Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barfing in Nigeria

Let me set the scene: We’re in the operating room and I’ve never even seen an operating room – unless I was on the table! It was full of rows of steel beds covered with a piece of cloth. Young girls with sad eyes sitting and recovering from the operations to fix their fistulas.

I conducted roughly nine or ten interviews with these young girls. Clearly, I don’t speak the language where we were in Zaria, Nigeria, but we somehow communicated.

Suddenly I was overtaken by the stench, the smell of urine, feces and blood – it became overwhelming. My cameraman Renato told me that suddenly all he heard in his Mickey Mouse head phones was “BLEEEHHH." He’s doing an extreme close up on a baby and he hears another "BLEEEHHH" and Renato tells me he asked himself “Where the hell is she?” At the time he was going in close on the baby.  

Then Renato tells me all he sees is this little white hand, with perfectly manicured fingernails that's attached to a 5-foot-eight 120-pound woman (me), push Dr. Sa-ad Idris, a gigantic-jolly-intensely-talented-Nigerian surgeon, out of the way and watches her sprint down the aisle past rows of very confused Nigerian girls. About 30 yards later I found a sink and just started puking – puking my guts out. I haven’t puked like that since I had the ‘flu last fall.

Well. What does my pal Renato do? He chases me down the aisle while I am running, and dry heaving at the same time. It’s actually hilarious when I look back on it. On the tape, all you can hear is me puking and Renato laughing his ass off as he pulls in on an even tighter shot of me puking. He laughed and said: “This is great TV.” 

The following morning Frances, one of the EMT nurses, said to me: “That cameraman, I thought he was your friend. You seem so friendly together. Why would he film you when you were vomiting, instead of helping you?” She was truly confused. 

“It’s just TV honey,” I replied, dryly. “It’s just great television.” 

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