I have never met a rainier place than Bukoba, Tanzania. I’m told that we are in the dry season now, yet the rain doesn’t fail to make a glorious showing 4 or 5 days out of 7. I suppose, in comparison, this does qualify as a “dry season” given that during the alleged rainy season, it rains every single day, sometimes pouring for an entire night and morning. The environment is a consistently lush green, only the dirt paths give away whether it has rained recently or not. The bedrock here is incredibly porous, so much so that when walking up along the cliffs, Markey and I could hear it’s hollow pockets echoing underneath our steps, not exactly a reassuring sound. In any case, the inches deep puddles in front of the house right now will drain down to muddy patches within a few hours, and by tomorrow afternoon, if the rain holds off, they will be like inches deep sand boxes spotting the narrow, winding path through this end of the village.
Despite all the rain, life goes on pretty much as usual. Sleeveless shirts are exchanged for hooded down jackets (the difference between 19 degrees C and 27 is felt rather acutely), wrap your head in a plastic bag, kitenge cloth, or cover it with a good old banana tree leaf, and off you go. I’m constantly scolded for not wearing enough warm clothing, even when it’s solid 70s and sunny you meet long sleeves and sweatshirts everywhere. In any case, when compared to my two years living in rural Rwanda, I am always surprised and somehow amazed by the difference. In rural Rwanda, when it rained everything stopped. At least, everything that happens outside, which is basically all of life, except sleeping and school. And since you have to walk to school, sometimes miles (definitely uphill both ways) that stops, too. I remember waking up and getting ready on my first rainy school morning, calling out to my Rwandan housemate, another teacher, because she appeared to have overslept, only to have her mumble something like, “Julieeee, go back to bed, it’s raining. No one is going to school. You’ll be the only one.” I never could quite get used to that. The number of mornings I trudged to school, alone on the road for 3 kilometers, soaking in the rain only to sit in an empty classroom with an empty school yard for hours…Needless to say, I could have had a fair few mornings of extra sleep!
Not the case here. My seat at the kitchen/ office table affords me a nice overlooking view of the path, and with that comes some excellent people watching, which I will go ahead and rename as “time for cultural observation.” Yes, the path is quieter and less populated than on a dry morning, but I’ve still seen quite a number of children running to school (down jackets really made a splash today), and the usual early risers heading off to work, or already coming back from gathering firewood. The man with the extremely squeaky bicycle brakes is, thankfully, walking it down the hill today, and one of the bakery women has already called out good morning to me and headed into the bakery, early.
Sure, things slow down a bit in the rain here. Still, they happen. Rain or shine, my “cultural observation” never fails to impress me with the sheer strength and grit of my neighbors.