On the Cold

The mornings are cold. The air bites your cheeks as you wake up and see it’s light out. You roll over, pull the covers over your head, curl your legs up to your chest. You yank the covers down again, impatiently. It’s still cold. It’s still early. You go through the options in your mind. You could read in bed, but that requires your arms to be outside the covers, and then they’ll be cold. You could try to go back to sleep, but you already know that’s not going to happen.

You pull the covers up again, burrowing into the corner of the bed, toes touching the end of the short mattress, fingers clutching at both the blanket and the open sleeping bag on top of you, making sure they are doing their jobs, pulling them up and around your head, cocooning.

You can hear the construction workers not so far away blasting their music already, getting ready to work. The bass translates through to your hut. You can’t ignore it. You can hear the kids next door. The bell rings at the school for the beginning of classes, in the distance you can hear kids running around the schoolyard. Sleep is not going to come again: you know that.

You abandon your bed. You throw the covers back on top clumsily, you promise yourself you’ll make the bed as soon as you’re warm. You go outside to use the bathroom, you come back in and curl up on your couch under another sleeping bag. From one bed to another, essentially, but this one has music access.

You think about breakfast. You know that, logically, the sooner you make yourself get up and light your brasier, the sooner you’ll be warm. You ponder that thought for a while until, used up, it thins out and slips out of place and disappears. You forget what you were thinking about, thoughts wearing out and fading away again before they bother to become fully formed.

It’s still cold. That thought sticks.

Cold season has hit fast. It stops raining, the storms fade away. One last storm comes in the afternoon, crashing in in a matter of minutes and fading out within the hour. The last storm of the season would like to announce its presence. It would like to make a statement: we’re done for now, but we will be back. Back with a vengeance.

The clouds spent a week coming in early in the morning before burning off with the heat of the day, and then one night you go to bed and it is cold. And you wake up in the morning and it is cold. There are no clouds, just the cold biting your feet as you step into the air outside. And you close your window before going to bed to keep your space a little warmer at night. And you anticipate the cold coming on as the sun falls below the horizon, and the sky opens up and there is nothing to block your view of a hundred million stars lighting up your breath in the air that swiftly drops away the heat it maintained for so long during the day.

So after you get up and after you warm up and the sun is up a bit, enough to start warming the day, but it is still cold, you go out to the clinic in your leggings and with a cardigan on top of your dress. Bundled up. You think about wearing a scarf, but realize that you don’t need it. Yet. And you get to the clinic, and the sun has come out, and the sun is scorching down, and the heat permeates everything. And suddenly it is too hot for your cardigan. It is too hot for the long leggings. And you think about this morning when you were lying, shivering in bed. And you smile.

And in the afternoon you go to sit outside, but it is too hot in the midday sun, and you go to sit inside, but it is too cold with the cool of the brick hut. And you sweat and the sweat cools too fast once you go inside. And cold season cannot make up its mind. But it is still the beginning. Still just the start.

And when you drive along the roads in your bus you watch the sun rising over the trees and over the fields of grass. And the grass is drying out, getting brown. And the trees aren’t quite as bright as they used to be. And you recognize this. You know what this is. You know these colors and these winds and this sun warming the middle of the afternoon and blowing away the biting cold of the mornings. And the sun comes up, and it is day, and the cold wind blows in through a crack in the window next to you and you pull up your hood and curl a bit closer to yourself in your seat and you realize: it feels like fall.

Kids joining me on a late afternoon run down the tarmac.
Kids joining me on a late afternoon run down the tarmac.

A Day Gone By

The two goats stop outside my door to eat the chinese cabbage ends I threw on the ground last night while cooking dinner. The female crunches away at them, happy and oblivious to my presence a foot away. The male tries one, spits it out, moves further away to eat some weeds. I pause in my book. The warm morning sun, the crunching. Peaceful in its own way. Until I move, and she notices me and runs off again.

At the clinic there are crowds of people sitting outside on the ground. Groups of 8 or 10. They sit on chitenges, not doing anything, waiting for something. There’s no program today, and I would be surprised if they were all patients, but when I go inside I learn what’s going on.

“That child. You know the one with the convulsions? I called an ambulance for him,” my counterpart says. “It’s his third time here since April. I thought he should go to the boma.
The kid is two years one month old. If he goes to the boma hospital he can be treated properly for epilepsy, if that is what is going on. The ambulance was called two hours ago and still has yet to appear.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. I laid on my couch, listening to stand up on my speaker until the sun was high enough to be warm. I sat outside reading. I lit my brasier, did my dishes, made some coffee, made skillet corn bread. I ate my leftovers from dinner last night: chinese cabbage with eggs, and rice.

From the clinic I go to the school. The nutrition program that was supposed to be today has been moved to friday. I go home, sit on my couch. Eat half an avocado, some of the corn bread. Read my book. A chicken leads her chicks into my hut. They snoop around for a while before i bother to shoo them out.

A community health worker comes by. We discuss the program we have plans for. We talk about his daughter. She has finished grade twelve, she wants to learn about health, he says. He has no money to keep sending her to school, he says. We decide she will sit with us while we plan our program, and help with ones in the future. He teaches me some new words. I go back to my couch.

I think of things I could do, things I should do. I sit here. I should mend my pants, make some pillows for my couch, draw something for my wall, go for a run. I sit. Some goats come by, look in the doorway, walk away.

Nearby somebody plays music. I can hear the sounds of my neighbor starting water for baths. The music turns up. The sun fades its intensity.

A day gone by. Productive in its own way. Quiet, calm in its own way, too.

Things I Find Delightful

The baby cricket that hopped up, not high enough, and ran into the side of my pot of water with a “clink” and fell back down. It waits another minute (calming its nerves?) before trying to hop again.

The feeling of the hot morning sand between my toes as I walk to a patch of ferns to spit my toothpaste. Many times I forget to wear my shoes.

Running down the bush paths, through the tall swaying grass. Skipping to the side to choose a parallel one with better footing. Grass slapping my wrists, grass slapping my cheeks. Music playing aloud because headphones are constricting, and no one is around to care, anyway.

The way the lion on my hut stares at me, no matter what angle I approach it from. A modern jungle Mona Lisa? Just a familiar welcome home.

Greeting an amaama as I pass by her hut. She is weaving a reed mat. I stop and watch her for a while and she explains to me how she is using an old mosquito net for string. Nothing goes to waste here.

Looking both ways as I cross the river of tarmac to the tuck shops across the street. There are no cars, but it’s a habit I can’t break.

Standing on the porch of the clinic, elbows resting on the concrete railing, bathed in the mid day sun. Nothing to do but greet people as they come by and watch the kids playing by the pump.

Speaking to little kids in Lunda. She refuses to talk, even when I tease her for it. She hides in her older sister’s chitenge. The older girl smiles, answers for them both, knows not to be scared.

The goat exploring the inside of my hut leaves just as casually as she came in. No rush. Until she causes the broom to fall and runs away.

The crickets at night, the birds in the morning.

The stars. The sunsets. The early morning clouds which I mistake for fog through the window in my bedroom.

Silence which is never really silence. Sounds traveling over to me before going quiet again.

Its a long road there’s no turning back (the beginning of a great mix by DJ Luv)