It’s all about ME!

It’s all About ME!

me ME

if you could map out the human mindset, ME would pretty much fill the space available. The 21st century is all about the SELF, what we like, dislike, who we are, what people think of us are the only things we think about.
bad things
death
failure
loneliness
freedom
injustice

ME

good things
(we never truly appreciate any of these until they’re in threat)
Health
Companions
freedom

Mindfulness – suggests all these aspects are only perspectives, meaning we can be free from bad or good things as we choose. This does provide some peacefulness, though without feeling good or bad things do we become lifeless, almost sterile?

Escapism/Experience – Most people use escapism to deal with the ME good bad mostly in the form of alcohol, tv. Escapism is closely linked with us wanting to Experience. Drugs and alcohol give us an out of body/normal experience leading to escapism. Just as our constant search for a good film/programme, holiday view is our ambition to Escapism/Experience from our routine. We want to travel everywhere to experience new things, a constant drive to expand our knowledge, an insatiable feeling. Whats the difference between a beach and a tip?

Knowledge – we think that the more we understand, the greater we’ll escape the ME battle. Science and philosophy are attempting to extract the same discovery. A greater understanding of ME.

ART – is the combination and result of all these aspects combined in an aesthetic beauty. Beauty from horror, horror from beauty.

ME – We don’t actually care what someone else actually thinks of us, we care more of how we think what they might think of us. As perspective means there is no truth, we only care what we think of ourselves regardless. are we ugly, pretty, good, bad, stylish, sexy, good enough, successful, thin enough, curvy enough, living a great life, cleaver, caring. Of course we all know social media mostly exists to broadcast our success in these things. Social networks are Look at Me! This is what I Like, I Dislike, carefully curated to create an impression of ME. Of course there was a time before Social Networks, no really, hard to imagine, but the ME game existed in other forms such as what I wear, how i look, work, said, how I said it, what I have, long before modern advertising and television. Look at Me’s are also a handy mass communication device where we can also Escape our routine and also feel like being on the cusp of gaining more knowledge. Mostly its a place to keep track of ME, by judging other peoples carefully created exhibition of themselves, so I can re-evaluate how I am doing by how others are doing, but I don’t actually care what they are doing, its all about what I think they might think of me, not what they actually do think of me, i’m too self-absorbed.

Self-narrative – We mostly want the same things, well, to exhibit we have and do these things. That we look a certain way, being beautiful, fast cars, big houses, winning, experiencing travel, adventures all fit into a narrative we set ourselves of what we want to be and to get! Of course, we often find when we win the lottery money can only support the ego so far. Achieving beauty is riddled with trying to keep it and wondering if people still believe it. Having your dream job isn’t as good as you expect. But still our self-narrative drives for these things, believing this will settle the Me battle of what you think of yourself based on what you think others think of you. But remember you don’t actually care what others think, you care more about what you think others think. There is no truth of what people think so you have to assume.

The truth is we can’t see past ourselves anymore, ME clouds everything we do. More importantly in the 21st century Me clouds everything we think. I would even say its more important than being rich.

Cliche time – As long as you’ve got your health, its all that matters. And a reasonable amount of liberty.

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Everything has led me to this.. The Matrix, Buddhism, Lampposts and the Cookie.

All of my life i’ve been trying to understand the mystery of how our mind works in relation to the imagination, it’s the source of art and creativity but what if it also is the foundation of the way we feel towards everything? What if our imagination was the source of not just good feelings or ideas, but harmful ones like stress and anxiety? Of course our imagination is a great thing, yet I don’t think we fully understand what it is and how it effects us. What if the bad thoughts about yourself, your situations, your past, your future could vanish in an instant if you just stop believing these thoughts to be true. Is there a fact that creates happiness? If so, what is it? Or is it just a thought? What would make you the happiest you could ever be? Do you think that would be it, complete success in being happy? Or would the play of thoughts always create the positive/negative cycle? This essay is about investigating our thoughts, how they affect us which we take at face value, without question. I would argue that most people never even question their thoughts, whether they are true, and what effect this has on your feelings, ideas and values. Maybe our problems are caused by our thoughts, not by the situation. The reason we don’t feel free, whole, and happy isn’t because we aren’t doing good enough, it isn’t because we are missing something, and it isn’t because we haven’t achieved the perfect circumstances. Thoughts. As a child I was quite a loner happy to be in my fantasies of adventure from cowboys to superheroes, as a young adult I wrote screenplays of fantasies, now I create pictures and videos or stories. I didn’t realise the stories in my head were also the foundation to everything i thought about from waking up thinking about work, to how I looked, and every emotion I felt. Children are happy, if in good health etc, but what goes wrong in adults. Eventually, you get to the point where your mind becomes crowded with so many thoughts you very rarely get a break from them. Yes I am an over thinker, I analyse everything from a cup to what to do with my life and how best to be. This is good for academic analysis and art, even in work and everything of life is more logical and whole but there is a downside. Thoughts are often consuming, or I feel I’m in a constant battle of good and bad thoughts, anxiety of how to be, what do do to feel content, successful.

I’ve been discovering a new form of meditation that has helped me deal with the swirling thoughts. At its core is the understanding that stress about work, anxiety of the future, worry about not having enough time, insecurity about ourselves; is all imaginary. Take this situation, If someone off the street told you the world was going to end tomorrow what would you do? Would it stress you out, what would you do about your day in effect of this? Well, probably nothing, why would you believe it? Take it a step further, what if a trusted friend said the world was going to end tomorrow, how would you react? Again, you be more concerned but you still wouldn’t believe it, meaning it wouldn’t affect you. I’m leaning towards the idea of thoughts not affecting us if we don’t believe them. Truths. I’ve always had anxiety, stress and fear about my career, the future, appearances etc, everyone does. But on what basis? Not based on what will happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I fail on my current course I may find something else I enjoy more, earn more. In fact, stress doesn’t make you work harder, it makes everything more difficult as you’re not fully in the moment and want distractions from it.

When we are young, toddlers, nothing is good or bad, things just merely are. We are conditionally nurtured to believe things are either good or bad. These polarisations are stories created by social beliefs but are exactly that, imaginary. To a child things just merely exist, not good or bad, no story or value. The relationship of thoughts in our heads can’t be changed by anyone else, it’s completely internal. People, friends, may make you feel happy or sad for moments but the problem remains the same. You could even perceive good moments as distractions as the bad things inside your head are always there, not dealt with, actually creating anxiety as you know they’ll return. We believe our thoughts to be real because we feel them as emotions. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between them, more part of thought/feeling whole. My idea is that there is a connection, one which is not based on truth. Where is the problem? If you can’t show me, where is it? Does it actually exist? It’s different to Buddhism, which says desire is the source of all suffering. Alan Watts while offering some great alternative thinking misses the idea of thoughts controlling emotions and beliefs, he’s too caught up in Buddhism to think outside his own thoughts. It’s better to think that all the good, bad, negative, positive things are only so within the play of our thoughts based on imaginary stories and beliefs. Buddhists also say there is a disconnection from our mind, body, the outside world, space, all are connected by anxiety as they are all different and create an otherness. Buddhists say that if you look at your hand, even though you know it’s your hand, there is still a part of you that doesn’t recognise it as real, as yours. A better explanation might be that most of those items are physical, where the mind is creating the difference and anxiety. Scientifically we, everything, are all made of the same thing. If someone likes marmite and someone hates it, it doesn’t make the product bad, it just merely is something physical. Take a cookie, you really desire a cookie and believe it’ll satisfy you. Afterwards, you may feel a sugar rush or less hungry but what has it actually done. The cookie is merely an object, like any object, without any ability apart from containing some nutritional value. It’s our idea that the cookie will make us feel better, we have to have it, when really it’s our thoughts suggesting these beliefs. I’m sure some people don’t even like them, so it can’t be the object that is actually doing anything. Its our thoughts convincing us to believe something about this cookie. Meaning we can’t blame the situation, cause, outcome as they are based on feelings created by over active thoughts. My Lamppost 172 story has a part where it doesn’t understand the fascination with people looking at sunsets as it sees objects all the same. Take a sunset, it gives us great peace, tranquility and makes us think beautiful things. We can finally confront our thoughts as they are at peace. But the sunset isn’t actually doing anything, it’s something that merely exists. No different than looking at a dustbin? They just merely are things. Our mind creates either good or bad thoughts giving us emotions, a certain feeling. Sure a sunset is pretty, with colours and lights/darks. But why are these things good or bad? Where did these beliefs come from? In alternative cultures, different things have alternative meanings. For the Indian nation, a cow is sacred, never to be harmed, in most countries is seen as a source of meat. Our idea of beauty changes over time. In tudor times larger women were seen as more attractive, in art, Van gogh was seen as amataur, rubbish. Again, this further proves our thoughts of something create a belief, value, and emotional response. But once we know this isn’t fixed, anything is possible.

So working on the Buddhist theory of separation of the Mind, Body, External World. What if there was an additional area just after the mind which is self-recognising. Mind, Mind Awareness, Body, External World. This new Mind Awareness zone recognises that the mind is capable of making us feel anything towards everything else. In recognising this, is it possible to gain a new form of liberation as we know what we think isn’t always real? The truths we automatically accept can change, sometimes quite easily.

We constantly evaluate everything we see, do, did and plan to do. Thoughts racing away. ‘Getting up stressing about getting ready for work on time, how do I look, what should I do to change it, if i do this will i be quicker, what am i doing with my life, how can i change it, what shall i have for breakfast, no i’m not ready for it yet, oh no i look tired, how can i change that, wish i had more time for my art stuff, how can i do that, i feel sad about that, running late, get to work a bit late, have to be polite, look bright and hard working, must get this done on time, what shall i drink, pressure of deadlines, won’t have time’… A constant cascade of anxious spiralling questions leading to getting home feeling physically and mentally tired, wanting to do art fun things but not having motivation. ‘Go on Facebook, what to eat, shower now or tomorrow, time for bed, i’ll be too tired if i don’t sleep now. can’t sleep, have i set my alarm, can’t sleep, how to change my life, it’s morning’… Stop. There is proof only thoughts create negative feelings. When you’re distracted for your thoughts, everything seems ok right? In a moment of a joke, a film, a cookie, laughing with friends or being with a lover. If it only lasts a few seconds, during the time of escape, you feel fine. When we watch something in the cinema, it’s known as the suspension of disbelief as we seemingly forget about everything apart from what we are watching, we believe the film and disbelieve where we are. This is how we enjoy the emotional ride of the film, the same goes for any escapism device such as tv, art. It feels good to escape the spiralling thoughts of our mind, we don’t always want to confront our thoughts not to feel stress. But if we can do it watching a – film, why can’t we do it to our – thoughts. After all, all our thoughts are based on stories we have created about our ambitions, or nurtured into our minds during a child to become so natural, we automatically believe them. In believing them they turn into emotions, often negative ones. Everything we see and experience has an embedded story seemingly fixed on to it. The cookie has a story, we desire it thinking it’ll make us feel great, the sunset, a job, a friend, a lover, all matching our perception of good, what is good for us, a familiarity to confirm our own ideas. Thoughts and stories. All these things exist as objects, people are alive, but the rest we put onto them. This is where I differ from the Matrix’s point, suggesting everything is false physically and mentally, entrapped by the system for someone else’s gain. My idea is that our thoughts are entrapped us by nurturing, what is good, bad, positive, negative. Maybe this epiphany is the red pill, where we can be outside of our thoughts to realise what they are doing to us. This isn’t to say thoughts are our enemy, we just have to realise what they are.

If I asked you to photograph a wedding most people would panic and stress as they don’t know what they’re doing. For me it isn’t stressful as i’ve been doing it for years. The situation isn’t the cause of stress, its subjective. So what if stress, anxiety and worry were the same. In fact, they are even less truthful. Tell me what is stress without the cause or effect of it? As i’ve suggested, the situation of stress is subjective. One person may not find it stressful, where another might. The effect of stress is immediately distracting, causes irritation and can lead to illness yet this is dependant on the person also. It’s only a thought that something is stressful. So therefore stress doesn’t actually exist, it’s nothing physical therefore only exists in thoughts. Can stress be explained with facts? Sure we feel it, as it if does exist but thoughts are based on ideas, beliefs and values of our mind, all imaginary. So called stressful situations, long term anxiety will occur, your mind dances thoughts everywhere, constantly evaluating, but are by no means fixed. Maybe at a workplace when you’re over tasked, rushed, stressed, running out of time, flustered. Stop. Realise your mind is overactive and creating emotions and stop it. If there is a situation where they wanted you to get it done, or you wanted to get it done but didn’t, should you have? You didn’t so it wasn’t possible, how do you know you should have? Plan what you can do, and even if you can’t get everything done then something has to change or make your manager realise it can’t happen. If someone is irate on the phone make them realise you won’t deal with them, what they are sounding like and if not end the call. What is the worst that could happen, you lose you job that over stresses you out and don’t treat you right with contracts etc. You’ll even find a better job with less stress, more pay and job security. Further, just imagine is the irate caller caused no emotional response in you. This can be achieved by merely recognising you thoughts are causing emotions. Don’t be a victim of someone else’s or my own thought tricks. The situation merely existed, we put bad thoughts on it. If you feel bored in an office job, doing the same thing everyday, is this a good job or a bad one? Its neither, its just something you do sometimes, it’s not who you are.

We don’t control where our thoughts go, negative or positive, but we can bring it back to the moment, accepting both. Where is the problem? Unless it’s something physical, where is the fact of the problem? Even the rational thoughts trying to settle the problem are thoughts that are coming and going, It’s not you. Negative thoughts will enter your mind, and try to consume you, it doesn’t mean they are you. When you feel things are bad, say with stress, it feels consuming physically and mentally, sure, maybe the the situation is bad but it does not reflect what you are, it’s a trick. Peace and freedom come from recognising that no experience is bad, because no experience says anything truthful about who you are. Be one step behind your thoughts/feelings to recognise what they are. If it’s a good feeling then embrace it, sure, and now you can fully be in that moment. Your attention will go everywhere but allow it, don’t suppress. Recognise that thoughts have the ability to create emotions, stress, anxiety, and are never based on truths. A cookie is a cookie, it’s not good or bad. Time pressure to complete a task might be a struggle buts its not good or bad. You have to disbelieve the imaginary story in your mind we’ve established over a lifetime. Yes you may be busy, work overloaded or not feeling artistic, but the feeling of the problem doesn’t actually exist. Meditation and calm is created by knowing the truth; it’s just a series of thoughts playing in your head. Stop. The larger the story we have embedded in our minds the tougher it is to realise its falsity and to control it. What is the thing you most want? A good job, to be in love, money, success in art, appreciation, experience life. All these things are based on perception, but they are also based on an eternal anxiety surrounding them. ‘Stress of not having the best job, anxiety of losing it, will my lover accept me, is there a future, will they make me happy, am I happy, how can i get more money to do things, to feel relaxed, is this photo better than my last, will people like it, do i like it, will other people like it, am i good enough, if i do this life will be better.’ Stop. Of course physically we need a reasonable home, a sense of safety and health. But a list of anxious questions could and does go on forever, even questions we don’t realise we are asking, i’m surprised we don’t all turn into Edvard munch’s Scream on that peer. The only time we feel calm is when we distract ourselves with something like having a cookie, or somehow manage to dispel these questions about our life narratives by having hobbies where our thoughts are seemingly not present. When we are in this moment we ignore them. The most convincing way we find calm, peace and true happiness is to disbelieve the thoughts that are making them from something that is not true; recognise these feelings coming from thoughts that are made up in your mind.

Don’t try to think positively. There is nothing good about you! Sounds silly but being positive can only exist with negative drawbacks. They are one and the same. If you have a positive negative mind frame, you’ll be fearing the negative, creating anxiety. There is nothing good about you but there is also nothing bad about you. It’s just a thought in your mind. Trying to be positive can only take you back to the negative eventually. If you think positive about your art, or work, you think it’ll be better but it can’t, as you’ll live in fear of not being your best only creating anxiety again. The ultimate positive was directly connected to the negative. Anyway, you can’t think positively all the time, we’re not made that way. When you try not to think about something you can’t, it’s impossible. Don’t think of a cookie. whatever you do, Don’t think of a cookie. I’m assuming all you can think about is a cookie, what it looks like, taste etc. Don’t think of work!.. You can’t, it’s impossible. This is what negativity is. Whenever you feel there could be a better of worse outcome you’ll live in fear. Instead, accept positive and negative situations will exist together, step back from this polarisation knowing it’s your thoughts playing with these, and actually, just like someone telling you the world is going to end, it can’t affect you. You don’t believe it. Let our thoughts be anything, only realise its a play of thoughts, nothing true. Art is often said to be a way of dealing with our troubles. Though I would like to think it’s our way of finding truths about ourselves, the world and the universe around us. We may never reach conclusions yet the journey and experience is richly rewarding as we glimpse enlightenment. A person that is free is able to experience everything to its most. A sunset, a cloud, a kiss, an embrace. Know that they are thoughts creating emotions. Just imagine an interview, at home you can verse coherently your skills perfectly as you’re generally without pressure and anxiety. When you’re in the interview you may sound completely differently due to the anxieties swirling questions of inadequacy, how do I look, what’s the best way to put it, my body language, what if i don’t get the job, what if i do.. STOP. This shows stress clouds the experience, making an individual nowhere near their best. Instead of it being an interview, how about thinking it’s your life. What if our whole lives are juggling these stress and constant questions inevitably creating a lesser experience of existence. Nothing or no one can change the relationship of thoughts in our minds. They simply are. We shouldn’t stop them, just know what they are. What we can do is realise they are thoughts often not based on something that isn’t true. There is no such thing as bad about me, good about me, it’s all imaginary. Things just exist, it’s all a story in our heads. Am I stressed? No it’s just a thought. Another idea pops in your head. It’ll be good if this happens! No, it’s just a thought. If we discover that our problems are caused by thoughts, not by anything that’s true, gives us peace. We are phenomenal living things, we should aspire to become closer to the wonder of existence and our creative imagination and in doing so reach higher levels of tranquility, happiness.

After reading this step outside into the garden, take a walk. If this essay has made sense to you, you’ll see the world, yourself, very differently. Once you realise thoughts are causing the problems, not the situation, you are free. As you disbelieve more and more of the thoughts that create your suffering, which are often based on fiction, you will be happier in more and increasing situations, the more you will be living in the moment, at peace, be able to fully love, laugh, feel whole, be enthusiastic, and appreciate every experience in your life. Everything you enjoy now, music, art, sunsets, cookies, friends, family, you’ll enjoy more. Anything making you sad in a moment or over time will fade and become redundant. Let go of those imaginary hindrances of the mind holding you back. You are at a distinct advantage of questioning your own thoughts. Nothing in particular can make you happy, nothing missing can make you happy or sad. There is nothing good about you, there is nothing bad either. You exist. They are not you. If you get the dream job, the ideal house, the perfect partner; none of these things can change your play of positive/negative thoughts. No fact creates happiness, it’s our thoughts. You’ll still have anxiety about the future, stress about keeping it. Worry about being the best partner, fear losing your looks etc etc. Stop. You now realise it’s your play of thoughts deciding these things. Imagination. No external events can make you truly happy. The distractions of life provide proof thoughts are the only thing causing suffering. Ask yourself what story are you telling yourself? A story of being lonely, sad, anxious about the future, stressed. Ask yourself what is missing at this very moment? Notice your imagination tries to find these things when you ask these questions. It’s exciting to realise the stories we aspire for in life are no longer valid. We’ll no longer believe what we should be, what we should do, how we should be! Instead, bask in sunlight to feel the wind across your face, delve into music and science. Be free to enjoy everything. You are free! What journey in life can we achieve with this revelation? This is my red pill epiphany.

Life is beautiful.

This idea was inspired by my life’s experience and education, and Noah Elkrief on youtube. He has guides on everything from work to meditation.

Pre-trip summary..

I’ll soon be going to Kenya, to produce media to help underprivileged children achieve a better chance of an education and hopefully a better way of life.  I’ll be flying alone, which is fine, except its my first time flying and its such a distance.  I have heard that Nairobi can be a dangerous place. Fortunately i’ll be escorted from the airport with my guide for the trip, Kenyanito. Despite this, a white person with expensive camera equipment can be a target so i’ve been warned.

I’m not sure how much you can prepare for the level of poverty I will perceive, i’m not sure how I will react or deal with this after. Also, I feel pressure of being able to produce professional video and photography for Global Care. Though I should have plenty of time to produce the material i’ll need to make adverts to gain sponsorship for the children of Kibera. 

Ever since I started media, aspiring to be a international photojournalist was my highest dream. This is the official start of my career in this feild. I hope I rise to the occasion for which I have been desiring for many years. It’s an assumption that people change once experiencing extreme poverty. Sometimes life changing. We will see.

Day 0: travelling…

Its finally here, after a year of anticipation, mass preparation, its time to go..  Traveling on my own is a daunting prospect, airports all seem to have a different procedure for arrivals and departures making transfers difficult. Kenya is known for being not the safest of airports or places, people I talk to often tell of stories or corruption and bribery, thats just the airport.

My first destination is Amsterdam, one of the places i’d much like to visit in Europe, though I will not have time to leave the airport as it is complimentary to wait hours for luggage drop off, hours for customs, and hours for boarding.   Airports are like a waiting game. Maybe its designed to make you recollect over where your coming from, to where you’re going. As I boarded the huge plane for Kenya, I knew I would be sitting there for a least eight hours. Fortunately  it was a reasonably comfortable flight with constant food and drinks which are all free with the ticket. More importantly, you get your own little screen embedded in the seat in front of you full of recent films, music and entertainment. This was a sleep deterrent and so I didn’t sleep, something I hate doing on flights. You always feel ten times worse for doing it, i’m a tall guy, not good for sleeping sitting up.

Before I knew it we arrived in Nairobi. As I come out of departures there are many people with names on boards. I couldn’t help but notice they were mostly English names, even a John Smith. Amongst those, was one with my name. Billy, who was my driver and friend of Kenyanito. He was a slim small man with a wide smile. As he helps me with my bags to his car, I couldn’t help notice a muggy dry heat in the air. Its familiar to when you travel to warmer climates like in the Europe, though vary slightly in composition.  As we drive through the city at night its hard to tell any difference in from my familiar scene of Europe. I’m sure the morning will reveal Africa’s colours. 

Day 1: Kenya

As soon as we leave the guest house there seem to be endless streets of make shift homes and shops made from scrap sheets and string I presume. This seems to go on for miles as this is one of the biggest slums in the world. From a higher position, the shanty homes seem to go on forever. People seem busy, getting on with setting up there market in front of there make shift home. No one is begging, I’m not approached for money or to buy anything. I feel quite obvious being white, representing the rich foreigner so to speak. Maybe as I have companions or security, they leave me alone. Or possibly it could be that usually there isn’t anyone to beg to, as no one outside the slum would want to go into it. 

In the middle of all this is a school, also made from what is available. There is construction there as well so may seem more ad-hoc than usual. Everything is covered in a faint red dust that quickly stains my shoes and trouser legs. What is more evidently striking so far is the enthusiasm of the children, they are very obedient although not naughty, and are keen to learn. They listen to the teachers every word as if they are inspirations as well as knowledge bearers. Kenyanito says every student is very lucky to be here. I guess they know it.  

Kenyanito is he school leader, a priest and other members of boards and groups I fail to remember. He’s a tall, busy positive man, neatly dressed and charismatically passionate with his words. He is a successful result of a sponsored child, from rags to community leader. My work here is to make more good examples through photography and video, possibly my most important job i’ll ever be assigned. 

As we drive along I ask for some basic words of Swahili, “jambo” means hello, “habari” means how are you? “asanti” means thank you.. I always try and remember words with some english association, though I cant think of any, i’ll just have to remember them! 

The air is very muggy, the red dust seems to penetrate your lungs, even your skin, although there isn’t much of a scent. Yet again, I’m suffering from a cold so there could well be. It seems a bit silly to have a cold in these conditions and does make me feel lethargic,  even more so after a day of travelling.

We go for a meeting a a cafe which wold sit well with the likes of the familiar franchises of Costa or starbucks, I had a lemon, ginger and honey drink for my cold which i woke up with today, great timing.  The drink is served in a large mug with honey on the side. It tastes great with all the honey, and a relief to my throat and congestion. The small shopping complex was like any other, apart from security everywhere grasping ak47’s as protection. In a way I felt safer knowing they were there; who would mess with them!

The school is very make shift, although no one seems to care or notice and I can’t help think an English school would never exist in this manner, yet my annoyance of the overindulgence of health and safety is something I cant stand. Half of the school is being reconstructed so appears more rough and ready than usual. There are holes in the walls, rusty fastenings, broken fixtures. But things just seem to carry on, oblivious yet undramatic.  There are cubicles for toilets  which is simply a hole in the ground, i’m not sure where it leads. The urinal for boys is outside the wall which looks like it streams into the playground.

They eat regularly and have great ordered self hygiene even though it is tap water which as has its own issues.  The food is two things, dried corn and overcooked beans, neither have taste but hopefully have substance. I eat with them and didn’t mind and was thankful for any food, as people here don’t always get anything. 

My filming is going fast and a bit ad hoc. There is little time to prepare and I often shoot immediately.  I am following five students although I keep losing them in the crowds. This shoot may be more difficult than planned although you never really know how its going until editing. 

Day 2

We started early and walked into the Kibera slum. I felt nervous as I was told it is very dangerous for a white person with expensive gear in my case a camera. Collins, one of the teachers carried my rucksack with my camera in for security as the social worker led the way with the children.

Kibera is made of of small homes made from sheets of disused metal and goes on for miles in winding dry muddy paths where litter and waste is often seen. The slum itself has a moat of rubbish and waste which is never collected.  It seems like a fence, to either keep them in, or keep people out.  We walk along a disused rail line, well i presume its disused though i’ll wait and see.

The first child’s home is a very small room with a chair and a bed where him, his mum and his cousin stay.  I am given my bag so I film him pretending to get ready for school and doing his homework for the video.  Rainbow suggests I don’t waste any time and keep the filming short not to promote my presence in the local scene.

We quickly move on passed hundreds of other homes with people selling whatever they can outside. There is an array of shoes, and often charcoal like substance in small buckets, which I assume is for fuel. I realise Kibera is a sight that not many people will ever see. Or would want to I guess, and feel very humbled and in a way privileged to experience such a way of life to contrast to my own. 

Back at the school, I am to interview the five children. Its not going to be easy as there are construction sounds all around although I want to film them in th playground for context.  Mary is the first, she is 11 years, very smiley and pleasant. She quickly tells her story of how her father disappeared and how she has been moved around east Africa quite a lot until she found sponsorship here. 

The interviews continue as it becomes obvious that they are orphans, either through the parents going by choice or disease. Either way they speak quite coherently in English and almost objectively which i’m surprised by. Is it that the camera is making them hide there emotions or is it that this is a common way of life here.    

I spend my evenings at the guest house, as it is too dangerous to wonder at night. I have been warned that Kenya changes at night into a much more dangerous place. Again, i’m not willing to take the risk on my own, so I make entertainment with the intermittent wi-fi to contact home. I couldn’t help think about the life of a business or alone traveller. Must be a lonely affair. I know that travelling as with everything in life is better when shared with a common heart. 

Day 3:

Rainbow meets us at the school. He is a full of life character who seems to know everyone in Kibera. Thats why he was chosen to guard me safe passage through. He recommends again that I don’t use or have my camera as we walk around. Collins, a teacher will carry my rucksack far behind. This is in a way frustrating as I need footage of life here in Kibera, and would make some very journalist images, although its not worth compromising my safety.

We drive around the perimeter of the slum, which really shows how big the place is. We stop off now and again to film the best views. Its a sight to see that there is a new full size golf course right next to the slum. I realise that there is always a significant contrast between rich and poor, especially in poorer countries and in this case, there is a direct comparison to view.  

The filming is done so me and Billy travel into Nairobi city centre for sight seeing. The city looks like most other cities, tall buildings and shops is what I usually find. We went to the top of the cities tallest building, which has a helepad.  The guide we have tells us about how the city started and developed due to British involvement during the colonial times.  He doesnt say its a good thing or not, and my history of British involvement in Kenya is vague so it may be something to research further. Compared to taller buildings i’ve been up, the effel tower etc, this isn’t very high, though Billy seems astonished by the scene as its his first time too. He looks puzzled as he tries to figure where things are.

We went to the market down below and immediately my white skin is ambushed with beggars and people trying to sell me things. Billy said your an obvious target. I didn’t end up buying anything due to pressure and we went to lunch in a KFC wannabe, which tasted the same as chicken KFC try to have. Its strange to experience that in Kibera I don’t get bothered with begging, where as in the centre its very in your face. I guess in Kibera no tourists go there or would dare too. It might be uncomfortable to suggest, but poverty and lifestyles in this way are fascinating, especially to Westerners. it cold be like looking at a car crash, you cant help but look.

Arriving at the guest house, there was little to do but sit by the pool (I didn’t bring any swimwear) and watch the hawks overhead circle, again and again. Don’t worry there was a sign warning about them. Not sure what a warning can do if one goes for you but still. I couldn’t help think about the comparisons of wealth and quality of life here. In the mornings i see extreme sometimes dire poverty, in the evening, comparative luxury. In a way, every city in the world is made this way, some are less well off and some are rich. I’m assuming few have both these lifestyles.

Day 4 – last day

Its the last day so I visited the animal park, where I  come face to face with the wildest of animals. A lion, jerraffe, rhino, monkey, buffalo, crocodile, cheetah and almost a leopard. It was amazing to see such creatures in real life instead of television. Like everything on tv, things are different in real life. I was seeing these animals without pressure so I could absorb them in more, instead of the slums where i was focussed on work. Maybe it was a defence mechanism also.

So it is nearly time to go. Do I feel different? I’m not sure, I feel i’ve learnt how to travel alone and deal with pressures. Has it moved me seeing poverty stricken children?  I’ll have to wait a while. I think about my childhood, and many others at home who  often seem upset about not getting a toy or not being taken to McDonalds. It really is another world here in comparison.  The children here seem ok although it is there way of life and maybe they don’t know what they don’t have. I feel that after basic amenities such as health, hygiene, food and shelter, the rest is commodity.

I am glad i’m going home? Well, I feel i’ve completed the filming as required, and without someone to share experiences with, i am happy to go home, even though I know there is a lot more to see here. It would have been better to get photos of kibera streets for being a photojournalist, although I felt the risk was too high, maybe experience in this field is needed to complete such as task. 

Now, my greatest anxieties is what I do after this project, the thought of scrapping photo jobs with much time in-between to be self absorbed seems daunting. Of course I am hoping that this job will lead to another, either travelling or academic. We will see.. In some way I can now say i have achieved something with my photography, and my life, my claim to fame so to speak, and a bit of success.  I remember that this journey wasn’t about me. The only photo I have of myself is at the wildlife park. I don’t want this to be about me.