Rain Dances

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She’s coming in twelve-thirty flight
Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say. “Hurry, boy, it’s waiting there for you.”

Wow! Cheesy right?! But let’s be real. What song is more appropriate than Toto’s “Africa?” Let me tell you, though, the rains in Togo are no laughing matter — at least not for me.

As the forecast goes, we’ve been blessed by a short hot/dry season. I live in the Savannah region of Togo. It’s the northernmost region. In fact, I could easily ride my bike to the Burkina Faso border. The Savannahs are known to be hot, dry, and lacking vegetation among my fellow volunteers. Most of us just thought it was mostly desert before coming. During my site visit, I was shocked to see the lush greens and lack of desert. That was during the end of last’s year’s rainy season. Now that I almost have my first dry season under my belt. I concur that it isn’t so far from what we originally imagined.

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During rainy season.
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Yesterday atop the same hill as above.

 

But let’s talk a little about the importance of the rains in Togo.

The seasons hold such importance in Togolese life that the school years are designed around the rains. First, when the rains come, it is once again time to head back to the fields to start preparing the soil. After six months of direct sunlight, you can imagine the soil conditions. It is nearly impossible to cultivate the dry ground enough to plant things. Even at that, if we could till the soil enough, there is a high chance that the plants won’t thrive. The rains help the farmers (cultivateurs) give life back to the soil.

NOTE: The unique aspect of Peace Corps compared to other peace organizations is that we don’t live in the capital, nor the bigger cities. We live and work in the small villages — what we could call the bush. Most of our friends and colleagues consider themselves farmers first. After all, how else are they going to provide for their families? Even my coworkers at school will miss class if the rains come before the end of the school year. And who can blame them?

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In one of my classes.

 

The second important aspect, and undoubtedly the most important, is the simple fact that it gives us water. We get our water here from wells or pumps. But, keep in mind that the smaller villages rely almost solely on wells. Even in my midsized village, wells have run dry. A lot of them are communal, so lots of families rely on the same well to get water for cooking, cleaning, showering, and of course, to drink. When wells run dry, families are forced to go longer distances just to find water — something I took for granted before coming here.

I’m lucky to enough to have a private well in my compound. I live with my host dad (in my local language: n ba) and mom (n na). There is also my host sister and a student that rents the room next to mine. I spoke with n ba last night about the water situation in Korbongou (my village, google earth it!). He explained that our well doesn’t run dry not because it is deep, but because there are not a lot of people that use it for water.

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There’s my well.

 

Last week, around midnight, I heard a few drops on my tin roof. I took my chair outside and sat in the lite sprinkle. I’m still so used to the unpredictable weather in Morgantown. You would not believe how much the first little sprinkle lightens your psyche. Imagine the joy of the first snow of winter. Now multiply that tenfold.

Just a few days ago, we had our first real storm. Wind. Fresh air. Rain. It only lasted about ten minutes, but I collected enough water to wash all my dishes. The entire time during the storm, I stood outside in my tank top and short shorts with a big goofy smile. Furthermore, who doesn’t love the smell of rain?

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N na says that I’ll soon be tired of how much it rains during the rainy season. I always joke when I leave the house that I’m going out to put in an order for rain. Thye love my cheesy sense of humor, or they’re really good at pretending. Either way, it grows my ego. (;

I hope that my attempt at explaining the importance of rain has given you an adequate slice-of-life depiction of my life here. This is, after all, my new home, and it is a perfect fit for me.

So if you don’t mind, wake up tomorrow, have your coffee, and do a rain dance for me before heading to work!

From the heat to lite sprinkles, stay savvy my friends,

With much love,

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