Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fire and Water

Lara had the quote of the year last night:

"You know, one of the nice things about Mozambique is the M&M's are always soft and squishy on the inside."

We'd just received a chocolately care package from her parents when this gem tumbled from her lips. And it's true, because its ridiculously hot here.

Have you ever been walking outside in the absolute heat of the summer and someone turned to you and said, "Gee, it's Africa hot out here"? Well, it wasn't. This is.

The only thing I can compare the Heat to is when you first open the oven up and the blast knocks you back a bit. When you walk outside at midday after being in the office all morning it feels like a normal summer day, except someone just pulled a wool blanket out of the dryer and violently wrapped it around your head and shoulders.

The Heat is different on the walk to work: not hotter, just slower. You start walking and you think you're gonna be fine. There's a breeze, you find the shade. But no matter where you go, there's always a long stretch of unrepentant sunshine waiting to coat you like hot caramel over an apple.

The Heat, for me anyway, starts at my neck. It's about halfway through my commute: a dull, achy warmth that just kind of reminds you that its there. It spreads first down your back, and the first trickles of sweat start to slide down you spine. Then to your shoulders where you first start to feel the real stuff: burn, like standing too close to a campfire.

If I make it to the office before it gets to my head I count my blessings. I haven't cut my hair since I've been here, so I've got a big mop on top to maintain gobs of humidity on my person. Once the heat gets to my head, forget about it. I arrive to the office looking like I was already wet when I put my shirt on, and I stay that way for the rest of the day.

All this, and it's just the beginning of summer.

At least that's what the locals tell me. They sure don't seem to mind the heat as much as I do. I can still get a bicycle taxi at 12:30 or buy a cell phone card from a guy on the street. And no matter how hot it gets there are still guys walking down the street wearing tobbogans.

But those are the people who have to work when I want them to. Demand requires that they offer their supply when I'm around. Most stores and businesses close from noon until 3:00, and I thought that was stupid before the Heat arrived. Now, getting to work at 4:30 and quitting at noon doesn't seem so silly to me.

But there is a flip side to the Heat. As Lara said, the M&M's that her parents sent are a perfect texture. Also, God had to grow mangoes and pineapples somewhere, and they wouldn't be as delicious if it weren't hot enough here to start a fire underwater. And we do get some relief: the Rain.

So far the Rain has only come a handful of times. It hits like a monsoon, and you can't see 100 yards ahead. The potholes become lakes and the roads with curbs become rivers for about an hour. But you can feel the difference immediately.

The Rain stops the Heat.

You get excited when clouds show up. On overcast days people walk around the office talking about it. The Rain brings relief, renewal, and the redemption of the air. When it rains life comes back to Quelimane.

The nicest days, for my taste, have been the weekdays after a big overnight rain. You walk to work and it's almost chilly, at least by comparison. The scent of a fresh rain means so much more when you know that the other option is 107 degrees.

The Heat lost the battle. The Rain, well, reigns. And maybe you can survive one more day in Mozambique.


Blogger Laine said...

Well, I can't imagine walking to work every day in 107 degree heat. It has been hot here this, this pasted summer, over 100 for many days in a row and we also have learned to appreciate rain since we experienced a drought this summer, but nothing like your experience. Thank you again for writing. I enjoy hearing about your lives in Africa so very much.

November 21, 2007 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Mentone said...

Hi Kev-- great post...excellent wordsmithing. Thanks,


November 22, 2007 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Growing in Grace said...

You really need to get to Vienna soon...we'll cool you off!! Can't wait to see you guys!

November 25, 2007 at 6:01 AM  

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