The moon is upside down here. My friend first pointed it out during one of our nightly walks back to our host family. Its crescent shape glows a deep orange against the violet sky, holding light differently than it does back home. I stare at it more closely, trying to imagine what it used to look like. I squint. I honestly can’t remember the last time it was right side up.
Right now everything in my life feels upside down. Eating watermelon and taking cold showers in December, waking up before 6am, wading through the interminable heat of an everlasting summer. It’s hard to orient myself without the fading of seasons and familiar night sky.
I’m subtly aware that time is passing, but the concept seems less tangible here. I’m content with this, until I see strands of twinkling lights adorning gas stations, and fake Christmas trees lining the main aisles of the Accra mall, suddenly affronting my senses and bringing me back to a reality grounded in fixed dates on a calendar.
Christmas lights and palm trees just don’t seem to go together.
Accra, Ghana 2013
Things are starting to shift externally, but I’m not quite ready for the internal response this change in season demands. I’ve been trying to avoid the upcoming holidays and everything they entail, awkwardly filling out Christmas cards with glossy ornaments and dirt stained envelopes, forgetting to include the name of my friend’s new baby, hoping the torn pages of my notebook still hold the correct addresses.
Part of me wants to stay in slow motion. I want to keep going to school every day, holding my breath as I pass the dark, murky, liquid full of rubbish, laughing as students grab my hand, protesting as they nimbly slip my heavy bag onto their shoulders and carry it to class, leaning sideways under its weight.
Teiman, Ghana 2013
I’m not ready for the kids to go on vacation, not ready to face the deserted classroom, the inevitable long-distance “Merry Christmas!” I’ll hear from friends and family.
The seasons are changing, in spite of my objection. Volunteers are coming and going, disrupting the comfortable routine I’ve established here, forcing me to face my own imminent departure before I’m ready. I can overlook the Christmas carols filtering through tired speakers, hide away the small gift I received from my friend before she went home for the holidays. But I can’t avoid goodbye, I can’t neglect the absence of a presence that has been by my side every day for the past six weeks.Matthias and I sharing another meal of rice and trying to look enthused.
Teiman, Ghana 2013
If I’ve learned anything during my travels, it’s that there’s no soft way of saying farewell, no transition period to ease the echo of emptiness, the hole filled heart pocketed with grief. Though the heart is a muscle, it refuses to be conditioned for these kinds of endings. No amount of preparation or training can ease the ache of a marathon of goodbyes. It just hurts.
I sigh and look out of my window at the night sky, trying to slow the pace of my thoughts, willing myself to stay present instead of jumping ahead. The moon is bigger now, reflecting more of the sun’s light, a softer, pale blue grey. It’s been changing in shape and size, sometimes up, sometimes down, but never in the familiar “C” formation I’m used to. I resent it for reminding me that I don’t belong here. That I belong to a different side of the world, a side with four seasons and people I love.
Have I mentioned how crazy and amazing my family is?
For now I’m burying my head in the sand. I’m pretending not to notice the marching forth of days, bringing me closer to another hectic airport security line. I’ll leave evidence of snowy sidewalks and New Years invitations behind, preferring the unwavering heat and wearing flip flops. I’ll keep listening to Florence and The Machine, forgetting my trusted Bille Holiday Christmas collection, and my favorite rendition of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” (cuz guess what, it’s not).
Finally, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to believe that we’re staring up at the same night sky, seeing the same man in the moon, and laughing at his crazy antics.
Do you see what I see? Lazy, hazy, summer nights in my hometown.