Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rainy Season Has Begun In Uganda

Rainy season has officially begun in Iganga. 

This season is different from the last rainy season, which began around mid-September of last year and ended sometime in November.  That season began every morning with soft sun, built a slow warmth over the course of the day, and got hot by mid-afternoon.  Around 4 or 5 in the evening a sudden coolness would fall; clouds would roll in, fast and then much faster; a dramatic rush of wind would cause plastic bags and leaves to blow about as if Mary Poppins were about to land, and I kid you not, children would scream – I don’t know why they never got used to it, or at least tired of screaming, but every day as the wind blew in they would scream – and people would rush frantically for cover.  Then the rain would come.  It would fall across the landscape like a wave, pounding down on us in thick, plush drops.  Everywhere the walking paths became rivers of rust-red, or huge, orange puddles receiving the raindrops like drumbeats.  Under cover, the people of Iganga would wait for half an hour or an hour, the droplets so loud on tin roofs that conversation was barely possible.  And then slowly the rain would slow, the drops would grow smaller, the clouds would begin to thin and fade and drift away.  Not long after it began the rain would be gone, only a few wisps of innocent-white cloud lingering in a scrubbed-clean blue sky.

This season, as I said, is different.  In fact, one might almost say it is opposite.  Late in the evening or in the night, the rain rolls in.  We wake up to hear it drumming above our heads as we lay in the dark under treated mosquito nets, and it continues as we drift in and out of consciousness with the approaching dawn.  We wake fully to find it raining still, a thin barely-rain, silver droplets that are more like steely water vapor than actual raindrops.  The sky is gray in the morning, layer upon layer of heavy cloud hanging above us, and sometimes a wind blows – a lesser version of the rushing wind from last season.  The grayness and the thinly falling rain continue for most of the morning, the thin droplets working their way up imperceptibly to a real, heavy rain a bit after midday.  This early afternoon rain is steady, but not plush like the rain of October – it is like the Atlantic to the Pacific, perhaps – stormier, colder, more predictable and more serious. 

Around one thirty or two in the afternoon, the rain begins to die down.  It becomes the tiniest bit less, and then less, drizzling on but steadily reducing.  Once the drops finally cease the clouds remain, hanging overhead as if any moment they might decide to drench us once again.  And just when you begin to think that today, truly, it shall remain cloudy until nightfall, you look up to see slivers of pale blue peering through gray.  The blue grows larger as the gray grows smaller, and finally by around four or four-thirty the sky looks like a storybook once again, typical Uganda, sunlit and laughing.  At times the blue remains until darkness, and other days the clouds begin to steal back the sky as dusk approaches.  The nights are black now, without the Milky Way shining overhead, and cool – even cold by Ugandan standards.  If we fall asleep in silence, we do so knowing that we shall wake in a few hours to the steadily growing patter of raindrops, and in our dreams we shall hear the rhythm of the rain, steady, constant, a drumbeat that has been the breath of Uganda for thousands of years.

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