I am ashamed of myself. I feel horrible. I did not act as I should have today.
When I teach in Kenya it is an enthusiastic event. I am always damp from sweat at the end of class, my voice is always hoarse, and I feel like I have run a race. I teach with enthusiasm in Kenya. The quieter my students are, the more I try to compensate. I feel if someone were to draw a cartoon of me teaching in Kenya you would need to draw rows of steel desks filled with students with their eyes bugged out and their hair blown back on their heads while I was depicted as a mad man running around in front of them. I am different in Kenya. Kenya is different. You cannot ignore Kenya.
Today’s class was great. I shared deeply and personally and worked hard on communication, clarity, and inspiration. The basic exercises that I give my students are so foreign, so NOT basic, that I have to re-frame every concept for true understanding. The undergraduate students in my Directing class have been put into groups and they will create Devised Theatre Compositions, a gift from Anne Bogart and my brilliant friends in the SITI Co. I feel like I have asked these students to walk on water. They have never been asked to create in this fashion. It is glorious.
But that is not the point of the story. As I walked out of the theatre building for the walk to my dead end street across campus 20 minutes away, I walked slowly. I walked easily. I was tired and felt good. When I walk across campus now I usually see someone I know. That feels good. I am not alone.
I try not to walk fast here. It is too hot. And why rush? I have a great New York tempo if I need it. Ask Lauren. But not in Kenya.
There is a primary school on the edge of the other side of the KU Campus. As I walk home I often walk past 6 and 7 and 8 year olds in their school uniforms on their way home. No buses. They walk far. The girls wear skirts and dresses and knee socks. The boys wear shorts and knee socks and sweaters and sweater vests. Their colors are light blue and maroon. They walk in groups, they hold hands, they laugh, and they play as they walk. Their laughter comes easily.
When they see me they stare. Their eyes follow me, and I feel watched.
Although I feel I walk slowly on campus, I am rarely passed on the busy sidewalks. There is always someone walking slower, and I am the one who passes.
As I walked on the path today I heard loud feet behind me, coming very fast. I thought to myself “A Kenyan in a hurry, and it’s not for church on Sunday, how strange.” I was curious to see who would pass me. The feet were insistent.
Instead, I felt a tap on my elbow. I turned. It was a small boy in a school uniform. He spoke to me in English. “Money for food?” I was thrown, and in an action of reflex I tapped my pockets feeling for coins that were not there, and I answered “No, no I don’t have anything.” This is what I do when I am asked for money most every day as I walk Chester in Newport. Here, in Kiswahili I said, “Samahani.” I’m sorry.
He ran back the way he came, and I continued on my way.
But I had money in my wallet. I could have given him money for food. And I didn’t.
I am ashamed of myself. Next time I will give something.