Sunday, 18 January 2009

When it Rains, it Pours ...

As an Englishman, living in Britain, I am used to rain ... and more rain.

In the UK, when it rains, we just get on with life regardless. When I lived in Paris, it was the same story. We just wore appropriate clothing, or used an umbrella, or both.

And I would have thought that this would be true of anyone living in an area where rain was common.

But in Kisii, SW Kenya, where there is not wet or dry season, (it can rain at any time) life stops when it rains. Mind you, when it rains in Kisii, it does so with vengeance! The roads flood (Kisii is a mountain town where all roads go up or down, never horizontal) forming rivers in a matter of minutes. Everyone dives for shelter in the malls or under canopies in front of shops. Except me.

I don't know about midday sun, but this mad dog did go out in the rain, without a waterproof or umbrella, just my broad-brimmed hat as protection. The rain is warm. It is pleasant - OK, the heaviest rain stings a bit, but I loved it. I wasn't exactly doing a Gene Kelly in the rain. I didn't sing and dance. But I didn't let it stop me from going about my business.

And that enhanced my reputation in this town where a mzungu is an oddity. The local people considered that I was mad, totally bonkers. They are probably right. But I was surprised to see people who are obviously used to heavy downpours let it interfere with their day.

In Nairobi, it was the same. People ducking for cover. Except a few who were armed with umbrellas. But their progrgess was impeded by the throngs gathered under the shelter of shop fronts, blocking the pavements. And this is when Nairobi takes on a London-esque appearance. The people with umbrellas barging and forcing their way through those less fortunate, or with less foresight. It is the only time I have seen Kenyans actually getting annoyed with each other.

I have yet to experience rain at my third "base" in Kenya, Malindi. The last time I was there, it was just before the rains, and it was insufferably hot with not the slightest breath of air. No soothing breeze off the Indian Ocean, just heat. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't work on my computer as the sweat poured off me onto the keyboard - dangerous, not for me, but for the laptop.

But, sitting here, where the temperature has struggled up to 4°C, with the threat of rain sleet and snow within the next 24 hours, I long for Kenya, heat, rain and anything else it can throw at me.

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