Big Up from Aribinda

Friday, July 4, 2008

'weather' to sleep in it or not

This blog was written 4 July. Happy Independence Day people, someone, please drink a Terminal Gravity IPA for me, cool?!

This is simply a bitching-blog. I want to tell people of the hardship, the frustration I encounter with living where I do. Namely, the Sahel of Africa, that sparsely wooded, semi-desert strip of land that exists right below the Sahara. Many volunteers, including myself, often refer to it as the Sa-HELL, it is so damn hot! I like to equate it, some times, to living in an oven or kiln. Sometimes it is that unbearable.

The other night, I tried to sleep inside. Well, it hadn’t rained for two days, so the sun just beat down on the house that day. Plus, my being somewhat not with it from time to time, my cot is near a wall, which soaks up, and conversely, bleeds heat rather well. I need to simply move my cot away from the wall, but sometimes that doesn’t work.

I finally got up at 12:30. I went to bed at 10 that night. So, I tossed for over 2 hours. I finally got up and dragged the cot outside. There were bats screeching and flying overhead, other little creeping noises I don’t like disturbing me. Dreaded scorpion carriers, big spiders, crawling up on the cot with me, that nightmare stuck in my head. There are so many things that could stress me out while I try to sleep. Warm winds, ever present heat seeping from the ground and nearby walls, packs of dogs fighting, squealing, barking, donkeys hee-hawing, sheep and goats braying, cows grunting, cats crying and fighting in my courtyard. The only thing that could soothe me is the black blanket covered with stars that covers the hot earth. I finally pass out.

Eh, what’s that? Oh man, the wind has picked up. Ahhh, it’s alternately warm and cool, sand whipping through it. OK, dust storm, get your ass inside now. I get in the house and place my cot, look at the clock. Oh, 2:40 am. Maybe I got 2 hours of peace. The dust storm whips and howls outside, a few spatters of rain smack the tin roof. Will I get any peace tonight? Probably not. My eyes, dead and so red, I drearily get up for a snack of a few dried apricots. More rain. OK, good luck getting to sleep tonight. It is significantly cooler now, so maybe. The rain picks up, beating the roof. Sleeping in this din will be next to impossible. Somehow, I fall asleep. Then, I wake up at 5:30, donkeys and cows doing their thing. Man, sleeping has never been such a challenge.

With the rainy season here, the storms can be incredible. I got in the shower the other day. From there, I can see one of the granite hills. It was partly cloudy, a few sunbreaks to the west and north. I then looked to the southeast. Oh, wow, look at that wall of dust. Usually, before the rain storm hits, there is a dust storm. They can differ greatly in intensity. Just by looking at this one, it looks bad. I start to bathe, dumping cups of water over myself. Oh, I don’t have but three minutes, that thing is screaming towards me, the pre-blast cool winds picking up already. I finish quickly, the great wall of brown and menacing black clouds gathering on the eastern horizon. I run inside, grab my camera, snap a few pictures. With sand shooting into my nose and mouth, time to retire. I shutter the windows, but unfortunately, in village, no windows are sealable, you can just limit the draft. The light goes from yellow, to reddish-orange, to brown. My headlamp’s glare shows the diffuse dust flooding my house. It is so dark, brown and deep red lights coming from the mostly-shut windows. I sit there for 15 minutes, seeing the reds, browns, yellows, and oranges coming from outside. Then, a little rain, more rain, and an intense pounding of my roof. Coolness and that smell of rain, I love it. It’s misty outside, some blacks and deep grays in the clouds. Lightning rips to the north over the biggest hill, which I am just south of. Another wicked fork of lightning to the northeast, the converging rumbles of the electrostatic blasts ring in my ears. The sheep and goats huddled up close to a wall, profiting from the warmth of the wall and their collective body heat. Another wicked flash… THUNDER! I love electrical storms and this region must have some of the best in the world!

Contending with the mud and wet sand afterward is somewhat of a pain. However, it’s nice and cool, I can deal with this. Oh, man, I forgot about the bugs and their reappearance! Man, I better just grin and bear it. Nobody wants to hear my whine about it.


chris dziubek said...

Mac, your prose is par excellence! I read through all of your July 4th posts and I can now feel the hot brown liquid shooting down my leg against my will.
I am grateful for the dust hurricane photo that you posted. I never quite captured it in my limited time there last summer, and this one is going up on the desktop.

I think you should make all of the current stagaires read your stuff. THey need the reality to temper their expectations.

Reading your blog takes the regret of leaving, away.

Dabbler said...

God damn, Mac. I'm impressed. This is the first time I have read your blog, but by no means the last. Bon travail!