Friday, September 12, 2014

Sweet, glorious water

Once upon a time it rained in Africa.

Just the one time.

And Toto wrote a song about it.

The end.

OK, no. But once upon a time -- yes, just the one time -- I spent a semester in Africa and it rained more than the one time while I was there, but not a ton.

It was an event whenever it did.

We arrived in late August, and didn't see a cloud for many months in the desert land of Namibia during its summer season.

On Thanksgiving, my friend Liz declared loudly for the whole room to hear: "Condensation!" and held up her plastic cup with water droplets on the perimeter for all to behold. We gathered round and oohed and aahed. I'm only exaggerating a little bit; we were for sure intrigued, and indeed beheld the spectacle.

I also still remember -- among other very detailed memories I hold of seemingly small events -- when my class/travel mate Andy asked the group, shortly after our arrival on the grand continent across the sea, if their hands, like his, were extra sweaty.

"YES!!!!" I yelled across the room, because I get very over zealous about small things like shared sweaty palms sometimes....

No one else seemed to be that excited, Andy included, if I recall...In fact, he seemed to be a little regretful he asked the question upon receiving my response.

Moving on.

Here in the States (which is what you will say to refer to the U.S. once you leave this country for any length of time, FYI) we have seasons. LA pretends to have them, and I am both proud and ashamed that I am beginning to tell the subtle difference that indicates "fall" is joining us here.

Yes, it is ONE HUNDRED AND TWO degrees outside right now and I'm not saying that it is fall, but I'm saying that the light is different and so it seems a little more like fall than it did a month ago, and I feel weird about this as a Midwesterner so just leave me alone, OK?

Wow. Emotional today.

Moving on. Again.

So POINT BEING, even in places like Southern California, we still speak in seasons. "Ooh, I love winter," say the Angelenos with snowflakes embroidered on their clothes and Christmas lights in their yards. And then we head to the beach. Not to swim, but still, to the beach.

In southern Africa, they just cut to the chase, people. They keep it real. They speak more in water terms, as in: is there water present or not?

In Namibia, you have two "seasons," are you ready for them?

Dry. And wet.

That's it.

In Namibia (a desert climate), it gets so dry that water disappears from places. The riverbed doesn't just lower, its sentiment is more along the lines of, "See ya!"

I almost completely missed the "wet season" in Namibia, so I didn't see the apparent flooding that happens every year.

However, there are signs next to bridges that remain all year, that look like this:

It took me a looong time to figure out that these were indicating creek beds, or river beds, or whatever.


A) Because my hair is blonde, and while I consider myself an intelligent individual, I also know that I struggle with 2 and 2 sometimes; and B) Because there was no water underneath these bridges.

Um, hello.

Once I figured it out, I started joking with our driver, Passat (both as a way to have fun and also deflect attention from the fact that I was slow on the uptake of the fact that these were signs indicating water), that I didn't think there actually was a wet season.

"No, there is!" he would protest.

"I don't know, Man, I haven't seen any water."

That wasn't entirely true. It had rained a couple of times, including while I was at a library trying to study with my friends Stephen and Mike on Halloween. We stopped what we were doing -- or, in my case, not doing -- to look out the window and (pun) soak up the rare occurrence of weather in the region.

The time that I remember most fondly, however, was a time that it rained in Africa and in some ways it was just like the movies.

I was at home with Stephen, Samantha, Annelise, Olaf and Sarah Ann, probably.

Sammy and I were in her bedroom doing something, looking at CDs or talking about boys or -- quite possibly -- having show and tell with the items of clothing we brought with us that we were no longer, ahem, slim enough to fit into.

I'm here to personally break any stereotypes you may have of me and my friends eating bugs and dust in Africa, all the while shrinking down to tiny Zazu birds. The reality, for me and Sammy anyway, was eating lots of freshly baked bread with lots of butter and, for me anyway, looking a little plump in my next drivers' license photo.

But I digest. I mean digress.

So we were sitting there, enjoying the relatively quiet house (there were 20 of us living in a 5-ish bedroom house*, but most of our classmates were away on a vacation), chit chatting like we had been practiced at doing together for two years already (we met as freshmen and quite instantly hit it off),

when all of a sudden --


Just like in the movies. i.e., as it never actually happens in real life.

But it did.

A random clap of thunder, seemingly out of nowhere. Nothing preceding it. No sprinkle of rain (that we could hear, or noticed, anyway). No light rumblings of thunder.

Just the sharp CRACK of a whip in the sky.

And our eyes.

They popped wide open, moved to meet, and locked, in shared excitement, surprise, and "what the....?"

And then, just as quickly as the thunder came on, so did the rain.

Just like in the movies.

Whooooooosh. Gushes of water, heard on the roof above and the roads outside.

And then we ran.

Ran to our nearest exit to be near the water, near THE RAIN!!!!

We ran to the upper level porch of the house and then did what any sane Bailey and Sammy would do.

We ran into the rain, and did ballet leaps up and down and across the balcony.

I don't need to tell you that it was awesome.

Or that we were so excited, and loving the crazy sudden initiation of a rainstorm that we had just experienced.

Or that we were already dressed to go out to dinner and then had to change clothes to get ready to go to dinner again.

Actually, if you know me very well, that last detail might need to be told to you, because I could just as easily have chosen not to change clothes. I'm kind of a come-as-you-are person, both in receiving of others and in giving of myself to the world, eatery joints included in my definition of "world."

Stephen snapped a picture of us before we put on our driest clothes with the stretchiest waistbands, and we headed to dinner -- warm, happy, washed.

And I am yet to forget the sweet, sweet memory.

This is a webcam photo taken of a print photo. FYI.

*I shared a bathroom with nine ladies (counting me, we were 10).

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