The rainy season here technically started back in September, but my first few months in Rwanda were unseasonably dry and hot. It rained maybe once a week and only for a quick shower. Over the past few weeks, the rainy season has finally caught up with us. Almost every day, it absolutely pours.
Most days start of reasonably sunny and warm, but around lunch time the clouds start to darken and look ominous and the wind picks up. And eventually the bottom drops out, and the rain pummels the earth with giant, cold raindrops. Sometimes it feels like we’re in that scene from Forrest Gump, when he complains about the rain coming from all directions, even up from the ground.
During a good rain storm, it is nearly impossible to hear yourself think. Most of the buildings have a simple metal roof, so the rain can be deafening. You practically have to shout in order to have a conversation with someone, and classes are canceled because teachers simply can’t be heard over the pounding rain.
After a storm, the air temperature is pretty nippy. It’s not like back home where afternoon thunderstorms leave everything unbearably hot and humid. I can’t say with certainty because there are no thermometers, but it feels like the temperature must drop 15 degrees.
The roads have also gotten more precarious. The roads weren’t bad back when we first arrived, but the daily rain has left the roads gutted and washed out. Our 20 minute car rides twice a week from our village to the main training site feel like a bad roller coaster! Even walking after a rainstorm is difficult because my shoes quickly pick up a thick layer of red, slippery mud, and it takes all my might not to slip and fall flat on my face! (There have been a few close calls so far!)
The rainy season has brought with it a nice change of pace around here. In the beginning the rainy season, every morning started very early as farmers scrambled to plant their new crops, which appear to be mostly beans. Everyone worked very quickly to get all the work done to take advantage of the healthy rains. Now that the planting is done and the seeds are starting to grow, life has slowed down again. In the mornings, families sleep in a bit later (meaning 6am instead of 5,) they take more time doing their daily chores, and in the afternoon everyone huddles up at home together to wait out the storm. The rain puts life on hold for a few hours, forcing you to relax, talk to your family and neighbors, and drink lots of tea.
Speaking of tea, I think I’m going to be able to float back to America by the end of two years. Rwandans love their tea. Last week the family cow had a baby, so now instead of just plain tea we have plain milk or tea with milk multiple times a day. Back in America, you could not have paid me to drink a glass of milk. Yesterday I drank milk on six separate occasions. Six. My host mom gave me four glasses, I had one more when visiting a friend, and then we both had another at the restaurant where we went to study.
I think giving me so much milk is part of my host mom’s plan to fatten me up. At every meal, she tells me that I’m still hungry and tries to put a third or fourth helping of food on my plate. As she pushes food on me, she tells me it’s not good to be thin because I won’t find a husband. In Rwandan culture, it’s a huge compliment to be called fat because it shows you have the money to buy lots of food, so I think my host mom is somehow personally offended by my weight. She feels like a bad mother because I am expected become fat under her roof to show she is a good hostess. Yesterday at lunch after I refused a third helping of rice and cabbage, she said to me, “I used to be thin once too. Then I gave birth and got fat. It will happen to you one day.” Then she laughed and poured me my third glass of milk of the day.