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!

 

So today our beautiful, normal, sunny, warm weather came back. And believe me, there is rejoicing everywhere. And even better is the fact that we seem to have a long stretch of it ahead of us. 

Now many who are not here, and are in climates much more frigid than we can even imagine anymore, saw a lot of us complaining about how damn cold it was. And we took some pretty good hits for it.

Don’t get us wrong. We know the conditions all of you, who are not with us here in paradise, are suffering. And our complaints are, for the most part, in jest. We know we are lucky. But the fact of the matter is – we were freezing! 

You see, rainy season started with a vengeance in early November and we haven’t seen a lot of sun since then. And this last stretch came with, literally, a wind chill factor. The winds were practically hurricane force and the seas were fierce and the rain never seemed to end. And we shivered.

Now 19˚C or 67˚F may not seem like anything to complain about, but when you live most of the time with temperatures closer to 30˚C or 86˚F with a crazy humidex factor, well, you can see how it might have been a shock to our systems. And we usually end the fall with temperatures and humidity you don’t even want to know about. 

We aren’t equipped for it. Most of our houses are open and airy. And cement and tile. Wonderful in the heat of summer. Not so great when things turn nippy. We can’t close things up and turn on the heat. In fact, if you are lucky enough to have a car with functioning heat you are sorely tempted to spend the night sleeping in it.

And our wardrobes aren’t exactly built for cold temperatures either. Most of us have a few basic pieces of cold weather gear – well, really, cool weather gear. And we won’t lie. Every year when the heat breaks and the temperatures drop and a normal rainy season starts we love to break out the jeans and long-sleeve shirts. And the sweaters or jackets. And the closed toe shoes and socks. And we all make comments to each other about how nice we look. After endless months in shorts and tank tops and flip flops we feel like we are all dressed up for a formal occasion. It’s a novelty.

But a season like this pushes us to our sartorial limits. When you’ve alternated those two long-sleeved shirts all week for weeks and weeks and worn the same sweater over them and the stains on your jeans are starting to show and that one pair of socks now has a hole in the toe – well, it gets old fast.

Then there’s the fact that it’s almost impossible to do laundry. Oh, you can wash your clothes but good luck getting them to dry. We’ve all put on something to go out that’s a wee bit more than just damp. You can imagine how that adds to the chill factor. And we’ve all had to rewash those clothes because they start to mildew from the dampness before they can dry.

But we know it will get sunny and warm again. And we aren’t trapped by snow and ice storms. We don’t have to dig our way out of our houses only to have to dig our car out of a snowbank.

And we can always still go to Happy Hour on the beach. We’ll throw on those same damp clothes and go out. Because very little keeps us from getting together to enjoy a drink or two with friends.