Writer, filmmaker, intrepid traveler, (recently-heartbroken) lesbian, and stupidly fearless risk-taker Katie Boyden journeyed to Kenya in the summer of 2014 to direct a documentary on the incredible work of the Fiat Lux Foundation which builds eye hospitals in the developing world. Along with this quite noble cause, Katie got herself into more than a few ridiculous scenarios and shenanigans while traipsing around Africa through operating rooms and savannas, bouncing down dirt roads in jeeps and vans, and flying in one particularly tiny aircraft that she doesn't even think counts as an actual plane. Think of it as sort of an extreme version of "Eat, Pray, Love." These are her stories.
(Some names have been changed)
08/10/14, Kisii, Kenya, Unfanisi Resort, – 12:36am
I am at war with the mosquitos. And they are winning.
It all started after Brad left my room for the night. We had been discussing philosophies of life, travel, world history, adventure stories, and so on, over a few glasses of scotch—everything you would expect in a conversation between two naively spontaneous filmmakers who had found themselves in way over their heads after jumping at the chance to make a documentary on an eye clinic in a remote part of western Kenya. We pondered the genocide in Sudan, the Somalian terrorist attacks along the Kenyan coast, and the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Nigeria with the knowledge that we were now on the same continent—in the case of the Somalis, the same country—as these nightmarish news stories. We joked about the smell of Deet that was wafting off our skin and reminded each other to take our nightly anti-malarial pills. We reflected on all that we had seen on our drive in that day and the newness and sensory overload of it all.
Earlier that day in the airport. I'm babysitting the camera equipment as well as a box that contains five donor human corneas on ice that will eventually be used in surgical transplants on patients with keratoconus.
Brad, ever the intrepid cameraman, captures the doctor carrying the corneas onto yet another flight.
I was feeling that peculiar mix of the elated immersion into a culture combined with the melancholic, guilty awkwardness that happens to those of European descent and first world countries who travel to the third world. I call it the "Rudyard Kipling Complex," which is essentially the opposite of the White Man's Burden. It is the constant desire to undo and make amends for the atrocities of our imperialist forebears. Ever since arriving, I haven't been able to plug my phone into the UK-shaped wall sockets or get into the passenger seat on the left side without the crushing awareness of what had taken place here in order for English to be named a national language alongside Swahili. I know it is naïve; I know that the vast majority of Africans are much more concerned with day-to-day subsistence and the kind of worries that plague all of us than to bother wasting time on hating the English, Dutch, French, you-name-it, and their descendants, but the thoughts still nagged at me. And anyway, the people of Kenya are the nicest folks I have ever encountered. The politeness and hospitality here is unlike anything I have seen, and there seems to be a genuine warmth and happiness that emanates from them.