Standing at the front of a room full of trainees, describing the goals and responsibilities of the Diversity Peer Support Network

I was asked to provide some assistance with the new training class, who will take their oaths of service next month. For this reason, I found myself back in That Dusty Training Town, only to find it not dusty at all – green, flooded, muddy, replete with things growing and an omnipresent scent of rain.

In my long absence, this minute, insignificant village that appeared on few maps has become a thriving border post with an immigration office, cellular tower, and several flawlessly-paved roads. In some ways it is so unfamiliar now that, at one point during our dusk approach, I turned to the driver of the matatu I was in and asked, “We’re going to Loitokitok, right? This is the correct road?”

The views of Mt. Kilimanjaro remain nonetheless stunning, though, despite the obscuring rain.

The word “nostalgia” was first coined in the 18th century by combining the two Greek root words: nostos, meaning “homecoming,” and algos, meaning “pain” or “grief.” So literally, it refers to a palpable distress associated with homesickness, although in the 20th century, it became more associated with the vague longings of classic car commercials and the return of the peasant blouse. An unfulfilled desire, sure, but a source of fondness as often as – or more often than – genuine discomfort. It is this was that I have felt about my first few months in Kenya and the place I lived when I first began my adventure. But as I considered the conflict between aspects of my return that were powerfully memory-evocative and those that inspired an unsettling sense of rank unfamiliarity, I found myself wondering: can a place still be “home,” or still in any way worthy of nostalgia, when so many of the elements that made it what it once was – people, experiences, in many cases the very paths we walked – are conspicuously absent?

But I’m certain that I’m overthinking it. Enough remains the same for me to have no choice but to love this place, in its own way. I was able to visit my host family for the first time since my own training; my arrival was largely a surprise. The slow transformation in my Host Mama’s face when I stepped through the door, from a momentary lack of recognition, to flickering shock, to shrieking glee, was more than enough to overwrite the curious same-strangeness of my day.

My host mama, modeling the kikoi I brought her as a gift from the Coast. I’m on the right, in my Peace Corps t-shirt.

Home is what we decide it will be.

My host sister, Peri, holding my host brother Nelson’s 7-month-old son. So … my host nephew, I guess? “Auntie Meg” has always had a charming ring to it.