Memories of Africa

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Africa assaults the senses.

The liquid breath of heavy rain-forest air and the endless scents inhaled non-stop. From the sharp smoke of a brush fire, to the sweet scent of frying plantain, to the musty smell of the house you live in. In Africa the nose never really gets a break. 

Skin constantly moist with humidity. Dust between the toes. The warm body of a stranger pressed against you in a taxi. Sweat rolling down your temples. Moist is a word that often comes to mind.

Color, so vivid and alive. Even the trash piles. But the trees, the blue and gray and even purple sky continuously laced with clouds, the blazing yellow sun, the rich red earth, the vivid tropical flowers - these sing with life even on the hardest days. 

Then there are the people, with dark, beautiful skin, and lively clothing in a rainbow of colors and designs. Little girls with bright hair-bows bobbing around as they walk and women wearing magnificent headdresses on Sunday mornings. Men brave enough to wear purple suits.

America soothes the senses.

In America there are times when I can't smell anything. Sometimes if I were to close my eyes and take a breath I could pretend there was nothing there. Uncut grass doesn't really smell. Asphalt on a cool day doesn't smell. Nobody is cooking outdoors. Mold typically doesn't grow all over houses. 

There are times when I forget about my comfort level because, well, I'm perfectly comfortable - not too hot, not too cold, not sticky - moist. 

In winter the landscape can be so boring I ache for the beauty of spring. Color comes from store fronts and fast-food signs. Housing developments are meticulously planned with cookie-cutter homes and green rugs for lawns. It's too perfect.

When you grow up or spend a significant number of years in a place other than where you are living, it's hard to really forget. Especially a place that is so markedly different.

People ask me, do I miss it?

Little me in the Ivory Coast.

How could I not? As content and happy as I am now, America will always be a bit boring to me. I became used to spontaneity, from the way a vibrant fuchsia bougainvillea vine would wrap aimlessly around the roof of a thatched hut, to the rains that would come with little or no warning. I miss yards that aren't perfect, people that don't need schedules, and the smell of frying food at any given time.

But there are traces of these memories here. Like when the freshly mowed grass takes me back to when I was six in the Ivory Coast and the yard was just cut by hand with a machete.

Or when I smell a campfire.

Or when the humidity is high and it's over 90 degrees and I'm all hot and sticky.

Even something as ordinary as a large flat open field with an old ranch-stye house can remind me of the little houses on the mission station where I spent my first years in Liberia. The architecture like the ancient missionary homes of a bygone era.

Fried plantain.

Inside of me there's a part that's been permanently imprinted with Africa. There's a piece of my heart that doesn't come alive unless I am there. Sometimes it's a heavy burden to bear.

But my memories are beautiful, even when I miss Africa so much it hurts. They're a daily reminder of a bigger world than my current location, a big God who's creative and loves diversity, a big future for me and my family when we go back.

 My years in Africa were spent in Liberia and the Ivory Coast. My memories reflect those countries.