01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: The smell of rain 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The smell of rain

After a couple of false alarms, we had our first drops of rain. On Wednesday morning, early/6.30am, I swore I could smell the rain on its way. I could feel it in the air. There was a bank of promisingly dark clouds on the horizon but then the sun broke through an hour later and the sky turned back to clear blue.

On friday afternoon my husband said,
'I swear I can smell rain - I'm sure it will come tonight or tomorrow'
After all the speculation and me regularly asking random passers by when they thought rain might come, he was maddeningly right and we had our first shower.

That smell that comes when the rain starts falling is the very best. On this occasion there was no great storm with thunder and lightening (which we were expecting after weeks of insufferably hot weather), just the first exciting drop, drop, drop on dry dusty ground, the smell of wet grass, wet tarmac, wet dirt; then more drops as it rained harder. Nothing dramatic, just very welcome.

But already there is woe. Florence who works in our house said,
'it's not enough! It hardly rained at my house! We need lots of rain! More than this!'
but nevertheless we are keeping our fingers crossed that the rainy season has perhaps begun as more clouds roll above us covering up the blue.

My friend said, 'I am depressed, what happens if the rains fail?' as she stared out over the yellow of her parched garden.
'The rains won't fail' I said with authority, 'everything will be alright.'

That's another thing. It's strange how rainfall can be so localised here. You might be driving through sheets of rain one minute with wipers going flat out, then five minutes later you break through the wet curtain and the absolutely tarmac is dry. Not a drop.

You can understand why rain in Kenya (and probably all over Africa) is known as 'God's blessing' or baraka. It's not done to complain about getting drenched or feeling miserable about wet weather. You will get no sympathy, just a smile and the response 'mvua ni baraka'.

The anticipation before it falls is immense. Weather forecasts promising rain have been wrong for months, satellite images show it approaching but no one knows when.

When I was out buying bales of straw to protect my most failing plants, the lady vendor on the side of the road said to me confidently,
'the reason it has not rained is because people have been complacent. They have forgotten God. Now he is showing them that they must repent and pray very hard if they want rain. When he is satisfied, the rain will come.'

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