It takes my rotating fan 21 seconds to make a full 180-degree pass.

My Kindle gets excellent internet reception in my sitting room zone, but none in the kitchen area. The bedroom falls somewhere between these two extremes.

Cross-stitching needles eventually go dull, even if they’re only used in gauzy fabrics.

Avatar is the longest movie ever made, and is best enjoyed in a series of 44-minute chunks.


During the “long rains,” life in my village slows to a glacial pace. Most of the groups I work with suspend activity entirely, as sharing and learning are less effective when attempted under a tree in a thunderstorm. Schools are out for the duration of April, and slowly, gradually wind back up over the course of May. Mamas sit soggily under tarps selling fruits and packets of wash powder for a few short hours before heading home. Boda drivers gather under roof overhangs to swap stories and bum Sportsman cigarettes. Nurses, lab techs, and patient aids nap on benches at the clinic as the stream of treatment-seekers slows to a trickle, then dries up entirely, save the occasional complicated birth or other life-threatening emergency. Individual collaborators on projects don’t even pretend to want to set up meetings: “I’d be happy to discuss those plans with you … in mid-to-late June.”

In the beginning, it’s a wonderful break. It gives one the time and mental space required to pause, reflect, and meditate on one’s trials and accomplishments of the past year. It allows one to rest and replenish the energy lost in the rush from the end of the school term. It encourages one to weigh ideas and plan for the coming months. In addition to the literal blessing of fresh water, it heaps on an intangible secondary blessing of hibernative time for personal renewal. Great, right?

At first.

When it rains, you don’t leave your house if there’s any way to possibly avoid it. No one does. Your free time is no longer spent lingering on the steps talking to your neighbors or savoring your chai at your favorite roadside food kiosk, waiting for the chief to walk by. You become a hermit, just like everyone else. The charming novelty of all-day drizzle evaporates much more quickly than the puddles it leaves behind. You spend a lot of time staring moodily out the window, trying to think of ways to spend your time until the next break in the clouds.

I’ve alternated between weeks of mind-boggling chicken-with-its-head-cut-off busy-ness and days of overwhelming boredom. In the sporadic hours of accessible electricity, I’ve devoted myself to finishing up proposals and the like, which can be accomplished as easily at home in my pajamas as they can if I’m out meeting with collaborators over tea in some mildly-flooded hotelli (outdoor café). I am only too happy to oblige their request to not drag them out of their warm, dry houses with their families and into the rain if I don’t have to. However, there comes a point when you’re watching your 17th straight episode of “Lost” when you realize that you’re eating cereal out of a bowl you haven’t washed in 6 days because you just keep pouring more cereal, and that those pajamas may have been clean on Thursday but it’s Monday now and can you please PRETEND to be an adult government employee instead of a kid whose parents are away for the long weekend?

If this were some sort of inspirational essay contest, here is where I’d put the uplifting message about dancing in the rain with village children or something, but by and large, those kids are locked up inside, too. As well they should be. It’s damn cold out there. You shouldn’t be tempting them into pneumonia-inducing weather for your own amusement. So instead, you change from your rumpled pajamas into yoga pants that smell like Omo soap. You brush your hair in the mirror for longer than strictly necessary in measured, deliberate strokes. You open the front door and lean out, balanced against the frame, fingers splayed on the damp wood. Look left, look right, the world is crystal-still. Steadily tapping rain collects and sheets off the roof in a chill, asymmetrical curtain. You pause. Breathe in through your nose. Your feet are getting cold but you don’t retreat. You find yourself offering a quiet moment of gratitude to a universe that in all likelihood isn’t listening – gratitude for the rain, for the heat-break, for your experiences, for your friends, for the work you can do, for your unwashed cereal bowl and welcoming unmade bed.

And then you go back inside. Your tea is boiling over, and season six of “Lost” awaits. In this moment, this is your life.

It takes eleven episodes of “Lost” before you are rendered unable to distinguish the sound of a motorcycle outside your window from the sound of the Smoke Monster on the attack.

Each of the nine panels in my ceiling has an average of 8 wood knots, for a total of 74. The figure is altered slightly from the original data: the 75th was, in fact, a slow-moving beetle.

Ramen noodles can be eaten without cooking if it’s raining too hard to replace your propane canister, or if you’re in the middle of an epic “Chuck” marathon and are too caught up in whether Agent Walker realizes Agent Shaw is TOTALLY wrong for her and returns to the charmingly geeky arms of the titular character to walk the kilometer and a half to the petrol station.

If I try hard, I can pass a twenty-shilling coin back and forth endlessly from one foot to the other using my toes like fingers, but not a ten-shilling coin.

If I close my eyes and quiet my breathing, I can hear my own heartbeat, even in the middle of the day, even over the constant pounding of rain.