Peace Corps Kenya has a tradition – which we stole from Peace Corps Thailand, who probably stole it from Peace Corps Someplace who stole it from Peace Corps Some Other Place – of the Ribbon-Binding Ceremony at our close-of-service conference. All of us who remain from our training class (we were 36, are now 26) come together in a circle and are bound together with a single length of ribbon. We stand together as the Letter of Thanks from senior staff is read and various words of gratitude are said (also, while our PPD bubbles are read by the Peace Corps Medical Officer, because our arms are already extended out and PCVs are nothing if not practical.) Then, our program supervisor come around and cut the ribbon, which must be knotted by another PCV. We will unknot it ourselves at a later date – but ONLY when we reach whichever place we consider to be home. The superstition is that it will give us luck along the way; the reality is that it will remind us where we’ve been and what we’ve done.

That’s a tricky question for someone like me, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

This year’s ceremony was performed by our Kenyan training director, who in his own words is uniquely qualified because, “[His] grandmother was a village rain bringer and [his] grandfather was the village shaman, so it’s legit.” (Tongue firmly inserted in cheek, of course.) I haven’t so much as re-adjusted the knot on mine since, and in the four weeks since COS conference it has already begun to fade and fray. I don’t know how much longer I’ll need to leave it on. We’ll see.

My supervisor is slightly scared of it, and has taken to telling people it’s a warding charm from a witchdoctor (mganga) against the non-witchdoctor witches (wachawi). Yes, witchdoctery and witchcraft are TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS. One earns the practitioner a wary sort of reverence, the other earns the practitioner a flaming tire hula-hoop. Point being: some of my friends are viewing me with a new co-mingling of awe and caution. To them, it’s representative of powerful good magic and full integration into the more clandestine elements of Giriama culture. To me, it’s a daily reminder that time is almost up on my Peace Corps experience.

34 days.

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