ for ‘take away’ (‘french fries’ in a ‘doggie bag’ would not have made any sense).

We all finish out our dinner. I watch Bree as she keeps on eating the fries, even after it’s been publicy decided those fries are going to a street kid. I keep watching out of the corner of my eye. One fry afer the other she eats. “I feel munchy” she says. One after the other. The pile is decreasing and she keeps picking. I say nothing. She’s enjoying them. However all I can think of is that is one less fry for some kid living a horrendous life on the street.

Eventually we all get up to leave, the waiter has packed up the ‘chips’ for Bryant and I to hand off.

We get outside on the street and look around for all but 5 seconds. The streets kids are lingering amongst the rest of the Eldoreties, all of us out for a night on the town. It was Saturday night after all. Everyone was out and about. Street kids everywhere sniffing glue running around. Eldoreties out for dinner, drinks and dancing, us Mzungus (whites or literally ‘one who moves about’ in Swahili) also out endlessly trying to make sense of it all. All of us wandering around.

One street kid came up to me. He was small, about 8 years old, filthy and nearly barefoot. His shoes were too big, worn out and barely clinging to his feet. His clothes were the same, too big, half missing, worn away. Again, someone elses leftovers.

He came up to me sweetly. He wasn’t aggressive or mean, he was gentle. I know these kids are masters at begging so it could have been an act, though this didn’t feel fake. It felt hungry.

I hand him the bag of soggy, cold, damp left-over french fries. He looked up at me and said “for me?” … “Yes” I said and handed them over. He gently took the bag and said thank you. He then put his hands together, brought them up to his face in gesturing a prayer almost like Namaste, made eye contact and softly said “thank you, thank you,” again and again, smiling. Then he ran away really fast.

“I hope he doesn’t get beat up.” I turned around, Bree said that. I looked back at the boy running away from the bigger street kids. No one seemed to be chasing him.

If  you are interested in helping the street kids in Eldoret, below is an organization I met personally here in Eldoret. Tumanini Children’s Center (‘Tumanini’ means ‘hope’ in Swahili) is run by former street kids themselves who are now married with families, employed and living productive inspiring lives. Tumanini is open 3 days a week, provides food, showers, counseling, medication and support for street kids in Eldoret.

learn more: http://www.betterplace.org/projects/2367-tumaini-chidrens-center/invitation/new

their website, it needs help: Tumaini Chidren’s Center

Want to help? Let me know: hello@salaamgarage.com . I am going to talk with them to get a site up where people contact them.and help.

Written by amandakoster

May 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I like what your Indian friend said about always eating other’s leftovers. Someone else once asked me, “Is the best that we have to disperse what’s not left?”

    So I’m not sure about what the you should do philosophically, but I’ve been hungry a few times and I’m sure whether kids snatch or are high on glue or perfectly nice, those soggy fries felt good doing down.

    Dwight Turner

    May 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm

  2. It is quite a good question–whether a “gift” of cast-offs rather than a gift of something completely for the recipient–and one that should at least be considered by everyone. It is the response that we should have when presented with any similar situation. While I agree with the Dwight’s post, food is food when you are hungry, I also feel that if more people thought more deeply about actually working to change the things they see around them they would give in a more rewarding way. More rewarding for the recipient and more rewarding for the giver.
    My two cents.

    Tony Grob

    May 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm


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