There is a present silence of birds as they glide across the deepening dusk.
The sounds from this terrace of the city below, the cars honking in the distance, the occasional snatch of chatter, clatter of pans, patter and pop of fireworks and then the call. From here it begins in the middle distance, a single voice, a note long then bending in and out across the rooftops and spires and satellite domes. The houses look like a bag of concrete dominos dropped by some giant the way they sit on top of each other. Another voice follows the first, like an answer, and soon we are surrounded with a clamour of calling. The sky is matt and dense and changing- dirty pink at this hour above the city then grey and dark blue. A range of white and yellow lights are shining from windows before the luminous green of the first spire lights, and soon after the stilted concrete water tower that sits like a nipple on top of the hill of houses blends into charcoal. We have been sitting on this terrace in the evenings, or lying on the swing seat to see the night in. the lights from these houses on the hill looked like a hanging blanket of fairylights glittering off some great building the night we drove from the airport. It’s nice that we have ended up living on that glittering hill. The air is a bit fresher and cooler here than downtown.
Settling into the apartment, we have spent an awful lot of time cleaning and rearranging in order to make it our home. But at one point, having spent the afternoon washing down the terraces we found ourselves carefully squeegying the table football. We had to face the fact that we were, in fact, procrastinating. The initial workload is mammoth. Though we have already completed a week of work we wont start teaching until Sunday. By then we need to have mastered the course for each group and planned three weeks worth of lessons to hand in. we are both quite excited, though, and ready to get stuck in. Plus, everyone at work has been unnervingly helpful and willing to give their time or resources.
It seems to be the thing here. So many people offer their help. On Thursday afternoon last week we decided to do a big shopping trip to get everything we needed for the apartment. We didn’t know how well the services, small minibuses which operate like buses, would serve our purpose but we gave it a crack. The driver of the first service we asked told us half way there that he wasn’t actually going where we wanted but he was going to take us anyway when he had dropped everyone else off (or at least, that’s what we worked out he said). In return he wanted only for to be friend’ . Coming home late that night we had similar issues as service drivers kept nodding their consent then dropping us at another service stop which would be more appropriate. It was a crazy situation and so busy. 11pm, the night before Eid and all the shops we still open and the streets and roads were packed. Earlier in the evening when we were eating takeout in some narrow street of the old town, sat on a step outside someone’s house we were surprised that a man came out and, in English, told us that his wife would like to invite us to join them for tea. We had a fun time with all the family and, like everyone else, they offered us their number and any help should we need it.
After weeks of the heat, the buildings are chalk-grey and so is the skin, and the floor and every surface and hair and eyes and nose are full of grit. And the birds are flying away.
I never thought I’be so grateful when I hear a song that reminds me of home.