My weekend was … well. Hm. As far as I know, a multi-day funeral is no one’s idea of a good time. But for a certain segment of the community to see no more constructive an outlet to their grief than to transmogrify it into a force of retaliation against those who they perceived have wronged them … God help us all, even those who had no part in it. Let’s just say that when I showed up at the dispensary this today, I wasn’t feeling my most inspired.

I sleep-walked through a morning’s worth of tasks: pounding away at grant applications, double-checking the math on some longitudinal birth control data, helping the nurse in charge to draft a classified ad for a new pharmacist to replace Mapenzi. I recused myself from the teatime conversation (a prolonged and gory play-by-play of the events of the weekend) by seeming to develop an undistractable contemplative interest in a poster about the measles vaccine. When I left at 12:30 to go home for lunch, I was sincerely toying with the idea of canceling my afternoon appointments to settle down on my couch with a cup of pomegranate green tea and an episode of Firefly.

I had already dodged two volleys of tropical rain that morning and was unenthusiastic about doing battle again. Furthermore, I’ve been working my ass off for weeks, honestly, and it’s hard to stay motivated sometimes when you’re suddenly reminded of how much you’re up against. Besides, the kids in my Monday afternoon health class had looked half-asleep for weeks. Could I? Should I? No, neither – I had a very important meeting with the head teacher afterwards, and besides, I’d promised them trees. We were going to plant Moringa trees on the school compound as the culmination of our month-long lesson about the environment. At the very least, I needed to get the damn trees out of my living room. So I groaned, velcroed my shoes, and set off.

We did a brief review about climate change and environmental stewardship, then I divided them into groups and gave them each a seedling. Somewhere between being dragged bodily by students eager to show me their “shambas” (mini-farms) and cooing politely over the ornate perimeter fences they’d constructed out of rocks and driftwood, I was smiling again. I was feeling better about my role here. I snapped a few pictures, which caused a minor drama: one of my cheekier students, a 12 year old boy named Barack, had been photobombing in the prominent foreground of every picture, whether he’d contributed to the planting of that particular tree or not. I couldn’t help but laugh as I wrestled a jembe (hoe) away from a student trying to punish Barack for disrupting their solemn groupshot. That’s why I’m here, more or less, isn’t it? To inspire students to care enough about the little things that they take them seriously, even if it’s just a stupid tree (and to protect class clowns from being hoe’ed to death by the aforementioned serious ones.) There are nine trees now growing quietly alongside a primary school. With a little luck, they’ll stick around long enough to give fruit and shade to a new generation of Kenyan children sooner rather than later. It’s not a lot. It’s not even enough. But it’s better than nothing.

In 3 days (May 26), I will have been in Kenya for one year. One very long, very exciting, very stressful, very beautiful year. It’s nice to get a tangible reminder about why I’m here.

Barack is in both of the pictures above. Can you guess which one he is?


Climate change prevention starts here.

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