Living on an island off the coast of Kenya had me feeling a bit like Robinson Crusoe.
I’m lying in bed, every muscle aching from the day’s work, but sleep eludes me. Flashes of bright light followed by a whip-crack of thunder keep me awake. The torrential downpour and strong winds outside do well to illustrate the awesome power of the wet season on this tropical island. I inch to my left, further and further away from my shutter-less window, trying to avoid the spray of cold rain that has soaked half my mattress and sheets. With my back to the storm, I curl up into a tight ball to conserve body heat, like a bear in its wintery den. I must get some sleep. Shivering from the cold and wet, I lie there, listening to the sounds of the monsoon rip the island apart, as I wait patiently for sleep to come.
Two months into my Kenya conservation internship, and still every second was as abruptly new and exciting as the last!
At this point in my journey, I was living on a small island called Wasini off the coast of Kenya and conducting marine mammal behavioral surveys and reef fish species identification. Yes, for a brief moment in time, my job was to swim in coral reef and watch fish! 🙂 Hiyah!!!
I lived in a very rural house made of coral-rag and rebar and filled with bunk beds and two drop-toilets. It was the wet season and it rained… every… day… When the sun was out in the afternoon, we’d do laundry and hang our clothes out to dry, it would rain overnight, and we wore wet clothes to work in the morning. Like clockwork.
At sun up, we loaded the boat (which we bailed periodically throughout the day, cuz of the leak), and headed out to a marine park 45 minutes away to go snorkeling in the coral reef and look for fish. The data we gathered helped indicate the health of the reef and whether or not overfishing was affecting the area. This was a cool job.
After being out all day and then inputting data in the computer, my friends and I would gather at a hotel banda to drink warm beer and watch the sunset over the channel. This was an incredibly beautiful moment. As if swimming with outrageously colored reef fish, Green sea turtles and numerous species of dolphin all day wasn’t cool enough, we got to kickback in sofas on the beach, feeling the ocean breeze and dozing to the sound of waves gently lapping against the rocks. I loved this!
But somehow, after the novelty of adventure wore off, and I had a silent moment to myself, I would wear a puzzling, uncomfortable countenance. As if I knew there was something I was ignoring about myself. Something important. I’d head for bed, my furrowed brow and tightness in my chest hinted to this emotional undertone of my entire experience thus far. But before I could define how I was feeling, I would fall asleep, only to wake back up for more adventure.Dolphins, sea turtles, runaway emotions. An Island in the Indian Ocean #Kenya #mentalhealthmatters Click To Tweet
The humid, lazy afternoon gave me the opportunity I’d been looking for. No one was watching. I slipped off property and made my way through the trees for a secluded spot. As I walked, I choked back tears, exhaustion and a pain I couldn’t describe. I then reached an old building and sat down behind it, shielding myself from the volunteers, from the staff or anyone who could find me. I just starred at the ground, my head hanging very low. “What is this?” I was sadder than I ever remember feeling.
I couldn’t put these emotions into words. I just needed to be alone. “God please let me be alone, I need time to think. I need quiet. I’m desperate for…” Not even five minutes into my silent and confusing reflection period, shouts came through the forest. My friends were calling my name, looking for me. FUCK, JUST GIVE ME A MOMENTS PEACE!!! Anger swelled inside me, tears threatened to rage and my blood curdled from stress as I listened to each passing foot step, my friends getting closer and closer. “What the hell is happening to me? Why am I so upset?”
It was too late. I shoved that inexplicable, terrifying moment of insecurity deep down, hiding it from the world as I greeted my friends. We walked back to base and talked of the major End of Expo party coming tomorrow and how drunk we would get. This excited me greatly on the surface, but below, where no one could see, this saddened me to no end. And I wasn’t sure why.