My bags are packed and my tent is empty. In 12 hours, I’ll be on a plane over the Atlantic, heading back to the US. It’s been one heck of a ride.
Coming from the hyper-efficient US, it’s taken me a while to get used to a country where “I’m sorry, I have to go drink tea” is a legitimate excuse not to do something. I’ve finally figured out that “now” and “now now” have different meanings (and neither suggests that things will get done with any urgency whatsoever).
It hasn’t necessarily been easy living in Kenya. Since I moved here, I’ve been detained by corrupt police officers, I’ve contracted some weird parasites, and my tent has been invaded by biting ants. I’ve been discriminated against for being an American, for being a woman, and for being young.
But for every hardship and frustration I’ve encountered, I’ve had a hundred amazing experiences that mean infinitely more to me than all my little grievances do. I’ll never forget having cheetahs jump on the hood of my car, floating over the Mara in a hot-air balloon, or being offered a herd of cattle for my hand in marriage (which, by the way, I declined).
And then there’s the hyenas…gorgeous Sawtooth, mom-of-the-year Archer, and the loveable (but hideous) Moss. I’m pretty sure the hyenas all think of me as “that weird human that’s always hanging around the den in the white truck,” but I’ll definitely remember all their quirks and daily dramas.
I’ve also learned a ton along the way. Some of my new knowledge may be a bit too arcane to be useful (when in life will I really need to know how much an elephant weighs at birth, or how long it takes to hard-boil an ostrich egg?). But a lot of it will serve me well – now I know how to cook some fantastic Kenyan food, I can change a tire in mere minutes, and I’ve learned how to work alongside all sorts of people.
I’m not even out of the country yet, but I’ve already started to miss the remarkable friends I’ve made, the fantastic work I got to do here every day, and the unbeatable view from my breakfast table. And, of course, my unforgettable hyenas.