In 2006 Andrew traveled with a crew of six independent filmmakers to shoot the film E for Everyone: The Mouse and the Elephant. The following is an excerpt and a behind the scene look of Andrew’s experience on set.
We got on a bus from Mombasa to Malindi, a place on the coast where a lot of Italian tourists visit Kenya. Their skin is dark and leathery from days spent in various states of undress lounging in the sun. Old men with enormous bellies walk around with beautiful young Kenyan women. At night they smoke their brains out and drink hard liquor. I wonder what the statistics are like for occurrences of cancer among middle aged, middle class Italians. If you took a sample from among the tourists in Malindi, I imagine the percentage would be high.
Of all the cities we visited in Kenya, Malindi seemed most comfortable, most adapted to white visitors. The road into the city said it all: wide enough for two vehicles and almost without pothole, the clearest stretch of highway but for the fifty kilometers outside Kakuma, the refugee camp in the North.
On the bus, I had an opportunity to be chivalrous. It was Joel’s idea, really. At least he suggested it before I had a chance to think it.
We paid for our seats, and though the coach was full, the bus driver continued to make stops along the way, picking up travelers. We stopped for a young family: a man, his wife who looked no more that fifteen, and their infant child. No seats on the bus for the girl, though the husband managed to find a spot. No big deal. The girl did not look concerned and was prepared to stand the whole way with her infant on her hip, an hour or so of driving. I gave her my seat. And I could hear people behind me take notice. An unusual sight, perhaps.
Being chivalrous somehow feels heroic. Doing something good, too. But it is strange. There seems such a war inside me, a voice so critical of the very behaviour that feels good. A voice that demands a seat for the 160 Shillings paid. Squinted, hate-set eyes that roll at the thought that an act of kindness was done for any reason other than a pat on the back.
It seems right to make that voice scream.
I remember reading the Time magazine that paid tribute to Ronald Reagan after his death. During the Cold War, in a time when the country seemed almost at a psychological standstill he gave a speech in which he called Americans to once again ‘Dream heroic dreams.’ That quote did and still does resonate inside me. I want to dream heroic dreams every day and do good that makes the lethargic, comfortable, cynical ass sitting on the bus stand up and give away its seat.
© 2010 andrew kooman
Remembering Names: Reflections from Kenya :: $2.99 :: Download the entire Ebook HERE
E for Everyone: The Mouse and the Elephant :: $20.00