January 31, 2005
The Rainy Season
You know that the rainy season means mud, but does it also mean continual rain for three months? No, but it is a season of total transformation.
Before we arrived in Malawi, people told me what a beautiful country it was, but I have to admit that when we arrived in the parched month of August, I was less than enchanted. There was dust and dirt everywhere. The countryside looked like a study in brown and dingy. Everything looked dry and desperate. It did not rained one drop the first three and a half months we were here.
Then we began to get an occasional afternoon shower. As the weeks went on, the rain became more frequent and heavier. One day in early December, our family sat at our dining room window and watched a huge gray front of clouds approach. The wind picked up and our blue gum trees started to wave their branches wildly. When the bank of blackness, which blotted out the late afternoon sun, reached us, it let loose a torrential downpour. Lightening illuminated the sky and thunder roared. It was a ferocious storm. (And of course, our electricity went out almost immediately.)
Storms such as this one are so frequent now that we barely take notice. When we get up in the morning, the sun can be brilliantly shining, but by noon, clouds are gathering, and a few hours later, the deluge begins. Sometimes it continues with varying degrees of rainfall, for hours. At other times it lasts for a half hour and then the sun pokes its way through the clouds and breaks out into the open again. The clouds disappear until the next day. Occasionally we will have a day when it rains for almost the entire day, but usually the sun shines at some point during the day. Last week when we were driving back from Mt. Mulanje, you could see thunderstorms raging over the landscape in several directions at once, but at the same time, the sun was shining brightly in one area. The result was not one, but two magnificent rainbows!
Where does all this rainwater go? Well, when we first arrived, we noticed wide (1.5 ft.) drainage ditches everywhere. They surround each house and building, and there are even bigger ones lining the streets of Blantyre. Each time it pours, these are filled to overflowing with water. But even they can’t hold all the runoff. Huge puddles develop all over yards and roads. Wherever there is a depression in the earth, there is water. After one of the first big storms, I saw about 40 primary school children, clad in school uniforms, running and jumping into a gigantic mud puddle. They were practically swimming in it. They sure were having fun, but I wouldn’t want to have to clean those uniforms.
Speaking of laundry, getting it done is really a problem during rainy season. The clothes are washed in the morning, and hung out to dry. Alfred, Margaret and I usually have to rush out early in the afternoon and grab the clothes off the line as it starts to sprinkle. We have put up a line in our garage, and can hang some of the wet garments up there, but things don’t dry too well when the humidity is 100%.
The benefits of all this precipitation are visible everywhere. Trees have blossomed and branched out. Sticks in the ground have become variegated vegetation. Dusty fields have been transformed into verdant rows of maize, sweet potatoes or cassava. Mango trees are laden with rich, ripe, juicy fruit. Avocado, apple and lime trees flower and then grow incredible amounts of fruit. It is a wildly productive time. Right now the maize is higher than we are!
All this moisture has its downside too. The tarmac roads are now pitted with huge potholes from the rain. We have to navigate our way through them carefully. The unpaved roads are treacherous and at times impassable. Driving up to Ndirande has become a nightmare. Rivers of water erode the dirt roads and create dangerous gullies. The ground became so soft that some enterprising thieves stole a set of huge cement water pipes that went under the road. The pavement then collapsed, leaving one of the main roads in the city closed. Repairs will take weeks, if not months!
One of the buzzwords in the states before we left was “transformation.” Individuals and churches need to be transformed. This rainy season has showed us the power of transformation. Water, like faith, can bring about total change. Blossoming and growth take place. But change is never easy. There are always problems and setbacks. Despite the rocky roads (literally, in this case) the transformation is worth it. Change can be a scary, but beautiful thing. I will try and remember that the next time I get caught in a downpour without an umbrella.