I’m still processing the entire experience (so excuse my less than stellar prose) as it flew by so quickly but yes, in 2014, people still live in mud huts without electricity or water. Frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone lives beyond five-years-old. Children still die of dehydration. One woman from a remote village was put in a bicycle basket during labour and travelled for an agonising three hours to the nearest health centre, where she eventually gave birth (the baby died a year later of pneumonia). We all cried at the horror stories, many of which could have been prevented with access to basic health care.
At our remotest location, I met a village chief who told me he wanted a better life for his 1,568 villagers, and then we fist-bumped because one of the crew had taught me the the word for “fist-bump” in Swahili – the chief thought it was hilarious. It’s “pigatano” should you ever need it.
I also met one of the Chief’s town counselors, a proud lady who – in the middle of a dusty, remote village – greeted us in front of a mud hut wearing in a blue sequinned evening gown. It was one of the most bizarre sights I’ve ever seen (and this from someone who has driven along Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday night).
The villagers I met were an impassive tribe – sombre and expressionless. But once you found the international language, the one that sits somewhere between compassion and laughter, they lit up. Children in rags were enthralled when we took photos of them on our iPhones. It was absolutely delightful.
I know I’ve seen things that most people only hear about, and I feel very honoured. We think the west is the centre of the universe, but it’s not. There’s this whole other world where people have to walk an hour to collect water, eat boiled maize with dried fish every day and sleep ten to a bed in a mud hut with no roof. I stood in my bathroom this morning watching in awe at the clean water pouring out of the tap, and then burst into tears later in the supermarket when I saw a pile of mangoes on the shelf. It’s going to take a while to sink in.
But I wanted to share the experience as best I can at this time, so I’ve put together a rudimentary pdf with a handful of images, and over the next few months will be publishing various articles and blogs. Excuse this email if it’s not your thing but I felt the need to share.
Ultimately, I was left with this: the people I met had absolutely nothing, and I will never look at life in the same way again.