Contrasts

It seems that each day I find something new that reminds me how hot it is here. The other day I found my main tube of toothpaste, which had been lost in my bag since Bamako. It must have experienced thermal breakdown; if Colgate saw the way it flows here they would not have called it paste. Then last night my bucket bath was very hot to the skin (kind of nice) and the cook insisted it had not been heated. Though I may not experience a single cool sensation until I board the airplane, I am finally starting to acclimate. Maybe my lifeguard days of stubborn rebellion against air conditioning are paying off. Last night I slept straight through until dawn and today I have more typical energy and focus. At 2 pm it's still too hot to work, so I have a chance to write. I remain in Inadjatafane and will be based here until Sunday. In a place where landscape and culture seem to blend so harmoniously, there exists strong elements of contrast: a single figure floating across sand with no starting point or destination or source of water in sight, a pool of water persisting improbably into the driest month, or an elephant browsing from a tree with domestic goats and donkeys passing in the foreground. But the greatest contrast here in Inadjatafane must be me. The other afternoon, returning from the field in one of the project's two white Toyota pickups, we passed a Toureg child who jumped and ran to hide behind a small acacia. Elmehedi told me the child had never seen a vehicle. So what must people here think of me with high-tech cameras strung around my neck and a digital camera that can capture and display an image instantly? Or a computer that allows me to share photos made in the field on the same day? Or a satellite telephone that sits beside my head while I stand in the open and talk to myself? In a place not yet corrupted by material culture, I feel somewhat heavy under the load of my life's complexities, not to mention the weight of my gear. There is a lot for the western world to learn from the strength and simplicity of the people here.View new photography at www.carltonward.com