Today we woke up at 5 a.m., piled into a van at 6 a.m. and headed to the mountains. We went to a village called Pomeroy, about three hours Northwest of Durban. The Augustinian Sisters run an AIDS clinic in Pomeroy, a very rural Zulu village. On the drive up we stopped at a popular African fast food chain called "Wimpy's" (no relation to the Osterville restaurant) in a little place called Greytown. Wimpy's is basically an African Denny's. Delightful.
The drive up was incredibly scenic, with rolling mountains, beautiful rivers and streams running alongside the road, and livestock roaming freely everywhere. I'm making sure we include a lot of cows, donkeys and goats in the documentary.
The AIDS clinic in Pomeroy was overwhelming. I don't think you can really mentally prepare for something like that. We spent three hours shooting the nurses and patients in the Clinic, and it was really emotionally draining. People literally were waiting in line for hours to get their ARVs (Anti-Retro Virals, used to treat HIV/AIDS) since the clinic is only place for miles where they're available. A truck delivers the medication everyday, and today it was about 6 hours late. So people, who are already incredibly sick, were waiting in the hot sun without food or water.
Inside the clinic the nurses were doing check-ups on patients who crowded the waiting room. One woman brought in her baby because she had a rash, which is the US would just simply be a rash, but the nurse told us it was because the baby was HIV positive. This is the reality for people in the KwaZulu Natal region, where we are. Over 34 percent of the population is infected with HIV, some of the highest rates in the world. It's hard to imagine how we complain about health care in the US seeing the condition of this clinic.
The sisters who run the clinic are very inspiring. They are literally, little old, French nuns who have been working at the clinic for decades. They all had to be at least 80 years old, yet are still doing this incredible work.
One of the difficult things about shooting a documentary, is that you sometimes feel very invasive. On the one hand, you want to believe that filming these people will ultimately make a difference, but on the other hand you can't help but feel like you should be doing something more active to help these people. All I wanted to do was give them money, do anything for them I could, but there really wasn't much we could do except try to tell their story in a way that was respectful and authentic.
I hope that's what we're able to do. The footage we've gotten so far in pretty amazing, and hopefully will be eye-opening to our audience. I know what I've seen so far has already changed the way I see the world, as cliche as it is to say.
Tomorrow we're going into the "Valley of 1000 Hills" but for now I'm trying to process what we saw today...