Monday, January 15, 2007

Harmattan Blues

While we were galavanting on the opposite coast of Africa, the Harmattan descended with a vengeance.

It had started, mildly, before Christmas, but it gently ebbed and flowed and we didn't think much about it.

But around New Year's Eve (a kind of "Welcome Home" gag gift from nature) there was no doubt that we were well and truly deep into the 2007 Harmattan.

It usually shows up in December and blows itself out by March. Last year's was a non-event and don't think we weren't grateful, but apparently we weren't grateful enough, because this year we're gettin' nailed.

Plenty of people will be glad to tell you (and me) that it gets a lot worse (and actually, it does), but it quickly turns into the sort of conversation you can have with anyone from the upper Midwest about the "Blizzard of 19__". You know, when you walked to school barefoot. Uphill both ways.

So let me just say that the Harmattan, any Harmattan, is messy.

This is a picture of a ten o'clock sun out my bedroom window...

By mid afternoon, once the wind had kicked up a little, this was what it looked like...

That's a straight on picture of the SUN, no filter, no nothin'- just the air and sky and what feels like half the Sahara desert.

Aviation all over this chunk of Africa is disrupted because the visibility is so bad. Nigeria has suspended VFR flights into Lagos to avoid the inevitable crashes of the past, and two of the major airlines have had to cancel flights or return to the airport here because the blowing sand was just too dangerous.

The air is so dry it's hard to even describe it, and I spent ten years shriveling up in the Mojave desert. Trust me- that's damp by comparison.

Our back door won't stay closed because the wood has shrunk enough to misalign the latches. We have to use the sliding dead bolt to close it.

We are getting static shocks off metal for the first time EVER in Africa.

The dog's butt hair looks like he was electrocuted.

My skin is in dry flaky overdrive, always a good look for an older woman.

The cars are covered, inside and out, with a fine grit.

My bare tile floors are dusted with a layer of North African sand.

The pool is turning a lurid mossy green from the amount of particulate matter it's collecting with which the filter is unable to cope.

And until we returned to Accra to find it in the throes of a full blown Harmattan, we hadn't realized how much of our time here is spent outdoors.

So next time someone tracks snow into your dry, static ridden house...remember- it could be worse!

It could be the Harmattan!