And here we go again. I am back in Marsabit. Every return feels the same and at the same time feels like I am starting over. This return was touched with the usual feelings of boredom, lethargy, homecoming, frustration, and anticipation; and I also felt new feelings of apprehension, expectation, and sadness. The boredom and frustration come immediately after dumping my dusty backpack on the floor. I realize what i had forgotten in the companion and travel filled excitement of Down Kenya, that I am on my own again. None of my fellow teachers or friends were back in town yet and, with the lack of public transportation, there is nowhere to go and no one to see. That feeling leads to the lethargy; the less I do, the less I want to do. I slowly eat my way through the packages of ramen noodles and instant coffee I brought with me from Nairobi. I always forget how tough (or maybe just annoying) it is to re-adjust to not having internet and cell phone network. Fortunately, this period didn’t last long. Immediately after dumping my backpack on the floor, before the first pack of noodles, I went out to the choo and was instantly spotted from across the valley by Nuria, the loud and obnoxious little four year old. She thoughtfully announced my return to the entire village and, after the ten minutes it took for her tiny little legs to run down the rocky hill and up the other side to my house, Nuria arrived at my door, bringing with her my neighbors, Abusu and Galgallo (equally adorable, slightly less obnoxious). After the round of hugs, and their new favorite trick of kissing sloppily on the cheek, they made my life significantly less boring by swirling around my house touching and knocking over everything. Abusu has entered the “dress-up” stage of her life and had to run home after an hour or so of ruckus-making to change into a pretty new dress and new rubber shoes, bright blue. After a little showing off on her part, she tried to make me pretty too. She ran around my house and found my lip gloss, face powder, and sun screen (which she thinks is just pretty smelling lotion) and put it on me (I was not allowed to help). She also had had her nails and palms painted with henna, and since I had none, she found an equal substitute in purple marker. I let her decorate my hands but disappointed her when I wouldn’t let her purple marker my face. For sure, life can never be lethargic with those three bundles of trouble.
Now that the term is officially started (opening staff meeting was Wednesday), I am ready to get started. I, and everyone around me, is suddenly aware that this is the last large chunk of time that i will be here. This term is fourteen weeks long, while the last term is only nine weeks. That means that anything that needs to get done should probably get done soon or never. In addition, I am going home for my older sister’s wedding at the end of this term. That means I am going to be counting down every second between now and then. I am afraid that excitement will make this term feel like an eternity.
The last emotion I am feeling right now is sadness. From what I gathered from the rumors going around, on Sunday night, a Rendille tribe member was attempting to retaliate for past attacks that were perpetrated by the Borana community. This man came to my village, Diribgombo, and, just down the road, was following some footsteps in the dark. It was not yet midnight when he lost the trail and apparently became frustrated and attacked the only people around. Tragically, he took his anger out on three children, aged seven, five, and two years old. He shot them multiple times in the chest and head with his AK-47. With no significant police presence in the area, the Rendille man got away, and the children laid where they had been killed for long enough for many of my neighbors to walk down to the scene and absorb the details for gruesome retelling. The funeral for the three children was Monday. The anger in the village is obvious. Everyone I have talked to has expressed the same sentiments: there will be revenge. Another tribal battle has begun, and I am afraid this time will be worse than before.
I am still in the transition phase, from Down Kenya-travelling, Facebook-addicted, couch surfer to out-of-touch teacher. It’s easier after the first day of school. I walked around my village, talked politics with the guy who owns the little duka where I buy flour and cell phone credit (he knows WAY more about Obama’s re-election prospects and opponents than I do), and remembered my Kiborana greetings as I, with my return, surprise all the mamas who are fetching water. I walked through my favorite manyatta making sure all the little kids remember how to high five me instead of hand-shaking (I like to think I get less sticky that way), and just marveled at the flowers and the forest of grass and vines. The rains, though they are only recently returned to Mars, have turned everything that used to be a bare patch into a field of grass that is at least a foot over my head. Every tall grass stem has a vine climbing it like a spiral staircase. The fat, iridescent dung beetles zoom loudly through patches of the sunset snapdragons that are more plentiful than last year. Every previously shriveled tree trunk is now full of green leaves. And everywhere are my favorite Martian flowers, small stalks that branch at the tip to form what looks, from the side, like a white handlebar mustache. The mustache is made of delicate flowers, only a centimeter wide at the top, flowing down into tiny buds. A snow white waterfall. I see all this and Nairobi starts to fade. By next week it will be gone, but for now I can still remember the taste of the Java House ham and cheese sandwich. And I feel like I should have spent another thousand shillings at the frozen yogurt place where you can put one swirl of pistachio and coffee yogurt in a huge tub and fill the rest with cheesecake bites and gummy bears. Then they charge you by weight for a dessert that is mostly just cold, hard gummy bears, and all the more delicious for it. So for now, I am in the middle of shifting my focus from gummy bears to green leaves. In a week or so, I will forget Down Kenya, and I will no longer notice the snapdragons. I will be back in my zone where I constantly vacillate between “I can’t believe I live here,” to “I can’t believe I live here,” and occasionally “I can’t believe I live here.”