Have Love. Will Travel.
Wow. For as much as I (and all three of us, for that matter) enjoy talking and yapping on about anything, I think there was a moment today where absolutely no words would have been appropriate. I am speaking for myself, but I have no doubt that Lauren and Justin will agree – today was a day that I will not, for one second, ever forget. I will be telling my children about this day. I will do my best to recap it, but I have to tell you that, as I write this, our hearts are so overfilled with joy – it literally brings me to (happy) tears.
We knew we had a big day ahead of us – we stepped it up notch, complete with a brainstorming session this morning. We did a double mic/sound check, made sure all our batteries/cameras were charged, and even made a written schedule to look at. (Lauren’s hand work was beautiful) We packed up, stopped by GAD for some falafel for the ride, and headed up to the mountain again – planning to meet with our good ol’ pal Hanna. We met up with him at his apartment and chatted for a bit with he and his wife. We actually got to show him the teaser trailer with the footage we had shot the last time we were here. Sitting there in his apartment, smack in the heart of the Zabaleen, and being able to show him the clip was our first heart-in-throat moment of the day (at least in my opinion). We spent a good amount of time there, not filming anything, but just chatting with him about everything – and even hearing the stories of his wedding day (complete with video!). Hanna and Sabah are fantastic people, and their little bundle of joy, Christiano, is adorable. He’s gotten so much hair since November!
We wrapped it up, as we had scheduled to meet with Heba (our super translator – see more on this later) and one of the families we met on our last visit. When we arrived, some of the boys were not home, so we decided to head up to the monastery to check out one of the weekly meetings that was planned for the night. Along the way, we ran into a few familiar faces, and even got to see the “tattoo man” who tattoos the Coptic Christians with their crosses on their wrists/hands. Justin shot some flip cam footage of a little boy getting one – he couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old. It only lasted about a minute, but it was painful to watch! We met another man, and with the help of our super-Heba, he told us a bit about the history of the city and how he came to be involved with the Zabaleen community, specifically the church. As the meeting was starting, we headed up to check it out. We were able to shoot some footage for a good 20 to 30 minutes or so. We had a bit of a scary moment when we heard some shouting and a bunch of boys went running out of the church. There has been a bit of instability in the recent month or so, between the Christians and the Muslims, and after just hearing about that earlier in the day, we were a bit hesitant about hanging out too long. Everything was just fine, but we had plenty of footage, and decided to head back to meetup with the family we had intended to meet earlier in the day. This is where the day just gets even better.
Let me first take a second to say how amazing it is to have Heba helping us out. We actually met the last time we were here, she was interviewing Hanna the same day we were, and we reached out to her when we knew we were coming back to see if she could help us with translating. Lucky for us, she said yes, and today wouldn’t have been possible without her. She is awesome. So with that said….
We came prepared. (A small backstory, for those of you who may not have heard about our previous adventures) On our visit to Cairo in November, Justin, Lauren and I were lucky enough to have a family show us their home, specifically their rooftop and pigeon coop. Justin and Lauren climbed to the very top to shoot some amazing footage (while I happily held the equipment and danced with the children). Lauren got some great shots of the young boys of the family dancing around on the tops of the pigeon cages. We decided to go and get some prints made of the photos last night so that we could give to the family when we met up with them today. I have to say, this was the second heart-in-throat moment, to see the mother’s reaction to the beautiful photo of her boys, in a nice quality print. Lauren handed out a few photos to different people, and they were so appreciative. It makes you realize how much of an impact just one little act of kindness can have.
Ok, back on track. So we continued from the monastery back down to meet the family. When the boys saw us, they came racing over, excited to see us again. (JK, LM and I had discussed it many times on the way how we were hoping they would remember us.) Well, they sure did remember us – even down to Justin’s tattoos. (Everyone here, most likely because of Lauren’s encouragement, is fascinated by Justin’s body art. He is pretty much our “piece-of-meat” cameraman. JK, we love you.) The boys brought us up into their home, and when we walked in, we were greeted with THE WHOLE family. There were easily 15 people in this small living room (ranging from kids to parents to grandparents), every single one of them with smiles on their faces, and a hand ready to shake. We had intentions of shooting interviews today – hoping to sit down with family members and ask some questions, etc – but honestly, what happened today far supersedes anything we could have imagined.
Tonight wasn’t about a film – we actually didn’t even take the camera out. Tonight was about people. Tonight was about heart. Tonight was about family. I know it may sound cheesy, but there was a moment tonight where it did not matter what language we spoke, what religion we are, or where we call home. We are all human beings. We love to laugh, dance, tell stories, and pretend like we are WWE wrestlers. And I don’t need to speak Arabic to understand that. By far, the highlight of the day, and the moment which almost brought us to tears, was when Heba told us that the family said that they “wished we could come back everyday, because we make them so happy.” I’m fairly sure that tonight reminded us why we are here and why we are doing this.
Today was beyond words, and tomorrow, I have a feeling, will be even better. We head back up the mountain at 11am to have sit downs with the entire family – generations of Zabaleen – who, after tonight, just became part of our family.
We had a long day, and got back late, so I’m going to piece together the flip videos from tonight and post it up tomorrow – a double feature, perhaps. I’m leaving you with one of the pictures we had printed for the family.
To our mothers – Mrs. McCarthy, Mrs. Kramer, and Mrs. Vermillion: We are alive, safe, and well (despite a handful of mosquito bites). We are having a blast and taking good care of each other. So don’t you worry at all. Sending you each a collective hug and a big ol’ Cairo smooch.
Here’s to tomorrow….