Tuesday, February 24, 2009

L'eau de l'étranger

This weekend, someone was explaining me the right way of receiving visitors. When someone comes to see you, the very first thing to do is to give them something to drink. This is called “l’eau de l’étranger”, or the foreigners water. Only after having offered your visitor this is it allowed to inquier about the reason for their visit.
I found this quite illustrative of two important points: the nature of the climate here, which is sure to make you arrive thirsty. But also a simple but strong recognition of importance of water before all else.

Monday, February 23, 2009


In the beginning I was here I thought I heard my name being called by all who I passed by. I heard sarah, sarah... It was so strange. Once, when children called out to me, I asked them how they knew my name. They just giggled. Then I had an idea. I looked up the word for ‘white person’ in Moore, the local language... and sure enough, that solved this riddle. Nasara is the word for white person, and the cause of my confusion.

the weather

Everybody keeps asking me if it's really hot here. The answer: yes. But it's also really cold sometimes. The past month the temperature dropped to 12 degrees some nights, and that's cold if the daytime is around 28 degrees. We slept with blankets, and sweaters, and huddled up. Desert nights can really be cold!
Then, suddenly, it turned hot, really hot. Bedtime temperature: 33 degrees. These differances are tough on your body, especially if you're used to slowly warming up after winter and gradually adjusting to cold when summer's finished (also known as spring and fall). Here, the heat jumps on you.
After the scorching week which followed the cold month of January, this morning I woke up to a whirling wind. The Harmattan has arrived. It whirls and swirls, lifting the red desert dust to taint the sky pink. Now and then a mini-dust-tornado passes by, its funnel lifting the dust, and plastic bags, and bits of paper, and everything else in its way, high into the sky.
One day I came home from work, and the area around my house looked like, well, yes, a hurricane had passed through: all sorts of garbage, leaves, dirt, dust, plastic... everywhere. It doesn't surprise me that this wind carries the red desert dust all the way to Europe sometimes. Next time your bike/car has a light red layer of dust, try to image where it came from and how it got there!

The colour in the picture is not off...the red is all dust...

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