Harmattan is upon us, for some time now (a dusty wind from the Sahara that blows toward the western coast of Africa during the winter). Dust gets into everything. You sweep and scrub the floor in the morning, only to see your footprints in the dust on the floor by late afternoon. My office desk and computers are coated with this dark red dust as well. When the computers are not in use, we cover the whole desk with a dust cloth. It helps, but it still requires a daily cleaning.
Things are so incredibly dry too. This dry breeze blows in mid afternoon, we have not seen rain for almost three months and will not see a drop for as many more. You sweat, but your shirt is never drenched, because it evaporates so fast. Despite the dust, it brings much cooler night time temperatures too, and we welcome the change.
“Nobody can prepare for the harmattan by drinking plenty of water.” (African Proverb, Ghana)
As dark sets in, the traffic picks up in the town with people heading home. The extra rush hour traffic stirs up the dust sitting on all the roads, forming a great cloud that rises and settles over the whole town. Driving the motorcycle through this late evening dust fog is terribly hard on the eyes. For some reason the nighttime dust is painful to the eyes. I do not have any goggles, but I do wear glasses, although that makes little difference.
A few nights ago, we were driving home in the dark around 9:30 pm, returning from a friend’s house. I was squinting my eyes shut as much as I could, but I still had “sandpaper eyes” after the first kilometer. My eyes started to water from the dust and dry air, and the watering eyes only made it worse. I kept blinking so I could see through the tears and dust, but I thought I was going to have to stop because I almost could not see anymore and my dust filled eyelids were scrapping my eyeballs like sandpaper.
You can actually feel the dust peppering your skin and coating your skin with a gritty feeling as you drive the motorcycle. I have actually left red scratches across my forehead from the dusty grit, as I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand. The grit scrapping across my skin.
Until you have experienced the harmattan, it’s as difficult to understand as it is to explain.