21 August 2009

Today's Forecast: Weird with a Chance of Rain

The weather has been doing weird things lately. In the midst of the dry season it’s suddenly become overcast and humid. And there’s a funny feeling hanging in the air. If we were on the East Coast or Gulf Coast of the United States I’d say it felt like a hurricane was coming. If we were in the Midwest I’d think it’s tornado season. But I don’t know what happens here when the weather goes berserk in the dry season.

Over the last few days we’ve actually heard a few rumbles of thunder and apparently it rained upcountry last Friday. Different Burundians will give you different reasons for the unseasonal mid-season rains and cloudiness. Many theories have to do with the Assumption on August 15. Not paying as close attention as I could have in Sunday School all those years ago, I finally asked my French teacher on Monday what the Assumption is and what it has to do with the weather. He explained the religious part to me – the rising of Mary to Heaven – but as for the rain, he didn’t know. A little research showed that rain is either good luck or bad luck on Assumption day, depending on where you live. And the best luck is apparently when it rains all day but then suddenly stops at church time. Today someone was finally able to tell me that the rain confirms Mary made it to Heaven.

Another dry-season rain theory has to do with cows. Apparently there’s always a mid-season rain that somehow helps out the cows. At first I couldn’t remember any rain after we arrived this time last year. But then I remembered that the night we landed it felt like it had just rained, so I guess we just missed the rain of the cow. It dried out quickly though; the weather was not like this last year until well into September.

The person who talked about the cow rain also told my friend with certainty that the real rains will begin between 15 and 20 September. On one hand, it’s fairly common knowledge that the short wet season starts during the second half of September so his prediction isn’t exactly earth shattering. On the other hand, I think it’s amusing that this fellow is so set on his specific dates, as if he consulted his Old Farmers’ Almanac, in a country where precision and specifics are virtually meaningless.

In general I don’t mind a warm, cloudy day giving me a break from the extreme sunshine. I don’t even mind the humidity because it’s the first time in weeks that I haven’t had a constant sore throat from the dryness and smoke. But I don’t like the look of the thunderheads that never materialize into storms, but never drift away either. It’s very yellow outside, which I always associate with a hurricane or severe thunderstorm. Part of the fun is the anticipation and then the storm actually arriving. But this storm never arrives. The weirdness in the air just hangs there.

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