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As the gauzy haze of sleep slipped back, the first thought that scuttled across my Larium-addled dream-brain was that I had just born auditory witness to a murder. It was not the sound of my alarm that woke me, but rather a choked cry from the hallway of “I LOVE YOU! GOODBYE!” This was swiftly accompanied by a crunching THWUNK noise, followed by the sound of dragging something large and inert. Like a body. Or, as it turned out to be, an enormous duffel bag.

I wonder why people are saying their goodbyes already, I mused as I came to my senses, it’s only …

6:15.

I was supposed to be meeting my group at 6:30.

ACK!

Despite my alarm’s best efforts to sabotage my departure, I made my bus with plenty of time to spare. I passed the time before we embarked partly by listening to PCV Lorenzo play guitar and partly by chatting in Kiswahili with a newspaper hawker. Imagine my surprise when I opened one of Kenya’s national dailies, The Standard, and found a picture of myself. WHAAAAT? There was an unnervingly large media presence at our swearing-in yesterday; it’s shocking that out of the hundreds upon hundreds of rapid-fire pictures taken throughout, they chose a seriously unflattering photograph of me cracking up laughing because we all messed up the oath. Hrm.

It was even more surprising when a handful of random Kenyans on my bus to Mombasa asked me for my autograph. I laughed it off and used it as an opportunity to talk about the work the Peace Corps does, which wasn’t explained in that particular paper. It was, however, described in greater detail in the front-page coverage the event was granted by another national daily, The Star. Kumbe!

The bus ride itself was quite pleasant. I mostly dozed, waking occasionally to find that my supervisor had once again thoughtfully left some snack or other – roasted nuts, carrot juice, bottled water – in the seat pocket in front of me for consumption at my leisure. A lot of PCVs were anxious about their community counterparts before this week’s workshop, but mine’s pretty awesome. He pointed out landmarks and large mammals when he thought they would interest me, and together we worked a crossword in the Daily Nation to pass the time. As the road unspooled gradually towards our day’s destination, the landscape shifted notably. What began as scrubby acacia trees and distant peaks quietly gave way to arid copses of baobob trees. I’m a huge fan of those trees myself, but seeing them in such great number (and at the near-total exclusion of other large plants) was simultaneously compelling and a bit eerie. As we neared the coast, groves of mango and coconut began to overtake the view entirely. The land flattened to soft sand hills with distant glimpses of the Indian Ocean. In what seemed much less than the actual 8+ hours it took, we were in Mombasa.

Before I had even made it to the sidewalk, I was swarmed with cab drivers, goods hawkers, and street children. I barked at them in Kiswahili and they buggered off – for the most part. One unflappable man asked who I was waiting for, told me my ride wasn’t coming, and insisted he would drive me to my destination in one gasping breath. “COME, I TAKE YOU,” he said emphatically, helping himself to a handful of my jacket sleeve. I countered by throwing an arm around the nearest male PCV and telling him in polite but firm language that I didn’t need his help. My colleague had to repeat the message before the guy got it.

But before I could really start to get frustrated, the evening call to prayer started and came echoing down the street. Instantly, my sensory memory conjured Damascus at dawn and twilight sails in Zanzibar. Something in the base of my neck unclenched. I breathed in the city that will be a satellite second home for the foreseeable future and felt a thrill just to be standing there.

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting ranking officials and community poobahs before finally, finally, finally making it to the place I should (inshallah) call home for the next two years or so. Then I can begin to unpack, to brush up my best Kiswahili, and get down to the business of doing what I was brought here to do. Although what that is, exactly …? We absolutely shall see.

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Just got my travel information from the official Peace Corps booking agent folks. It’s looking like this:

Monday, May 24, 7 AM: My flight leaves from Albany to take me to KingofPrussia, Pennsylvania. STAGING. Overnight.
**Next Day**
9 AM: Bus to JFK
4 PM: Flight to Zurich, connecting flight to Nairobi
**Next Day**
Land in Nairobi, spend a handful of days there getting various safety/health/training briefings or whatever, then jump on a bus to TrainingTown. (Which is an actual place, not called “TrainingTown,” but I’m still undecided if I’m going to post the name on the internet.) It’s something like an 8 hour bus ride if nothing breaks down. Then, 3 months in training, Swearing-In Ceremony at the end of July, and onto the big solo adventure …

AAAAH I’M JOINING THE PEACE CORPS!!

I’m still way more excited (and consistently excited, not into the pre-departure rapid-cycling waffle of emotion that most people experience imminently before a big change) than anything else. I have my packing list, although I’m sure I’ll tweak it pretty much up to the second I check my bags in Albany. Except toiletries, I already have or have on order (new shoes!) everything I’m going to need. I have more paperwork to finish, but nothing due before staging. I’m right on track. On schedule. Cleared for take-off. Good to go. But I can’t shake the feeling that time’s rushing by just a *little* too fast for comfort … meh. Onwards and upwards.

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Yours truly