Saturday, May 05, 2007

The African Sky

I had seen movies and Paul Simon sang that great song but I have to say I wasn’t entirely prepared for the African skies. Especially in my part of the country, where it’s as flat as it gets and the tallest building in the regional capital is 4 stories high, the expanse of the almost-always cloudless, blue sky is remarkable. The cloudlessness makes for the days to be oppressively hot, with the only escape from direct sunlight being the shade of a tree or building, but it makes the nights absolutely breathtaking. When I visit friends in the village, and the moon doesn’t get in the way, the expanse of the Milky Way stretches out above us. Sometimes, if there’s a power-outage, I’m lucky enough to get a taste of it where I live too. My host family doesn’t quite understand my curiosity with the night’s sky, but they usually humor me.

The other night, my calendar said there was supposed to my meteor showers so my sister, Maguette and I pulled a mat out into the road in front of the house to lay there and watch for shooting stars. Well, we didn’t see any, but we had a great conversation, one of those that I hope to remember many years from now. First she told me that for her birthday (which is coming up), what she wants more than anything is a cell phone. But then she started asking me about the Earth, the moon, the stars. We lay there for a couple hours, me trying to explain space and astronomy with my usual mix of Wolof and French and her talking about heaven and God as she knew them. Like I said, there is just something special about the African sky.