A meeting with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon

We go out for a night on the town Outpost style – that means a beer and a pizza – with our friend Tom.

Tom has been to Mwanza – a scruffy town on Lake Victoria, a five hour drive away – to the dentist. He’s had two teeth extracted. He is full of painkillers.  He tells us he stayed at the same hotel as celebs Affleck and Damon.

Yeah right Tom. The beer’s not mixing well with the Ibuprofen. You see pigs fly too, Tom? And we laugh.

No really, he insists, they were there.

We don’t believe him. Not until visiting surveyor Tim arrives (for a beer and a pizza). He’d been to Mwanza too. And blow me down: he hadn’t just seen Affleck and Damon; he’d enjoyed a few drinks with them too.

What are they here for, I want to know, they making a movie?

No, says Tim, they’re Making Poverty History.

Ah. Right.

I text my beautiful star-struck 13 year old daughter at boarding school.

Guess who Tom saw?

Y wasn’t I dere, she texts back (why am I forking out a fortune for an education I think), did he get autographs.

No. Tom didn’t get an autograph or a picture. Nor did he talk to them.

I would have.

This is how I envisage my meeting in Mwanza with two of the world’s most famous movie stars would have gone:

“Hi guys”, I say as I approach them beaming and trying not to look like star-struck daughter.

“Hi there”, they reply, looking a bit nervous, wondering if they ought to recognise me.

“How are you?”

“Good. Good”, they say, looking no less nervous.

”Mind if I join you?”

”No, please do” (they’re gents, see: I’m thinking Affleck in Pearl Harbour; he must be a gent).

”What are you doing here? on holiday? serenegetti? the chimps at Mahale? the crater?”

”No actually, we’re working.”

”Wow!” (oh gawd, star struck again). ”You making a movie?”

”No actually”, and they sit a little straighter in their seats as if to impart the importance of what they are about to deliver: ”we’re Making Poverty History.”

”You don’t say! I just blogged about MPH”.

”No?! Did you really? Cool! What did you say?”

”Ummmm …” (because thru the haze of one too many beers and two too many stars I remember what I said and they mightn’t want to hear about it).

”Go on!”

”Well I suggested it might be a waste of time”, I mumble.

”WHAT?!”

That I’ve got their attention spurs me forth, I am emboldened by this 15 minutes with Fame.

”I said that I thought alot of the time it was a waste of time; the millions don’t get where they ought to”.

”What do you mean?”

”I mean that there’s billions of dollars being earmarked for Africa and I don’t see evidence of any of it where I live” (an outpost crawling with lunatics, a place where there are Aids Orphans and street kids who barely have the luxury of a bed or a square meal, far less an education).

”Where do you live?”

”Here”, I tell them, ”in Africa. Only not here, here; in a place five hours from here, kind of cut off”.

”We gotta go see”, they say urgently.

”Sure” I say, conscious that such house guests would impart huge kudos (failing to remember in that glorious moment that nobody in Outpost would recognise either Affleck or Damon): Karibuni! I gesture generously, indicating they are welcome any time.

”How far away did you say you were?”

”Five hours”

”We’ll have to check our schedules. Is it a tar road?”

”No”, I say in small voice, ”it’s quite a bad dirt road actually”.

”Probably not this trip then”, butts in the loud man who has just muscled into our conversation and who is clearly in charge of The Schedule.

In reality – of course – I’d never had approached them. I’d simply have gawped, nudging my husband and hissing ”do you know who that is?!”. And then I’d have sent furious texts to my teenage daughter and all my girlfriends.

In reality – of course – their trip won’t have any impact on the lunatics, orphans and street kids with whom I share the Outpost.

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9 Responses to “A meeting with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon”

  1. summer Says:

    glad I’m not the only one having conversations with famous people in my head after not actually coming that close to meeting them…I thought I was a tad crazy but you sound entirely normal having said conversation.
    Too bad your conversation is so full of the truth…will they ever get it?

  2. MisssyM Says:

    Ah, I see what you mean about the conversations with famous people. I can’t believe you didn’t take Affleck up on “Jersey Girl”…

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    summer – you might be a bit mad. I have an exucse, you see, I live a million miles from anywhere!

    MissyM – well you know how it is when you bumb into celebs; all the things you mean to say fly out of your head in the excitment of the moment!

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    This post reminded me of the pictures of Sean Penn when he went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and wanted a photo-op floating around town in a boat. His handlers forget to but in the drain plug and the boat sank. A perfect image, I thought.

  5. Iota Says:

    I would have said something along the lines of “why do all movie stars look alike these days? is it my age?” Sounds like having a teenage daughter sharpens one up on such matters, but I’ve got a while to go before my 3 year old is there.

    I love this post, and all the nuggets of your thoughts on the realities of aid in Africa. You are so close to the issues, that I feel I am reading a very informed opinion. I wish you were allowing a bit more optimism, though. Of course celebs, one suspects, can’t help but be interested in their own image, first and foremost. But the optimist in me thinks, it’s better than nothing. These people know they are huge role models, and if they are trying to encourage an interest in the deprived of our world, then that’s better than what a lot of their fellow celebs are up to.

    I know, I know. You’re going to say we need less awareness raising and more action. But maybe the action will come, and in the meantime, awareness raising can’t hurt, can it? Or do you find it patronising?

  6. Primal Sneeze Says:

    Did I tell you this before, Mem? I can’t recall.

    Anyway, many years ago, while doing my primary degree, a professor (yes, not just a regular lecturer) of mine was a patron of an NGO. He went to Ethiopia during the (world-televised) famine to see the situation for himself.

    My friend was Country Manager – Ethiopia for that NGO and arranged to have him tracked. He spent the full stay in a fine hotel in the capital and never once came face to face with the situation on the ground.

    On his return, there were questions asked … but never answered.

  7. Stay at home dad Says:

    Very good flight of fantasy! I misread their comment as “Good God” which, let’s face it, is the most likely reponse were they to meet any of us …

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mr Sherman – ooooh I remember that! Of course, it’s not just Africa where the good celebs expend their efforts …

    Iota. I know. And you’re right. Awareness of any ugly situation is always a good thing. There is always hope, the thing is it often isn’t realised. Largely, I think, because quite often the job isn’t being done by those who are well informed enough. It’s not just about knowing Africa’s geogrpahy and language and problems, it’s about understanding her soul, her vulnerability, her cunning. And I don’t think enough of those involved know her intimately enough to make a difference. Some do – of course – but not enough. I have approached funders with ideas of how to Make Poverty History, but I’m a mother of three in Africa (with a nasty colonial history to boot), what would I know.

    Primal Sneeze – I think that’s a wonderful – and horrible – story. And it absolutely highlights what I’m trying to point out: Aid pays well. So it attracts the well educated with glossy resumes. so they’re hired for the job of Making Poverty History, not those who might actually really care, really be prepared to get down and dirty with Africa’s issues. As opposed to enjoying an expense account at the Sheraton in Addis.

    SAHD – Good God! ain’t that the truth?

  9. Patsycake Says:

    Nothing wrong with your fantasy, but why not approach them with your story? There is a contact link on the MPH site. Maybe contact the actors through their publicists.

    You are a powerful witness and have a great opportunity – Go to them, again and again if necessary. The web has made the world more immediate and change may be possible – I can only hope. This is a story that needs to be told.
    Do invite them to the Outpost! Invite them to the real Africa. The story about the Blood Diamonds made quite a statment and hopefuly there has been a change since that movie debuted.

    Another related topic – what is your opinion of KIVA.org? Micro-finance – small loans made directly to entreprenuers. Is this as good as it is cracked up to be?

    Peace!

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