...

 

 

 

MARTIN
The white house is on the fourth corner of my intersection in Kamina .
MARTIN

KAMINA, DRC ......... I had a very different experience than most of the people from Ohio. They spent days traveling to churches, schools, clinics, hospitals, universities and villages. If there was more to see in Kamina than what I saw, they most likely saw it. That was not my experience. Almost all of my time in Kamina was at one intersection. On three corners of that intersection were the Methodist Church, the Methodist Guesthouse and the Kamina Children's Home.

This was no "when life gives you lemons" situation for me. I loved that intersection. I crossed it multiple times during the day and then returned to watch the sunset. It was so alive. There were always people there. There were occasional trucks, bicycles pushed with heavy loads, motorcycle taxis, so many pedestrians and the guys who hung out at the corner playing checkers or selling gasoline, cell phone minutes, cookies or nothing at all. Crossing that intersection so many times made it impossible not to meet Amie and Fils. And, fortunately for me, I met them sooner rather than later.

MARTIN
Amie in Amie's Time ..........................................So much dust, so little time!
MARTIN

If you really want to have a positive experience in your travels, you have to meet people. Forget about your shyness. Forget that your mother told you never to talk to strangers. Learn a dozen words in Swahili, starting with "Jambo" (hello). Brush up on your high school French or invest in a Rosetta Stone course (this class really works!) Do not worry if your French is perfect. It won't be, but you aren't in Paris. That city has a reputation for French-speaking snobs. If you try to communicate in Africa, the people will listen and enjoy your efforts.MARTIN

Amie was the first person I asked to photograph in "my" intersection. He worked at a kiosk right by the guesthouse, selling gasoline and cell minutes. I asked. He said no. I honored his request. But, he really wanted his photo taken! When he was ready, he struck a pose that is one of my favorite portraits of the trip. From that moment on, I never crossed the intersection without a greeting.

MARTIN
MARTIN
Also working the kiosk was Fils. He looked like he was six and he bubbled with personality, laughter and a contageous smile. On one of my first mornings in Kamina, I asked to take his photo. He said no. I pulled out my high school French and told him that wasn't the right reply. He was supposed to say, "oui". I would help him practice. I repeated the question and replied with high oui's, low oui's, rapid-fire oui's, long drawn out oui's and literally said "oui" over fifty times. Yes, I wore him down. Yes, I got my photo. And, yes, I made a new friend. From that moment on, even after I learned his name, I usually referred to him as "Oui-Oui". And before my stay was over, both Oui-Oui and Amie came to visit the mural and take up brushes in the project.
MARMARTINTIN
Oui-Oui, er . . . Fils....... .
MARTIN
Oui-Oui was adorable! And, he will be a name and face that haunts me the rest of my life. For you see, in all of my travels, he is the first person I've ever met to give me a personal face to face experience with malnutrition. I'm sure I've seen it someplace before, but this time I had a name and I knew the face. In Fils, I saw the lasting effects. He appeared to be healthy and had boundless energy now. But, he would always be a victim of malnutrition. You see, my Oui-Oui was not an adorable six year old. I should have seen it. He was way too responsible and carried way too much money around. I think he ran the kiosk. Fils was nineteen.
MARTIN
Amie and Oui-Oui, drawn from the intersection and into the mural project
MARTIN
Copyright 2014 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.
MARTIN