(What I Got) Out of Africa

A Brief Peace Corps Experience Told in Short Breaths and Countless Letters

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Things I Never Want to Forget

Things I never want to forget about Kenya:

The sound of late afternoon rain pounding on the tin roof
The fetid smell of unwashed skin crowded on a matatu
The smell of burning trash
The clarity of light and shadows
The brilliance of the full moon
The darkness permeated by millions of stars
The way the sky and clouds seem to touch the ground—how is the sky so close?
The constant staring
The children who just want to shake my hand
The mud that cakes on your shoes after rain
Acacia trees
The rattle of a dilapidated bike carrying empty soda bottles
Banana trees
The feeling of impotence and helplessness
The strength of the wrinkled mamas
The attitudes towards sex
The ach in my lower back and sides after a jarring matatu ride
The press of human bodies
The sight of chickens and sheep strapped to the top of a vehicle
Boredom. Endless boredom
Frustration of waiting
The red dirt of Nairobi
The brown grass before the rain
The green grass after the rain
“Nipe Pesa, Mzungu”
Boda boda drivers in Kisumu
The endless hospitality of people who always want something
Nakumat, Uchumi, Tenwek Hospital, Nyma Choma, Mahinda chomaChepkemoi

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


At the remarkable age of 23,
I am
growing up.
It's not physical this time.
No new inches added to my
growing pains behind my knees
as my bones stretch.
This change is more subtle, quieter,
perhaps noticeable only to me.
It's not aging.
Not quite.
(Though I am gaining small wrinkles and a grey hair.)
It's not quite wisdom.
Not quite.
(I am far too young for that.)
Perhaps my growing up can be termed
Somewhere in the middle between
I'm beginning to sense a depth that permeates life.
Sometimes that sense is so fleeting, so quick,
I barely have time to grasp it.
But it lurks in front of me,
just out of reach,
hovering at the tips of my nails.
I want it to become
so I can wrap myself completely in this new understanding.
But I get the distinct
impressin that It can never be truly understood,
that part of it must remain
outside my realm of knowing
that forever reaching for It
is part of growing
which, at the age of 23,
I am just beginning to do.