Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Rains Begin - May 13th 2006

We have come during the rainy season. At first it is barely evident – the morning and noon-day sky are bright blue and cloudless, the sun, a hot blinding sphere dominating the sky. Then afternoon hits. It becomes sickeningly humid, and you accept the fate that every single part of your body will shine with sweat until you leave this place. My poker straight hair begins to curl and everything – mango, water, capal, tastes like the salt of sweat that is permanently dripping down my nose onto my upper lip.

There is no hiding this heat – the nonchalant, complaint-free fashion with which we endure no longer holds. The backs of t-shirts become dark with sweat, and it just beads and drips like a perpetual cycle on your face. Friendly villagers inquire “How do you like Ghana’s weather now, white woman?” and laugh deep belly laughs when I reply, breathlessly “Fine, fine. I like it fine.” An unlikely story, from the way that I look.

And just when you think it will never break, that your bones will go from their ivory brittleness to the thick liquid pulp of cassava mush, and in the ultimate striptease you may begin to peel off your skin, seductively – the wind blows.

Not just any wind, but an icy breeze, something brisk like stepping out of a warm house into the –40C chill that only prairie-folk can attest to;

The rains are coming.

Large winged-wasps, small flies, mosquitoes of every association, and ants for good measure have already begun to silently invade any dry premises while you haven’t noticed. It is not the first rains, so the Ghanaians have taken this as the usual – the year progresses, it rains. They re-wrap their hair scarves and fasten their prayer caps tighter for the wind, and retreat out of the courtyard. They close their stores and secure their goods (whatever it may be that they are selling on metal plates; fish, watches, endless varieties of laundry soap) and settle down for the storm.

The bright blue sky has become in a few short minutes dark grey, and crackles with movement, electric underneath a roiling, changing, calm. Then the thunder claps and the sky erupts. Sheets and sheets of water pour down, each drop a mouthful, of clear fragrant water. It is like no rain we have ever seen in our temperate climate; buckets fill, lakes and rivers – once dry, snaked, dusty beds – begin again, and the parched Sahel ground softens so that once again its people may embed in its womb small seeds to feed their ever-growing children and children’s children.

For them it is an ordinary miracle – it is expected, and if the rains do not come, tragedy ensues. It is hard to see beauty in something that is like your own limb, its usefulness overtaking any poetic contemplation. For us foreigners however, it’s a sight unseen.

Jeff and I hand our cameras to Chloe and Jamaal, and run across the Tamale sidewalk. The store-venders are watching bemusedly at these crazy people from abroad, but we have forgotten. Suddenly, we are 5 years old again. Suddenly we are running up and down, pretending to be aeroplanes, laughing with teeth showing and spinning and looking up and saluting the sky and catching the drops in our thirsty mouths - ! Within minutes we are soaked to the skin; the ¢ 20 000 bills I am carrying in my bra dripping wet, puddles collecting in our sandals. We are flicking water at each other, we are jumping in the shallow puddles that are quick to dissipate into the deep gutters and wide canals that lead to some unseen river. A cold wind blows and we are shivering wet, but the words ‘pneumonia’ are long forgotten in some dusty textbook. Open mouthed, open handed, we catch the rain, speechless at its beauty and fervour and animistic power.

And this is best how I will describe my strongest first impression of Ghana – I marvel at your lives. What for you is everyday, my Ghanaian friends, to me is a miracle. So I ask your pardon, for these short weeks, when I pause unexpectedly, at the rain, at old nana’s and women carrying two babies and a 40kg rice sack on their person, and termite hills, and the brief brief dusk and dawn – I apologize – it is all so new and miraculous. I am not saying that I shall romanticize you and your lives – undoubtedly in Ghana, just as everywhere, there are thieves and scoundrels, and wastrels and power hungry people fighting to get a piece of the illusion they call success – that is only a fact. But your world, your land and its colours and its people who smile wide and toil endlessly in the faith of tomorrow, they have reaffirmed my belief in the inherent joy, power, and beauty of this world.

A’san’kushoo – Thank you.


At 11:24 p.m., Anonymous Alex said...

Apoorva.. I miss you I miss your beauty in text and life.
I can't wait for you to come back but I'm so happy for you.
I just htought you might want to know I am reading your journal (even though, it doesn't go in chronological order sometimes).
Things are going well for me, I'm working at the centre and am crazy busy with it, the 8 hours pass so fast I have so many animals to feed, clean and tend to. I dream about animals and worry about ducks geese and gulls at night. They are facinating and enthralling to me...
I just thought you could appreciate this...

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