Outside my window, it’s hot. 31degrees and high, high humidity following a short blast of rain. I’m lying on my bed with the window open, and the electric fan on full-bore to try to shift some of the glutenous air around the room. I don’t think I’ve felt any natural breeze here at all, only those generated by hard-working oscillating fans. Even in the poorest of homes, you will find an electric fan – without one the humid heat smothers you like a blanket.
A couple of dogs flit past. With my angle on the bed I only see only a flurry of legs but I know these guys nonetheless. There’s a gang of strays that roam the streets around the birthing home; probably all related given the colourings and size. There’s a pregnant mama amongst them, she’s slower than the rest and can often be seen tongue-lolling, sitting at the door of the birthing home. Perhaps she is waiting for a check up?
Outside my window I hear distinct ‘chirp-chirp’ that is becoming a familiar sound. I glance up and see a small yellow gecko creeping across the window mesh. The windows here are not just glass like at home, they have an exterior metal grill with mesh inside to prevent mosquitoes and provide security in a country where open windows are a necessity except during rain showers. The gecko stops wiggling for a minute and I try to sneak up for a closer look – I’ve yet to capture one in a photo – but he runs away before we get eye to eye. Shame, I’ve come to love these little guys; they are often seen inside the birthing home snaking across the labour room ceilings.
I roll over and try to concentrate on my book. I’ve read this paragraph at least three times now but only seem to realise it once I’m well into the second sentence. Not that it isn’t a great book – but the heat is slowing my brain and my concentration. I feel sleepy, so drop the book on the floor and close my eyes. I’m just drifting off when I hear children singing “Happy Birthday To You, Happy Birthday To You...”. How sweet!
But hang on- my birthday was days ago now...
My brain catches up again. We hear this song often drifting out of the orphanage – it works like a wake-up alarm many mornings. The law of averages tells me there is little chance there are actually that many birthdays close together at the orphanage, so I’ve decided it’s just an English song the kids know the words to. The little voices are so cute as they sing with all that toddler exuberance, then with a crash, someone has thrown something and the voices die down as the culprit is chided and the victim’s tears are shushed by one of the caregivers.
Outside my window I see one of the neighbourhood cats slowly skulking down the stairs - perhaps it was startled by all that noise circling above? Every cat I've seen so far has been skin and bone - SPCA material back home. They even move differently. It’s like each step is a labour, a carefully weighed up cost-benefit analysis of energy expended for food gathered. And I have yet to see one with a full length tail – they are twisted, knotted, stumpy things surely no cat could be proud of. In fairness, I am impressed that these guys are even surviving – they belong to no-one and get by on scraps chanced from the rubbish. We put out our food scraps behind the apartment each evening, and it is all gone by morning. Last night we saw a mama-cat hungrily gobble our chicken bones, and then carry a piece to the corner of the garden and leave it there... sure enough a tiny kitten popped her head through the fence and slowly savoured that little morsel. How these cats survive, never mind carry kittens and raise them is beyond me.
I close the windows – shutting out the busyness. I’m tired after a long night assisting at a birth so I’m going to use the heat as a sleeping pill.
The noises blur.
Outside my window.
The noises blur.
Outside my window.