19 September 2010

Under the Stars

I think I have slept under the stars three times in my life.

First time was two years ago at the first annual "Women's Weekend Away" for international women working in this country. I was excited and nervous about sleeping out that night. Will it get cold (it was November)? Will the skeeters get me? Will I sleep well? I thought about it a lot before I took the plunge.

It was such a big deal to me you'd have thought I was 9 years old or something.

And it did get cold. I remember FREEZING and cursing myself for not bringing extra socks and more blankets. And the skeeters did get me. They always do. And I didn't sleep well. I was too cold and itchy and the roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing all night didn't help either. But I refused to admit defeat and move inside with the other smart women who choose to sleep on the rugs or the couches in the first place.

But when my toes thawed out, my cheeks stopped itching, and the roosters had been shot (just kidding)... I loved it! I felt like I joined some special club.

The next time was when we were camping along the Nile with some friends. We slept on some funny folding lounge chairs under a tree with a mosquito net hanging above us. I don't remember getting cold, or getting bit, or being assaulted by a noisy rooster either.

So when the women's retreat came around again this year I was pumped to sleep under the stars again. I put my baby girl inside and I set up my bed outside. And what I mean by 'set up my bed' is I threw my thin foam mattress down on the floor of the roof and spread an old sheet on top of it.

I settled in and looked up to see the stars.

Except there were none. It had sprinkled earlier in the night and it was hazy and cloudy. No stars to be seen. Boo.

I covered up with a sheet to keep the mosquitoes away and had even gone so far to wrap my neck and chin and forehead in the sheet, tucking it around my ears so that only a few square inches of my face was exposed to the air. AND I had doused myself in mosquito repellent.

I really wanted this to work.

Really.

I eventually fell asleep, but woke up often. At one point I put on my socks and a blanket cause the temperature had dropped.

Then later I woke up again sweaty because the temperature had strangely risen again by 2am. Does this sound strange to you? Yeah. I thought it was strange as well and assumed maybe I was imagining it, but indeed it was confirmed by a friend the next morning that it did get hotter for a bit in the middle of the night. I did not know this could happen. Go figure.

Anyway. By this time my sweaty itchy self gave up on sleeping under the stars starless sky, grabbed my pillow and blanket and joined my daughter inside under the air conditioner.

I was rather disappointed that it didn't work out.

But I plan to try again. When the weather cools down some here I'm a-gonna drag a bed onto my balcony, affix a mosquito net to the tree, choose a clear night and sleep under the stars at my own place.

I'm determined to make it work.

What is it that draws us to do this? It's like some strange desire to experience nature, or something else that sounds all natural and organic? Which doesn't really sound like me much at all, frankly. I've never really wanted to 'be one with nature,' Whatever that means.

All I can think is that it's the fresh air. Or just that I love to try new things.

Or maybe it's that I enjoy being disturbed at 5:30am by buses barreling down the road in front of our house that has recently been paved. Or that I love cleaning pigeon poo off the net in the morning. Or that I adore the feeling of one entire arm being covered with mosquito bites because I feel asleep with that arm up against the net and the little buggers feasted on my sweet blood without even getting in my net-protected bed. Or that I get such a thrill waking in the night to a sound of some strange noise on the roof and wondering if we're about to be burgled or kidnapped.

Oh my.

Maybe I best stay inside.

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