Monday, June 18, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I Love Rain Fall in Africa

10) The already lush green trees and shrubbery delight in the attention they are given from the skies and they brighten up in an almost hallucinogenic way.

9) The amazingly hardworking women of Africa who spend every moment of their day doing something to help support their families (i.e., cooking, cleaning, gathering fire wood, pounding cassava, selling at the market) get to pause under an awning for at least one brief second, balancing the gender ratios under leafy mango trees or inside small gathering huts.

8) The visual of seeing a Bangladeshi UN peacekeeper walking down the road in full uniform holding an AK-47 in one hand and a pretty pink umbrella in the other.

7) The marvel of the sky as it shocks and awes everyone under its watch, constantly changing in form and color. One minute you see low flying clouds lining the tops of the palm trees and the next, rolling dark purple and blue clouds posturing for space in an ever changing atmosphere.

6) The thunder and lightening reminiscent of spring time thunder storms in the mid-west evoke fond memories from childhood. The crash and boom is fierce and unforgiving, but the pure natural intensity of the event forces one to think about the possibility of a higher power and all the worldly unknowns of our time.

5) The sight of umbrellas. From Ganta Parking in Gbargnga to Park Avenue in NYC I have always treasured the visual of umbrellas. They are like your own private delicate structure offering equal treatment to all and an escape from nature while remaining in it. A sea of color that looks like bouncing upside down tulips engaged in a grand ballet.

4) The significant drop in temperature offering a respite from the unrelenting heat.

3) The sound of rain falling on metal roof tops while lying in a hammock.

2) The pending occurrence of seeing plenty of goats standing on small things as they surface towards the sun to dry off. They stoically tilt their head towards the sky while balancing at an elevated altitude and appear to be telling the gods above: “You won’t get me that easily.”

1) The sheer amount of naked babies with distended bellies running through the rain with lathered soap shimmering on their skin. They know very well it is much easier to take advantage of this massive shower faucet from the skies than to wait and make a trip to the well to haul of gallons of dirty water back to their huts cross town. They glisten and shine in their unabashed activity and remind everyone about the innocence of childhood.

the risks involved with #6

It has recently come to my attention that there is some risk involved in loving thunder and lightening. Due to a number of confounding variables that lead to fatal accidents each year, lightening is an event that has the power to drastically change someone’s life, even if the individual isn’t directly touched by lightening.

Yesterday I visited the local jail – a long structure filled with half completed cells that is made to hold approximately 40 inmates. Currently it is holding more than 300. Although a drastic improvement from the pervious jail (a local hut with small piles of knee high bricks demarking the space between each cell allowing for somebody to escape with one high step that was controlled by guards with guns and other torture devises), the state of the new jail is a greivable human rights violation (please note I did make a report to the local UN human rights representative after my visit; we will see what happens with this complaint).

Sharon and I had been called to the jail because a local woman had been arrested for infanticide (murder of one’s newborn infant). Apparently 12 short hours after she delivered, she simply rose walked to the nearest public well and dropped her baby into the 24 foot abyss. The body was never found but there were some witnesses and she flatly admitted her act upon inquiry. Although this is unfortunately not a classic case of post-partum psychosis, mental health issues and prior trauma are evident and it is likely we can be of some assistance in her case and chance to receive some treatment.

In the cell next to this tragic nursing un-mother sat a thin man in his mid to late thirties. When we walked by his cell the guarded immediately began teasing him for the reason he was there. This man never looked up, not once, and he appeared almost catatonic. According to what was relayed during this heckling, he had been convicted of “death by lightening.”

Death my lightening is the charge someone gets when someone else in the community dies by lightening. You are at highest risk if you happen to be in an on-going dispute with the struck individual or had engaged in an argument with him or her in the days immediately proceeding the event. According to old juju beliefs someone who is vexed with somebody else, for reasons such as stealing a girlfriend or making a bad business deal, can go to a traditional witch doctor and participate in a cursing ceremony. From that day forward the object of their disaffection is at extreme risk of dying by accident. Lightening is just one of the many forms the curse can take.

The young man in the cell had been locked up since 2003 with no lawyer or trial granted. It was a given he was guilty because it was widely know he was “enemies” with the victim and this victim had died by lightening.

Morale of the story:
One must take the death by lightening phenomenon as a clear warning against joining the adorable naked babies playing in the rain but it shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the power of water, in all its many forms.


Alice Alves said...

Gwen, loved this post. Lucas sent it to me. Hope you are well. Kisses, Alice (

Jessica said...


This is all so amazing. I still can't get over the lightning story and will share it with my family. I'm really enjoying your blog!

Jess Bloomfield

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