Hamjambo rafiki! Habari za maisha?

I write from within the comforting confines of my mosquito net; a few moments ago, I had a close encounter with a MOSQUITO THE SIZE OF A MID-SIZE SEDAN. I exaggerate only slightly. For the sake of my dignity, when you picture this post in your head, please imagine me chuckling benevolently and saying to the mosquito, “Shoo, little one! My friends are not half so kind!” before ushering it out the window – rather than the reality, which involves me making a hoarse noise like a cat locked in a burning file cabinet while swatting furiously in such a way as to slap myself in the face three or four times.

Thanks.

We’ve had a few days of last-minute vaccinations, security briefings, anti-malarial consultations, chai, crash-course language initiation, chai, harried trips into downtown Nairobi, discussions about our anxieties for our host families, chai, paperwork, lessons on the proper use of the “bush choo” (pit latrine), lectures about health issues, and a general welcoming to East Africa. And then we stopped for chai. With a side of chai. I’m sure as hell not complaining. Tomorrow, we all board a bus to TrainingTown, which is roughly piano-tossing distance from both Kilimanjaro and the border with Tanzania. There, we will finally meet our host families and get down to the real business of Peace Corps Training. Rather than Pre-Training Training. Mhm.

There are 36 of us in this group, representing diversity in geography, race, age, gender, profession, and skill set. We vary so widely that all we seem to have in common is a startlingly high degree of mutual bad-assery. We have bonded during these few days on the run, then will continue on together in small language-learning groups during training until being scattered willy-nilly throughout Kenya for our actual placements. These placements are not to be revealed to us until next Wednesday, at which time we will all be put into “vernacular groups” in which we are expected to learn the local tribal language of our region of service (Luo, Kikuyu, Maasai, etc).

In summary, rather than the expectation of being bumblingly conversational in one disparate foreign language in a very short time, there are two. And I think that’s *awesome.* Language lessons are already leaving me cognitively exhausted and stupidly happy, even if almost everything we’ve done so far is review (Nafahamu kiswahili kidogo, remember?) Really, I’m in far better a mood than I have any right to be. I’m sleeping and eating well. I enjoy the company of all my fellow trainees, without exception. I’m sure it will make the (inevitable) crash that much harder, those days of angry, tearful frustration, of jackals and mosquito netting and feeling the hot breath of failure on the back of my neck. But for now … shit’s awesome, guys. This place rocks, this region rocks, these people rock, and I’ve been kept to busy for the niggling nips of those broader humanitarian questions to stick pins on my soul. (Somewhere in the wild, a disgruntled former aid worker just sat bolt upright in bed and howled “DO-GOODER SENSES TINGLING!!!!111one”)

I am not without my complaints, but they are not, at the moment, either relevant or appropriate blog content. So … yeah.

This evening, to celebrate the end of our pre-training-training, some of the current PCVs took us into the city for chinese food and Tusker. It was a fabulous footnote to a brief and heady chapter in the text of this surreal journey. Nzuri sana, njema sana. And that’s the note I’ll end on, as I have an early morning tomorrow. Salama sana.

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