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Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 4th

COW Library : Indie Film & Documentary : Bill Megalos : Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 4th
CreativeCOW presents Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 4th -- Indie Film & Documentary Feature


On location in Ethiopia
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April 4
Another excellent day. We visited a second school in Dire Dawa and if anything, there was even more pandemonium. This time we were treated to a taekwondo presentation by a few dozen students. (Patrick and Jessica met when she took one of his taekwondo classes. He's a fifth degree black belt and she's a second degree.) Patrick and Jessica did a short presentation for them immediately afterward. Although they were a bit rusty, they were well received. We visited a few classrooms, Jessica connected with all the students (there were many more deaf students today) and we had another traditional coffee ceremony.



The kids demo taekwondo with Patrick and Jessica.


The best interaction was with a blind boy named Bainu who could speak a bit of English but held his head down for the longest time while his mother spoke. She had moved with him to Dire Dawa from a remote village where her husband and their other children remained so that Bainu could come to this school that has the resources for disabled children. At one point when there was a pause, I touched his hand and asked him what he wanted to become and he said a singer. I then asked if he would sing for us and he did, From that point on, it was HIM talking, not his mom.


Bainu
Bainu from Dire Dawa.


As we were getting set to leave, the classrooms emptied. The school was several two-story buildings around a central courtyard. There must have been a thousand students in their bright yellow shirts clapping and chanting. I needed to climb on to of our van to even get a sense of the crowd and stayed up on top as they followed us out the gates into the street. Someone had seen fit to send a dozen soldiers to accompany us (maybe they just wanted to see Jessica themselves) and they came in handy to keep order.





Saying goodbye. Click images for larger views.


After lunch we had our best home visit so far. We had met Tiana and her mother in the morning at the school. Tiana could see until she was seven when she got seriously ill and lost her sight and developed serious neurological damage. She needs help to stand and walk and stopped going to school after getting ill. It's only been in the past few years that she's returned to school.

The meeting started off poorly. Tiana was very shy, although we'd met earlier in the day and Sala, our wonderful translator, had to draw even one or two word answers out of her. Her mother and sister and even a neighbor would break in and answer the questions. (It turns out that Tiana speaks five languages and our conversation went back and forth between Amharic (the main Ethiopian language) and Arabic (they were a muslim family.) We stopped after it was clear that it was going nowhere and we moved Jessica right next to Tiana with Sala beyond Jessica and cleared the room except for Tiana's mother.



Tiana's home, with translator Sala on the right.


Nick had the great idea to ask Jessica and Tiana to touch each other and encouraged Tiana to feel Jessica's face. Everything turned around after that and it was wonderful. Even through the only light was through the open door and it was a busy street outside neighbors and onlookers were quiet(ish) and we had a much easier time. (ok, I did have Patrick hold the LED light dimmed down all the way filling just a touch on Jessica and the darker Sala, who were both in a bit of shadow.) It was very hot, however, and after an hour, I was drenched. It was well worth it for the tender interaction we managed to capture, but towards the end, Tiana had a small seizure and seemed to have forgotten what had been discussed before.


Tiana shaking Jessica's foot. Photo by Molly Feltner
Tiana shaking Jessica's foot. Photo by Molly Feltner.


In the late afternoon, we left wonderful Dire Dawa and headed to a smaller town called Harar, We stopped a few times on the way to get scenic shots and the van driving through the countryside. No matter how great town and cities are, I don't feel really arrived in a country until I've been out in the rural areas. Harar is much smaller, I expect the schools and their resources to be more meager. Just before arriving, we passed through a small town built along the road that is a big qat market. There were truckloads and bundle after bundle of the fresh product being unloaded and traded. The plant is volatile, the potency decreasing rapidly after 36 hours. What we saw being traded late in the day would be shipped and distributed overnight and be sold to the end-user tomorrow morning and chewed tomorrow afternoon throughout the country.

Again the treat of arriving after dark and seeing where we've landed come daylight.




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