The first rain of 2014: 3:40 p.m., Monday June 2.
It was unbearably hot. Hot enough to make me question my entire life, really. I was disoriented, uncomfortable, restless. I was just about to appeal to Allie — to seek her confirmation that today was the hottest it’s ever been — when I noticed heavy, dark clouds forming above.
No sooner had I gotten back to my hut than did I see this grey, fast-moving cloud — of dust, it looked like — coming at us. One minute I had the realization Hey, I should bring my things inside. The next, the wind was whipping me with dust and outside it was pitch black.
I scrambled to grab my things. At this point it was solely dust and wind bending the trees and covering absolutely everything in sand. It was hard to breathe and impossible to see. A hut with thatched roofing does little in the way of keeping out dust and even inside it, my body — my lips, my arms, my ears — was covered with dust. I could taste it in my mouth, coating my teeth.
We sat and we waited, watching bowls and skirts left outside take flight. Finally the dust settled slightly and we could hear thunder. The kids screamed, jiyo be naa la! The energy was electric.
First it was more wind than rain, just a few soundless drops that cooled the air. It was a coolness I hadn’t felt in many months. Then, as the thunder roared the rain started to come in sheets. Hard and from all sides, it pounded the cement rooms and humble roofs.
It was invigorating to watch the sky change, to pour water on us when we hadn’t seen a storm since October. Unrelenting as they are, the storms here demand rapt attention and chill to the bone. The kids dared each other to come out from their shelters and challenge the rain. Some boldly ran into the downpour and others huddled in a dry spot. One thing was sure: most everyone stayed where they were until it let up. Very few braved the rain to change rooms or company.
After only a half an hour, it slowed to a trickle. The wind still played in the trees, but the sky had lightened and normalcy returned. The kids splashed and kicked in puddles. The women set to work cleaning up debris from the wind.
As I ambled back to my hut, the smell of rain and anticipation filled my lungs. What will rainy season bring? What will my last months here look like? It remains to be seen, but, like the storm, I’m sure they will disappear all too quickly.
The photos where I’m wearing that (incredibly flattering) Senegalese outfit are from a holiday called Siaro. I honestly don’t know what exactly it is, but it’s religious and has something to do with a dead Imam’s birthday.
Everyone dresses up, all the women in one family or compound get one fabric and make outfits, and they spend the day cooking and relaxing. At night there’s a big dance where the young people sway to a kind of chanting in Arabic. I enjoyed wearing the same fabric because it made me feel like one of the family!
My friend Allie came and was my Siaro photographer. It’s nice to have some photos to prove I exist too, and not just my host family and friends!
Thanks for all your support, guys. I’m so grateful to have both an exceptional village here in Senegal and such wonderful people rooting for me back home.