Saturday, February 14, 2009

Snippets of a desert life - My morning commute

It's early in the morning - not much past sunrise. The light is still golden, the shadows cast by the acacia trees are long. I slip on my still-dusty sandals and walk out the green gates on my way to school.

Just out of the gate, I head down a slight slope to cross the bone-dry river bed and note the black-headed goat that always seems to graze there. Minding the nail-like thorns on the ground, I pass a hut or two, chickens running around the edge, the smoky smell of chai drifting from the kitchen huts. Goats bleating, iridescent blue swallows singing, I pass the houses and arrive at the airstrip.

The acacia-lined air strip is really one long stretch of cleared desert, rocks and sand forming swaths of white and red under a moon still high in the sky, despite the morning blue. My landmark are the dozen or so tanks of jet fuel - red, green, and blue steel drums just lying there under the shade of a large tree.

As I walk up the airstrip, I keep my eyes open for the turnoff to the school - a 'road' that consists of nothing more than two tire tracks heading off into the distance. I can see the school in the from here - at the top of the hill, the morning sun hits the white walls and it nearly glows. I cross another riverbed, dry and sandy, and pass the wells that line the banks. Round concrete walls surround the holes that go deep through the desert rock. No animals are there right now, but I've been told at some times during the year, the place is alive with people and camels drawing water and drinking deeply.

Winding my way up the hill, I note the hoof prints in the sand and revel in the cool of the morning. It will not be this way for long. My skirt blows around my legs and whips my hair as the never-ending desert wind whirls around me. Off in the distance I'll often see huge columns of dust kicked up over the distant desert.

I arrive at the school compound, marked only by large rocks painted white. A Rendille woman carrying firewood for the kitchen greets me, and I make my way across the school yard, ready to begin my day.

11 comments:

Jean said...

how descriptive!! Can't wait to read more and how school is going!!!

anne said...

Love it. Different from your former route to work, eh? :)

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Your "commute" to work sounds peaceful and lovely.

Petra said...

Thanks, Hillary for this wonderful description. You stirred up so many memories of my childhood in the East African desert during my parents' missionary days - memories I thought I had forgotten. =) Much love and positive wishes from the other side of the world.

heather said...

wow. love this! what a change...

Kris said...

Your writing is wonderful, your trip sounds amazing. I always look forward to your next story! Thanks for sharing :)

Rebecca Grey said...

Hey Hillary! Just want you to know that you're missed here at home but it sounds like you're having an incredible time - every day an adventure :) I enjoy very much reading your update!

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nachtwache said...

It reads like a novel.
No worries about dangerous wild animals on your way to the school?