The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I know I
haven’t written in a while, and I apologize for that.
So, what happened in the month of November? Lots of things. For starters, the harmattan started in November — a Tuesday, in fact. Quite literally, we had rain and humidity on a Monday, and woke up on Tuesday morning to cottonmouth, a not-unpleasant chilliness, 3% humidity, and the gray dust of the Sahara in the air. For about thenext 2 months, we’ll have that, and then we’ll be in the dry season.
The harmattan makes for fast drying of clothes — I can dry a bath towel on a clothes line in about an hour — and covers everything in a fine layer of greyish-orange dust. Dusty roads get even dustier, the vegetation dies back, and everyone gets the cattagh.
What is the cattagh, you ask? Well, think back to the last time you swept your garage, attic, basement, or someplace equally dusty. The air filled with dust while you swept, right? And then your mouth and throat got covered in a film of dust and dirt, which you either hacked up or spit out. Make it a bit less intense, and draw it out over 2 months, and you have the cattagh. It’s kind of odd; on the one hand, you’re hacking up loogies all day, but on the other hand, it’s socially acceptable to pause mid-conversation and go “SNKGGGH!
HOOOOOOOOOCK. PTUU!” And the cool weather in the morning can quite enjoyable.
Ghanaians take the harmattan in stride, like they do with just about everything else life chucks in their direction. In fact, they almost seem to relish the challenge. People dress more extravagantly, and the color white features prominently in the wardrobe of anyone who is not traveling. And in the mornings, people actually wear stocking caps and parkas (yes, I declare shenanigans, too) to ward off the cold. It’s almost as if to say “What? That’s the best you can do?”
One thing the harmattan does do well is kill computers. Specifically, the dust and the heat kill the already old, worn-out hard disks. Thus, solid state media like USB sticks and CD-Rs are your friend — no moving parts to get infiltrated by the dust, and wonderfully tolerant of power fluctuations that come with the heat and the dust. I’ve been working on deploying something called thin-client computing in my lab, which basically lets me eliminate all but 1 hard drive, but I’ll write more about that once I’ve ironed out all the kinks.
Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Until next time…