A little over a week ago, some college students from I forget where University arrived at Hamdalleye, our training site, on our last night of IST. We, being the loving helpful individuals we are, had all manner of fun tricks planned to truly acquaint them with Nigerien life. Among these were such things as hiding all the toilet paper, thus forcing them to "go native" (it involves a small plastic teapot). Also great effort was to go into displaying just how crazy 4 months in the bush had made us.
However as fate would have it, their arrival coincided with the first real rain. This was the first real rain any of us had seen in over 4 months. No effort was needed to look crazy before the bewildered and somewhat frightened college students.
I survived hot season and rainy season has begun. What no one ever tells you is that it's still hot, now it just rains sometimes. But that's ok, because the rain is nice, and now there are clouds which help screen us from the evil glowing day ball. Stepping out of my house at midday doesn't make me feel like an ant under a magnifying glass anymore.
While the first rain at Hamdalleye was wonderful in it's newness, it didn't really leave much of a mark. In the morning everything was as dry as before. However last Thursday night we got a nice big rainstorm just after sunset in my village. My villagers tried to get me to stay hiding in my house from all the wind and the rain, but I kept leaving to enjoy the cold. That one thing bears emphasizing. The rain here is cold. Very cold. And it can sting when it really get's going. But it's rain and the cold feels so good for as long as you can stand it.
Anyway, the rain lasted a few hours. After that it was safe to go sleep outside again (it's like sleeping in an oven if I sleep inside). Then next morning all my villagers were out in their fields planting away. It was quite an impressive site. My maigari had been planning to come into Niamey with me, but he approached me in the morning and we had the following conversation:
Maigari: I am not going to Niamey. I need to plant.
Me: Yes, you should plant.
I don't really know why I bothered typing that, but the simplicity of some of the conversations here still amuses me and I felt you should have a taste. Of course that was all in Zarma at the time.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the weather I have seen in the past week. I have been constantly complaining about the fact that there is no weather to speak of in this country, just varying degrees of hotness and sometimes some wind and dust. Well with the onset of rainy season that has all changed.
Starting a few days before the rain I just mentioned, I bore witness to some of the most fantastic displays of lightning I have ever imagined. Huge clouds would begin rolling in around the already gorgeous sunset, so you've got this vivid array of pastels and neons surrounded by a sea of grey and black shadows. And within these shadows flashes of light would occur with varying frequency. Once it got going though, I would see a fork of lighting every few seconds. But the most amazing thing is when the lightning would ripple across the sky. I shit you not it looked just like those preposterous lightning effects they use in movies when some sort of electronic array gets short circuited or whatever. It was amazing. Just these blue serpents of light worming their way through the clouds. What made all this even more phenominal was that for the longest time, it was all happening far enough away that it took place in silence. It was both fantastic and Eerie.
Fast forward. Friday, as I set off for Niamey, watching all my villagers starting to make little divets in their fields to plan the millet, I noted an impressive mass of clouds across the river behind me. I marveled at the constantly changing skyskape while I walked the seven kilometers to the paved road where I would pick up a bush taxi. I watched as the undulating mass slowly, well not quite so slowly as I would have liked, encroached on the clear blue skys ahead of me. Have you ever actually watching clouds form? Seemed like every time I blinked there were new clouds or the ones already there were bigger. I watched this display for about an hour mesmerized by how wonderfully elaborate and improbable our world is. Then the rain caught up with me with about 2.5k left to go. I spent the next 2.5 hours with not a dry spot on my body, freezing cold either hiding in a random villager's hut, waiting for a bush taxi, or having Nigeriens laugh at the shivering anasara on the bush taxi.
Maybe rainy season isn't all wonderful.