Monday, May 16, 2016

So much rain

The hint came earlier in the week on my bus trip north from Vavunia to Jaffna. It was a sudden blinding rain, with thunder, that shook the bus and had every passenger, even me, sliding closed their windows. Well, as usual I kept my window open a few inches but I was asked by neighbors, a tiny young man and his tiny young wife with a tiny newborn sitting a few seats away, to shut my window. Jaffna was rain-free but muggy. Hard to distinguish cloudy hot and muggy from sunny hot and muggy, but there you go. One thing leads to the next and the weather progresses. Maybe the people here know how to read it better. 

The rain and cloudy muggy came after so many weeks, months actually of drought, just cloudless searing sun one day after the next, that we stopped expecting precipitation. I had stopped looking longingly at morning clouds, afternoon clouds, evening clouds that I hoped would materialize into storms. Maybe somewhere else. Maybe the huge clouds would drop something but not here in Batticaloa. Then, here it was. 

An evening's soft rain, gentle and tame, and a damp but warm morning. The plants perked up and we welcomed the new softer atmosphere. Still hot but not as hot as it had been. Then two days later hours of deluge. No black clouds that we could see. No "approach" of the storm. Only an opaque white-gray sky that dumped pouring rain continuously for hours at a time. Just like when we were here for the monsoon in November. Rain that started by nourishing and then in turn flooded the paths and finally turned them into raging torrents. And the air turned cooler. Cool enough to wish I had a long sleeve shirt handy. 

Once or twice in the heaviest rain I grabbed an umbrella and walked, barefoot, through the grounds, making the acquaintance of new streams and feeling a little out there, just this side of vulnerable. Culverts started to back up. Sheets of water turned to restive bodies of water, looking like they'd get up and go given a few more minutes of downpour. The rain was so hard that the little bit of wind, sometimes stronger gusts that came with it loosened coconut fronds and sent them crashing to the ground. All was wet. There was no escaping it. And a new feeling came over the place as we found ourselves on a kind of island. No one really wanted to leave and no one seemed to come on. But at intervals guests pulled up in tuktuks or, with their enormous silly backpacks under waterproof material, left in a tuktuk that would pull up, sides down to whisk them to their next destination. What can people hope to see? Why do they run all over this country as if there were something more than another poorly developed setting of ugliness, commodification, greed, and swarms of tourists?

The rain went on and the lagoon, which has been low for months, started to rise. Twice I got out for a walk and a short bike ride with Harley, our visiting Fulbrighter. Too short a visit because it's nice to hang out with him and hear what he thinks of his adventures here. The walk and ride were a chance for him to see some of our world and I was happy he perceived and noted so much of what he saw. Great to be with a colleague who's in the here and now and to see how well he appreciates the slightly exotic "black magic" of the East. Part of the magic was slogging through huge puddles the width of the lane in the village. Poor Harley had to pull off his sandals each time we got to one. I walked barefoot slipping off my flipflops. All a bit of an act of faith. The puddles were new, the village is a clean place, so, we had to take the chance. Harley's staying in Kandy where things are a lot more urban. Out here in the wild east things are a bit rougher. But it always seems safe. 

By today the lagoon was a foot, then eight inches, and finally just six inches from the surface of the embankment. From a short distance I saw something brownish, long and reptilian next to the water. It was our resident crocodile (or one of them), which usually stays offshore. Seeing it in its cold glory right among the shrubs and seats was shocking. Maybe seeing me was shocking too because it slipped, silently and gracefully, right back into the speeding lagoon. 

The storm pulled off shore earlier today but then tripped northward to soak Jaffna. Now as I write it's rushing down the coast to Mannar and Puttalam, sending strong winds and maybe downpours into the interior. It may hug the coast or it may hook in over land. Strong westerlies could push it inland and back our way, unless it breaks up over the mountains. Thunder now and a darkening sky. Thavaraja suggested it might "shower" again this evening. It's starting to feel that way so good thing I got out for a couple of hours this morning. 5:30 I went to the gym and then a long ride beachside in Kallady and Tiruchendur. A stop at my favorite part of the beach, severely eroded after a couple of days of high seas, a long look at the gray horizon and the wild clouds all around, and then back home to the cheerful tones of sweeping and scraping, and that first wonderful taste of morning's black coffee. 

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