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Jane Davis | A return to Africa

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Mazungu! Mazungu! HOW ARE YOU?” This familiar greeting by curious children clamoring to get our attention as we stop at a makeshift shop before heading north toward Nanyuki and our home for the next few months makes me smile.

It welcomes us back to Africa, and although these children will only ever know us as foreigners and never our names, I know that soon we will be creating a life in a community where children will be heard shouting “Jayna — how are you?” or better yet “Jambo Jayna….Habari?” for she will have become a friend.

The drive to Daraja Academy takes approximately four and a half hours heading north along mostly highway that is heavily traveled.

If it were possible, Nairobi would swallow you whole as it seems like hours before we are finally spit out of the congestion and pollution that defines the city. The drive meanders through sprawling townships that cling to the outskirts of the capital before dissipating into picturesque villages lined with fields of maize and soon rolling mountains covered in banana trees and coffee plantations.

This lush valley seems to immediately come to an end and the land turns more arid as we creep closer to Nanyuki and ultimately the equator.

Nanyuki is an unassuming highlands town where you can stop on the equator and watch as a small stick placed in water spins through a funnel clockwise when standing north of the equator, counterclockwise when south of the equator and remains perfectly still when directly on the equator.

Nanyuki will be our nearest town with amenities such as banking and shopping for the next few months and by December the town that is now foreign will no doubt be familiar. Passing through Nanyuki we continue north another 30 minutes before reaching Daraja Academy and what will be our home here in Kenya.

It is 4 p.m. when we arrive at Daraja and we are greeted by the volunteer coordinator S.J. who takes us straight to our banda to unload before our orientation to life on campus begins. Home is Banda No. 4 and it is a round hut made of a variety of materials, but coated in red mud and covered with a thatched roof.

Inside we find a double bed and a bunk bed that makes Jayna squeal with excitement, an odd chair made of rope and a broom made of twigs. A small bathroom is attached and Jayna is thrilled to note that taking care of business will not require her to squat over a small hole in the ground — we have a toilet. We are informed that the water is not potable as it comes directly from the river and with one turn of the facet a stream of brown tinted water flows through which will no doubt be a constant reminder.

The shower is run on solar so the best time to bathe is between 3-6 and the generator which provides the campus with power only runs from 6-10 p.m.

I feel myself being transported to my Peace Corps days and smile and shake my head — who knew at 40 I would voluntarily return to live in such a simple way? I am transported back to the current moment when I hear humming in the main room and find Jayna busily unpacking her luggage and adding her own personal touches to the banda. Karibu — we are home!

Wenatchee native Jane Davis and her daughter Jayna are in Kenya this fall where Jane will be teaching at a girl’s school. She can be reached at janesharpsharp@hotmail.com

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