Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Fourth Kind of Hot

The hot season I have been dreading all along--as have the locals, for that matter--is finally here, though it will get much hotter still in April. It's stifling in the house, so I keep making the mistake of opening the window--which feels like opening the door of an oven, blasting you with heat.

Outside, the heat is heady and funky, like putting your face directly over a pot of boiling instant ramen noodles, except over your whole body. Or better yet, since it's dry, not steamy, like walking into a smelly old sauna that's much too hot, and turning to go back out the door and finding it locked.

We had about 20 people over for lunch today, with the kids yelling and playing, and good conversation for the adults. Rahmane, who's from here but spent much of his 20s in Dakar and most of his thirties in Florida as a grad student, hasn't even been here for the hot season since 2000, and he says he's scared. He's going to go find some lightweight, white local shirts for both of us (he only brought jeans and black t-shirts when coming home for the year), and he's going to start wearing shorts. Jennifer told me not to bring shorts, so I brought only one pair, which I've worn virtually every day since I got here. Nobody in Niger wears shorts, and even the foreigners avoid it so as not to offend the Nigeriens. But Rahmane said that when people here see you're white, they expect you to act like a foreigner, and they've seen white people in shorts plenty of times on TV. For his part, people have always assumed he was foreign anyhow, so he doesn't care, and thinks it's stupid not to wear shorts when it's so hot.

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