06 September 2009 Caught in an African Thunderstorm

Yesterday I was caught outside in an African Thunderstorm. Today it’s raining again but I am sitting inside. I am dry. I am warm so I can recall being caught in the storm yesterday with out too much unpleasantness. Wait let me get a hot cup of tea. That will make it perfect.

Ok I’m back.

Yesterday was Sandema market day. I didn’t send Cantuace on the bike. I decided to go because I have a school uniform and a dress for Cantuace and a skirt for me at the seamstress’s.

Transport was a problem. We waited for almost 1.5 hours for transport into town. We arrived around 12:15. We finished our marketing and sat to wait for the bus back. It was 1:30. There is a 2:00 pm bus so I figured we were all set. Geesh you guys have only read about transportation here in Ghana an you already know that my optimism about getting the bus at 2:00 is ill founded. . Why did I, who lives here, think it would come on time!? Surprise it didn’t.

While we were waiting we ate kabobs and cosi I bought for us. Cosi is a cake made of millet flour and deep fried. Yum. Kabobs, in Sandema, not so yum. They are made with intestines and fat. Then the girls that were with me chipped in and bought use each a bowfruit. A Ghana donut.

As we waited the air began to cool. A nice breeze came up and it felt good. Then I remembered my Ghanaian meteorology. This means rain will come. I looked at the sky at 2:00 pm. A few dark clouds were gathering. Oh We will be fine “the bus will come soon”. I assured myself. Please Please remind me NEVER TO THINK THAT AGAIN! Remember last time?

I sat. I listened to the girls talk. I played snake on my phone. I sent a few text messages. The breeze was even cooler. It was now 2:30. I looked at the sky again. More dark clouds. I applied more of my waiting strategies. Standing up and stretching. Walking around a little. Playing more snake. It was 3:00 pm now and no bus. And more dark clouds in the sky.

Three fifteen and at last the bus has come. I forgot the rain then and concentrated on keeping my place in line. Getting a good spot to stand and making sure the 4 girls who were with me are also on the bus. 3:45 we at last leave the station.

I am standing in the front of the bus beside one of the Mass Metro employees. We get close to SecTech and he points. I anticipate him and I say “Yes we are getting off at Sandema Senior High Technical School. That ‘s where I will get off” He says ” Oh you are.” and he adds “Look It’s raining.” And I could see the line of rain up ahead. It ended almost at the junction to SecTech. Then it comes in all it’s glory. Hard, drenching rain.

Options?

Go to Navarongo.

Get out at my junction and run the mile to my bungalow.

Get out and stand under the open sided tin roofed bus shelter.

Get out and run a few hundred yards to Abigail’s grandmother’s house.

I had 4 others with me. Navarongo was not an option.

It was pouring and the wind was blowing. Not gonna run for it.

We all headed for the bus shelter. The girls decided to run to Abigail’s grandmother’s house but it was raining too hard for me. I decided to stay in the shelter.

One man had his moto in the very center of the shelter. We all crowded around it, facing away from the wind. The back of my dress was soaked through in less than 2.5 minutes. My feet and legs were being pelted by rain bullets. One woman was facing the rain. What could make a person face that awful rain. I peeked around her back to see. Yes she had a baby on her back and the baby was sleeping.

The wind blew my skirt around my legs. I looked at the fields of grass and they were bent in the direction of the wind with a fine mist being blown off them. The road looked like a river with waves rolling down it. The leaves on the trees and shrubs were flipped over pointing in the direction of the wind. Every where I looked there was mist being blown up from the ground, the grasses, and the bushes. It was beautiful.

Oh then the thunder began. It’s crazy but even after my house was hit by lightening I am not afraid in a thunderstorm like I was in America. Lightening hit a mile or so behind us and there was a huge crack of thunder. I checked the baby. it was still sleeping. Then about ½ a mile down the road I saw a streak of lightening and it hit the electric wires. Ginormic crash of thunder. I was more than awake now. All my senses were at red alert. Every one else had very wide eyes and then we laughed. I checked the baby again. Still sleeping.

It had rained about 20 minutes and I was beginning to think “I could be standing here all night waiting for this rain to stop.” Should I call someone? But I didn’t know who so I just kept waiting.

In about 30 minutes the rain began to slow down. One of my neighbors was under the shelter with me she said “Madam Vicky we better go now or we could be here all night. This rain is not going to stop.” So we picked up our bags and headed out into the drizzle.

The road into the school was no longer a road it was a brown muddy river. “My feet will get wet!” I thought to myself. Then laughed and thought “They can’t be any wetter!”. So I waded home. Thank goodness no big cloudburst but I was soaked to the skin when I got in the house.

An African thunderstorm is much better in the house than out.

This is a good place to share this poem again.

An African Thunderstorm

From the West

Clouds come hurrying with the wind

Turning

Sharply

Here and there

Like a plague of locusts

Whirling

Tossing up things on its tail

Like a madman chasing nothing

Pregnant clouds

Ride stately on its back

Gathering to perch on hills

Like dark sinister wings;

The wind whistles by

and trees bend to let it pass.

In the village

Screams of delighted children

Toss and Turn

In the din of whirling wind,

Women-

Babies clinging on their backs-

Dart about

In and out

Madly

The wind whistles by

Whilst trees bend to let it pass.

Clothes were like tattered flags

Flying off

To expose dangling breasts

As jagged blinding flashes

Rumble, tremble, and crack

Amidst the smell of fired smoke

and the pelting march of the storm.

David Rubadiri was born in Malawi in 1930

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