dispatches aperture poste restante etcetera

By Evelyn - 6 Jul, 1999

Page 2 of 3

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On Heat

In extreme heat—if it is not what you're used to, you become it. Languid and leaden by your own sweat, you simply sit there transfixed for extended periods of time. Anything more than fanning yourself translates to work and work in heat is misery. Your brain slows and you become irritable. Every five minutes you catch yourself saying "It's so hot," as though that helps ventilate your body. And then semi-consciously, you realize you sound like a broken record, so you make a feable attempt to find variations on the same complaint: "Boy, it's hot"..."Can you believe how hot it is?"..."Is it hotter now or is it just me?"

In the mornings after waking up from bad sleep and peeling off the bed sheets, we would slowly get our things together and make our way out of Ebrima's sister's compound—Sisei Kunda—where we were lodging, to Ebrima's family's compound—Drammeh Kunda. I was with two Aries—we all walk like Aries, moving deliberately someplace. Under the hot sun with no place to escape it, we were in no hurry. Our way of walking changed. We each took on an ungainly side-to-side sway as we made our way down the dirt paths.

We drew attention each time we passed villagers. They were always sincere and delighted as we stumbled our way through the ping-pong of Mandinka salutations—How are you? Fine, and you? How is your health? Fine. How is the family? Fine. How are the people of Dakar? Fine. (And, occasionally) How are the people of America? Oh, they're fine. Pleasantries are a common requisite to conversation in the villages; when friends see each other they do a fast-forward mumble to get it out of the way.

Eventually we would arrive at the Drammeh compound where we would be directed to rest under a shaded area. And there we would sit and sweat and fan ourselves while waiting for the next breeze to come along, our eyes closed and necks fully extended to maximize the surface area to be cooled. Your standard of what qualifies as a breeze is greatly lowered. Even the suggestion of there being a breeze can make you feel cooler, if only in your mind.

Fortunately we did have respite from the intense heat. A storm rolled in our second night and we experienced our first African lightening, which is spectacular. It is silent and not necessarily followed by rain. The entire sky is illuminated against a backdrop of thatched village huts and the silhouette of baobab trees. Gregg shot video. I imagine if I shot with my 35mm, I might have actually captured a split second of lightening given how constant it was.

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The storm did not produce rain until the following day and when it came, it fell hard, clattering as it landed on the huts with tin sheet roofing. The village atmosphere was instantly transformed. Rainy season still hadn't brought much rain. Kids ran excitedly from hut to hut, drenching themselves. For us, the change was welcome. The rain refreshed our spirits drove away the flies and mosquitoes (where do they go?). In the cool splendor brought by rain, we played jump rope with the girls.





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"There are three wants which can never be satisfied: that of the rich, who wants something more; that of the sick, who wants something different; and that of the traveler, who says, 'Anywhere but here.'"
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
  © 1999/2000 ~ All systems purged.