It’s September 25, 2009.
And it is raining.
It should be the beginning of hot season but there have been signs of rain for weeks now.
The winds are coming from the northwest.
The mosquitoes are insanely bad.
The frogs are singing at night.
The bugs are chirping during the day.
Zambians call it the rains that save the animals. There hasn’t been substantial rain since May which means there is no green grass for kilometers and kilometers. And the dry grass that was there has either been cut to thatch roofs or has been burnt to “improve” the soil for planting next year. The cows and goats are starving. And these are the rains that will, hopefully, save them because grass will now germinate.
And while the animals are going to be saved, gardens will prosper, and people eagerly wait the farming season-I am about to face the worst obstacle I have in Zambia: allergies.
Ever since I was small I have battled allergies. You know you have a problem when you start allergy shots at the age of 4. But don’t think for a second that I was one of those kids who weren’t allowed to play outside. I was always outside running and playing till I couldn’t breathe anymore. I was then forced by my mother to come in to take a shower to wash the outside off. For some reason I’m just allergic to the outside. And I’m not being sarcastic when I say that. I am LITERALLY allergic to the outside. Dirt, grass, dogs, cats, mold, pollen; general rule, if it is green and/or growing, I'm probably allergic. When I lived in India, I was banned from doing any projects related to dirt. We were working on a service project where we planted flowers. Innocent enough. Unless you are me! Within 5 minutes of my hands touching the dirt, I had a bright red rash all over my hands. Needless to say, I have allergies.
Normally, those things would be ok and I don’t like to let them get in the way of what I want to do. In America I could hide from these things in my bedroom, preferably with the AC on, until I'm all better and ready to go. Instead I live in Zambia, where I am allergic to the materials my house is MADE out of! Which makes it difficult to escape from.
Last rainy season, I had a panic room constructed. After having at lease 3 confirmed sinus infections in the course of 4 months and a useless trip to Lusaka, Peace Corps, in their infinite wisdom, decided my house should be ‘fixed.’ This meant having my walls cemented (because mold doesn’t grow on cement) and putting plastic up as a barrier between me and my grass roof. My house is now sporting 4 new cement coated walls, 3 new windows with shutters, and a beautiful clear plastic drop ceiling that the mice like to run across at night. By the time that was all done the rains had stopped and I was feeling better. I have yet to really prove if the Panic Room (or the weather change) made me feel better.
Panic Room Judgment Day has arrived.
My bataata says that it will probably rain this week then stop. He predicts that it will start raining mid-October, stop, and then start again beginning of November. And if there is anyone I trust knowing the weather, it’s him. He could work for the Farmer’s Almanac of Zambia. If there was one.
It’s just strange to see the weather patterns change and shift so dramatically before your eyes, especially in a country with such predictable weather patterns. Rainy season turns into cold season which turns into hot season and it starts all over again. When I came to Zambia in February 2008, it rained once in March and I didn’t see rain again until November. 2009 has proved different. When cold season started, rainy season didn’t get the message because it rained once a month during all 4 months. And now hot season is here and it’s still raining. No one can really tell when one rainy season stopped and the next one started.
As villagers rush to repair roofs and start preparations in the gardens and fields, I can only think that maybe Al Gore was right about that whole global warming thing.
But why does it have to put my allergies to the test?
I'll keep you up-to-date on my allergies and the weather!