Like a battalion of timeless sentinels, the rolling Kangari Hills silently stand watch over our village. Baomahun is completely surrounded by hills, it’s like being in a bowl; every direction one looks there they are, the alluring deep blue-green jungled hills. I miss my beautiful hills. Yes, I call them mine and I’m so blessed to live in them. Regardless of season or time of day they are just plain beautiful. I miss my home in the hills.
It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been back in the States over four months. Lately I find myself stuck in a strange “slough of despond” as I see no quick end to the separation from Stephen and our beloved Sierra Leone. There the rains are over and it’s now Harmattan season when winds from the vast Sahara Desert, our close neighbor to the north-east, bring cold nights and blistering-hot days. Soon the the humidity will drop to 10% and the day time temperatures will soar to 103 (F); soon the very air will be choked with sand and dust creating a surreal yellow-tinted landscape shrouded in “Harmattan haze.” Though the dry season is harsh, it holds a loveliness like none other; enchanting, even mystical. I miss it.
As wild and unchanging as the hills are the people of our exotic, remote environs. Lately I find myself missing the sweaty, musky, smokey smell of the kids who cling to me as I go through town. I miss the soggy embraces of my dear ladies, their work-weary eyes brightening as we meet, their enormous smiles greeting me; smoke from their endless cooking fires an inseparable part of who they are. I miss it that smell. With their fingers laced in mine or with an arm slung through my arm as we walk African-pace through town, time seems to not matter as we enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes there’s not much said, it’s just about being together. I miss that too.
By the time I left Sierra Leone these common social gestures were forbidden; banned due to the high risk of spreading the Ebola contagion. We would greet by bumping elbows or, as with the children, knocking fists in a closed “high-five.” On occasion we’d hastily sneak a hug, furtively glancing around to be sure no one was watching, giggling like school girls who got away with something. Greetings are a very important thread in the cultural fabric of West Africa; never to be rushed, they can and do take time. The new methods of greeting aren’t so conducive to the familiar lingering so people are awkward and unsure of what to do next.
It’s taken some time for this high-strung, time conscious, slightly neurotic New England girl to slow down and enjoy the pace of life in West Africa but I have to say – – I miss it.