Although it is apparently the rainy season, the storms so far have not been omnipresent. They appear every other day (or night) often accompanied by thunder and a little lightning before soaking the earth and leaving the air close against one’s skin. The most major storm we have experienced so far was on Easter Sunday, where it rolled in around 9am, shaking the walls of our plastic apartment, and pulling the tropical trees sideways. One of the long-time residents here told me a few weeks back that once the cotton balls are blown in you know it is officially wet season. I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. Yet, sure enough, the grasses are now awash with balls of white fluff which does in fact resemble cotton wool. Though the rain may not arrive every single day, the sign of the cotton balls is a sign that there is no turning back!
Oddly enough, despite the promise of the rainy season, these last few days have seen the return of Harmattan – the sands off the Sahara – or at least, that’s what appears to be covering our view of the volcano in its weird haze.
When the rain does fall, the road to the office threatens to flood; a combination of the amount of water tumbling from the clouds and the lack of drainage system. It is not enough of a flood to prevent me from attending work, but it is enough to thoroughly rinse the bottom half of the many utes and buses which tackle the same road daily. Funny that there are so many car wash stations available here, run usually by a couple of guys with buckets loaded with water from a nearby waterway – not as many are lucky enough as the guy who has hooked up a hose directly from the waterway to reduce the need to lug the heavy buckets.
For those in doubt, there is no drinking water available on the island and for those that are not privileged to live on compound with a private supply of potable water and continuous bottled water, access to running water is a question of crossing the road to rinse oneself in a waterway or in some cases, man-made fountain. Imagine our surprise last week when another girl and I went for our regular lunchtime walk outside the fenced office, only to be greeted with cries of “hola! hola” and upon looking down, to see a group of children bathing in the waterway off the highway, apparently excited to say hello to us. They had brought their soap with them and were all standing in the water, stark naked and grinning up at us. When we returned (greeted with the same excitement) and continued on our way we glanced back to see the group helping each other negotiate the concrete barriers so that they could cross the highway back home (still stark naked of course). In a place where people are not always happy to see you it was a sweet moment to be reminded of the qualities of childhood which transcend cultures.
Last Friday night saw us trek into town with a busload of staff and wives to the French Cultural Centre for an evening of jazz. Not too sure what to expect, we arrived at the Centre to rows of chairs set up concert-like in the hall. Not quite the usual listen to jazz while you drink wine and chat experience I had perhaps assumed! Her name was Nerida Karr – an Equato-Guinean lady with a rich voice, garbed in sequins and serenading us with her band in Spanish, English, French & Bubi. The hall grew thick with people, local families and many French-speakers, the condensation from my wine glass dripped onto my skirt, and the music vibrated all around the audience.
It was yet another of those moments: what am I doing here, listening to jazz in a bar in the middle of EG?