Thursday, 23 July 2009

Speaking of the weather

You'd think it would be oh so cliche to talk about the weather now that I am in England but the weather is an important variable for me. I mean, it is one of the most discernible differences between Liberia and England. 

I have gone from five years in tropical climate where it rains for half the year and does not for the rest to a place which actually has four seasons. Having basically only two season in Liberia - well maybe two and half as there is a subtle coolness that descends thanks to wind sweeping down from the Sahel around December and January something which we fondly call the harmattan - gives one a different perspective on time.  Time moves differently in such a place. Having four seasons again here - we also get four glorious seasons in Pakistan and relish each one - was kind of nice. Time seems to be in a bit of rush with the four seasons. I guess time seems to march quickly here. 

When I first got here, I severely missed the sun in Liberia, the lush greenery, the warmth and of course, the sense of community. It was already October when I got here and, it was pretty grey and drab. Or to put it in other words, quite depressing. Nevertheless, it was still nice to experience having to wear warm clothes again, to have a real excuse to drink hot chocolate and to see London paralysed with the freak snow storm in February. The setting of the sun at 4 pm threw me off though - you'd have the night start at that time and your mind and body want to go to sleep. 

Spring was sweet though. I live close to Putney Bridge and it was just nice to take a walk around there. It was like seeing the earth awaken. The same walk during the cold weather was like walking through a frozen wasteland - nothing seem to be alive.  I forgot what bugs looked like. The trees were poverty-stricken bare. No greenery in sight, not even a leprechaun, not even a single cloverleaf, no nothing. Well actually that's not true. My walk takes me over the Hammersmith Bridge which is an eye-sore kind-of moss green. The first time I saw it, I was 'whaat the green monstrosity is this.' I mean, it is a friggin green bridge with some gold decorations to top it off. It is a giant green bridge! GIANT GREEN BRIDGE. GGB. 

Oh I came to Great Britain to do a Great Masters and Great Britain is full of Great Green Bridges.  

I personally believe that trolls live underneath it. So that was green. But not enough to beat the winter blues. 

The skies were miserably grey. But the whole place seemed to be a little more biologically alive in spring time. It was quite sweet and there was some beautiful flora and fauna to observe and enjoy. 

Summertime has been even more delightful. There is no evidence whatsoever of the miserable-Charles-Dickens-kind-of-depths-of-despair-won't-you-kill-me-please-depressing London any longer. It was amazing how the locals just threw off their clothes in joy. The parks became beaches - literally! You'd see everyone in their friggin bathing suits enjoying the sun. I mean, anything that even resembled a park became a beach. It was quite amusing to see this spectacle. The tube people - haha, the tube people - started making suggestions that now that it was hot, it would be advisable to carry a bottle of water around. Well, after all my road trips through some of the worst 'roads' in the rainy season and some tough bush in Liberia which used to make me car sick among other things and of course, that 12-hour ride through the desert in Balochistan where I was boiling which I will never forget, I can take anything. These tube rides are a walk in the park, baby. 

Well jokes aside, it did get quite stuffy in the tube - you'd think being such an advanced country they'd have air conditioning. I am used to slightly hotter and more humid weather but it did get quite balmy a few times. And one more thing, the longer days! They threw me off too. The sun was up at 4 am or even earlier and did not set until after 10 pm. That messes with your head, too. It is the whole northern hemisphere thing. It was the same when the family lived in Kazakhstan - we had really long summer days. But otherwise, it is nice to see a pleasant, green and happy London. It is a completely different city. Puts you in a good mood and I may be wrong, but it seems everyone around is also pretty happy.  

The weather is but one of the differences between the part of Africa I lived in and England but so critical. It seems the two places are entirely different planets. Like I said earlier, it seemed like nothing was alive here in the winter. And, it seemed like such a harmless and safe - hence boring - environment to me. The environment in Liberia itself is something which people have to struggle against. The bush out there is no weakling bush. Trees out there are real trees - majestic and huge. The greenery out there needs no excuse to grow where ever it chooses to grow. When it rains, it pours for months at a stretch and makes the tracks and roads virtually impassable. The millions of dollars spent by the World bank on road rehabilitation in the country will probably only last another year because the bush is going to grow back and another rainy season will make those roads slush and uneven again. During last year's rainy season, I think entire communities in one of the areas of Monrovia got washed out. And let's not forget the sun - even at the height of the London summer, the sun out here does not compare to the sun out there. You might as well call it a moon. Everything is so pale compared to the climate and scenery of the Africa I have seen. The soil is red - here is it a dark brown. And the sunsets! 

I guess I have really thought about the differences in climate, the trees, the bugs, the weather from my time in Liberia and here in London. I have enjoyed having the four seasons again and seeing time move the way it did. It was amusing to see the parks of London become urban beaches. It has been nice to see happier Londoners. Musing about the weather and my surroundings also made me think how the ordinary Liberian really has to struggle against the weather and the harsh environment that is made harsher because of poor infrastructure. I do also look forward to going back to warmer places, fantastic sunsets, real fruit and a real sense of belonging to my fellow man and woman.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post! It's funny how one can't NOT talk about the weather in London - it overbears and overpowers - especially those dreary, grey, suicidal-thought-inducing winters. And having become so used to discussing the weather almost all the time in London, it's funny to be in Bangalore right now, where the weather is so perfect you hardly notice it (apart from rejoicing about it from time to time, when you recall London). Still, I'm missing London and look forward to being back in Autumn - although I cannot bear to think about the cold dreariness that would have set in by then! Funny dichotomies.

    Glad to make your blog acquaintance. Hope the Green Monster grows on you to the extent that you stop noticing it :)