Past Camp Lemonier (the American military base), past the golf course (where you are provided with a strip of artificial turf to use as your ‘green’), past the containers-turned-misery-housing for non-American employees of Camp Lemonier, past the towering heaps of garbage, is nothing.
Okay, maybe not nothing. Black rocks and amber dirt and thorn trees. Dust devils and camel trains. The border with Somalia.
And a hill. Some say it is an un-exploded volcano. It is also covered with black rocks and amber dirt and thorn trees and the day after Christmas we decided to explore it. We’d never been there, so we’d better go there.
The car couldn’t make it all the way so we parked in the middle of that empty nothingness and walked. Saw the summit, almost lost the car on the way back, looked out for snakes, saw a couple of hyenas, tried not to roll ankles, felt the wind on our faces and the hollow silence of being alone. Five Joneses in the desert.
A week later, there were three. Two flew over the black rocks and amber dirt and thorn trees to greener, taller, colder hills in Kenya.
Now the house has that same hollow silent feel I sensed on the hill.
When all three kids are home I know what to do. Cook, play games, drive the family taxi, remind people to shower, listen, tease, pray. When two are gone, I don’t always know what to do.
And so now I realize that the new pattern of life is three months of not knowing what to do and then getting down to it to numb the hollowness (REI work, writing, language study, visiting friends, phone calls to Kenya, parenting one delightful lovely…) followed by one month of knowing what to do (bake like mad, stay up late, listen, play games, read books to each other…).
I’m not sure I like this new pattern.
But we are not a family who sees an unclimbed hill and leaves it unclimbed. We are a family who marches into the unknown, looks out for snakes, and climbs it. This new pattern is a hill we’ll climb together and we’ll figure out how to summit it, how to feel the wind on our faces, how to enjoy the view.