On i-ACT 11 this past fall, I quickly learned that shooting video in a
refugee camp is a whole new ballgame when it comes to being behind a
camera. The most difficult aspect is that the kids are all so excited
about what we’re doing and all want a chance to smile and wave at the
camera. This makes capturing anyone speaking a very difficult task!
While I was shooting interviews with students one morning in Djabal,
there was a distinct lack of kids around. After awhile, I heard a
commotion behind me and turned to investigate. Miah was distracting
the kids so we could get our work done! This ended up being one of my
favorite moments from the trip.
Now that’s teamwork!
It’s hard to believe it’s already been two months since we departed from the camps. Although we’re already working on getting the next trip put together, there is still so much to share from i-ACT11!
One of the things that surprised me in the camps was how adept all the kids are at handstands! They all wanted to show off for the camera. Gabriel told me this is a Darfuri tradition to do these sorts of gymnastics.
The whole team got laughing in Camp Kounoungo, as Gabriel took on the challenge of trying to out-handstand this particularly talented kid. Watch the video and see who won!
An i-ACT expedition is a serious undertaking for certain. There’s the preparation, the travel, the heavy stories, the baggage limits at Chadian airports, the hurry-up-and-wait…
Yet to every cloud there is a silver lining, and in the cloud of the heart-wrenching work we’ve done on this trip, there is the silver lining of celebrating the end of the day with our friends in the camps at the local “hotel” – what they call a restaurant.
In Goz Amer, the hotel is a lively spot with a television playing action movies dubbed in Arabic. Refugees and aid workers alike gather to take a break from the harsh heat of the sun.
In Djabal, the hotel is a little quieter – a docile oasis in the midst of the crowds of children that follow us everywhere. There is no television, but there are plenty of mats and chairs to relax in.
The highlight for our team has become the cooler full of soda. While we can’t drink the water or eat the food (even though it smells delicious!) – the bottled sodas are safe for us to drink. During i-ACT11 we’ve tried everything available – from Arabic-scrawled Coca-cola and Pepsi, to orange “Mirinda” – to the official drink of i-ACT11: Stim.
Stim is an apple soda made in Sudan, and is the drink of choice of almost all the refugees we’ve joined at the local hotel.
Miah, Meghan, and I grew so fond of it we even bought more at the local market to have back at our lodgings at UNHCR. We even finally got Gabriel to try it!
I haven’t had much of a chance to write anything since we arrived here in Chad. There has been so much to do, from always trying to get the best shot to trying to effectively convey what went on each day in a 2-minute video that won’t be too expensive to upload via satellite, since we don’t reliably have wireless internet.
I want to capture every moment, and I’m even trying to perfect shooting video with one hand while I shoot stills over my shoulder with the other. It’s not easy. Nothing about this expedition is easy.
Yet, at the same time – it is. Our journey is over half over, and before long we will be returning to the United States. To our families and friends. To our familiar way of life. The hardships we endure here are so short-lived in comparison to that of the people we’ve met.
I tend to deal with everything with a very dark sense of humor, cracking jokes to make light of some of the worst situations – yet on this trip I have found myself utterly speechless on many occasion. When Umbda or Abdulaziz or anyone with a story to tell begins to speak, a silence befalls the group and we listen, hypnotized, until the last word. There are no jokes here – neither are there answers, easy solutions, or in some cases much hope. Yet the human spirit fights on.
This week I have beared witness to some of the bravest people on earth looking into a camera and telling their stories. Stories that could get them killed. Stories we’d like to turn away from and not hear. Stories that show us humans can be cruel and evil to one another.
Sure, I miss the comforts of home.
I’m certain they do as well.