"But where is the school girl that used to be me?" -Joan Didion
I was riding my bike through the villages, it was 100 degrees, too hot to be on a bike, but almost too hot to sit still, every breath I took felt like a mouthful of hot water.
We stopped in a village 40 kilometers away in a place that you can’t imagine growing up in because it’s made of sticks and stones and you would know everyone’s story by the age of two. There was one shop, a small store that sold coke, cold coke. The sugar and carbonation were a relief as was the condensation that poured into my hands. I wanted to take that plastic bottle and turn it upside down over my head and let the liquid brown sugar shower over my hair and face and onto my jersey and just bathe in the sticky coolness. Instead I opted to take a picture with the gathering crowd that was obsessed with the bicycles and all the gears and the arrival of strangers in town, especially as those strangers were women, women on bikes and in shorts.
The children ran away at first when I asked them if I could take a picture, but then relaxed and seemed more than happy to stand by my side. Except one girl, a young rebel, curious yet reserved, happy but silent, comfortable standing alone in her anklets, long skirt and wild hair, the school girl in all of us, that used to be me.