So the recent return of the rains got me to thinking. Never a good thing! Am I right? It leads to things like blogging!
I was thinking about how rain affects us differently here than where we come from. The different ways it impacts our lives.
The most obvious is, of course, accomplishing laundry. This is on my mind because my roommate’s laundry has now been on the line for three days.
We need, what I call the trifecta, in order to do laundry. This means we need water, power and sunshine. Together. Because the majority of us don’t have a dryer. And water is not always supplied by the water company. And power is not always supplied by the power company. You need to be sure you have all three in sufficient quantity in order to even consider beginning a load of laundry.
So you can begin by checking your cisterna’s water level. If it’s low but clean clothes have become an urgent matter, you check the tinaco and hope there’s sufficient water in there to get you through a load or two.
If the water situation is good you move on to power. Now back in the day when we had scheduled outages you would go on the Edenorte website and look up the schedule for that day, for your sector, and then you added at least an hour to either side of the outage to be safe. Now that we have alleged 24-hour power you just sort of cross your fingers and hope for the best. Because while you might think clothes left in a powerless washer are just getting an extra soak, in this country they will be starting to mildew and get pretty darn funky.
So with faith in an unfaithful power supply, you forge ahead. You check the sky. In all directions. And even if you see abundant sunshine at the moment you know better than to just trust that. This is the tropics and tropical weather is, and this is an understatement, unpredictable. You check a weather forecast. Maybe two. And if you think the odds are in your favour, you pray to whatever god or other being you think has some pull and you start your washer.
You don’t have a dedicated laundry day or time. You are at the whims of so many things. It’s a little bit of luck, a little bit of magic and a whole lot of thankfulness that you bought those extra knickers.
Now on to leaks. Or as we call it here – infiltration.
Our houses are block and cement. Blocks are porous. Cement is porous. Especially in older homes, where who knows what ratio of water to cement they may have used to mix up the batch of cement that covers your blocks. Who am I kidding? Even these days you can’t be sure. Constant rain means constantly wet walls. Walls that eventually wick up and absorb that water like an adult diaper.
And the majority of our roofs are flat and while there are drains and pipes sticking out from the walls to remove the water, we all know, from any floods in our bathrooms, that nothing here is actually ever graded toward the drain. So only once the water reaches a certain depth on your roof does it start to drain. But water will be left in all the low lying areas of your roof. Looking, like a thief, for a place to get in. And all the fixes you try only ever seem temporary in the face of heavy, unending tropical rains.
And then your paint peels inside and outside. And your walls and ceilings start to develop mould. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it until the rains stop. And then you have to have the patience to wait at least a month for everything to truly dry out so you can start all over again with whatever is the latest and greatest new fix – this time hoping it is permanent or at least a lot less temporary than the last.
And finally, there is your social life. Most of our favourite places to eat and drink are outside or open to the air. Very open to the air. This is wonderful on warm tropical nights. We love being under a canopy of stars or trees. We love hearing the ocean as we dine and feeling the sand under our feet as we share cocktails with friends.
Not so much in rainy season. It puts a damper on things, quite literally. But you can’t say you are truly aplatanado until you are willing to sit crammed together under a dripping roof, in rain gear with umbrellas open and a piece of plastic sheeting wall as the only protection between you and the elements, to enjoy your Happy Hour. Or eat your fried fish or plate of the day.
And while this might not paint the romantic image that people want or expect of tropical life, it really, for most of us who choose to live here, is a part of the charm of living here. It unites us. And it means we haven’t got as much time to be too concerned with the things that cause the ‘real world’ such anguish and depression and anger.
Life isn’t always easy here. And as we say ‘Siempre hay algo’ – there’s always something. But those somethings teach us patience. And those somethings bring us back to the important things in life. And those somethings give us a sense of community.
And those somethings mold us into new, and often, more tolerant people.
So let it rain. And if you need me, well, I’ll be mopping up the flood on my floor, and blow-drying my laundry and gathering my rain gear to take to Happy Hour!