The first tinges of light appear around 5am. The sun doesn’t rise for another hour, but still the dark is pushed away into diminishing shadows as a pink glow fills the Eastern horizon. The air is cool and still in the early hours and the birds and crickets chirp away in their daily greeting to the sun. The sun is earlier now than it was in the cold season and farmers blink sleep for their eyes as the trudge to the fields before the sun can bake them in the coming day.
The air has a scent of something hot and smoky and choked with dust. Farmers burn their fields and work bare-backed to break the soil for the coming winter planting season. Everyone is preparing for rain. The sunrise burns fast and brilliant through the morning haze and the air gets hot and stifling by 10am. The shadows offer a moment of cool respite, but the trees are losing their leaves and the once tall fields of maize are dried and burnt and gone. Shade is hard to find. Village dogs lay idle in the shadows of houses, tongues lolling out. Sweating children swat a flies and carry their school bags above their heads, trying to block out the sun.
The afternoons are quiet. Everyone stays on their compounds as slaves to the shade sweating through the menial tasks of food preparation: sorting beans, stripping pumpkin leaves, stirring hot pots of nshima. The normal chatter of households is swept away in the hot, dry afternoon winds that scour the soils of moisture and toss dried corn stalks high into the air. The sun bakes the once-gurgling streams into a silent, sullen trickle and the shallow wells go dry. The afternoons find Ya Miyos walking further and further with their buckets perched on their heads, beads of sweat stinging their eyes, each searching for clean water. Even the insects are silent in the oppressive heat.
The sun grows long in the sky and as it begins its descent, the world awakens from its heat-induced stupor. Children run past my hut laughing in the last hours before dark. The air cools and the weight of the hot air lifts from the lungs of people and animals alike. The night chorus of insects begins to tune their instruments and heat-worn parents fix the evening meal for sleepy children. The sunsets are spectacular, bedecking the trees with a semi-alpenglow of sun colors; oranges, reds, and long, lingering pinks silhouette the acacia and their long lines of ants crawling amongst the thorns. Night settles the dust and wind and the cloudless night sky shines with a thousand desperately twinkling stars. The dark is blessedly cool up in the Mbala highlands. The world is resting, preparing for the rising of another sun in the morning.