Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Great Battle of 2016 for Dar es Salaam (and the Soul of Amy Medina)


It was an Epic Battle.

The Heat had dominated for long enough.  Summer in Dar es Salaam is always dominated by Heat, but this year, El Nino gave it an extra boost that turned it into the worst season we've experienced in our 12 years here.  Days that turned into weeks that turned into months of temperatures well over 100 degrees, with a heat index of around 120.  Yep, for months.  And this in a place where there is very little air conditioning, and usually you are lucky to just have electricity.  

These past few months, almost every afternoon I would need to lie down in a heap of sweat and frazzled nerves, submitting myself to the Heat, picking up all the shreds of my resolve just to stand in front of my oven and cook dinner.  I told the Heat, You've won!  You've won!  I give up!  And yet still, relentlessly, it sought after my life, sucking away my patience and my brain cells, like The Machine in the Pit of Despair.

And so we all waited and prayed for our Rescuer to come:  The Rain.  It came in timidly at first, giving us a shower here and there, but the relief would only last a few minutes.  Then, in the last few weeks, the showers would last longer.  We would prop open our doors and put fans in front of our windows, desperately trying to suck in as much cool air as possible.  We would breathe deep and almost cry with relief.....but it would only last an hour.  The Heat would push the clouds away and reappear in full vengeance, angry from losing a battle.

Until yesterday.

It was morning, the clouds were out, the drizzling had begun.  But I needed flour.  I figured, Eh, the rain is just playing around again.  I can just walk to the nearest duka.  So I got out my umbrella and set off for the duka that's about 100 yards away.  

No flour.  I pushed onwards, thinking that someone in some duka has got to have flour.  Isn't anyone cooking chapati or mandazi today?  I checked another duka, then another.  Still no flour, and now the rain started to mean business.  Thunder and lightning flashed around me.  But I had come this far, and I didn't want to go home without flour.  By the time I got to the fifth duka, the bottoms of my pant legs were soaked.  This duka did have flour, but only in 25 kilo sacks.  Um, that's not going to work.  

In defeat, I turned around and headed home, but now I realized that I was right out in the middle of the Epic Battle with The Heat.  This was no sprinkle; This Was Rain.  And if you've never experienced the Rains Down in Africa, well, they're amazing enough to write a song about.  My umbrella became useless; in vain I tried to pull my pant legs above my knees as I picked through the mud.  By the time I was almost home, no one was walking on the road anymore.  Some men beckoned me to come stand with them under an awning and I politely declined.  I'm sure they all got a good laugh at the mzungu who looked like a drowned rat and who never did find her flour.

It rained for eight hours yesterday, and the battle wasn't without its casualties.  The Rain forced itself through schools, homes, and even walls, making rivers for itself in places where it wasn't invited.  The roads flooded and snarled traffic for hours.  It took me 40 minutes each way to pick up Johnny from pre-school, only a mile away.  HOPAC closed an hour early to get their buses on the road so that the kids could be home before dark.  

The power went out in the middle of the night.  But for the first time in months, we didn't wake up from suffocating heat.  The sun came out this morning, and the power is still off as I write this.  Most of the world would still consider this weather stifling.  However, my hair is not in a ponytail for the first time in months, and I am not sweating.  The Heat is losing its resolve.  

It feels like a miracle.

The Rain Won.

Collectively, Dar es Salaam breathes a sigh of relief.  And I might just get my brain cells back.



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