Change Jar

I’m back. I don’t know if you heard. I’m back and the transiency of Peace Corps has left me itching to move, itching to do something, or nothing, or do nothing while feeling like doing something…it’s tricky really. So I was back. Now I moved. I know, I need to call some of you and let you know that our Friday plans won’t work out now, but I had to go. I hope you understand.

I’m visiting this draft three weeks later, and I’m back. Again. In Pella. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, the world is calling (so they say), how far will you go?

“So what’s it like being home?” They ask.

“It’s pretty much the same except my stories are a little cooler,” my go to response.

I need an elevator speech now. An elevator speech to describe the last two years. It’s impossible, I had a lot of fun though. I passed a hyena, a baboon came into my house one time, the government is corrupt. Ding. Top floor reached, get off the elevator and the silence returns. There’s a tang of that awkward elevator silence, not with everyone, but enough of it to know that things have in fact changed a bit, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy to catch up. In Kenya storying is a commonly used verb. I’ll put the stories into chapters one of these days. Better start taking St. John’s Wort and find some motivation. Better find a job and pass some time.

It’s scary, actually, and growing scarier as I realize I’m not going back to teach my kids next week. It’s scary as I realize the sun went down at 4:30. It won’t come up until 7 something or 8. It’s confusing. It’s dreary and cold and gray. But I have a car. Which is awesome. The roads are paved. Which is nice. And I’m on the road again. See you when I see you, we’re okay with that.

I got a job. I got three jobs. Well, if you count doing portraits on the side, four jobs. I’ve realized why this place is so different. There’s always money to be made, no time to stop, because there’s always something else to buy. As soon as one thing is bought the next comes to mind, or they compound. When they’re all bought I won’t have many stories to tell. Nobody wants to hear about my 54 hour work week, my plans to get out again. The plan is to keep working, making and spending money. But that’s not what I want.

I miss Kenya sometimes. I miss having time to read more than a few pages of a book at a time. By the time I get home from work I’m too tired, and if I try to read at work I get through a few pages before my concentration is broken. I miss chai and mandazi at 10:30, running at 4:30, dinner and a movie at 8:30. I had time to read during the day, nothing to nudge into my space but a beautiful sunny day. I miss my kids, their comments burned into me. No need for a tattoo for this one. It’s there already.

“We’ve never had a teacher like you. You brought us from nothing in chemistry to complete understanding. You’re a dear friend and great teacher Kuti. We miss you.”

“You were a great teacher and our coach. We’ll never have somebody to play rugby with us like you, to be with us in the morning, all of us carrying each other on our shoulders. You made biology and chemistry make sense. Especially chemistry. I’ll remember your contribution to my life forever. You were the greatest teacher I ever had.”

Other’s comments I’ve lost the words, I can’t lose the sense of both fulfillment and loss. Someone’ll fill my shoes, time’ll work a wonder, but I think I’ll hold something, as will my kids, for as long as we live. There’re some things I miss about Kenya.

There’s a lot I don’t miss. A lot that jades me. A lot that I don’t want to think or talk about. A lot of stupid things that won’t change for a long time. I’ll be glued to the tv in March. The elections could affect some of my best friends, some of my family.

I’m not 100% here yet. I think it started at 50% and increases and decreases with the day, the mood, the thoughts in my head. Today I’m not here at all. I’m ready to travel again. It’s almost time for that likizo, that break after 3 months of work. I engrained that into my mind over the last two years. I’m ready to get on a train and wake up in Mombasa, be on the beach by noon.

I made over 100$ tonight. That’s enough to support me for a month, if I had to, in Kenya.

I made it in four hours.

The first time someone threw away almost an entire pizza where I work I almost cried. Not because “there are starving kids in Africa”. I know that’s true, but I don’t buy into it. It’s a scapegoat…more like there are many greedy politicians and tribal conflicts and people who want to make money off of that relief food and those clothes you donated so people are needlessly hungry in Kenya (Africa’s a big place to clump all together). I almost cried because of how much we have and how much we don’t care. I made enough to live for a month tonight. To buy food, pay rent, go out for drinks on the weekend. That doesn’t feel real. That pizza cost a months rent in Kenya. Not that it can feed anybody there. It can’t. I know that. It’s just…I don’t know. It’s been a long night, and I’m not 100% American tonight.

I have a change jar. I’m gonna donate it monthly to someone who won’t throw it away. I think that’s a good place to start.

I’m gonna start writing again. I have some thoughts that are ready to get put down on paper. I’ll start a book maybe. There’re things we haven’t talked about. Let me tell you a story.

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About Curtis Brobst

Marsabit, Kenya RPCV
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