Friday, July 31, 2009

exit strategy... or maybe not

Crossing the border between DR Congo and Zambia was an extremely interesting event.
I already had the difficulty with the missing yellow fever immunization certificate. And we had the additional challenge of taking the camera out of the country.
The yellow fever issue was solved without additional contributions.
The camera, it seemed, was not as easy.
It cost a personal viewing by the authorities.
Every tape.
Fortunately, Gord had footage from his family vacation and the guards were particularly intrigued by the nephew's spectacular wake board wipe out. We were allowed to carry our film through without additional funds.
The driver, who participated in the private viewing, said that the guards said (in a language we don't understand -- it could be French) they were very pleased with the footage we took -- it was excellent quality!
The rest of the day was travel..... while in 7 of us squashed into a small van (I got the luggage department... but I didn't have to sit in the middle of sweating humans). In Zambia we are being carted about in an amazing van... sun roof and air conditioning. We had lunch at a really nice restaurant... I had samosas... and they were incredible. The hotel we are booked into is very nice. And it has wireless.... so therefore the catch up on the blogging!
Tomorrow we are filming a vocational school and then on Sunday an orphan village.
(again, forgive all typos, while there is wireless, it is less than dependable.)

bartered out of prison

I admit.... I am a naive Canadian. Honest. Trusting. Without guile.
Congo is a new experience in connections, processes and government departments.
Our travel plans were to do one day of shooting in Congo. David neglected to tell us that the Congo officials were not warm to cameras, high tech equipment or filming.
He also neglected to clearly describe to us the process of entering the country OR telling me to take the little yellow card I got at the health clinic that said I actually received my yellow fever immunization.
Our first travel jolt happened Tuesday morning when Gord and David were supposed to leave for Congo one day ahead of us to start the filming. Kenya airlines randomly ended the gate suddenly. So they were unable to leave.
On Wednesday, after many hours of phoning, pleading and begging for tickets for Congo, we got to the ticket agent and she told us that she had a notification on the screen that said she was to ensure that we paid before getting on. Which David saw as unreasonable, seeing as they were taken off of the flight the day before without any reason (or so it seemed). So Kevin and I went ahead (at least we would have stills if Gord and David were in jail).
We downloaded 10,000 photos while we waited.... played solitaire... and waited... finally, at the very last minute they appeared.
We made it to Congo!
Immediately upon arrival we were greeted by Rachel and the pastor of the church by the guest house. They wisked us through the customs -- basically we just gave them our passports and yellow fever cards (ooops, mine was missing). So we had to barter for a forgiveness. As we all know, forgiveness comes with a price. Missing yellow fever certificates seem to be $40.
Rachel is British and has lived in the Congo for more than 20 years. She is fabulous. She went before us quietly and paved the way.
We filmed a school for deaf children and a health clinic... the school for the deaf had been built by World Vision Canada -- there were signs all over the place. UNICEF also contributed funds. It was a fascinated work, affirming the deaf in a culture that would have pushed them to the side, thinking they were stupid. Now they learn sign language, math, French and more.... the older students take a vocational training section in their education and they are able to leave the school with some kind of a skill.
The clinic was -- well, hopefully the video can show it better. The complex was extremely run down. They treat women, babies and children. They have a doctor a few mornings a week and a permanent delivery room for women. When we were there, 8 women were in the ward. It only has 6 beds. One woman, who had just delivered a baby a few hours early, was lying on a thin mattress on a concrete floor.
They are building a new clinic right behind this crumblinh group of small offices. The new clinic is wonderful!
About $30,000 is still needed to complete it... then it will need regular funds to run it every month. I asked Rachel what the monthly cost to run it would be.... they will have an outpatient section and a 20 bed delivery ward .......... she didn't know. When I suggested $10,000 -- she thought that would be too much. Imagine that.... Just $10,000 would provide a safe place for 40 or more women haveing babies every week! It's stunning!
(Forgive the typos.... there is too little wireless time to take care with my key board).

the other side

The strength of the work in the Kibera slums is the work of middle and upper income women who have dedicated their lives to change. Eunice is a secondary school teacher and community health professional who has committed to working amongst the poor. Cecelia is an educated Kenyan woman who felt God call her to the slums of Kibera -- today she is making friends among the women, praying for them, encouraging them, showing people like me the need. Alice is well educated and works in communications and human resource. She is energetic, well spoken and passionate about the work. She worked for World Vision UK for several years and knows the principal of child sponsorship better than David! Rev. Judy is a pastor in a local church (the congregation has more than 50,000 people). She began a prayer movement with women who began praying that their husbands would find God. SOme of you might remember the book "What happens when women pray." It was popular about 30 years ago. Rev Judy knows the author. Rev. Judy a large presence in the Christian community world wide. She has many. many invitations to speak overseas. Her husband is retired. They are, without question, upper middle class. Their home is an amazing architectural phenomenon. You walk into to beautiful wooden double doors.The front foyer is round and forms the hub of the house. There is an ornate fountain in the centre. In one direction you go to the kitchen and family eating room. You can hear Edward, the houseboy, working in the back ground. Straight ahead you walk into a cavernous "sitting room" -- where about 30 people could actually sit on couches or arm chaires. The room is a semi circle, the "flat" end connected to the house and the circle part windows. The furniture is all dusty rose tones with photos and paintings and voluminous dusty rose curtains. We were served mango juice.
We ate an amazing meal, prepared and served by Edward -- assisted by Rev. Judy and her husband. There was a thick pureed vegetable soup -- it had the texture and taste of Heinz green peas. But it was made from spinach and beans and pumpkin. We also had chicken -- the pieces were undefinable. The Africans cut chicken into indiscernible bits, so you take a bit of a risk when serving yourself. There was also beef -- same technique as the chicken. And an interesting mashed potato (Kevin had about 4 helpings) that was made from potato, spinach (so it was green) and kernal corn (African style, because they looked a little like chick peas). There was also peas and carrots -- they were tasty and -- had they been mushed -- David would have resonated with the mushy parts.
Ice Cream for dessert -- a food for the wealthy, as many homes are without refrigeration. Although the lid posed a challenge for the hosts -- but Edward came and saved he day and easily flipped the lid off!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

the slum

We were up at 5 a.m.
As I brushed my teeth I could hear the rooster wake the hens. It's cool in the mornings -- around 10 degrees celsuis.
We drop Gord and David off at the aiport. The delay in Toronto messed with our plans. With a bit of creative thinking, David figured out how to beat KLM's desire to frustrate our plans. He was able to contact a freelance videographer and rebooked the flights. That way we could do Kibera and Lubumbashi in one day, effectively cancelling the effect of the delay.
The driver picked up Samuel, the freelance videographer, at the side of the road. He picked the perfect spot. Long lines of casual workers walked on the side of the road. Some had shovels over their shoulders, others rakes... they all went in hope that they would find a job. Men and women from the slum have not found steady employment. Men walk to the gates of the industrial section hoping that someone needs a construction worker, painter, errand runner or anything. They hope to make $3, but it's more likely that they will make $1. The women stand in front of the gates of the wealthy estates. They are looking for jobs cleaning, washing, ironing. They too will make $1 -- if they are lucky $2. Very few of them will be able to find work everyday. Their monthly income is $30 or less.
As we drove to the Kibera slum, it struck me as a very difficult situation to untangle oneself from. What choices can the people make?
I was set for the slums. I had seen many photos, heard hundeds of stories and been warned that I would never be the same again.
Our trip wasn't a romantic insight into compassion.
The volunteer team at I.N.Network worked hard to plan the trip - and they did an excellent job. We met Rose who lived in an 8x8 hovel. She was raising 6 children. Two of them were not her own, but had lost their parents to HIV. Florence lived in the same kind of home. She had five children. She tried to earn a small livin by collecting fire wood in the forest. In March, she was arrested. When she didn't come home that night, no one knew where she was. Her children wondered when she would return. In the end, her three youngest children went to live with their aunt and the two oldest lived at home. They had no food, but what they could beg from neighbours. They didn't know what to do. Joyce had HIV. She was tall, but probably weighed just over 100 pounds. HIV had already taken her husband. Her husband's family forced her to leave the family Samba (a plot of land). She went back to her family. Almost as soon as she returned her father passed away. Her own brothers and sisters were afraid of HIV AIDS. They too rejected. So Joyce had no place to go but to fnd a home in the Kibera slum.
Each of these women have almost no choice. They have children who need food. They need a warm place to sleep. Many of them would like to go to school, but they don't have money for a uniform or shoes or books.

Monday, July 27, 2009

0-24 hours continured 2

10:39 a.m. no real options but to wait.... arghhhhhhh flight leaves later afternoon... should be in Nairobi tomorrow at 7 p.m.

0-24 hours continured

12:45 a.m. arrived at Toronto Sheraton....
8:35 a.m. KLM Flight 962 passengers are finding their way to the breakfast buffet. They are scrambling to manage their travel schedule. Many have missed 2 or 3 connecting flights. Some have made plans to visit their family. Some have bought their tickets in January. Everyone is disappointed. Gord's luggage is still on the plane. We are due back at the airport at 2 p.m. In the meantime, we wait....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Africa: 0-24 hours

Africa Blog: Day 1 7:33p.m. EST
397 people are crammed into the 747..... spectacular lighting and thunder storms forced the caterers to wait until they could stock the plane with mouth watering temptations.. A problem with the phneumanic (ok, I am not all that mechanical) has trapped us on board, seated, at the gate in terminal 3 in Toronto. Our scheduled time for departure was 5:45.
According to Gord we are collectively producing 84,000 BTU's of body heat per hour.
A baby stripper is toddling up and down the aisles. We all wish that pampers was our fashion statement.
Stripping's not an option as the heat climbs.
7:44 p.m. babies screams increase. A flurry of open overhead compartments. Stressed attendants pass out 6 oz containers of water. Mr. Bean settles into his hotel room in some European city, taking his little yellow duck into the shared bath.
We scheme. We had a three hour layover in Amsterdam. We have already spent 1.5 hours the layover at gate C34 in Terminal 3 in Mississauga. Perhaps Dave, who we anticipated arriving in Nairobi about 10 hours after we did, will arrive there before we do.
My battery on the netbook is hanging in there. But the plane doesn't let me access the internet. If I am reduced to boredom I can try to crack the last 6 levels in brick breaker. Or challenge my computer friends to a game of hearts.
7:53 p.m. Kevin is laughing uproariously. I forgot for a moment that Mr. Bean is providing comedy relieve to amuse the crowd jammed into 15 inch seats.No word from the captain.
8:13 p.m. We just had an announcement. Unfortunately, it was in Dutch. We are still sitting in the warm breeze of the plane's air system.
8:15 p.m. The attendants are handing out small celo packages of smoked almonds (I guess there are no allergy alerts in Amsterdam) and watered down orange juice. They tell us that they are taking all the precautions available for our safety. They have to start the engines again to see if this was the problem. They are hesitant to give us a scenario if it is not the problem. I already imagine the chaos of 397 people trying to reroute their travel plans. Do you think they will put us up at a 5 star on Airport Road?
8:22 p.m. 63% of my battery remains. Nearly everyone on the flight has had a package of smoked nuts. The prepackaged meals are cooling.
8:30 p.m. A flurry of authoritative Dutch and a scurry of attandents collecting plastic cups and celo papers. The captain changes to English. It's much more disappointing. AS it looks now the starter is failing and the mechanics are still working on it. The flurry was without hope. They will keep us informed as best they can. But they still don't know what the problem is. We have now spent 2 of our 3 hours of lay over at Gate C34 at Terminal 3 in Mississauga.
8:45 p.m. (54% of the battery consumed.... the net book does a lot better on battery than my tablet.) Gord has pulled up the KLM web site.... the next flight to Nairobi will be at 9:25 that night. We then arrive at Narobi at????? sometime in the morning... maybe our 5 star accommodation will be in downtown Amsterdam? There is a flurry of people on cell phones, trying to figure out how they are going to connect with their next flight. The attendance catch the vibe and come on the microphone: We're not to worry about connecting flights.... because the ground crews will make the arrangements for the connections we miss.....Gord is ordering pizza, but they're not sure the pizza guys can break through the security. There are not sharp objects or more than 100ml of liquid in pizza, is there? I may have to reduce myself to playing spider solitaire (unless Dan deleted it.)
9:13 p.m. We are going to debark. The part needed may or may not be in Toronto. I have to close my computer. The good news is I have 46% of my power and I can re charge at the airport.
9:44 p.m. successfully debarked. Found a plug in -- can play scrabble online now. The missing part has been identified and we have been told that we will know if the plane is able to be fixed by 11:30 tonight..... then they will tell us what to do. We can choose NOT to fly tonight, but they will KLM not take responsibility for our future travel plans. The pizza guy was unable to break through the security and deliver on board. But KLM cam through with meal vouchers and we have been able to scavenge some food from the airport. We assume the food supplied by the caterer on the plane will be revived at a later date.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

taking a break?

The second and third week of July are most often selected by Canadians for vacation. But few marketing professionals can take a pure break -- because the summer months are the hot bed for new ideas, new campaigns and implementation for fall products.
In the next few weeks, I am taking off for a new journey -- Gord, our general manager and videographer, Kevin, partner, art director and photographer and I -- are off to Africa for a film and resource gathering trip with I.N.Network Canada.
Ultimately our goal is to gather the resources to produce a TV show to be aired in January.
I will keep you posted as we visit places we have read about, told stories of and raised money for. Now we will meet the people personally, walk in their community, visit their homes, eat their food.