Our clothes are sorted into dirty and clean piles (the dirty piles are considerably larger than the clean), the trash bags are bursting, and to most, our room looks like a hurricane has hit (to us, it has never been so organized). The floor is littered with journals, various charging cords, and extremely muddy shoes. Leftover masks from our Halloween celebration poke out underneath sweets and various markers. Under the beds, file folder upon file folder is crammed with children’s art. The beloved Febreze can poises at the read, preparing to refresh our room, and our lives, as it so often does. It’s leaving time, again.
Our lived-in (some might say messy, or perhaps trashed) room reflects our time in Chulaimbo – mud, hand-washed laundry, power bar binges, and a sharp decrease in our sunscreen supply. But it reflects more than that – the third bed, where Winnie sleeps when she frequently spends the night, shows the friendships we’ve made, the colored pencil shavings show the awesome drawing we’ve done with schools, and the sticker wrappers show the fun we’ve had with children we’ve met.
However the significance of our time doesn’t require over-analyzing or forcing meaning out of what, simply, is trash. Our room looks settled, it looks comfortable, it looks as our rooms at home often look. We’ve found comfort here, and I think that’s what is most important. In many ways, we are fully out of our comfort zones, or should be, but we aren’t. Our zone has grown, as cheesy as that sounds, especially with the rhyming.
As we walk down the road, we are greeted in Swahili or Luo, and respond in Swahili or Luo. Slowly, we began using less and less silverware, and now eat solely with our hands. Our knuckles no longer bleed when we do laundry. We cry during the soaps along with all the other women. We walk into a room and shake everyone’s hand without hesitation. We plan for Kenyan time, but have learned how not to waste it. When the electricity goes out, we get out our candles and feel peace in the simplicity that the night becomes.
One night, after an adventurous day in town that involved pouring rain, long bank lines, and bad matatu drivers, the three of us – Winnie, Annie, and I – sat on the bed, eating Kenyan pizza and watching The Office on my ipod. We were wet and tired when our matatu driver dropped us off, much later than we should have been home, a 30-minute walk past our stop. From our intended matatu stop, we had another 30-minute walk home. It had rained for 6 hours that day, and the roads were coated in 6 inches of mud. We walked home, eating one of the pizzas and sliding around in the mud, laughing the whole way. I’m sure we looked ridiculous – two mzungus and a Kenyan coated in mud, chowing down on cold and soggy pizza, and just laughing in the dark. So as we squeezed into the bed with muddy feet, trying to find warmth, I thought to myself “this is what it should be.”
Here we are, again, leaving behind this comfort. Before we left, I contemplated and wrote about the length of this trip – how the longevity would be good because I could go home knowing the culture and feeling the trip was complete. But now, as we say goodbye again, I’m wondering if there really is any right time to say goodbye.
What really needs to happen is a combining of the two homes: we would live in this beautiful scenery, with all of our friends and family, and would cook Noodles and Company over the Kenyan fire. There need to be more mornings of laundry done in buckets while listening to Jesse McCartney. There need to be more afternoons of trick-or-treating in Kenyan accents. There need to be more nights of bad Kenyan transportation and Dwight Schrute.