Hapana mbaya.

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.

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5 Responses to Hapana mbaya.

  1. Jessica says:

    Your ability to recognize and acknowledge your frustrations and your determination to move beyond them are so inspiring (and I know that sounds really cheesy, but it’s really true!).

    So much love

    Also, I hope you’re keeping a journal of your dreams throughout your travels. I’ve been noticing some interesting things in my own dreams here, and, knowing you, you’ve probably had some vivid ones too!

  2. marjorie says:

    …but don’t feel you need to overcome distracting memories, because living in the present doesn’t necessitate forgetting the past – your present self is indeed the sum of all your past experiences (how’s that for cheesy?). Mill Valley, Comforts, the ferry, etc. miss you too! And all of us here miss your company enjoying those things! I can’t wait to see you again! In the meantime, keep running, building, enjoying those amazing girls, etc. Lots of love as always….

  3. tycoon says:

    today i ran for more than an hour for the first time in quite some time. it definitely reminded me how much i had been missing it, and you. it is nice to have everything fall into place so much more easily when you hit the road (or dirt in your case) on foot. as liz always says, you’ve run with your head and your legs, and now this last mile of your adventure is all about running with your heart… so keep it up and leave it all out there!

  4. Grandma says:

    Cheesy or not, I agree with your other “post notes”. It is a delight to watch you grow in age and grace, and your Mother and Dad had lots to do with that! All of the sum of our past experiences make us who we are, for good or for ill. Who is in charge when they are all away? We can’t wait to see the pictures!

    Love, GMa

  5. Carmen says:

    Cora, it’s not bad to feel homesick. For years I always longed for my home country in January (why January I do not know), and then why do you think I spend hours making dulce de leche, quince paste, filled crepes… Take care I love hearing about your adventures.

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