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Video Camera

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Jenna took her video camera with her to Africa. She had imagined using it to record the wonders of the dark continent, to capture all the things she would never have imaged seeing during her suburban, white-collar childhood. She'd wanted to see herds of elephants, small families of cheetahs, and a sea of zebras. To look upon the sight of the White Nile, the Sudd Swamps, and the far eastern reach of the Saraha desert. And she'd wanted to document all of these things, so that when her memories faded and lost their sharpness, she'd still have the recordings.

Instead, she found herself using her video camera to film a sort of diary, something that let her talk out the daily discouragement and frustrations of her job. Never having enough medical supplies. The heat and dust. The lack of clean, potable water. The warm beer and inedible food. The local warlords, corrupt and blood-thirsty. The fear and loneliness. The endless red tape that put a higher premium on rules than lives. At the end of every one of her diary sessions, she carefully erased what she had recorded. She started over with a clean emotional slate every day. It made it easier to weather the disappointments.

Over time, she found herself using the camera to capture the others. Her coworkers. Her family. Rollie, scruffy in shorts and hat, smoking a cigarette and squinting into the light. Gruff and pragmatic, with a secret core of idealism that he tried so hard to hide. Carlo, flirting with everyone with his clueless Italian charm. Innocuous, sweet and much smarter than most gave him credit for. Rachel, with her Irish beauty and Irish lilt, quietly competent and determined to help. No matter what the cost. Rafe, broken and wounded, but healing, slowly. Mentoring Mo and being mentored in return. Mo, who never took 'no' for an answer, who didn't believe in 'it can't be done.' And Bernadette. Gentle and kind, with dark eyes that had seen so much, balancing equal amounts of hope and despair.

Eventually, Jenna realized that she was filming the wonders of Sudan. They just didn't turn out to be what she thought they'd be.