Friday, February 20, 2009

The rain here is nothing compared to the rain in Cameroon

I saw a pillar of water the other day.

It was night actually– about 1 AM and I knew it was raining. It was the sound that woke me up. Over the whir of our ceiling fan, the sound was not the patter pat of drops hitting the ground, but the hiss of water poured from a bucket. The rain came as a welcome relief from the previous two days of punishing heat and humidity. The sky simply couldn't hold any more water, so when the sun set and the air cooled, down the rain came in a torrent. There was no wind blowing to distract the water from its headlong trip to the earth. Straight and quick as an arrow, sheets of rain came down. Not a drop of rain hit the sill, so mercifully we did not have to close the windows. The only thing we could see was the street lamp outside our window, its shape lost, but its light diffused to a vague orange glow.

I crossed to the back of the flat to look in the opposite direction and saw dimly and at quite a distance from the building, a pillar of water standing straight and disappearing into the night sky. It didn't move, but sort of scintillated in the light cast from our window. It was just puzzling enough that I woke up a bit, moving to another window to get a better look. I hoped the downpour wasn't hurting the animals in the pen below, the new mama goat and her kid, the chickens and the turkey and his mate. After I had ascertained that the column of water was well off to the side, I concentrated on the source of the strange sight.

Now I've seen downspouts before, but they usually run down the end of a building, depositing their water in a drain or onto a back splash that leads the water away from the foundation. When it rains at home, there is a pleasant gurgle of water running down from the roof gutters, but there was no way one of my downspouts could handle this rain. The only thing I could figure is that in this part of the world, they didn't bother with the “down” part of the downspout. Water from the roof collected in channels that launched the rain like a water cannon far into the night. While the rain was heavy, the water acted like a stream suspended between the spout and the earth. The next day as I was coming back from the hill, I noticed the long spidery spouts sticking far out from the roof like the naked spines of a blown umbrella. I hadn't noticed them before.

After all the excitement, I went back to bed and for the first time here, I needed covers. The following day was cooler and breezy. I was glad to know that such a day could come. The students, although happy for the relief, began recalling how a month ago it had gotten as low as the 70's and everyone fussed that they weren't equipped for the cold. It had happened during the Harmattan - the dry hot wind that comes from the Sahara bringing with it hot days and cool nights. I thought of Samuel and his first overcoat and everyone back home in February weather....

A day or two later we were talking with some teachers. They said the rain here was nothing compared to the rain in Cameroon..

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