In Zambia, most people just don’t go anywhere when it’s raining. (Which, mind you, is a third to half of the time for three or four months a year.) I have to say that that seems like a very sensible and pleasant way to conduct one’s life at this particular point in time.
Tag Archives: rain
It’s been raining a lot, at least once every three days, and frequently a few hours a day for several days in a row, or raining hard several nights in a row. We’ve also had more of the pouring, exuberant rain that we got a few times at the beginning of rainy season, the kind of rain that completely overwhelms the rather inadequate gutter system on the Wooden House, sending water almost sheeting off the roof on all the low points. If I put my biggest basin — the one that’s so large that I almost can’t move it when it’s full, much less lift it — under one of these drip cascades, it fills in a matter of minutes. This also cuts the heat marvelously, and while it’s still hot some days, I haven’t needed my fan in weeks.
All last week, there were signs that running water would return.
The pilot’s family had water from all of their taps, including the kitchen sink.
There was water at the upper Zambezi outdoor tap for the first time in weeks.
The Dutch kids in the Zambezi six-plex had running water, and we had water at the taps behind the house.
One night I heard the toilet filling, slowly, slowly, slowly, and a day or two later Clare scolded me for dumping water in the toilet to flush it, because there was water in the tank.
This was very exciting. (Except for the scolding.) It was also rather prolonged, due to the fact that we kept having power outages, and I think I’ve mentioned that the pumps don’t run when there isn’t any power. Thankfully they do seem to have acquired more diesel for the generator, which mitigated the power situation somewhat, but still meant that water was very slow in returning.
And then — and then! Friday at lunch, I happened to glance at the sink, and it seemed wetter than usual, not wet like someone had poured something down it, but wet as if it had been dripping, and the drips had splashed . . .
Cautiously, cautiously, I turned the tap, and water came out! I let out a whoop that startled the poor fellow that had wandered in with Clare, and did a small celebratory dance.
Even with continued power fluctuations, the water situation is as good as it’s been since the first month I was here. I am incredibly pleased. It’s nice to have running water in the house, of course, and also to be able to rinse off in the shower (though mostly I haven’t been, because a lot of the time it’s a bit chilly for cold showers in the morning or at night, and there usually isn’t enough water pressure for a shower in the late afternoons, when it’s hot enough) but the best part is having a toilet that flushes reliably.
What’s odd, though, is how quickly I forget. Not when I’m actually using the running water, which makes me happy pretty much every time (although I have noticed that I’m using more water for things like washing dishes. But I do still collect rainwater). And I haven’t forgotten that there is running water; I don’t find myself getting water from the bucket when I could be getting water from the tap. But if I’m not actively using the water, I forget that there being running water is unusual, something to be happy about. On Saturday I had to go the Choma to sign papers for the Ongoing Saga Of My Work Permit, and Eric asked me how things were going in Macha, and it didn’t even occur to me that THERE IS WATER AGAIN was exactly the sort of thing he was asking about. I meant to post this last weekend, but the power kept going out and I didn’t get around to it, and then by this week, I’d almost forgotten that this was news that ought to be shared. How quickly luxuries become normal.
My post about the rains coming was premature. That storm, while impressive, delivered very little water, the one two days later was barely enough to wet the dust, and after that it stopped even trying. It continued hot, and we continued with unreliable water, only available some distance away, if that. (The eventual analysis is that it was so long since it had rained that the water table was very low and the pumps could not consistently reach the water. Cue concern that we will either wear out the pumps by running them dry, or deplete the water table so badly that we won’t have water at all. The school (150 people during the day, and 30 boarding students and staff) hadn’t had water for about three weeks, and eventually purchased a tank that they’d haul around on a truck to refill elsewhere.
By the middle of last week I was beginning to wonder when, in good conscience, I would next be able to wash my hair.
Internet and power have been somewhat sporadic, too, but it’s been the water thing that’s really getting to me. These problems may be related, since internet requires electricity, and some large portion of the power here comes from hydroelectric plants, which I assume can’t produce as much when the water level is very low.
I now know that I can carry 17 liters of water on my head for upwards of .2km. The only problem is that after this distance, it’s difficult to get the bucket back down to the ground, and upwards of 2/3rds of the water acquired in this exercise goes immediately to refilling my water filter.
Needless to say, I was greatly looking forward to last weekend’s excursion to Livingstone (description and pictures from that next post, if the internet holds out). The hostel promised 24/7 hot and cold running showers, and I concluded that if I brought only dirty clothing with me and washed it there to wear it and washed it again to bring it home clean, I would be able to go another week without doing laundry in Macha (which, indeed, was the case).
And then. AND THEN! It rained two nights ago. I awoke (unless it started before I went to sleep) to majestic rolling thunder and impressive flashes of lightning, and the marvelous sound of rain pouring down on the roof. The power promptly went out (I can tell because my fan turns off, as does the porch light, which shines in my window), but it was RAINING. It rained and rained and rained and rained and rained in the gorgeous pitch-black night, illuminated by frequent lightning. At about 4am I got up and put my biggest basin outside under one of the parts of the roof that dumps water onto the porch. Unfortunately, by that point, the rain had slackened, but half of my bath (and hairwashing!) water the next morning did not need to be hauled from some distant tap.
The next morning, the ground was WET. There were puddles. There was occasionally mud. As I left for work, I encountered Lidewÿ coming back home with an impressive streak of mud up one side of her leg.
It rained again yesterday evening, not as hard, but fairly thoroughly. This morning dawned fair and clear, but during my lunchtime nap, the sky got lovely and threatening again, and as I write, there is distant thunder, and cool, damp breezes blowing in the windows. We had water at the back tap yesterday morning, and again in the afternoon.
I think I have never in my life been so pleased with any weather phenomenon as I am with this rain.
5 November, 21 hours
I think that the rains have come. It looked like a storm this evening, dark, billowing clouds, and wind shaking the trees, and cool breezes, a few of which even found their way into my room. I had bread in the oven during the evening, so I took a chance and didn’t water my garden this evening, and as I listen to the rolling thunder and rain falling on the roof (anywhere between hard, steady drops to light sprinkles that I almost can’t hear over the sound of my fan), I think that was the right choice.
I have been waiting anxiously for the rains. It has been hot, hot, hot. (I think Mary-Ann said that two Thursdays ago it was 42C. Mostly I try not to look at their thermometer; it’s just better not to know.) Two weeks ago the transformer connecting us to the power grid blew, so we only had generator power, and the genset can’t pump water and provide power simultaneously, so we had very little power and rarely water even at the faucet behind the house, and had to fill our buckets at Zambezi House, or, more frequently, at the faucet by LITA, where I teach. It’s not far, but still quite a trek if that’s your only source of water.
Thankfully the new generator was delivered, and both the power and water situations have been much better, but power is still unusually sporadic for reasons I have been unable to determine. We lose power in the evenings more often than not, and while the generator usually comes on, wireless almost never functions on generator power (it’s set lower than regular power, somehow; the lights flicker, too). There were two days this past week that were absolutely AWFUL, heatwise, so bad that it didn’t cool down at all at night, at least, not inside my room, which is admittedly an unventilated oven under a metal roof, and one of them the power was on and off (mostly off) all night, so I didn’t even have a fan. It was so bad that I turned off my alarm (work officially starts at eight, but there’s almost never anyone there then, and if I’m not teaching, no one cares, or perhaps even notices, whether I arrive on time or not, especially not with most of the bosses off in northern Zambia somewhere), dumped my top sheet in a bucket of water, and managed at least a few hours of sleep. I dragged myself out of bed at 8:30 (half an hour late already, and upwards of two hours later than I usually get up), still exhausted, but resigned to not getting any more sleep. (Though I think I actually had slept, at least a little, because I didn’t hear Moses, David or Clare moving around and getting breakfast.) The best part of this story is that when I rolled into work at 9:15, no one was there and the door was locked. It took another half hour for some of my coworkers to arrive and figure out where the keys were.
And ma we, it was HOT. The server room is not (yet) air conditioned, and we didn’t have internet most of last weekend because one of the servers gave out due to the excessive heat.
It has been thankfully cooler these past few days, although still really hot, and I have been thinking longingly of rain. I’m warned that everything gets horribly, horribly muddy in rainy season, and that it’s very possible to find yourself abruptly horizontal in three inches of mud, but I think that I’ll take mud over heat. I have almost never been unable to sleep because of excessive mud (and I think that the two or three times it’s happened have all been while tent camping), but cannot say the same about excessive heat. So I’ll take the rains, thanks, even if I did leave that one shirt out on the line.
The upshot of all this is that I still haven’t written the post about camping at Lockinvar two weekends ago, or the one about the Lwiindi Ceremony mumblemumble ago, but it’s not going to happen tonight, either, because they’re both picture-intensive, and it’s extra bother to write picture-intensive posts when there’s no internet. Anyway, it’s nearly bedtime.
The other excitement in my life is that I am not moving (or shifting, as they say here). I first heard the rumor about shifting from Mary-Ann and Guillermo, close to a month ago on my way back from Mboole: Everyone is moving out of The Wooden House, and they’re moving in teachers for the innovative school (who currently live half an hour’s walk away, if you walk like a muguwa, which is to say (relatively) quickly), and was I moving, and would I be in Zambezi, and had anyone bothered to tell me? It took another week and a half for me to confirm that Fred and Esther were indeed moving, and Esther said that I would be moving ‘if I wanted to.’ When? ‘Soon.’
And a week went by, and nothing happened (this was now the week after Mary-Ann and Guillermo said Fred and Esther would be moving), and last week was going by, and then yesterday they up and moved, and the whole household is now in the other half of the duplex with Mary-Ann and Guillermo, where my garden is (I checked with Esther, and she says we can share it. It’s pretty sorry these days, anyway, since I didn’t really water it that whole week when there wasn’t any electricity). And then today, Mercy et al. moved out of the back apartment into Zambezi, so I just assumed that it was a matter of time until I moved, too, and wondered if anyone would bother to tell me before a truck showed up at my door, and decided that I would move when I moved, and it wasn’t really that important, although I couldn’t help but wonder if the female American who was supposed to show up and move in with Lidewÿ last night was in fact me and no one had bothered to tell me.
But there were some guys wandering around counting rooms and occupants after Mercy et al. left, and while I didn’t know who they were, they seemed to be in some sort of authority position, so I asked them if I was moving and if so when (you might say, “But Miriam, why didn’t you ask before?” And I did try. Clare said that it was in the air but not confirmed, and no one at the office knew anything, not even the bosses (actually, Abraham was pumping me for my rumors), and my actual boss is on leave and doesn’t know what’s going on . . . Eric and Kathy visited on Tuesday and decided that the reason I don’t know what’s going on or who’s in charge is that they’re restructuring everything and not even the Zambians know what’s going on), and the most in-charge guy told me, “Ah, you, I think you can stay. You’re here until when? January?”
“Ah. Well, then, perhaps, something might come up — but next year. Not until next year. If something comes up, we will tell you.”
I don’t actually know who they were. But I’ve decided to switch from assuming that I am moving at some point in the indeterminate future to assuming that I’m not moving, at least not for the next two months. It’s less bother to not move, but I am a little disappointed: Zambezi House has indoor bathrooms, and hot running water, if you’re lucky. And toilet seats. (Actually, I discovered the other week that the Mercy et al. unit’s bathroom has a toilet seat, too. Perhaps, if I’m not moving, it would be worth the effort to convince Hospitality to install one in my bathroom, too. They could fix the lights while they’re at it.)
Moses is going back to Zimbabwe this week, so he’s well out of it, but I still don’t know if Clare is moving or staying, or if David will take over Moses’s room or move to Zambezi or get kicked out when Moses leaves. I’ll find out, I guess.
And power is back again. There might be internet to post this. Or not.
At time of posting:
N.B. not that it’s directly relevant to most of you: Since Zambia doesn’t do daylight savings time, I’m now seven hours different from the east coast of the US, not six.
For reasons unknown, we haven’t had water in the house since Friday night, when we had it just at bedtime, and Moses says that there isn’t even any at the back tap now.
Also, a bird just tried to fly into my window.