Checking the weather is a pastime of mine. At the onset of a mid-afternoon amble, I like to lay and scroll the weather app: will the night be significantly cooler? How many hours of fresh morning weather will there be tomorrow before the sun takes center stage? Is today warmer than the rest of the week? Right now, no—at this Wednesday’s hottest, it’s going to be 37 degrees celsius. This is an anecdote I enjoyed telling my mom at breakfast this morning: we are going to have a ‘heat wave.’ 

It’s funny because we already live in one. 

There’s either a lot to do or too little to do in the heat of Kuwait, depending on how you see it.

Mosquito Memories

Last year was a particularly favorite summer of mine, as the entire neighborhood slowed under lockdown. I remember going for runs in new streets, unafraid of cars randomly speeding and turning corners, looking at all the houses that had been a few blocks away from me for years. But my favorite thing about last summer was the smell of citronella. An essential oil made from lemongrass, I used to walk to an Anthropology class in Brooklyn wearing a piece of thick red string on my wrist that I had mottled with citronella to keep away downtown Brooklyn’s swampy summer bugs. I was never a victim of mosquito bites, but I remember being in a garden restaurant having an insignificant shakshuka at the Met Breuer, my calves adorned with stinging red spots. The citronella helped, later. It also crystallized a memory. The outdoor air—including its mix of asphalt condensation, construction digging into the earth somewhere nearby, and a brew of fertilizers—the heat, and the citronella on my wrist transport me to a good time. And, so easily, wherever I am, also becomes that good time. 

Making Prints With the Sun

I’ve been experimenting with making sun prints of plants from our neighborhood. Still nowhere near a seamless work flow or clarity of the project I’m working on, the process alone is kind of brilliant. This is an unremarkable insight—I am just dumbfounded at the ability to make an image completely outside of the digital screen. Washing the paper to reveal the print is obviously exciting, but I think just being there outside, near the print, for the 10ish minutes it takes to overexpose my prints as I figure out this process, is what is amazing. It’s not just looking at something, but being there with it, sensorially and completely. The first time I tried it, the sky was overcast, so I left the two small prints out for 20 minutes as I lay next to it, but under the shade. We were both so still, waiting for the image I am now reproducing, to reproduce. 

Watching Something Pass By

I can’t imagine the practice of watching clouds pass by needing to be discovered by any single person. Clouds hold fascination over centuries. I don’t have a specialized language for it. When there are clouds in the sky, which, as the summer approaches head-on, there is much less of here, I like to find a spot near a window, sit inside, and look out. It’s not as romantic as laying on grass, but this is the nature of my growing up: housed in concrete with greater material distance from the so-called natural world. But to really experience watching the sky there needs to be sensation beyond looking. 

When I had my bed closer to the window, I used to lay on top of my blankets and perched the bottoms of my bare feet on the wall, resting them against the heat. The wall feels heavy like that, and sometimes I would inch closer towards the glass, eventually feeling its lightness. The glass is hotter, though, so it’s not as good a feeling. Now, my bed isn’t close enough to the wall to do this. So I just lay, watching the sky from an even further distance. I keep a window open, though, because there needs to be sensation—even if it’s the smell and sound of outside coming in. When there are no clouds, there’s a murmur of movement I can see in the neighbor’s date palms outside, leaves swaying with the air. It’s not like the moving clouds; those are far more beautiful and the dusty landscape is not quite as picturesque. But the sun is amazing, unrelenting. This can also easily turn into a sunbathing afternoon soundtracked by the way the streets sound and the way you let the heat sink in. Fully sunscreened, but that goes without saying.

Frozen Fruit Juice Popsicle

This is less of a portrait and more of a quick non-recipe, but maybe throw some (maybe over-ripe) fruit into a blender and use popsicle molds to make something cold? I recently said that the best advice I could give anyone is to have ice cream straight out of the shower. It feels exactly like summer. I think I might do that. 


Images courtesy of Yasmeen Khaja

April 06, 2021 — Yasmeen Khaja

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