Everything in my experience tells me that a storm is coming. The sky is slate grey, the air is thick and heavy and engulfing everything in a misty-looking fog. The wind has picked up, gusting across the desert leaving large eddies and small tornados of dust in its wake. On the horizon to the east, from the open desert, an ominous grey cloud is rolling in. It looks like a storm is coming- but it is not. The rolling grey cloud is actually a continuous line of dust. The grey is the atmosphere choking on desert sand. If you look straight up, the sky is crystal blue. This is not a bad dust storm. I have heard of some here that reduce visibility to near zero for up to six hours. This is a mild dust storm but it has been going on for three days. I think I would prefer a more intense, shorter storm. This dirt is fine, not coarse like beach sand, but more like clay particles. It is so fine that when it grabs onto your legs, like mud, you can’t brush it off. You can’t even rinse it off. You have to scrub. The fine particles crawl into your eyes and mouth. I am in the staff room, which you would think would offer some protection, but the dust creeps in through the metal ceiling and blows around. I squinch my eyes and mouth shut until the wind calms down but I can still taste dirt and my eyes tear up. After three days of this, I am starting to feel sick. My nose is stuffed and runny, my throat itches, I have a sinus headache, and I am sure my lungs are a nice reddish brown. The dust is thick on every surface; it looks like an elderly persons home when she hasn’t dusted in a year. You can write “wash me” on my desk every fifteen minutes.
One of my students lost her father over the weekend. I think he died of an illness of some kind. The girl, one of my form two students, is now an orphan. Her mother passed a way only a few months ago. As a show of respect, my teachers wanted to collect some money for her. They asked each of us to contribute a hundred shillings. That poor girl has lost both her parents and the only thing we can do for her is give her a thousand shillings? I felt awful, but what could I do? I only hope she has other family members to take care of her. She is not the only orphan at my school. I actually have quite a few, all of them are poor and struggling with school fees. If I had a way to find them sponsors I would, but I don’t know how to find them.
It is almost time for vacation. I have four more days in Mars and then I am heading to Mombasa for a cross-sector peace corps training. As valuable as Peace Corps training always is, I am really much more excited to see my friends. I don’t ever get to talk with them and never, ever get to see them. I love my village, and I have lots of friends here to keep my busy, but it is hard sometimes to be away from my Peace Corps family. I plan on getting a lot of hugs. In lieu of my PC family, I have been getting my hug-fix from a group of wazungus from Spain. They are loud and hilarious and speak very bad English. We spend a lot of time miming to each other and laughing at the mistakes. There is one guy who is the most outgoing but has the worst English of the group. So he says things like “Are you very happy!? Normal happy or very very happy? Happy New Year!!” And he repeats this over and over again. You don’t know whether to smack him or laugh. The Spaniards are here to do some volunteer work for St. Pauls. And because I have nothing better to do, I am helping them. They love to dance, and sing, and eat. Every night is a party with them. I have never met people who acted so free and crazy while completely sober. They taught me salsa, and belly dancing, and all the good Spanish swear words. When they were teaching me how to belly dance, we were laughing at our slight protruding bellies, and they said that in Spain they call that the “happy curve”, which I think is an eminently appropriate name for it.
Yesterday, we threw a joint birthday party for me and two of them who also happened to have birthdays this week. We sang happy birthday in Spanish, Kiswahili, and English. We ate cake and spent the whole night laughing and shaking our happy curves until we were exhausted.