Friday, July 20, 2012

Now entering the time warp

At the risk of adding salt to a wound, I must confess that when the heat waves are sweeping the U.S., we have enjoyed positively beautiful weather here. Every day here is like springtime. December, January, and February were hot. But they weren't even Arkansas-hot. It was dry, and the red dust billowed alongside the matatus (muh-TAH-toos: 15-passenger taxis), while fine rust-colored powder coated furniture and floors and children. But the temps hung only in the upper eighties and low nineties. And aside from those months, aaaaah. Mid-seventies and low eighties. The rainy season began in March and this year, hasn't completely ended; it's supposed to start again next month. Though I've heard November is wet, right now, there are no typhoons of rain like I expected; just peaceful rains. I really like this country.

But it's also weird to have this blissfully cool July, with kids wrapped in blankets at the breakfast table, feel so much like March did. In this nearly seasonless climate, there's also little fanfare for holidays. Because we're an international office, we don't have days off for American holidays, though Ugandans do get Ugandan holidays off. (In all fairness, we take a few weeks off at Christmas, and schedules are flexible!)

The stores obviously don't celebrate American holidays. There really are no decorations or sales hype or advertisements or lightpole banners or anything that suggests holidays and seasons. I did see a large billboard with a hijab-clad woman, advertising styles of modesty for Ramadan. But there were no "Kiss me, I wish I was Irish" shirts in March, no Easter baskets stuffed with basketballs and weird-looking bunnies in April, no "Don't forget Mom!" reminders in May. When my mom e-mailed to tell me that fireworks in Arkansas would be a felony "tomorrow," I thought tomorrow? Well, my goodness! That's the fourth of July! Better get out my America books for the kids and dig up some hot dogs and potato salad.

The Ugandan school year is entirely different from the U.S. school year, and the homeschooling families are often marching to the beat of their own furlough-driven drums, or schooling a little through the summer. So there are no aisles lined with dirt-cheap pencils and kid-safe scissors right now. Mzungus notice the Ugandan school year most when school fees are due, and nationals get desperate for work. Or bribes. One friend of mine noticed that on a trip before school fees were due, he was stopped by police officers at least every hour on his trip; on the way home, after the payment date, he wasn't stopped once. Coincidentally, I haven't thought of marking the seasons with bribes before.

In October, the month of that first snap of fall--also known to my husband as chili and sweatshirt season, when he rubs his hands together in sheer delight--may strike us with a big wave of homesickness. Only the calendar, Facebook, and some American headlines remind us what "should" be happening about now. Christmas will find us in tank tops singing songs about dashing through the snow. Kind of a weird time warp--but there are, of course, worse things.


Ruthie H. said...

I so identify with this post! I forgot about the 4th this year until I was invited on the 3rd to a barbecue the next day. However, I don't miss the "commercialization" around any holiday that we find in the U.S. But, it is hard to remember it's Christmastime when you're wearing capris and sandals. :)

Soaring High said...

It would be very weird! It's like getting hit in the face with a 2x4 every time you walk in the store here! School stuff came out a couple of weeks ago and the kids frieked out. I told them it wasn''t for another 6 weeks. It was just after the 4th!