Peace Corps Writers
The Fireflies of Kalai (page 4)

The Fireflies of Kalai
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     “Aimee, what about your trunk?” I say.
     “I’ll be back for it.”
     I open my mouth to protest, but then just nod and follow her out the door.
     We visit the other Volunteers’ sites farther down the Trans-Caprivi highway. All along the way, I scan the bushes lining the road. Once, I see an illusion of a soldier jumping out from behind a tree, his automatic rifle aimed at our truck, his eyes wild. I gasp, jerk, and nail my head on the window. The others laugh uneasily and tell me to think about other things. How do they know what I’m thinking anyway?
     After our last stop, we head back down the B8 highway. It’s nearly evening. I stroke Nia’s nose through the bars of her carrier. She purrs. The officer at the Red Line waves us through. We connect to the Trans-Namib. We leave the Okavango for good.

SHORTLY AFTER PEACE CORPS evacuates from the Caprivi and Okavango regions of Namibia, the Angolan civil war turns west and heads to other border areas. More Volunteers are evacuated from these regions. Peace Corps continues to recruit new Volunteers, however, and places them in areas farther away from the border.      The Angolan civil war rages on for another three years, finally coming to an end in April 2002, with the signing of a cease-fire treaty by both the MPLA and UNITA. This is the first period of long-standing peace in Angola since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975. By the end of the 27-year civil war, it has been estimated that over 1.5 million lives were lost in the battles. One and a half million fireflies in the night.

IN MARCH 2005, I send Aimee an instant message to see what’s new. We’ve seen each other a few times since our Peace Corps tour, the last time being my wedding two years ago, but we keep in touch regularly by e-mail and IM. I tell her that we should take a trip to Namibia. For closure.
     She writes, “It just doesn’t feel like it’s finished.”
     I don’t know what has happened to my host family. Their e-mails stopped about a year ago and the local post is unpredictable. The last time I heard from them, Chipo tells me that Rundu is back to normal, like the battle had never happened. I pray that they are well.
     Masatih sends me a random e-mail whenever he can get his hands on a computer, probably in one of the government offices. In his last message, he asks me when I’m coming back to Namibia for him. I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’m married now. Maybe it’s not fair that my life has moved on when life in Rundu persists as it always has under the tireless desert sun.

TODAY, AS I WRITE THIS, Nia sleeps under a purple azalea bush in my backyard in Hong Kong. Some days, when she crazily digs up spots in the dirt, I think about the times when she kicked up and rolled in the hot Namibian sand and ran around the compound more brown than black. I think about the times when Masatih bought her dried fish from the market and appeared after dark at my window, only his smile visible through the screen. I think about the children running barefoot around town, and my own feet that became so calloused and cracked that I could run around barefoot too. I think about watching both the sunrise on the way to school and the sunset with Aimee in the evenings. And when I sit on my balcony overlooking the slow moving waves of the South China Sea, I think about the Okavango River. But all I see are stars.
     This is now my life.


Christine Taylor accepted her Peace Corps assignment in Namibia three weeks before her graduation from Drew University. Skipping the ceremony, she began her service as a teacher-trainer in the Basic Education Support (BES) project in conjunction with USAID. After her interruption of service, Christine returned to the United States to teach ninth grade English in an inner-city district in New Jersey. Two years ago, she moved to Hong Kong with her husband Sean who is an assistant professor in Human Resource Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Christine works as an English language and literature tutor in a local learning center.

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