Had a little plumbing issue yesterday. For a while, it was just cold showers. Wait, no, not because I had to, I didn’t have a choice. And just when I thought I could get used to being bathed in ice cold water from the rivers of Kenya, the water just stopped completely. But the water came back yesterday, and hot too, except the water didn’t stop. A leak under my sink filled my entire apartment with water, while I was out. I came back to find everything just soaked in nasty bathroom water.
My copy of Dry, is wet. See under definition of “dripping with irony”.
What I did notice, when iIpicked up the book from the puddle of water it was floating in, on the inside cover, a strange image of a hand print appeared in the creases of the galvanized cardboard. Not since the Virgin Mary appeared in a grilled cheese in eastern Florida, has such a phenomenon caught my attention. Could it be the impression of some alien being? Has the author himself made a metaphysical appearance? Dan Aakroyd and Bill Murray are definitely going get a phone call from me.
Oh man. This is highly embarassing. Mr. Burroughs, or Augusten, if I may, if you read this thanks for checking out my blog. Sorry the book got wet. But aren’t you stoked that it was used as a medium for some sort of supernatural communication? I am.
It was a day of extremes. In one day, I intersected with both far ends of the global socio-economic spectrum; and in such a short span of time, that I’m left with a bad case of The Bends™. It started at 6 AM, when I was summoned to help staple packets of informational fact-sheets on AIDS statistics in Nairobi. 6AM is never a good time to operate a stapler. I never want to appear that I need to use the table in order to get a successful staple to occur, yet these industrial strength rusty hinges call for some severe table action, because 6am muscles rarely do much unless coupled with a nice up of Néscafe. But my pride in stapling is fierce, and I rarely want to look like a wuss, so the one-handed stapler in the air stapling began, and it was only after the 5th time I had to re-staple something, did I table it, and table it good.
And why was I wrestling with a staple gun at 6 AM? We were having guests in a few hours from Washington DC. But these were not just any guests. We had with us, Mark Dybul, the director of PEPFAR, 2nd to the President of the United States in the federal hierarchy, as well as Michael Gerson, Pres. George W’s speech writer. The Hope Clinic, only a couple years old, is really high profile, and serves about 3,000 patients, all receiving free care, treatment, counseling, medication, support, etc.
But the very serine and humble air that normally circulates around this place was exchanged for the hustle and bustle of first-impressions, project proposals, shaved goatees, and imported cheese platters.
Nadia presented everything that we do here at Hope, to these gentleman. I was stuck in a back office putting together packets of 20 leaflets, organized in numerical order, except for the fact that, we’d run out of pamphlet numbers 6 and 7. Until now, no one knew of this, except for the gentlemen who received the leaflets, assuming that rubberband actually came off.
And not even 5-hours later, it was Tuesday at 5pm, and the boys were arriving. This was our biggest turn-out, yet! We had 20 guys, aged 13 to 30. It was one of those days, though, that if something were to go wrong, it absolutely would, and with a vengance from hell, no less. We were starting Return of the King , and of course, Nadia had the movie locked in her office, and she had left for the gym. The computer we normally used to play the movie, was being used for some training, and the speakers were no where to be found. Of course, the boys are early on the day we needed them to be right on time. And Patrick, oh boy, he cracks me up. His sarcasm is priceless, and he, probably because of his height and confidence, commands a sort of respect from the other guys.
We had a few young kids there, as well. These guys were homeless kids, aged 13 and 14. The ranks and lines of prestige became very clear. The younger kids seemed innocent, untainted, not as jaded, and very polite. The way they stood, and addressed each other, and the other guys. You could tell that the older generation of street kids were sizing up these newbies, tryin to see who they could take under their wing, and who they’d let fall to the wayside. The young kids, are the focus of a few of our guys here. They wanna work with them, while they’re young, and new to the streets, because the success rate of leavin the lifestyle of hustling and addiction is far greater, the earlier they are worked with.
Eventually, at 6pm sharp, the movie, computer, and speakers arrived, at which point my inner battle against “everything’s gone wrong but I have to make the best of it” had chaffed against my inner layer of skin, just enough for me to exhale rather loudly when it call came together.
What’s wonderful about watching this movie in Kenya is the natural surround sound. So many of the scenes of nature just fit in so nicely with the sounds around us in this city. With the certain birds you hear flying by, the wind gusting through the cross-ventilated room, the sounds of branches hitting the outside of the building, the crashing of rain, the roar of the thunder, the smell of burning garbage outside while Orcs are burned on screen; it’s as almost as if, even nature herself has had a hand in making this experience a special one for these guys.
It was during the scene in Return of the King when Frodo rejects Sam, dismissing him after a lifetime of friendship, and hundreds of miles of treacherous journey together, when the tears started flowing around the room. It was very touching. Friendship is so key to these guys because they are each other’s family. One if the men, had to stay behind when the rest left, to get some food and see a doctor, and another waited for him. I told him he was a good friend to wait around all this time, and he just looked at me straight on and said “I love my friend. He is the good friend.”
Between both extremes, I definitely felt most at home with the guys that evening. I don’t know why, maybe there’s that brutal honesty that’s there, that allows us all to breath easy. No pretense, no first impressions, no foreign plates of cheese, and definitely no program proposals, because they certainly don’t have enough money to take the matatu home. But we were arm around each other in a circle that night, laughing, sharing, talking, and just being real. It’s nice to see these guys smile, and I’m glad they can make me smile, because I damn well need it after spending what is now 18 hours a day programming.
I guess my goal for now is to see if we can set up a permanent support group for these guys. Resources are so few here, and if I’d stay for any reason, it would probably be for them, but alas, I have college loans to pay, and I know how Sallie Mae gets when here money ain’t flowing in.
I’ll leave you with this strange pic. Symmetry kicks ass.