As children, we loved rainy days. The warmer the weather, and the heavier the rain, the better. There's no way you'd catch us inside- we'd be outside running down the streets barefoot through all the puddles, finding the muddiest spots on our yard, and seeing who could drench the other with the biggest bucket of water.
However, in Haiti, rain takes on a whole new meaning and a hundred questions start running through our heads. Is it just a drizzle that's only going to last for 2 minutes? Or is it going to suddenly downpour and therefore it's smart to shut all the windows so it doesn't drench our beds? Is it going to possibly rain all night and maybe it's safer to put towels by the door so it doesn't flood our front room? Do we need to put buckets out to catch the drips from the ceiling? What about at school... did we accidentally leave anything important under a window or on the floor that's going to be ruined by morning?
Haiti life is unpredictable and Haiti weather is unpredictable, and boy did we ever get a good dose of Haiti's unpredictable weather this past weekend.
It started Thursday. Our day at school was fairly uneventful, aside from the fact that the pink eye epidemic had still not completely died out. As the day went on, we could see black storm clouds gathering on the horizon, and knew some nasty weather was probably headed our way. We're not in rainy season anymore, and so if we do get rain at this point, it's usually in the early morning and passes by after an hour or two. We made it to the end of the school day, and still no rain- a definite blessing. We have mixed feelings about rain during school. On one hand, it makes our classrooms significantly cooler... on the other hand, if it rains just a little too hard, the sound on the tin roofs of our classrooms makes it impossible to teach. But by evening, it arrived with a vengeance. It rained all night long, so loud at points that were unable to sleep. When we left our house for school that morning it had still not stopped, and the decision was made to cancel school. The roads weren't safe for the bus, and even though there was the possibility it would stop raining soon, we knew keeping our kiddos safe was more important.
Well, what a great decision that turned out to be. The rain didn't stop at all that day, and we wouldn't have gotten anything done at school anyway. We also figured maybe it was a blessing in disguise and the last of the pink eye would disappear after a 3-day weekend.
Well, the rain didn't end up stopping for nearly 96 hours.
Almost four straight days of rain. It was enough to nearly drive us batty. The rain would stop for 15 minutes or so quite often, and then start right back up again, giving us false hope that it was going to stop soon. The sky stayed the same dark gray-brown colour all day, and eventually became the color of the ocean as the storm churned the waves into a raging, muddy mess. Looking out from our balcony (when we dared to venture outside), all we could see were the trees of our immediate area, and a wall of gray-brown that never lifted, never changed.
Our house became the congregation point over that four-day rain-cation. We would cook and eat meals here, sit and talk on our floor because we don't have enough room for chairs, and play games (at exactly 4pm everyday). We were feeling every level of stir-crazy and praying for the rain to stop. By Sunday morning the rain had finally quit, but we all knew it wasn't going to be for more than a couple hours. We took advantage of it and made ourselves a big pancake breakfast, which we ate while listening to a sermon outside on the balcony. We must have been getting a little too comfortable outside, because before we could even finish church, the rain came back in driving sheets, and we huddled under Paul and Bethany's small porch overhang, trying to shield ourselves with umbrellas so we could hear the end of the sermon. It didn't let up again for the rest of the day, and by that point school was undoubtedly cancelled for Monday. The roads were dangerous and washed away in places, and we had not been able to leave the compound to assess the state of our school. For all we knew, our classrooms were flooded, and all the stuff hanging on our walls ruined. Monday turned out to be the last of it. We woke up to grey skies, but the rain never came. We were all desperate to leave the walls of our houses, and made the decision to head to Les Cayes to buy groceries (which we were almost out of by that point as well).
We were not truly prepared to face the damage the rain had done over those nearly 96 hours. In spite of new roofs post-hurricane, we knew most houses were not going to withstand that much rain over so many days, and expected to see clothes, blankets and mattresses drying on every available inch of non-wet ground. What we were not prepared to see was the physical damage from the force of so much rain. Chunks of road were washed away, boulders had broken loose and fallen down the mountains on to the road below, mudslides had made a mess of properties, low-sitting houses were flooded, huge trees were floating in the ocean, and the giant rivers had gone up nearly 10 feet. We read reports of several people drowning from being swept away by rushing rivers, and several of the streets in Cayes were flooded as well.
As we drove down the road in silence and took in the aftermath of the past four days, we couldn't help but compare what we were seeing to the days following Hurricane Matthew. By the mercy of God our area didn't receive enough rain to cause substantial flooding in October, but now, we were dealing with the rain and flooding we expected to see then. It made us all feel a little bit sick inside, thinking of wet, shivering kids, cold beds, hungry bellies and flooded floors.
So here we are today- first day back at school, and not quite sure what to expect. Our classrooms had no flooding, and we all breathed a prayer of thanks for that. We expected some absences, which there were. We expected our kiddos to eat like little ravenous wolves (which they did and which they always do after more than a weekend off of school, since they don't have as much food to eat home), and we expected them to forget how to behave at school (which they did and which they always do after more than a weekend off of school).
Rain is bitter sweet. We love it and will always love it- it's the best excuse to make some tea and huddle under a blanket and read a good book. But in Haiti, rain can cause a lot of pain, a lot of hardship, and a lot of unexpected difficulties. So today as we look outside and see sunshine that hurts our eyes after so many dreary days, we are praying a prayer of thanks for safety and sun and dry ground and blue sky (and for freedom from the walls of our house).