Sunday morning was the first morning since the Giants games started that I woke up before my alarm, ready to run. About 30 seconds down the straightaway after the Daraja gate, a snake in the road stopped me mid-stride and sent my heart beating in a craze. It was fairly small, or at least normal-sized, and green on the top with a brown-grey underside. Further investigation showed a trail of ants crowded around a laceration on its stomach; the snake was certainly dead.
I continued running along the eastern Daraja fence, and could not help thinking of the snake as a sign. The last time I saw a dead snake was in a graphically vivid dream the night before departing on my Visionquest (a Marin Academy rite of passage where we spend three days fasting, alone, in the desert) about me slicing off the head of a cobra with a shovel. In the past couple of days before this run, I had become increasingly irritated with myself as images of home would flash through my mind frequently. I didn’t feel quite homesick, but often I would find myself thinking longingly of downtown Mill Valley, my favorite salad at Comforts (gosh, it’s been a long time since I have eaten a salad!), or riding the ferry with friends. And while I will always love and appreciate those memories, the constant reversion of my mind to familiar places impeded me from being totally present in Kenya. I tried to imagine this frustration flying over the Daraja campus and inhabiting the body of the dead and soon-to-be decomposed snake. I said a stark goodbye to living in my head when, instead, I can interact with the girls, appreciate the scenery, and surrender myself completely to living in the Kenyan culture.
A Masai man standing with hand extended interrupted my thoughts. His other hand possessed a staff, and he had the traditional red fabric garb of the Masai draped over his shoulders. “Habari asabuhi?” I greeted him, extending my hand to meet his. “Mzuri sana,” he replied. “Wapi?” he asked – his simplified (for my sake) way of asking me where I am from and where I am going, “Daraja?” “Ndiyo, ninaenda Baraka.” He asked something, ending the question with “…mbaya?” (Is anything bad? Is anything the matter?) “Hapana,” (No,) I replied. “Hapana mbaya.” It may not have been correct Swahili, but it represented how I felt, now. Nothing bad. Nothing the matter.
We continued in opposite directions. My path ventured through something like a cactus-tree forest, and circumnavigated the hill adjacent to Daraja. I did not remember longingly. I did not dwell. I observed and appreciated. I ran through a little Masai village on the Nanyuki-Dol Dol road, shaking the hand of a excited little kid and greeting his mother. Then, my path turned back towards campus as I ran downhill on the road, eyes on the white Daraja rock gleaming in the morning sunlight. Two green birds flitted across my path. The natural landscape of the bush spread out in front of me from my uphill vantage point. I ran home without thinking of anything except how happy I felt to be running in beautiful Kenya back to a school of girls that I love and care so much for.