The other day, I came across a piece of paper on which I had written some thoughts one hot and stormy night inside of my hut. Since I still have a 3 month gap in my Gambian experience, I thought I'd include this as a journal entry on my blog. This was written on May 25th... towards the end of the hot season, when the sky first begins to cloud up and rain becomes a sudden possibility. This is one of the hardest times of the year in The Gambia. After 8 months of no rain, the dust and dirt in the air is at it's worst, and after 3 months of oppressive heat, everyone is ready for a change.
It's 9:30 p.m. The winds picked up about an hour ago, and I was forced to retreat inside my hot hut, shutting my windows and both doors. I've been lying down, trying to read and sweating. I got up to look at my thermometer. It's still 102 degrees F in here, but at least the temperature is going down. It was 108 degrees earlier. I've been getting up periodically to brush the dust off my body and take a broom to sweep off my bed. 3 weeks ago, we had our first rain of the season, and it started just like this... with lots of wind, which blew the dust around frantically. If I step outside, I can barely see my hand in front of my face because the dirt and dust is so thick. So I put up layers of plastic above my bed a week ago, anticipating this next rain. I'm glad I did. Even though I still have to sweep the bed off every half hour, it's better than the last time. It felt like someone was just standing above me, showering me with grass and dirt. I hope the plastic holds up ok - even with all the doors and windows shut, there's still plenty of opening for wind, rain, and dust to enter. But I guess that comes with living in a mud hut that has a grass roof. I'm hoping the rains will come soon. It will at least allow me to open the back door and let the breeze come in for a while. It's amazing how the rains clean out the sky and all the dirt in it. With the exception of the first rain 3 weeks ago, it hasn't rained here since October. It is now the end of May. Over 7 months of dryness can collect a lot of dust. I remember when going "inside" was actually like another whole world from the outside if you wanted it to be. If it was hot, you could turn on a fan (or maybe even AC). If it was cold, you could turn on the heat. If it was rainy and windy outside, you could listen and watch it all through the window while you sat safe, cozy, and dry. Here, "inside" is not a whole lot different than outside (except about 15 degrees hotter at the moment). It's really more like a shelter than a house. You still get a little wet in the rain, you can't control the temperature - you can just feel better knowing you're more sheltered than if you were outside.
It's interesting to read this now, after being home for over two weeks. The other day, I had been inside for most of the day. Later in the afternoon, I stepped outside and was surprised to see that the ground was wet because it had rained. I never even knew it. There are certain things that I miss about spending most of my day outside. I miss looking at the stars every night. I think I've only looked at the stars a few times since I've been back, and there wasn't really as much to see either. The Gambian sky is quite beatiful at night. And while it's strange to feel slightly disconnected from nature, even though the only thing separating myself from it is a few walls and a roof... I definitely enjoy being able cool myself off when it's hot, and never worrying that I may be woken up by rain and dirt falling on me in my sleep.