gulping down the sun

June 11, 2008

I recently got a craving for ice-cold water–fully accompanied by the desire to hear the soft tapping sound of ice cubes hitting one another as the liquid sloshes into my mouth–right before I went to bed. Although my parents’ ages are reaching the height that indicates they must awake several times during the night to relieve themselves if they take even a sip of liquid hours before their ever-earlier bedtimes, I figured that I still have half a lifetime before I encounter such problems. I poured my cup of water and grabbed a handful of ice cubes from the freezer to splash my craving to completion.

I can’t say that I recall enjoying ice water with such unprecedented fervor before spending four months living in Uganda where I had no access to ice or refrigeration, and ice water was nothing but a distant memory. While there, I found myself feverishly purchasing orange fantas to make my way through the scorching hot Ugandan afternoons (although I never drink soda in the states) solely because most places sold it cold. As I now sit in my double bed, coating my lips cold with water in the dim illumination of a lamp with a fan creating a makeshift breeze across my face, I couldn’t help but notice how removed I feel from the once real presence of the Ugandan night in a cramped dorm room with my two roommates tucked sloppily into their mosquito nets and me scribbling words frantically across a page with the aid of a book-light.

I left for Uganda at the very beginning of 2007 and was greeted by that country with its constant summer. Having altered my life back from Kampala to Cleveland through the past autumn, winter, and spring, the present returns me to summer. As I feel the warm arms of summer holding me, embracing me, once more, thoughts of Uganda permeate my skin with the rays of the sun.

I see Uganda as I turn off the air conditioning in the car because I would rather open the windows and feel the fresh (although red dust-free) air on me. I feel Uganda in the way I move when I clothe myself with my collection of skirts, having packed away all pants for the summer. I sense Uganda in my anticipation for the vegetables that will soon stand on the dirt I’ve carefully prepared in my first garden, which I decided to grow while there. I may never return to that place, but as I experience the warmth I felt there in many different ways, I learn to appreciate my close proximity to ice water and my constant assurance that Uganda will never leave me.

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