Even at 5’10”, I have to stand on my tippy-toes to reach the tops of most Kenyan chalkboards.


I can barely round the corner before the first one notices me – so swift, she surely must have caught my scent. I can think of no other explanation. In seconds, the horde closes in and descends on me like zombies on a minority character in an exploitative 70s horror movie, always the first to die. Dozens of them crush against me as more come running, their tiny bare feet pounding across the sand as they sprint. Each is shrieking that familiar war cry, “GOOD MORNING MADAM HOW ARE YOU,” in a shrill voice. Each is reaching out to shake my hand or grasp at my skirts. A half-dozen leap past the others and try to snatch the bag from my shoulder – a navy canvas tote with “Democratic National Convention 2008” emblazoned across a patriotic graphic, the carrier I use for field work. For a Kenyan nursery school child, there is no greater victory, no higher honor than to carry the teacher’s books. As I swat them away and try to drag myself out of the scrum towards the safety of the staff room, a single thought, unbidden and unpredicted, ricochets through my brain:

God, I’m going to miss this.


Not pictured: The 30 or so kids crowding themselves behind me chanting “TAKE THE PICTURE!” in Swahili.


I am done teaching anything in a formal school setting. I officially stepped down after administering one final exam in “Life Skills” class. By design, I am ending my affiliations well before I complete my service: my goal all along has been to train co-facilitators to teach about health and related topics, so I will pass the curriculum 100% into their hands while remaining to help them tweak it or offer them any information on topics they feel they’re not strong enough on. It’s a sedate sort of symmetry: the first three months at site we are instructed not to launch into projects, but rather handle our “community integration” tasks and develop a strong working understanding of the culture. Our last three months, we are to reverse this process. We start re-familiarizing ourselves with what life will be like when we leave our posts, make preparations to ease back into America, and observe our completed projects to see how well they can stand on their own. If we’ve done our jobs correctly, it’s like a magic trick: the table cloth is yanked from beneath the tower of Waterford crystal stemware, yet it all remains standing. If it’s *not* done correctly … well. You’ve seen what happens when that trick is performed inexpertly, right? Same basic result. A moment of truth.

So what does this mean in more practical terms? It means that my afternoons will be a little less hectic, now that the need to dart all over the district to a different school each day is gone. It means that I will have more time to linger at the clinic, doing whatever my coworkers need done. Finish up odds and ends. Attend to a few projects I’ve been putting off, like rounding out our “meet the staff” exhibit or pulling together some teaching materials on the topic of raising meat rabbits for FUN AND PROFIT nutritional support in immune-compromised or food-insecure households. But that’s less now, too. Insha’allah, the good folks around me have learned well the lessons I’ve tried to teach them these past two years.

From now to the middle of July, the days will pass slowly. With many of my direct responsibilities removed, I can’t see it happening any other way. Nor would I (necessarily) want it to. For all my whinging about the heat, the dust, the noise, the screamy children, and the centipede monsters … waning days are meant for savouring.


Start the countdown: 99 days.

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