There are usually two rainy seasons in northern Tanzania where we work: vuli is the name for the shorter showers in November and December, and masika is the long, soaking season from March to May. Masika is a crucial time of year for saving the rain. Now usually is when the skies burst open and fill our rainwater harvesting tanks with enough to tide everyone over to vuli.
But last year was plagued by drought.
By October, we had turned our energies to emergency food donations. Crops had failed, food prices soared, and hunger was a wolf at the door. Instead of delicious anticipation, the wait for rain is anxious, clouded by desperation. People need a good harvest this year. Their lives depend on it.
We squint up at the brilliant blue sky, and the sun beams back. Restless dust settles momentarily before billowing up again. Women walking for water cover their eyes, nose, and mouth whenever a car passes, ensconcing them in clouds that bear the opposite of rain. The only moisture the earth receives is sweat from their brows as they turn the parched land, preparing fields for planting in case the rain arrives.
The worry and tension have been building.
The difficulty of the last year has put a dent in people’s faith. It’s hard not to read the harshness as punishment of some sort. So many prayers have been said. They must be gathering in the clouds, making them heavy enough to come back down to earth in the form we need them the most…surely?
A shift, a shadow, a cloud
And then, just when it seems the sun will never relinquish its dominion, there is a shift –a shadow steals over, and the temperature drops. As we look up, the tireless flat blue gives way to cumulative dimensions that darken by the second. A rumble of thunder reverberates in our chests, and the thrill of it feels like lightning.
An almighty crack splits the sky, releasing fat, heavy drops that fall with exquisite abandon. The heavens have waited so long that there is no preamble of drizzle. We are immediately in a drenching, unequivocal downpour.
The catharsis releases a surge of giddy energy.
Grave grownups are children again, giggling in gleeful disbelief. We run for shelter, reveling in the touch of drops that belonged to the celestial realm mere moments ago.
Rooves made of thin tin sheets amplify the sound of the storm, rendering conversation impossible. None is needed, though. We grin wordlessly at each other, beaming wider every time the cacophony intensifies.
The way rain falls with such generous abandon is undeniable proof of abundance. It washes scarcity away and summons forth new life. It buffers our insufficiency and permits us the luxury of a better tomorrow.
What falls as rain manifests as food, as health, as hope.
It cleanses us of the doubts and fears that had begun to gather like dust, swirling and obscuring our vision. It affirms that we are worthy. That water is our right… and everyone should have it.
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