Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flooding Prayers

The rain is merciless. I climb in the taxi, and the driver turns to me, "Ach! This rain!"

"Yes, ntate," I agree, "It is too much. That rain needs to stay in the sky now." The urgency and magnitude of the drops are overwhelming. They are a massive migration, a giant celestial climate change protest.

Three months ago the most common greeting in my village was, "But where is the rain? Let us pray for rain. It is too dry." Now I want the droplets to stay put, nested in the clouds. I imagine the garden as I left it, carefully hoed and weeded each morning. Every evening my Ntate and so many children tirelessly and repeatedly carried water buckets up the mountainside to keep those seedlings moist. Now I pray that garden is not mud.

We travel down the paved road in Maseru, where I've been stuck for three weeks because of flooded rivers. Underwater bridges and washed out roads make it impossible for me to return to site.

Ntate Thabo begins to drive, saying, "It is ruining our people. It is destroying our crops. It is preventing us from reaching our families. It is making it so that we cannot work. It is damaging our cars, and creating pot holes. It is hurting us, everyone." He is emphatic, his hands grip the steering wheel. He is shouting back at the loud drumming on our vehicle.

He's right. There are stories of houses being swept away, daily drownings, and, Ntate continues, "They say that there is a bridge, it has collapsed. But I'm not sure where. I heard that on the radio this morning."

This morning I tried to go to the post office, arriving 30 minutes after opening time to allow for delays due to rain. Instead of finding the doors open, there was a line of people that wrapped around the building. It never did open.

We drive on towards where I am staying. Suddenly the other side of the road is underwater, and as the truck driving the opposite direction speeds by, our small toyota is doused in water. We can't see anything but brown water streaming across the windshield.

We look at each other. Ntate Thabo raises his eyebrows and shakes his head. "These people, they do not even slow down. They are dangerous. They are just speeding." He expertly navigates the remaining block on paved street and turns down my dirt road where pot holes collect water like small bathtubs.

I pay him. "Be careful, Ntate. Please keep safe." I'll soon be inside shelter without leaks, change into dry clothes, and put on tea. He'll stay steering through the growing rapids to make his living.

"Yes, Mme. I know that this is the time to be careful. And it is the time for us to pray for the rain to stop."

2 comments:

  1. I feel as if I am in the taxi with you! Very poignant story.

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  2. How much we can take for granted... this story reminds me of my stay in Les Cayes. The earthquake was dangerous... but there were only minor injuries. But the floods a month and a half later are what caused casualties.

    On a different note: love the new center!

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