Kumasi Our Life

Grit Storm


Apocalyptic is the word that kept coming to mind as I made my way up the dirt paths between my favorite produce vendors yesterday. Harmattan had returned with unusual gusto.

Between the sands from the Sahara and multiple fires, the sky was thick with smoke and grit. The charcoal plant seemed to be out of control and Bob called to report a tire fire at the Abattoir. Fortunately for me, the wind was blowing from the north and the Abattoir is south of our neighborhood but Amy and Bob were south of the Abattoir checking out the Biodiesel plant at Dompoase and so got their share of tire smoke.

Against the wind, with the wind, it didn’t matter. My eyes stung even though I kept them half closed behind my sunglasses and at one point I spat out dirt that had made its way into my mouth. I still managed to extend greetings to people I passed and we shared the struggle with closed mouth laughs. Back home, the pied crows hunkered down in the big tree and waited for it to pass. The breakfast dishes were covered in soot and had to be rewashed.

It was all Justin’s fault, we agreed. When he returned after five weeks and heard he had missed the fabled Hamattan, he was disappointed. The dusty season had indeed been short. It rained the day after Christmas and then the hot, dry dusty winds from the north moved in for a mere three or four weeks. When the skies cleared, we had trouble daring to hope that it was over.

But neighborhood taxi driver, Owusu confirmed it was over and Elodie agreed that the winds had indeed shifted back to their normal pattern. I’d not needed chapstick for a week by the time Justin got back from an epic trip to the States, India and Japan.

Salt and peppered breakfast dishes
Sooted breakfast dishes

Yesterday began refreshingly cool and fresh until the grit began to reach us. At that point, we knew Justin had gotten his wish. Harmattan had resumed and had something to prove. The raging fires added eye-stinging soot to the grit until it lay on every surface, inside and out, like a salt and pepper garnish.

Sirens pierced the thick air. I felt every bit of moisture leave my skin and my lips cried out for lip balm every hour. I wiped down a counter to lay out the produce and by the time I pulled all the fruit and vegetables out, the counter was peppered again. I mopped the office floor before Bob and Amy returned and a few hours later, when the winds had finally settled down, mopped it again. Nevertheless, it required another cleaning this morning.

The lights (electricity) and water were out most of the day but I hardly noticed. Usually it seems quieter and we long for the sound of the ceiling fan but yesterday I hardly noticed the power was off as the dirt whistled through the house. I was too buy trying to keep up with the storm to sit at my computer and reluctant to remove it from its protective towel. Amy and I chopped vegetables for dinner and covered them up. She grabbed the mop and cleaned the floors on her end of the house, giving her bedroom floor a second pass.

Eventually everything calmed down. We went out to the garden with Bob to plant beans and harvest dandelion greens. The stir fry, rice, mapo tofu and dandelion garnish Amy and I prepared were delicious and seemingly effortless due to our work earlier. The five of us played five rounds of  “Big Two” a card game Justin introduced us to and he brought out a big box of mouth watering mochi from Japan for an after dinner treat. We teased him a little about wishing Harmattan on us and contentedly went to bed.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.