I see Africa here sometimes. When I’m on a walk and there’s a gravel road with wide open spaces and just a few trees here and there, growing up out of the dry ground. There are no leaves or anything, just mesquite bones reaching for the sky. They remind me of baobab trees, but of course not nearly as tall and majestic, or as ancient as kings.
I’m told to watch for rattlesnakes here (by people who have lived here their whole lives), so my eyes dart left and right the whole time, always on the lookout for snakes. Only here I’m on pavement most of the time, so looking for snakes is much easier. And there are no land mines, so that’s a plus.
The wind is hot, and summer is about six months long, so it feels like Africa when I’m outside. I feel like wearing skirts and tank tops and a thick headband to hold my already short hair back. But AC exists here, making denim shorts and a shirt with a cami, and even jewelry, doable. Speaking of shorts, you can show your legs here in America! If you want to. Knees and thighs aren’t nearly as sexual as they are in West Africa where they must remain covered, preferably under a fun patterned wax print. Although on the flip side, I have yet to drive downtown or by a field in Texas and see a topless woman. But then again, we’ve only been here a year and a half. (Fun fact: In Guinea Shawn coined the acronym ATBO “Air Them Babies Out” because of how many old topless grannies we encountered.)
There’s one really chipper guy at church who asks more than just, “How are y’all?” He asks about the week, baby, and if she’s teething yet. I feel like I’m in Africa with a greeting like that. And I like it. I’m chilly during the service though (that AC thing again), and the service wraps up before 2pm, so I’m reminded that I’m not, in fact, in Africa. Although things I miss also remind me I’m not in Africa. I miss the spontaneous testimonies where someone just has to get up and declare that God is good because this happened during the week. I miss the over-the-top energetic, give-it-your-all clapping (with a triple beat), and the dancing because we can’t hold still with the joy we’ve got.
I feel sad sometimes, thinking about the world, the globe, and the need that spreads wide throughout. It’s hard to have seen it, lived with it, and not think often of it. Maybe that’s why I see Africa here.
Africa is one of my home away from homes. It was for six years. So I like to find things here that remind me of there. I’ve always been that way with my various homes. When I was living in Cap Skiring, or Quebec, I found little things that reminded me of Colorado, or that cool mountain (lacking in oxygen) air.
A friendly smile, a goat on the loose (it happened in our neighborhood recently), a power outage, a hot afternoon where I dream of fall, a tree growing on the horizon, I see Africa there. I miss seeing babies on backs, eating mafé (although Shawn made some last year and froze it, and I discovered it in the freezer yesterday, so it’s on our near-future menu), seeing kids run out to greet us when we arrive in a village, hearing drums, or cheers when someone scores a soccer goal… but living here in West Texas I’ll take the little reminders I can get of one of my home away from homes: L’Afrique.