Sunday, July 15, 2007

rain revisited

It had been three weeks since it rained. The dust was choking and the heat was unbearable. The fine red dirt that is supposed to provide nutrients for the crops and give us hard roads instead was thrusted upwards in the air and carried by the wind, somehow always finding rest on my bags, clothes, and all flat surfaces in my room. On my recent travels to and from Damongo I watched outside the window of my trotro at the fields of maize at their crucial stage of budding -- they either need a lot of water at this point or they will wither and die. Indeed, the farmers that planted early are being punished for being proactive; their maize is turning brown.

Then on Thursday night, with a glorious crack of thunder, the skies opened up and rain came down like a solid sheet of water from above. Dinner has just ended and we ran outside both wanting to cool our hot bodies and wash the dust from our skin, all while grabbing the buckets we normally use for washing and placing them under the roof overhang.

The roofs are not immune to the red dust, and the water pouring thick from the corners of the roofs into the compound ran rusty brown for a few minutes. We emptied the buckets a few times until the water ran clean and the pounding of the raindrops was enough to dislodge all the dirt that had accumulated above.

When the small buckets had been filled with the clear water, we brought them over to our 3 large water barrels and filled those to the top, spilling all the while and not caring because we were soaked already. It was only about fifteen minutes from the start of the rain until we finished filling all the buckets, and the rain was still coming hard. "Lydia," I half-whispered to my 11 year old host sister, still trying to be heard above the echo of the raindrops on the tin roof, "let's get Dennis!" We picked up the small washing buckets we were playing with and ran over to where her older brother was playing and we called his name. He stopped playing and looked at us with wide open eyes before trying to turn and run... but we were faster than him. Two full tubs were splashed over his head and he stood there blinking for a few seconds before laughing hard and picking up the bucket at his feet. We ran but it made no matter... we were already as wet as we could be.

The three of kept splashing about, laughing and dancing as the thick raindrops beat us with their strength when I felt a full tub being released over my head. I blubber in surprise, turn around quickly wiping the hair from my face, and see my host mother (that I prefer to call sister) laughing with an empty bucket in her hands, wiping away the tears from laughing so hard. War was waged, and we all came out of the rain, what seemed like hours later, breathless, smiling, and exhausted.

The rain lasted for a long time, and while my family's most basic needs were met for the week, I also know that it was not enough to revive all the crops. Instead, the rain probably came too much -- instead of giving the soil the nutrients it needed, the rain probably washed many of them away, leaching the soil of what it gives to help plants grow.

It's officially the rainy season, but it hasn't rained much at all in the north. I'm afraid of what that means for the farmers, for the families that rely on that water and food for survival, and what will happen in the dry season if the rains don't come this year.

Luke, the long term volunteer with EWB that has been working on my project at the regional level (vs. the district level) recently made his own blog post on the rain with a link to a very interesting article, and he has pictures. I decided that I didn't want to take my camera out for fear of it getting wet... though it didn't make much difference. I forgot that despite the roof overhang I have over my window, the wind was blowing hard and was also blowing a lot of water into my room. Luckily, I always keep my drum, camera, and computer on the "uphill" part of my room, but I was scared anyway walking into my room with a few cms of water on the floor! It all dried and nothing was ruined, but I had to smack myself in the head all the same.


Gary said...

I laughed as I pictured you running and having a waterfight in the rain. These are what wonderful memories are made of. Dad

Anonymous said...


This is great; I'm going to check out Luke's blog on the rain day, too - thanks for linking it!


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of when it HAILED in the middle of summer in Tanzania. It was so bizarre and unexpected. We all came inside after running around with massive bruises where we got hit with the hail.

You're awesome and I'm stoked to hear that the rains finally came.


Anonymous said...

I love the way you write your stories! You make me feel like I am right there, even though I have never actually been to Ghana or Africa for that matter. Glad to hear you are laughing and having some fun with your African family!