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The Sun Will Yet Praise Him, SheLoves

Today I’m writing over at SheLoves with The Sun Will Yet Praise Him.

What is summer like, for real, in Djibouti?


Annie Dillard can describe heat and light and the curve of a leaf and the legs of a moth with stunningly intimate detail. I read a paragraph in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, underlined it and said, “How does she know?!” How could she know exactly what summer was like, what heat was like, what the desert was like? She challenges me to practice descriptive writing.

One example (with my scribbled note):

“There is nothing to catch the eye in this flatness, nothing but a hollow, hammering sky, a waste of sedge in the lee of windblown rocks, a meager ribbon of scrub willow tracing a slumbering watercourse…and that sycamore.” Has she been to Djibouti? Change the sycamore to an acacia and voila.

And this:

“It is the time of year when a honeybee beats feebly at the inside back window of every parked car. A frog flies up for every foot of bank, bubbles tangle in a snare of blue-green algae, and Japanese beetles hunch doubled on the willow leaves. The sun thickens the air to jelly; it bleaches, flattens, dissolves. The skies are a milky haze – nowhere, do-nothing summer skies. Every kid I see has a circular grid on his forehead, a regular cross-hatching of straight lines, from spending his days leaning into screen doors.”

Who can read that and not say, ‘yes that is summer’?

Beware Dillard fans, this is nowhere near her brilliance. It is stumbling in the dark and it is a feeble attempt to enter you into our Djiboutian summer and at the same time have you say, ‘yes, that’s what summer is like’ whether in Canada or Djibouti or…

Here’s an excerpt:

The city is quiet, the days heave. The library closes for July and August. Water and electricity cuts increase. Bunches of bananas hang over empty tables at produce stands. Then the bananas are gone and the vendors drape burlap sacks over the tables until September. Parks open only after dark. There are no empty parking spots at the airport, few available tickets out of Djibouti. Rows of empty seats on airplanes coming to Djibouti…


photo by Paula Eve of Frame the Story

Read the full essay The Sun Will Yet Praise Him here at SheLoves.

I Tuck My Dress Into My Underwear

I tuck my dress into my underwear.

Its that time of year.

The time of year when my face is perpetually shiny and light-colored clothes turn yellow in high sweat spots. The time of year when my hair never seems to dry (in about a month, the air will be so dry my skin will crack and bleed. Please don’t say: yes, but it’s a dry heat. People who live here don’t say things like that. Its 122 degrees of dry heat). The time of year that candles melt without being lit and tires explode and gum turns into liquid in the bottom of my purse. The time of year when sweat drips down my cheeks and back and butt simply from standing in front of the wardrobe and choosing the least hot bottoms, the least yellowed-armpit shirt. The time of year when sometimes I feel like crying but stop myself because its too hot.

This is the time of year when I tuck my dress into my underwear.


not tucked in – meh

Because, at home, I wear a shiid. A cotton Somali housedress, mumu-style and brilliantly colorful. Shiids are billowy and loose and thin. I’m supposed to wear a golgorad underneath, a floor-length polyester slip, but that defeats the purpose because, well, its polyester. Hot. Sticky. If I leave the house in my shiid, I’ll pull on a golgorad. Shiids are fantabulous because they double as hand towels for drying, rags for wiping tables, aprons, and in Somalia at least, they doubled as Kleenex. Wrap finger in shiid, insert into nostril, dig around. Or, farmer blow onto the floor and wipe leftovers with shiid. Who me? No, never.

Shiids are so billowy and loose that I could fit two or three of me inside one and they drag on the floor and trip me up, get caught on toy cars or thorns. But they aren’t meant to be worn frumpy and straight, they are meant to be tucked up under the waistband of the golgorad.

But wait, I’m at home. I’m not wearing a golgorad. Ah, but I do have a waistband. Voila, I tuck my dress into the waistband of my underwear.

much better, right?

tucked in – much better, right?

Somali-style hips in place, I can now practice my sway. Now my house helper says I look beautiful (it helps that by sheer luck, I purchased a quite fashionable material for my new shiids, usually I’m a few years behind Djiboutian fashion trends). Now I have easy access to material for wiping my shiny face or butt sweat. Now, I have a dress tucked into my underpants.

What time of year is it where you live?

Let’s Talk About Heat

You know how you feel this Fourth of July week, Minnesotans? Sticky, wet, tired, cranky, exhausted? A Walmart cashier said to me, “I think this heat is making people crabby” after someone yelled at her for forgetting to ring up my watermelon, which in fact, she had not forgotten to do. I don’t want to make you feel bad, this is hot. I feel hot. And sweaty. But I’m still going to ramp it up a bit for you, just for kicks.

So…pull on long pants or a long skirt, a shirt with elbow-length or longer sleeves, drape a full-body length black thin cloak over yourself, put a scarf either on your head or around your shoulders.

Turn off the air conditioner.

Remove most of the shade-giving trees and all of the cool grass.

I’m serious, turn off the air conditioner.

You may turn on a fan from 9-12:00 in the morning, 1-5:00 in the afternoon, and 6-7:00 in the evening. Tomorrow you might be able to turn it on all day, depending on the electric company. Here’s to hoping, although the fan pretty much only feels like blowing a hair dryer in your face anyway. For the hours when the fan is off, try not to leave damp handprints on the pages of your book, drip sweat into the lunch you prepare, or attempt to wrap presents. The tape won’t stick.

Try to move as little as possible while teaching English, grocery shopping, house-cleaning, running, overseeing homework, playing football (soccer), cooking, developing small businesses, learning and using a foreign language, and cultivating relationships.

Let's Talk about Heat

Forget about that cold shower you’re day-dreaming about. The temperature of your water is solar controlled, meaning by the actual sun. Meaning there is no cold water.

At night, move your entire family into a single bedroom, the floor may resemble one large mattress. This is okay. Go to sleep. Try not to step on anyone or wake anyone up with your headlamp, coughing fit, or middle of the night bathroom jaunt. You may (finally and with great joy) turn the a/c on to sleep but turn it off and on at alternating 1.5 hour intervals throughout the night to ensure no one gets a complete night’s sleep and to ensure that you are all either shivering or sweating.

Now, remind yourself that this is early May.

This is the beginning of the hot season. There will be no ‘cooler’ days until late October, the temperature will only rise for the next six months.It is going to get hotter and more humid. Until it gets less humid and extremely more hotter. You don’t care that “extremely more hotter” is bad grammar. That’s how you talk when it is 120 degrees, heat index passing 140, you are wearing a black cloak, and no one in your family or nation has slept through the night since April. You say ‘I don’t care’ about a lot of things.

Welcome to Djibouti.

How are you staying cool this steamy summer?

By |July 6th, 2012|Categories: Djibouti Life|Tags: |12 Comments
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