Am I up to this?
Today we meet the children. We are going to the Koseli.
After breakfast, Jen pulls me into her office (our bathroom) to discuss my enthusiasm. Which, despite my assertion that I am controlling, is apparently bubbling over the edges of the teapot of my brain. Our bathroom conversation is wildly helpful in a way that I cannot possibly verbalize. What I can say is, that Jen connects with me in this and now I have someone here who can hold my intensity…if I can hold it through the day, Jen will hold it for me at night and help me contextualize. Now, I am good. I have so much to learn. And that makes me happy. I love to learn. I want to grow into what is next. This is an intensive in that.
We leave for the school and I am sitting in the front seat with the driver. Jen directs me to sit there and I protest, but she sits me up there anyway and I’ll be damned if she is not right. I feel like there is a soundtrack moving through my head as I we make the trip to the school. I don’t want the drive to end. I am happy.
I step into the school’s gates, my insides melt. I could live here. I swear this is true.
Stephanie disappears immediately. How anxious she is to begin her mission. Ah, her mission, I have not told you about this. Let me tell you now.
Stephanie is a photographer. She lives in Georgia, outside of Athens, on a cow farm. She has a brilliant smile and she is here on her own mission. She wants to teach the kids to tell their own story, through pictures. She has just formed an organization called Lens on Life. She has kids in Tanzania and Nepal that she is now dedicated to in driving this mission. This is a real call of the heart. She travelled, met these children, took pictures, and when she left, her work came to her. She needs to help the kids tell their own story. These kids needs the tools to communicate. This is a mission I can get behind.
Stephanie has, through her Twitter network, eight iPhones donated for her trip. She is teaching the kids to take pictures with them. Pictures of their life. Pictures of the things that are important to them.
So, today, I am in a class of twelve kids as her assistant. Twelve kids who are magnificently ready to take on this challenge.
And they are incredible, these kids. Each comes from the slums of Nepal. Slums I have not seen, but are clearly beyond anything we identify as slums in the US. Each of them has a story that is beyond our ability to comprehend from where we are. I fall in love instantly. This is not the “how precious are these children” kind of love. This is “I love them. I want to them to teach me. I want to help them become whatever it is they want to be.” I want my kids in this school. I want my kids with these kids.
Immediately, two girls focus in on me…and I on them.
This is Srijana and Pinky.
As Stephanie gave them the iPhones. They immediately began taking pictures of me. Every time I looked at them, they were looking at me.
Pinky is an artist. I mean, seriously. I will post pictures of her work tomorrow.
She and her friend, Srijana were magic to me.
I love them. Seriously. I want to bring them home with me.
Stephanie engaged them in a way I would not have thought possible. She taught them how to start the phone. How to take pictures. How to communicate what it is they see.
“What is important is you…not your camera. There are people in the United States who would love to come to Nepal. They can’t. They need you to see what it is like here. What your life is like.”
Stephanie showed them her pictures from Tanzania and the US. Showed them pictures of kids in their natural environment. The kids were silent as she clicked through the pictures, drawing in the lives of kids they would never see in person and don’t have any context for what their lives are like. They got it. You could see it in their faces. They understood the importance. You could literally see the lightbulbs going off in them. I could live in that moment.
Neil and Kristi, the videographers who said yes to this project before they really knew what it was, were moving around the small room in a way that seemed completely natural and beautiful. I have been watching videographers for years and I have never seen a dance like this. They moved around the room like they were connected by an invisible thread. Never in each other’s shot and always shooting the complimentary shot. It was a beautiful symmetry that could only exist between two people in love. And they are. You should see them together. It is a true romance. It is my goal to capture that love with my camera at some point so you can see. They are lovely, fun, sweet and their heart is totally in this.
I am an assistant here, and I love this role. I am learning so much. Stephanie tells me what to do and I gleefully do it. If she asked me to clean the bathroom with a toothbrush, I would do it with more love than I thought imaginable.
There is more. Of course there is more. And you will know it. I promise you. I will give you everything.