My “luck fern” would’ve loved this, if my neighbor’s children hadn’t eaten it.
Guess it wasn’t so lucky after all.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of my close-of-service conference isn’t “bittersweet” or “informative” or even “drinky” (a staff member volunteered to pick up our happy hour tab for the first evening, no doubt to his perpetual regret.) Instead, that word is “wet.” When I left for the conference, we were two months into the rainy season. It should’ve rained more-or-less every day, at least for a while. To that point, it had rained exactly seven times.


By contrast, in western Kenya, they have experienced hundred-year floods, including one only two weeks before that had killed seven domestic tourists hiking the gulches of the impossibly beautiful Hell’s Gate National Park. The journey to Naivasha, our rendezvous point, took roughly three days, all told – much of which I spent with my face pressed against the glass of the matatu, my features smushed, as I stared in undignified amazement.

You see, the world I had left behind was one of simmering anxiety: delicate corn shoots, hastily planted after the second downpour, were withering to nothing and dying in neat rows. Livestock with ribs like xylophone boards dug through trash heaps looking for vegetable scraps. Meat was cheap, but milk scarce and expensive; when you can’t keep your animals alive, it pays to cut your losses and slaughter them. But here, there was water in chaotic abundance. At one point, we rounded a bend and came to a place where the overflow had risen over the road. As the driver hesitated, debating if he should try to cross it or find an alternate route, I couldn’t shake the image in my head of women in one particularly hard-hit village near mine rushing from their homes and kneeling in mud puddles to scoop the precious water into storage containers with tiny teacups. I had taken shelter with my bike under the thatch awning of a grain kiosk. They hadn’t even waited for the rain to stop.

Eh. Yeah. Looks plenty safe. Full speed ahead, captain!

I’m sure I was thoroughly annoying as I frolicked nymph-like through the drizzle while all my more waterlogged sane colleagues grumbled to each other and scrambled for slickers. My roommate, a Pacific Northwester who should’ve been more able to cope, told me on our first day: “For God’s sake, if you’re that excited, take it with you. Take the rain. ALL OF IT.”

Apparently, I did. Because my first night back in my own bed, I woke deep in the night to that familiar pouring-pebbles sound of sudden, heavy rain on a tin roof. For reasons I can’t begin to understand, my first reaction was laughter, bubbling out of my diaphragm like cool water from a long-dry spring. I giggled myself back to sleep.



The rainy season is here in earnest.

Now, the choking dust and oppressive heat of the other 9 months of the year have been briefly replaced by damp days and chilly nights – which please me greatly, of course, as well as the farmers who rely on them for their lives and livelihoods. For most of my coworkers, the first patters of rain on the tin roof of the clinic were met with gleeful grins and high-fives all around — and the official “START” button on the 26-hour countdown clock until they’re complaining bitterly about the cold. Everything is temporarily back to normal; everything is as it ought to be.

Neighborhood shopkeeper, Yuda, checking on the status of his water catchment device (black basin, lower right) but refusing to come out and say “Hi.”

I keep telling them they don’t understand cold until they’ve had to pour boiling water from a teakettle onto their car doors so the locks will open, but they just laugh at me and sweetly inform me I’m full of it. IF ONLY THEY KNEW.

As for me? I’ll be over here celebrating with my chic-kabisa village threads, combining a traditional seasonal textile with a hot new “American dress style” (read: I printed a picture off the internet and gave it to the dress fundi.)

Not pictured: The front has pleats and a kind of A-line shape. It’s actually really cute. And I have some matching hammered-metal earrings that are sort of raindrop-ish? I’m going to miss being viewed as a trend-setter for my revolutionary “things that sort of match” and “last year’s Target catalog” collections. But my yoga pants in America have missed me desperately, I have no doubt.

I love the rainy season. I’m trying not to think of it as “my last rainy season,” even if I’m out of here in 50-something days. I hope I’ll be back. Someday.