First Rain

July 7th The first rain. Well, not officially… It has rained twice recently but just tiny sprinkles that didn’t last more than a few minutes. Today it was so strong it woke us all up. The family had woken up at 4:32am to eat before the sun rose before the 19th day of fasting for Ramadan and then proceeded to lay down again and go back to sleep until sunrise. Sunrise, however, was preceeded by the onset of a downpour complete with thunder and lightning! Someone grabbed my foot, waking me up to tell me to come inside. We sleep under a large shade structure roofed with zinc sheets. Our beds are made out of a woven board of bamboo perched atop yellow oil bidons. I sat up, thinking it was time to wake up, but was immediately struck by the full sensory impact of the rain. The smell, the sound, the feel. I was dry where I was, but the mist being carried by the gusts washed over my body. The rain sounded like hail as it hit the zinc roof, rushing down, splashing on the sandy puddles below. I didn’t want to move. This was the most amazing place in the whole world at that exact moment. It was cool, calm, and yet chaotic and urgent at the same time. I was enthralled, and laid back down to try and make this moment last forever. But, my mother called out to me, “you need to take your mattress inside. There is too much water. Bring it into my bedroom, yours is too far away and you will get really wet. Come inside and lay down.” I got up reluctantly, muttering that the rain probably wouldn’t really last that long, it wouldn’t really matter if I stayed there.. But I went anyways. Inside the room, she and my sister were arranging the blankets and mattresses that had been taken inside from the rain. We set mine aside and I collapsed on the large mattress on the floor with my sister, my mom taking the one by the wall. (Something I really still don’t understand is why we never use the bed, instead choosing to sleep on mats on the floor.) I got up a little while later to use the bathroom. My mother quickly instructed me to take a benoir with me and carry it over my head so as not to get wet. It was about 6:15am by this point and still dark as night as I turned on my cell phone flashlight and perched the big plastic bucket over my head, holding it steady with my other hand. I trudged slowly across the yard, my $1 flip flops squishing in the wet mud and unseen puddles. I added some layers to what I was wearing and hurried back to my mom’s room, my cell phone in my mouth, flashlight on again. I fell back asleep, awakened another hour later to the squeals of the kids outside frolicking in the puddles, a sight so rarely seen and experienced. The puddles are short-lived, as the sand quickly sucks away all the moisture back into itself. I had plans to travel to Ourossogui (our regional capital) early this morning to get some work done and to pick up millet seeds to bring back before the first rain (HAH! Irony). I obviously had not left at 6am like I had planned. I now drank my coffee, thinking maybe I could still make it there and back today, sending the emails I needed and picking up the seeds in hopes that people wouldn’t have seeded their fields at the first rain (silly hope). I got all the way to the garage to leave when I realized: my whole family is out in our field sowing the seeds for the year, why am I not there? I immediately turned around, refusing the available car, and changed into my work pants and a t-shirt to head to the field where we spent the rest of the morning seeding, singing, dancing, and praising God for the wonderful gift of such a healthy, generous rain.  What a day.


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