It is raining this morning. I am sitting in my living room listening to the rain drops pound on my tin roof while I drink a cup of coffee. It is a beautiful morning. Over the last few months, this simple, beautiful, natural phenomenon called rain has come to mean so many things to me. And as I sip my coffee, the old Toto lyrics keep running through my head. “I bless the rains down in Africa…”
Of course rain is such a blessing. When you glance around the landscape of our small East African town you can easily see the effects of this rainy season. Everything is lush and green; the corn crops are tall and almost ready for harvest; the rice fields are thickening so you can no longer see the marsh that looms below their bright green stems. People are gathering water in buckets off the roofs. Rain. Yes, it is a blessing.
However, this morning when I woke to the sound of rain, as shallow as it may be, one of my first thoughts went to the huge load of laundry we did yesterday. A new friend of mine, who was looking for work, helped me wash by hand a load of laundry that has been piling up the last couple weeks. We (mostly she) worked for hours yesterday to get them all finished. Long close-lines were strung all over the yard and our clothes were hanging everywhere. However, as soon as she finished carefully squeezing every excess drop of water out of each piece of clothing, the rain came, and in about 3 minutes, each item was soaking again. Needless to say, the clothes did not fully dry yesterday. So last night, as the sun was setting, Travis and I pulled them all in and hung them in our living room for the night. My plan was to hang them outside again at the first light to let the sun finish the job. But, no, it is still raining this morning. Despite my efforts of aiming a fan directly at the clothes all night, they are already starting to smell soured. Hmm… that rain!
Also, when it rains, we discovered soon after we moved into our house, that a river slowly creeps under our front door and runs right through our living room. By the end of each rain, we have a large lake sitting in the middle of our floor. Though frustrating, I have decided to take each rain as an opportunity to mop my living room (not that I really have much choice!). The good news is that my living-floor is the cleanest in the house!
As I sip my coffee this morning and stare at all the colorful clothes hanging around my living room, my mind visits another friend of mine whom I met a few weeks ago. She does not live too far from me. She too was seeking work because during the last heavy rain, her roof caved in. She described it to me animatedly. I strained to keep up with her fast Kiswahili. I did not catch everything, but enough to picture her small mud house with a grass roof get progressively more soggy until it finally gave. She and her husband have two children and both work hard to support themselves. Suddenly, the river that runs through our living room and my slightly stinky clothes seem a bit trivial.
The rainy season; it brings so much good. But, it also brings mosquitoes, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy. My mind again wanders. This time to the hardest thing we have faced since our move to Tanzania: hearing the news that one of our acquaintances’ wife and son died. We met him about a month ago when he also came to our house looking for work (are you seeing a trend here?). He told us his son was sick. We were happy to give him a job and were thankful for his help cutting the grass around our house. The next day, he showed up late in the afternoon with the news that his son had died. His sorrow was evident as he buried himself in work. A week passed and he continued working in the mornings and attending the three-day funeral in the afternoons. We mourned with him at the death of his son and could not have guessed that another tragedy was quickly nearing. Only a week later he came to our house reporting that his wife, too, had died. The morning was a blur, yet it is a blur that I will not forget. Seeing him sit next to Travis on our front porch, weeping bitterly for the loss of his life-companion and child, will forever be etched in my mind.
Did the rains bring this tragedy? Was it malaria? Was it dehydration (a bitter irony in this wet season)? We are not sure. But it does remind us of the reason we are here. To help. To bless. And to pray: God bless the rains down in Africa.