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Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Environment

Submitted by Marcel Stieber

Some things are just taken for granted in other parts of the world. Take for example stainless steel. Stainless steel was developed and designed to do just that, prevent stains from rust. High levels of chromium in the steel alloy prevent rust from forming by creating a layer of chromium oxide passivation. What really amazes me then is how my brand new Leatherman Knife managed to get surface rust within a few days of arriving in Ghana, despite being freshly oiled. It really is quite something to see how quickly a bit of heat and humidity can begin to wear on the simplest of things.

I was always amazed on my last visit how quickly the power outlets I installed in the workshop managed to corrode on the connections and how soon the light switches would need that extra flick to turn on. This time is no different.

One of the biggest environmental changes for me this time of year is the harmattan. Regular visitors to this blog will have read previous posts about this infamous dusty season. In the last few days, right after some rain cleaned away the dust, the harmattan is back in full force with the visibility as low as ever (often less than 3 km!). One of the noticeable results of this is the thin layer of dust on everything. Leaving your windows open at night for a nice evening breeze is complemented by a snowy dusting of bronze-colored dust in your room in the morning.

The harmattan also brings with it the golden sky. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds are a rarity this time of year. Instead we are treated with the brown haze that is similarly familiar to me from urban China and Southern California. Otherwise bland sunsets turn into shimmering golden spectacles as the light diffracts through the various layers in the atmosphere and ends in the thick lingering dusty skies with an orange glow. Some things in West Africa you never forget, these sunsets are definitely among them.

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