Friday, December 2, 2011

University of Nairobi

On Monday, November 28th, I presented "ICYIZERE:hope" to an Advanced Micro-Economic Theory class at the University of Nairobi. The class was located in room 209 @ the Mahatma Ghandi Wing of the University.

The class ran from 5:30 to 8:30. The students had an hour-long exam, and I had 2 hours to share the 55-minute version of my film and lead a discussion.

In this class of 40 graduate students, we discussed just how similar the events portrayed in ICYIZERE were to what had befallen Kenya in 2007/8. A student commented on how he thought the film should be shown at as many venues as possible, because many Kenyans needed to find a way to start conversations about the underlying issues that plague our country. "If these issues go unaddressed," he said, "then we are sure to have a repeat of 2007/8, only this time greater."

"The problem is," said a young lady, "that Kenyans don't know how to speak about these issues without creating even more conflict. So we just avoid the topic altogether."

Recalling the scene in ICYIZERE where Solange, a Tutsi, says "our parents tell us that the other ethnicity is 'like this and like that' so we grow up hating the Hutu," a smartly dressed young man suggested that films and books that address topics of forgiveness and reconciliation should be included in the Primary School syllabus. "If we begin with the little ones, then we can reach a deep and abiding part of them. Civic education should be made a priority in this country. We need a sense of national pride."

One lady spoke of her employer, a national bank, assigning employees to parts of the country according to their ethnicity. "This is what Kenya has come to," she said, resigned. Where you don't belong because you were born to your parents.

The class discussion was supposed to end at 8:30, but continued until 9:10. The conclusion was unanimous: Although it seems that there is little we can do about the seeming indifference of the powers that be, there is plenty to be done on an individual level. Ideally, there should be a top-down AND a bottom-up approach, but we should not wait for those in government to get it together in order for us to address what ails us.

If indeed the greatest malady in Africa (and in the rest of the world as well) is unresolved psychological trauma, then every single one of us has to take responsibility for the quality of their emotions, doing what needs to be done in order to have serenity and peace of mind. In order to be whole.
At the end of ICYIZERE, Mama Aline says: "In the rain, a fool thinks he is wetter than others. The genocide affected us all .... "

The Post-Election Violence affected us all as well. Every single one of us.

If we say we want peace, then we also have to say that we need to heal from trauma, because you cannot have one without the other. To the extent that we fail to address our unresolved trauma, do we invite repeated cycles of violence. This happens on an individual, as well as the communal level.

Being in the Mahatma Ghandi Wing, I concluded my presentation with a quote from the Great Soul himself:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.
Think of it--always."

Posing with students after the presentation: 2 Patricks, Steve and Kelvin

View of Nairobi city from the University of Nairobi

Friday, November 25, 2011

Back in Kenya

After a 3 year hiatus, I have now returned to the blogosphere.

Quite a bit has happened since I last logged in: "ICYIZERE:hope" was officially completed in 2010, and I have had the honor of being invited to many colleges and universities across the United States to share the film and to talk about its message o
f forgiveness as a means of healing from trauma. I always end with practical things that people in the audience can do to apply the principles within the film to their own lives, and there have been many that have approached me after my screenings to thank me for sharing what I did with them.

I also started a facebook page for my work:

Feel free to visit, like, suggest to a friend, etc

So I spent the day and evening of Monday November 14th doing laundry (thanks wifey-love!) and packing for my trip. I had many things to take care of, and was pre-occupied with the up-coming trip. Also, since I have been fortunate to travel to share my work, I have been away from my family quite a bit, and was preparing to leave for another month. The tug of working on this very important documentary and missing my beautiful family was very strong, and I felt torn. Thank God for friends who listen without judgement, mirroring, validating and empathizing with you, allowing you to meet and inquire into your thoughts.
The following day, I said goodbye to Jezreel (14), Wambui (9) and Ananda (7) as they left for school. Theodora (my ageless beauty), Josiah (5, and out sick for the day) and Isabel (2) took me to the airport.

Here's a picture I took on the way to the airport. Josiah wasn't feeling it, as you can see:

The flight was scheduled to leave at noon and I was there by 10 a.m. I was so proud of myself. "What a good traveller!," said I to myself. I showed up at the American Airlines counter and proceeded to tell the lady behind the counter my flight destination and last name. She looked in the computer, furrowed her brow, and asked me to spell my last name again. I did. She typed it again, furrowed her brow, and asked for my ID.

"Are you sure it's the noon flight?"

"Yes," I said, as a sense of dread crept up my spine. I even have the printed itinerary.

I handed it to her, and she took one look at it and smiled.

"You on the noon flight, alright. Tomorrow's noon flight."

Her co-workers stopped what they were doing, slowly looked up at me, then at each other, smirking.

"You're definitely a "first," she (name withheld) said. I don't think she meant it as a compliment.

I, on the other hand, was ECSTATIC!

"That's one more day with my family, and I'm already packed!!"

This, I feel, was my Higher Power's reminder to be present. Pay attention to now, and don't live in this uncertain realm called the future. As one friend puts it: "If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you're pissing on the present."

So I got to go home with Theodora and the kids, hung out, and my love and I even maintained our Tuesday night tradition of watching "Parenthood" on NBC. Not too shabby.

Travel time to Kenya was a total of 29 hours, with a 7-hour wait in Chicago and a 2 -hour wait in Istanbul. Thanks to a friend's suggestion, I decided to set my biological clock to Kenya time (9 hours ahead) as soon as I left Springfield, MO. That meant that I was to try to sleep during my 7-hour wait in Chicago (got 2 hours), stay awake during the 10 hour flight from Chicago to Istanbul (made it thanks to in-flight entertainment) and sleep on the 6-hour Istanbul-Nairobi flight (got 2 hours at most). I arrived in kenya @ 2:30 a.m., and was greeted at the airport my my parents. Home by 3:30, slept from 5 to noon, stayed up till midnight, slept till 5 a.m. and will be up for the rest of the day.

All this to say that this sleep-deprivation-in-order-to-adjust-to-the-time-difference technique might just work.

Today I meet with Thomas Kyalo, my cameraman. For those of you who have watched ICYIZERE, there is a shot of the Nairobi skyline when Solange talks of her experience fleeing to Kenya during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. That magnificent shot was taken by Mr. Kyalo. While I respect his work, this is the first time that I'm trusting someone else with the cinematographer position, and this letting go of what is familiar, no matter how beneficial, can be difficult.

So far there are 3 screenings planned:

*Monday, Nov 28th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. @ the University of Nairobi
*Wednesday Nov 30th @ Aga Khan University Hospital from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
*Wednesday Nov 30th @ the National Cohesion and Integration Commission from 3 to 5 p.m.

I am waiting to hear back from the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Strathmore University and the Nairobi Peace Initiative. I'll post more info as I receive it.

I am SO very happy to be back in the land of my birth, and happy that y'all have taken the time to read my ramblings. Please leave a comment so that I know you exist.

Peace, Patrick