Take an unfortunate event, double it, add hunger and thirst, and set it all just before sunset. What does that yield? I ignore your skepticism and declare it a recipe for awesomeness.

What was the unfortunate event? We popped a tire. Twice.

The first tire popped in front of Ewaso Primary School in rural Kenya. Ewaso was the final school of the day; we had already been out for seven hours visiting five other schools. We would begin teaching lessons the following week, but that day we were just there to meet teachers, check in on the essay competition, and discuss the huge conservation fair/show taking place in three weeks' time.

Our job over the next eight weeks would be to organize and teach the Conservation Clubs, an experiential-learning program that teaches kids about plants, animals, and why their environment is worth protecting. Ewaso was our last introductory visit. The teachers warmly welcomed myself and the other three interns after Nancy (our coordinator) had made introductions and pointed out our tire predicament. While Jackson (driver extraordinaire) worked on the tire, we were updated on the state of affairs at Ewaso and told that the students wanted to meet us. The kids sang for us and asked eager questions about the US/us; they laughed when I told them that animals at home were very rarely taller than waist high. By the time we left the classroom, Jackson had replaced the tire and was ready to hit the road again. We set out for Mpala (Research Center, our home for the 8 weeks in Kenya) a few minutes later, happy to have avoided a delay.

The second tire blew about an hour into the trip.

There was no way to tell the exact culprit that had caused our misfortune; perhaps a sharp stone or a particularly deep pothole. The roads in Kenya are awful, so it could have been either. We didn't have a second spare. We couldn't drive the rest of the way with an extremely flat tire. We had more than an hour left to drive. We were stuck. So, we pulled off the dirt path near a cluster of houses to wait for a tire from Mpala. We had no choice but to sit and watch our long day get longer and longer.

People from the houses came out to say hello as we piled out of the truck. The men gathered around speaking Swahili with Jackson as he removed the second tire. The women watched from afar. A few kids ran out to greet us; I played with a boy from the village. He was maybe 4. I would raise one eyebrow, he would raise one eyebrow. I would raise both eyebrows, he would raise both eyebrows. We would laugh. We didn't speak the same language, and probably had almost no common experiences, but we had fun and thus the time passed quickly. Maybe an hour later the spare arrived. I waved goodbye to the boy as Jackson drove us back toward Mpala.

Despite a relatively enjoyable pit stop, by this point I was very ready to be home. I had run out of water, I was sunburned, and I was hungry. As the sun descended lower, however, I realized that our misfortune might have been a blessing in disguise. The sunset that evening was beautiful, and we were still on the road when dusk fell. Dusk is the best time to see wildlife. Looking back, I think that we had saved all our luck for dusk: yes, we popped two tires. But on the comparatively short stretch of road from the village to Mpala we saw impalas, elands, kudus, zebras, wild dogs, elephants and a leopard. It was spectacular. I forgot my fatigue and hunger as we parked behind a pack of wild dogs that had taken over the road in front of us. And I definitely didn't remember that I was thirsty as we reversed to follow a leopard slinking along the road behind us. Two popped tires gave me the most astounding, breathtaking, incredible experience I've ever had. I can't quite believe my luck.

~ Alex Wheatley '16