First Rains: To Quench

The rainy season has arrived in Mozambique. After a drought-stricken couple of years, I can almost hear the sigh of relief as plants, animals and people are soaked to the core with torrential rain.

The excitement that comes with the first rains is almost contagious. The bull frogs start emerging from deep under, children enjoy a free shower, women busily attend to their rice shamba’s, disease is washed away and there is an explosion of insect activity.
The rainy season is always a welcomed relief. The October, November and December months are a relentless, disease festering few months in Mozambique. You can almost hear the earth begging for a bar of soap and bucket of water!

But, it would not be Africa if the rainy season did not come with her fair share of drama! Mozambique is well known for its extensive flooding, cyclones and cholera outbreaks. Just last week we had one of our first major storms of the season. Many of us have come to know and love those thunderous African storms with tumultuous black clouds that rumble and collide and that flash bolts of lightning in every direction. But for the local Mozambican, these storms can be treacherous and very often tragic.

Did you know that you can buy a bolt of lightning in Mozambique?! I’ve been told by a few Mozambicans that the witch doctors can do this for you if anyone becomes too much trouble in your life! For instance, a bolt of lightning can be purchased for the permanent elimination of a cheating spouse, or a thief, someone who owes you money or simply because they annoy you – I’m told at a reasonable price!

On a more serious note, tragedy did strike last week here in Mafambisse. Seven people were killed by lightning. 2 people were struck by lightning while taking a short cut across the golf course. A man and his 2 children were struck while hurrying home along the national road. And another 2 were struck while sitting in the shelter of their home, thinking they would be safe undercover. They were all killed within 20 minutes during one violent storm.

So naturally, I googled ‘ How to avoid being struck by lightning and called a little ‘life skills’ meeting with my staff as I often do!’
This is what I learned:

Lightning travels and will connect with the earth or ‘something’ by taking the easiest and most efficient route. So if you happen to be outdoors, or in a hut, or shack – listen up:

1. Do not light a fire. The smoke is a good conductor and lightning will travel down via the trail of smoke to the source. So if you are       sitting around the fire as the people were in their hut in Mafambisse, you could be struck by lightning.
2. Stay well away from water and never shower, use a tap or bath during an electric storm.
3. Do not speak on the phone during a storm, including your cell phone.
4. Do not stand under a tree in a storm or near anything tall.
5. Do not stand near a window.
6. Remove all metals from your body including your bra with metal under wiring!
7. If you are caught in the outdoors during an electric storm– this is what to do: Crouch down with your head bent downwards and with only your feet making contact with the earth. Do not lie down. If you are struck by lightning, the lightning will most likely hit your back and will travel down to your feet and will hopefully miss your vital organs!
This will not guarantee your life; it will only improve your chances of survival during an electric storm!

This is just the beginning of our rainy season. I am sure much drama lies ahead as with every rainy season. Will there be flooding in our area, will there be another cholera outbreak and will we be hit with a cyclone? Let’s wait and see!

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