January 2, 2016

How I Brought the Rain.

ghana village africa

I woke this morning to the sound of rain dancing on my rooftop.

December gusts broke their steady rhythm as a graphite sky peered through my blinds. Warm and safe, I snuggled in my layers of quilts and pillows and listened.

A year ago, I brought the rain to a village in Ghana. It wasn’t my own doing, of course, but as I bounced along in a sticky hot tro tro (bus), savannah became rainforest, and clouds, first puffy and white, but increasingly ominous, followed. They were the same clouds that had formed each day for weeks, promising to bring life to the rivers and grace to yam, rice, and cassava farmers who desperately needed their seeds to take root.

Hours into the journey, I disembarked at a dusty junction, greeted by a familiar motorbike driver eager to earn his fare. He piled my suitcase onto his handlebars and mounted my backpack on his chest. I threw my leg over the ripped vinyl of the passenger saddle, and a rumble of thunder broke the calm of the otherwise sleepy afternoon.

A steady puff of grit trailed behind us as we rode down the red dirt road, past thatch-roofed huts and the mud brick school that let me know I was nearing my destination. There were no cool breezes, only the heavy scent of wet earth that filled my nose and clung to the sweat on my body like a woolen blanket. Trees my heart had grown to know passed by, still towering in their grandiose, but humbled and tired from the relentless drought.

A few kilometers into the ride, the first fat drop tumbled down from the skies and landed squarely on my bare knee. Another drop followed, and the driver and I shared a moment of excitement. “The rain has come!” he shouted, grinning widely as the drops fell steadily faster.

Within seconds, the clouds unleashed all they had been withholding in a torrent of downpour. Sheets of rain crashed into us, stinging our skin and turning the dust into a slippery mire. Our tracks turned to ruts, and the driver struggled to keep the bike upright.

And then the unthinkable. Just as the storm unleashed its full fury, the motorbike chain broke and fell off with a clunk. We were stuck. Stranded in rain so forceful that it was all we could do to keep our eyes open as it slapped our faces and soaked our bones.

The driver attempted to resolve the problem, but to no avail. Just when the situation could get no more desperate, two farmers emerged from the bush with cutlasses in hand and banana leaves held over their heads like umbrellas. They handed a large leaf to me, then continued running, sharing their one remaining leaf, anxious to find shelter. With the leaf over my head, I squatted next to the driver, trying in vain to cover us both while he yanked and shoved at the broken chain.

There is nothing like a monsoon in the rainforest. The sound of the rain drowns out every other noise with such entirety that, to this day, it still echoes in my ears. Every drop sends the earth scattering in a spray of mud that finds its way into your ears and between your toes. You become more wet than you ever imagined you could be. It’s frightening. It’s shocking. It’s glorious.

It poured around us as I desperately tried to shelter the worried driver. Awash in a flood of helplessness, I exploded into laughter. The driver gazed up at me, and a slow smile emerged on his face. Rain pounded his eyelashes and pooled in his thick, black hair and he, too, began to laugh. We giggled and snorted, and rain washed away the happy tears that formed in our eyes. There was such joy in the moment, if only for the absurdity of it all.

It must have been only minutes later, but it felt like hours, when two more motorbikes came to our rescue. Summoned by the farmers who’d given us the banana leaf, the first collected me and my soggy baggage while the second carried the driver to safety. We snaked down the mud road, this time without incident, and the driver deposited me at the stoop of the stucco and mud brick house I’d called home many times before.

Emmanuel, my friend, greeted me at the door. “You brought the rain!” he said with a glowing smile. And indeed, I had.

The rain is a metaphor for so many things, but I believe suffering is the strongest, most used comparison. So often, we all try to avoid suffering, only to find that, without discomfort, heartache, and pain, we never grow. Just as the rains bring vital nutrients to plants and other creatures, our trials teach us lessons that we need—such as empathy, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness—in order to evolve as human beings.

As I listened to the rain from the warmth of my bed this morning, I found myself smiling—at the rain, at the memories, and at the many opportunities disguised as challenges that I am now facing in my life.

We can choose to fight our lessons, or we can choose to be joyful. Either way, the rain does not care; it is only us who changes. What we choose to become, in spite of the rain, and because of the rain, is at the very heart of what it means to be human.

As for me, I choose to appreciate the banana leaves, cherish those who choose to smile through their tears, and to always, always love the rain.





Author: Amanda Christmann

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Wikipedia 

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