I couldn’t write yesterday because my eyes closed without my permission by the time I got home. We started very early (5.30am) and I didn’t get home until 8pm. My continuous jet-lag did the rest. So, am writing early Saturday morning, our only free day from shooting but full of work for me.
We don’t shoot today because of an issue which already ocurred in March (you can read my blog entry here) related to an organization who pick up street children every Saturday morning, bus them to some temple outside of town and make them sit through two hours of religious service in exchange for lunch afterwards. Sujeylin is quite religious, like most people here, and this is the only way she knows to attend a service, so for her it’s quite handy as she’s killing two birds with one stone (Jesus and lunch). And the difference in faith doesn’t make much difference to her (Nicaraguans are traditionally catholic, but these people are evangelists – part of a widespread and fast-growing campaign in all of Central America).
But why oh why, why then are we not allowed to film the proceedings? These people are driving me crazy. I did phone ahead and was referred to some people in the USA. So I phoned there and spoke to a man who didn’t give me his name… (maybe he forgot?). And he kept on asking what the street kids will get out of it. And I kept on explaining it. But I think he was after something less profound than my usual “we’re going to change the world” spiel. Maybe he wanted me to bring orange juice? Really, excuse my scepticism here but, as I said in March, we have been absolutely everywhere with Sujeylin, even in the operating theater Karla was born in. But we can’t go with her to church, in order to witness her spiritual side and what role this has in her life. If I was making a film about the evangelical movement in this part of the world, then that’s one thing. But despite me being very critical with this “Jesus in exchange for lunch” deal, it’s clear that the film is not about that and there is no place in the story for it. So why? My question of the day.
A free day, as stated, but for the crew. I have lots to do. More about that later, but first back to yesterday.
When we arrived at 5.30 I was expecting to find everyone vast asleep, but was mistaken. They had already moved all their stuff from the covered sidewalk in front of the market stalls to the park, where most of them did return to sleep. So, I did some ambient shooting. The sun coming up, kids and teens under blankets under trees, that kind of thing. And then everything stopped. Sujeylin was in a foul mood and didn’t even want to talk to me (this is quite rare, despite her moods, but didn’t worry me in the least). There was something between her and Juan Carlos which I have yet to figure out, but last I heard is they split up again and this time for real…
Which brings me to the title of this entry: reality. The day before, when we arrived, it was like a big party. She was back with her friends, the baby is so damn cute that everyone fell in love with her, etc etc. Life was good. But then reality hit hard. She had been sleeping on a bed for two months and this was the first night she was back on cardboard. She was hungry and there was little prospect of getting food. And when they wanted to bathe the little one, they realized there was no soap and no money to buy it (it costs the equivalent of 10 dollar cents). Then, Sujeylin went back to investigating Juan Carlos’ infidelities committed while she was gone, and despite having put this episode behind them, discovered some stuff she didn’t want to hear nor talk about. To top it all of, baby Karla was coughing and had diarrhea…
To make a long story short everyone was just laying around being in a foul mood, and we were sitting there watching it all but with very little to do. So after a while (several hours) I had a chat with Sujeylin, asking her whether I could help her with anything and informing her we were going to leave for a few hours to let them get through this without us bothering them. Which did the trick. When we returned in the afternoon, everything was back to normal and we were even able to shoot a nice but not very interesting scene of her taking Karla to a health center where she was giving a long list of medicines as well as on-the-spot inhalation treatment (see video stills below).
One detail which struck me when they were at the clinic was that there is no protocol for minors at risk in the Nicaraguan health care system. This may be partly due to the servile nature of its people, whom I think prefer to ignore rather than to cause problems. So, when they checked in Sujeylin was asked where they live. She said: “Ciudad Jardin,” which is the neighborhood. Then the nurse said: “And the address?” To which Sujeylin says: “Right there, in the park.” The Nurse: “The park?” Sujeylin: “Yep.” The nurse blinked once and moved on to the next question, despite there being a sick three month old baby in front of her who, as she just found out, lives in a park. There were no alarm bells. No social worker who came to check in later with them. Nothing. My only explanation for this, is that the problem is so widespread (not only homelessness but extreme poverty in general) that they don’t know where to start and prefer to do their job of curing people rather than making an impossible attempt of changing their lives.
So that concludes the entry I should have written yesterday. Later today I’ll try to write something about a question which I’m sure you’re left with after reading this post: why didn’t I give them the money for the soap?