Friday, June 1, 2012

Weather and Rain

Weather Now

As I may have told you, Burkinabè say they have two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season.  I would say they really have three, because in the dry season there are the cool months and the very hot months.  The rainy season ends in early October and the weather stays pretty warm until the middle or end of November.  During December January and February, it is still hot during the day, up to 85 or 90 most days, but it gets cool in the evening and I want to wear a sweater in the morning. It is often 65 in the morning, and sometimes even down close to 60.  For me, that is pretty cold, although I know some of you keep your houses that temperature during the winter. For folks who live here anything under 80 degrees is cold. When I find the temperature "refreshing" the folks here are wearing heavy winter jackets and stocking hats.  The babies are bundled up in sweaters and knit caps, like this:
Then they are wrapped snugly in a blanket.
In March it gets really hot and stays hot until the rains begin.  Just as we complain about the cold and snow in Cleveland, folks here complain about how hot it is. Instead of being bundled up in knit sweaters and hats, babies and young children often wear no clothes at all. People who have a walled courtyard sleep outside because the house, built of mud brick, holds the heat once it gets heated up during the day.  They may sleep on a sleeping mat, like this one another volunteer is sitting on, which is just a thin mat of woven plastic.  If they have one, they may throw a mattress on top of it.

Even after the rains begin it can be pretty hot on days when it does not rain. When I say it is hot I mean it is at least 95, and often 100 or more.  When it is the hot season, 80 feels very refreshing and people may but on a jacket to keep warm.  It is all a matter of your body's thermostat getting readjusted.

Keeping cool when it is hot

When it is hot, life goes on.  People complain about the heat, but people continue with their regular routine, and school continues. Those of you who know me well may think I am totally happy to be warm at last, but during the hot season it is actually hotter than I like to be. I have come to appreciate evaporation!  I have a heavy cotton shirt Dawn brought me at Christmas, and in the hot dry season it has been my "village air conditioning system."  I keep a bucket of water handy to dip it in.  Because the air is so dry, the water evaporates fairly well and the result is cooling.  There were even times when I had to take it off because I was getting cold. During the rainy season evaporation does not happen so fast, but if I wave a shirt around before I put it on, or when I wear a wet shirt while riding my bicycle, I can get cooled off.  When it is hot at night I use the same principle, but with a piece of fabric that I get wet and use kind of like a sheet.  I try to keep it just on me so the bed does not get too wet, and it really makes a difference.  I wake up several times a night and have to dip it in the water again to get cool enough to go back to sleep.


In April it usually rains once or twice, although these rains may not be very heavy.  They are referred to as the mango rains because that is the time of year the first variety of mangos gets ripe.  Around May 15 people expect the rainy season to begin.  This year there was a very heavy rain early in May, followed by another day with a steady drizzle. It was great because that was enough moisture to get the weeds growing again. Because the rains were so light and irregular last year, people cut most fodder and put it up out of reach, to make it last until  the rains began. After that heavy rain there was finally something fresh for the animals of eat when they were put out to graze. Here is what the sprouting weeds look like, with a few sheep enjoying some fresh greens.

Superstitious behavior

Since then there has been only one good rain.  We see a lot of lightening, and even hear thunder to the north or to the south, but the big rains seem to miss us. When we have had rain, there have been just short bursts of rain, or sprinkles. I find it interesting that, when it looks like rain, my mental processes turn to superstitious kinds of thoughts like, "If I don't expect it will really rain, maybe it will." Or "Last time it looked like rain I started thinking of the song, It's Gonna Rain, Children. We did not get rain that time so I had better think of a different song or it may not rain again." (As some of you know, my life is a song cue.  Songs related to things going on in my life just pop into my head.) I know perfectly well that what I think or do will have absolutely NO effect on the weather, but I can't help having thoughts like that. It makes it easier to understand how superstitious beliefs are created when you observe them in yourself.

A funny thing to me is that the weather here comes from the EAST, and not from the west, like it does most of the time in Ohio.  I look out my window in the direction the storm will come from when it does come, and I have to remind myself that I am looking to the east and not the west.

When It Rains, It Blows!!!

When there is about to be a big rain storm, the first thing you notice is that the wind starts to blow, a bit a first, but eventually very hard.  Because there is virtually no ground cover here the wind picks up lots of dust.  There is no glass in any of the windows here in the village so even if you close the shutters, as you do to keep the rain from blowing in too much, the dust still gets through.  Usually, but not always, rain follows the blowing dust.  It usually rains quite hard for a a while.  Then it may slow down, and even stop. After that, it may rain off and on for hours, or it may all be over.  Right now people are all hoping there will be a couple more soaking rains, and then rain every 3 or 4 days until September.  Last year the rain did not start until June 15 and there were several times when there was a two week gap between the rains. That is the reason the harvest was so bad last year.  Try sending some of that Ohio rain over here to west Africa!!!

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