10 on the 10th, I bless the rains down in Africa

I am happy to announce, that for the first time in our Cook family blog’s history, we are welcoming a guest contributor. Our friend and neighbor, Mrs. Libby Diver Halestrap, posted this on her own blog just a couple of weeks ago. It resonated so well with me and I thought it was a great description of what rainy season is like here in Kijabe. From the muddy hands to trying fried termites, we’ve experienced every bit of what she listed on her post. So, while I sit back and relax by the warmth of our own cozy fire, I’ll enjoy again the writing that Libby has already done. I think you’ll enjoy it too! (sorry for the blurry pics. this entire post was highjacked from her blog and I’m not tech savvy enough to know how to make them any clearer)

Some may recognise that as a line from a song. It’s from ‘Africa’, originally sung by Toto. The song is nearly as old as I am, and was apparently written in response to haunting images broadcast around the world during a severe drought and famine in East Africa in the early eighties. Even now this ‘love song to the continent of Africa’ appeals to many, and my favourite current version is sang by a choir whose performance seems to be doing the rounds on social media. I’ve found myself humming the melody quite a lot recently and this can mean only one thing: the rainy season has finally arrived.

The rains are always seen as a blessing. Always. But this time it seemed their arrival was met with an even greater sense of anticipation. Now, as I look out and see everything bursting into life again, I find myself reflecting on what the rains have meant this time. So umbrellas at the ready, because here’s ten things about our rainy season…

  1. We’re thankful

Coming from the green, leafy and often-extremely-wet UK has meant I never appreciated what it is like to live without a source of water. The rain was often seen as something to be endured, taps never ran dry and even restrictions in water use were not common. Here in Kenya, and indeed much of Africa, it is quite a different story of course.

After the November rains hardly materialised in Kenya the country quickly began to suffer under the weight of disrupted planting routines, failed crops and dry rivers. In February the president officially declared the drought as a national disaster and appealed for international aid, and in March it was suggested that as many as four million Kenyans were facing famine conditions. Indeed colleagues based in the northern part of the country reported huge loss of livestock, dry wells and a growing desperation.

A sad sight, and a vivid picture of the reality of the crisis.
Photo: EA

 

Northern Kenya – Further evidence of continuing devastation.
Photo: EA

 

Friends shared with us about their involvement in the necessary clean up…
Photo: EA

 

…And the heartbreak for so many.
Photo: EA

 

Here in temperate Kijabe we did not see devastation of the drought quite so acutely, but we were still very aware of failing crops, rapidly rising food prices, low water supplies and the growing anxiety of those who were desperate to begin planting but couldn’t risk doing so whilst the ground was so dry. And so, when the rain finally began to fall a few weeks ago, there was celebration and overwhelming thankfulness. Even the earth seemed to breath a sigh of relief as the dry, cracked and dusty ground received its fill. We saw hope and anticipation and thankfulness, and now, as the rains persist weeks later, we continue to learn to nurture a heart of gratitude.

  1. It doesn’t rain, it pours

Rarely do we experience a gentle pitter-patter or a slow drizzle. Here the rains are spectacular and awe-inspiring; big fat drops that can soak you in seconds. The noise on our metal roof can be deafening, and if the storm includes thunder and lightning it’s all the more exciting.

Down it comes!

 

The beginnings of a flood in only a few minutes…

 

  1. Mud, mud, glorious mud…

There something wonderful about the smell of the first drops hitting the dry ground but inevitably the dust then turns to mud: a red and sticky kind that clings and puts even our hardy 4×4 vehicle to the test as we slip and slide along the roads. The children love it of course, and like to create forts and dams to stem the mini rivers forging their way down our garden. Flo can often be seen running around in her favourite pink wellies and singing the Peppa Pig muddy puddles song!  

‘Those who want rain must also accept the mud.’ – African proverb.

 

So much fun!

 

 

Mud bath anyone?

 

  1. Everything transforms to green again

It’s amazing to watch everything spring back to life so quickly after such a prolonged period of dryness. Seemingly dead plants and grasses are revived and the shambas (vegetable gardens) begin to thrive once more. Growth and life and regeneration are all around us, and it’s a blessing to see.

  1. Fog!

A regular sign of the rainy season is a thick layer of fog that can sometimes appear and then disappear within minutes. We love watching the clouds roll down the mountainside behind us and fill our windows with an atmospheric and almost eerie mist. Birdsong and animal noises call out to us from seemingly far away, and for a brief moment we feel isolated. Moments pass and then it’s gone.

An eerie fog…

 

…And in a few moments it will be gone.

 

Tramping up to school and we’re reminded why RVA is often called ‘school in the clouds’.

 

It certainly lives up to its name!
Photo: MH

 

  1. It’s cool to catch water

We all know the benefits of harvesting rainwater and the children have become excited about following the progress of our filling containers, in particular seeing how quickly our 2300-litre tank can fill during a rainstorm! We’ve learnt the immense value of stored water and have also discovered how NOT to do it, particularly when we’ve seen how quickly mosquitoes can lay their eggs in uncovered tanks…

  1. The critters come out from hiding

It is not unusual to come across a variety of creepies at all times of year but the rainy season seems to bring them out in even greater numbers. Moths, centipedes, spiders and even the ‘Nairobi Eye’ – a small but nasty black and red beetle that releases a burning acid-like toxin when crushed – appear in their droves. Most alarming of all however, must be the flying termites. These little critters emerge from the ground in their thousands, filling the air with their flapping wings and congregating around the nearest light source. They easily find their way under door-frames and through unsealed windows and it is therefore common for us to discover a number of them coming into our house. The children actually find this most exciting and much time is spent in pursuit of these flappy creatures; the boys have got rather good at mid-air catches!

The first of many who find their way inside…

After only a short time the flying termites then drop their wings and take to their legs, wriggling and wandering in search of a mate. They can be somewhat creepy, but we’ve learnt to embrace the tradition of frying them up and enjoying their ‘popcorn’ flavour. Quite a delicacy, we’ve been assured!

Caught and ready for the frying pan!

 

Fry gently in butter…

 

… Delicious!

 

Meanwhile the job of sweeping up all the wings begins.

 

  1. Baby, it’s cold outside…

Here in Kijabe our altitude dictates that the climate is temperate and our nights are cool. When the sun shines we can enjoy a ‘warm summers day’, but throw in a number of rainy days and a lot of cloud cover and suddenly the temperature plummets. It’s therefore a great excuse to build a fire and snuggle down to keep warm.

Fire building time.

 

  1. It reminds us of England!

Rain, grey clouds, cool days… It’s home from home really!

  1. But the sun does still shine…

Even during the rainy season it’s unusual to have days and days without any sunshine at all. When the clouds break and the sun emerges, sometimes bringing with it a dazzlingly blue sky, we are grateful for a bit of warmth and for the clear picture of everything washed and glittering. We love the sparkling raindrops, the renewed birdsong, the startlingly clear views across the valley and the depth of colour that only a good soaking can bring. We truly see four seasons in one day, and it’s beautiful.

After the rain – a snatch of blue sky and a vision of green.

 

Mt. Longonot and a beautiful evening sky over the valley.
Photo: DS

And so, it may take much longer for my laundry to dry and I can feel frustrated by the intense volume of mud or the delays on the road. But this life-giving rain is so essential, so tangibly valued, so appreciated. We’ve seen rejuvenation and watched the rekindling of life.

We’re thankful.

-L