Ah, life in the tropics. Gets a bit hot, but at least we get the sun! Sunshine, beaches, palm trees and blue, blue skies.
That’s how you picture it, right?
A friend posted a beautiful holiday photo the other day, and it took a moment to dawn on me what was so appealing about it.
Across the top of the photo was a clear blue sky, and I was jealous.
(Not just because the sky was over Carcassonne, meaning history, culture, good food, good wine, and zero mosquitoes.)
Because we just don’t get blue skies here.
During the summer holidays I was posting photos from the north of Scotland, and getting comments from Congo-based friends saying ‘Look at that blue sky!’
And when friends who were home in Canada posted their photos, my eyes were drinking in the expanse of azure.
Here in Congo, the skies are more often than not overcast, making the heat seem more oppressive. On brighter days the sun pushes through billowy clouds with the occasional glimpse of colour, but I’m more likely to wake to an all-encompassing sheet of dull grey above.
Unless it’s peak rainy season, then a deep slate-indigo blue, appealing in its own way, hovers over town until the violent rainfall comes with its dramatic lightning storm and flash floods.
Even when the clouds do part for a ‘clear’ sunny day, the blue is filtered by the haze of humidity, like a thin sheet of tissue paper is constraining the atmosphere. It’s a pale non-committal blue, and you know it won’t last.
This is one of those small things that is reassuring for me to realise, because it helps me put a finger on why it’s hard to feel comfortable here. Pointe-Noire is a grey town. Yes, many buildings are painted vibrant orange or recently-fresh white, but those are outnumbered (or if not outnumbered, then dominated) by the looming concrete of construction and abandoned construction projects. The dust is grey, not red, and then there’s that oppressive heavy sky.
So I laugh when people tell me Aberdeen is the grey town; the Silver City, where the granite sparkles in the sun under clear empty skies. (Not always, yes, but more often than here!)
Of course, in Pointe-Noire, when rainy season comes, you can find bursts of green and tropical flowers, while all year round people dressed in vibrant pagne, the local name for African wax fabrics, liven up the streets.
But I’m looking forward to the day I can trade that in for clear, fresh air, and those blue, blue skies.