Walking from the Land Cruiser tonight there were two things running through my mind:
1. If only my family could see me now.
2. This job is exactly what I want to be doing.
We are in Turkana now, and it was explained to us upon arrival that many who live here do not consider it to be Kenya. They are so far isolated, with so few resources, that when people cross the river to go south only then are they “going to Kenya.”
This morning we began the voyage north. Early in the journey we passed a fuel truck that had overturned from the incline just beyond a bridge and was now damming the river. We continued on. The potholes overtook the tarmac and we bounced and jostled over the crevices and rocks.
Emerging from our vehicle after the four-hour journey, we immediately noticed the intensified heat. Later in the evening I would notice my red-burned skin. Our first stop was to an irrigation/farming project. A few hours later we visited a goat project. I’ll write more about those later.
As we returned back to the office at sundown, I was sadly reflecting in my mind on the unimpressive list of animal’s I’d seen so far: dogs, cats, goats, a fox, a squirrel. And it was at that precise moment that Abby yelled, “Stop! There’s an elephant!!!” The massive creature was about 50 feet from our car just off of the road. We stopped and watched him watch us, then cross the gravel we’d just passed. I snapped so many photos that you could turn it into a video. Not two minutes further down the road we came upon another elephant — equally as close and equally as massive. This one passed in front of us, and as we slowly drove by he flared his ears and our driver hit the gas. We returned to the town happy as schoolkids.
After a strict 45 minute internet session, we continued another hour to the place we would spend the night — a research facility equipped with hut-shaped bungalows. We drove through a deeply gullied path into the bush to arrive at the site, and were instructed to park quite a distance from where we could see the lights. We crossed a weak footbridge and trekked towards the light in total blackness. My luggage was carried by a man who carried a spear in his other hand. We were shown to our individual huts. At first site they seemed clean enough, but I knew better than to trust the grass ceilings and inch-wide gaps under the door. First I noticed a frog in the shower. Then the very same 2D spider I wrote about recently on this blog. This is where I would be sleeping. All alone. “Okay,” I thought, “I was in the Peace Corps, I can do this!”
But I didn’t really want to. We had dinner as a group and I tried to keep myself from surveying the walls and windows for creatures. To no avail. By the time I returned to my room I was sufficiently paranoid.
And this is where I had to humble myself. May, our Kenyan guide, had generously offered to let me come stay in her hut, which had three beds. But was she just being polite? Would she be annoyed if I took her up on it?
As I considered my options a mouse crawled under the door and scurried across to the bathroom, joining the spider and the frog. There was no way I could get decent sleep in this place. And I really needed some decent sleep.
So I packed up my things, banished my pride, and walked the short path over to May’s hut. “Are you serious that I can sleep here?” “YES!” In fact, she had been debating whether to sleep with the light on or not because, we both agreed, it’s better to know what’s there than to wonder what might be.
The mouse followed me. A frog was already there. And when I entered May’s bathroom a tennis ball sized spider crawled out from the door. That’s when I felt confident I’d made the right decision to have a slumber party with May. I’d paid my dues in the Peace Corps, and she — a native Kenyan — was just as freaked out as I was by the creatures. We knew enough to face our fears together instead of alone.
May went to fetch a worker from the kitchen next door and he killed the spider and chased out the animals. Then May blocked the gap under the door with a blanket. I avoided further surveillance as I enjoyed the cold shower. I crawled into my trusty mosquito net, hovering mere inches above me. It was pitch black in the hut, but I slept well.
In the morning, the frog was back.