Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Where has the light gone? Suddenly it seems like frail rays of light even at four in the afternoon are a bit of a miracle; the stronger hours of morning sun appreciated exceptionally.

I feel the rhythm I settle into during the winter – the tropical, mild, delicious type as far as winters are concerned – and wonder how people manage to leave their houses in Northern climates, how I ever existed as a functional person during the many cold periods spent in New Mexico.

Granted, a part of this reclusiveness might be attributed to the special sort of blues that come with too many years lived abroad in the same 'developing' place. There is an enclosing of one’s social radius, the somewhat sad crush of similarity when discussing with a new resident or with family back ‘home’ the basics of life where you live – it is no longer the exciting discussion it once was as new details were appreciated, different customs celebrated and experiences eagerly shared – rather you are jaded, too tired to move beyond the routine stories except on really marking occasions.

It is easy to slip into a shell at this phase. You likely have a couple of core friends whose contracts don't end in the subsequent six months, enough to satisfy minimum emotional needs. The city or town is as familiar as the back of a hand, and the appeal of most destinations has tarnished. It’s more appealing to stay home, with good company – or none at all – than to go out and find live music, have a beer just for the sake of it and in the process stay out until one in the morning, or go to another of an endless series of dinners at upscale restaurants that involve semi-agreeable chit-chat with at least six other parties you’ve likely never previously met. It becomes irresistibly tempting to stay in and drink a bottle of wine or three, watch trash on TV, compulsively check email, and eat Indian takeaway.

I know. I’ve been in this phase for about the last year and a half.

But I’m at least aware of it, and therefore on occasion make colossal effort to get into a social phase (only to usually enjoy being out and wonder how on Earth I could feel so noninclined otherwise). I confess to having been a bit of a social butterfly lately, meeting several new people from the blog, enjoying the occasional girl’s night, and even a proper party or two. It’s been nice, but surely part of the reason I’ve been so tired.

Then again, maybe it’s simply the time of year. Mozambique is particularly affected by the changing length of a day because it is quite far South, doesn’t observe daylight savings, and is also located at the far edge of a time zone. All factors combined mean dusk at 5:07pm (official, as of the solstice yesterday) and, in December, sunrise at a merciless 4:50am! Think about what that does to your day to have the sun burning bright prior to five in the morning…in my experience, unexpectedly, it’s been quite nice. Although I’m far from being a morning person, I am an earlier riser and in a better mood during the Mozambican summer.

It will be strange to be a ‘new’ person in the Bay Area. I look forward to being on the fresh, enthusiastic side of conversations about cities and culture again. I hope for, with time, wise eyes with which to look back upon this experience in Southern Africa. Maybe I will be able to write about the way I wish I’d been able to do while actually on the ground. I take solace in the fact that Barbara Kingsolver apparently wrote “The Poisonwood Bible” several decades after her early experiences in the Congo. When the words are meant to come, they will.

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