scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rainfall on Tin Roofs

May 7th, 2008. Treichville, Cote D’Ivoire

I’m sitting next to a window in a third floor room in the offices of La Pierre Angulaire, an Ivoirian HIV/AIDS NGO. The air is cool thanks to a blessed air conditioner, yet I can still feel the heat of the morning air coming through the cracks around the wooden window frames. It rained this morning, and condensation rises from the colourful sizzling jumble of streets like steam from the busy woks at Thai Tom’s.

I have a friend in Paris who runs a gallery (of sorts) of all kinds of building materials. Sounds at first like a fairly obscure occupation catering to a very niche market, but thanks to a particular feature of today’s view over Triechville I can feel a small slice of empathetic excitement about what might seem like a less than thrilling topic: corrugated tin.

When I was 13 my parents moved the family to Belize, Central America so we could spend a year becoming infested with flesh eating worms and learning that the world is a big big place. Excepting a few vacation style forays, coming to West Africa has been my first return to the bizarre world of the tropics. As I moved South I began encountering familiar sensations, smells, sights, like old friends. Or maybe more like old acquaintances, as the gluey feeling of humid skin and the smell of molding shower curtains cannot truthfully be called “friendly”. It’s more like a high school reunion, or returning all grown up and barely recognizable to the hometown of your youth. Some reintroductions are glad, others distasteful and the rest just are. One of these reintroductions has been with corrugated tin roofs.

Corrugated tin is a colourful character; the local drunk or the old narcolept who falls asleep at town meetings and wakes with a jolt and a hearty laugh. Tin roofs run along an aesthetic continuum that starts out trim and proper and ends as shanty-looking as fingerless gloves stretched towards an oil-drum fire. Icing on the cake is when tin roofs are held down by old tires or trash. No matter how straight the cut or how even the rivetting, tin can never remain tidy. Entropy's posterchild.

And oh the sound in the rain! This is a friend for sure.


At 4:55 PM, Anonymous josh said...

A friend indeed, the lulling sound of the rain on tin as you lie dry beneath its wing, however, an enraged screaming friend with the windows up on a congested interstate when that rain happens to descend frozen. As you gaze across the shear number of corrugated roofs of a city and then the world, do you not wonder that the world is not spinning off its axis from the hole that these things came out of? I too have spent time thinking about tin, as all brilliant minds do. No actually I am just trying to be cool here by relating to your experiences, not working. Anyway tin can be an enemy as well, Martin. Let me take you back, if you will, to the scurrying sound of tiny suction cups as a gila monster takes a run for it as we move the tin sheets. Although the tin is not directly an enemy in this case, it has contributed and you curse it all the same. Thanks for reminding us of the interplay between us and the corrugated stuff! Love it, keep it coming!

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Martin Penner said...

These, dear friends, are the words of a soon to be newly minted valdictorian. Felcitatins to you dear Josh!
And you're right, the memory of reptilian claws clacking on tin gives me an unpleasant shiver and makes me tight-roll my pants around my ankles to make sure the fella can't get up there. Another reintroduction for you to share: the rats in the roof of my apartment make the same little scurrying sound you may remember from the bats in the ark as they race back and forth in the evening hours. It's no good trying to sleep before they retire, and sometimes I play soft and sweet songs in an effort to lull them to dreamland so I can finally get some rest. A rodent's foot may fall a bit more heavily than the claws of the bat, but I'll take the increased noise level over the guano anyday! i can't believe we weren't sick that whole year.


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