Friday, February 10, 2012

Singing in the rain...

I love rain. I love rain a lot. I love rain so much, I can't even begin to tell you. 

But let me try. 

First off, an important thing: I don't love every rain. There's lots of different kinds of rain, in case you didn't know. The one I love is the tropical one. The really strong and heavy one. The one that comes at night. The one that comes in thick drops that make beautiful patterns on your skin. The one that drowns out unwelcome noises of "civilization" with its song. 

If you've ever been to a tropical country you'll know which one I'm talking about. 

Also, obviously, I only love it as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. (Floods and mudslides, I hate you, you deserve to be slapped across your stupid wet faces.)

My example is from the Colombian Caribbean, Cartagena to be exact. 

I lived in Cartagena, Bolívar, for a few months and during that time I grew to almost need rain, so much do I love it since my time there. I've always loved rain, we have a very special kind of it where I come from as well. But this one was different. 

Cartagena is a very hot place. The kind of hot where you celebrate when the weather guy on TV (if you watch that, or the internet, if you don't) announces a "cold" spell. The kind of hot where you go "Wohooo, it's only 30°C today!!". Yeah, that kind of hot. And it's so incredibly humid too! But I won't get into that, that's a whole different story. 

So, rain in Cartagena. 

It rains a lot between August and October, at least I don't remember ever having much rain in June or July. And November is when the winds begin. So there, it's always easy to know what season it is: No water = rain season, because the ciénagas and lagunas are flowing over and with them the sewage system. No electricity = wind season, because the heavy breeze makes the transformers explode. 

When it rains in a cold place, rain is almost never a good thing. It just makes you colder, it makes you wet and miserable, you can't really go outside, because what would you do... But when it rains in a warm or hot place, the rain itself is kind of warm! It doesn't make you cold, it cools you off. It makes you wet and happy and all you want to do is go outside and dance and sing and jump around in puddles. The best thing: you can! You'll definitely own a pair of flip flops (which might even be the only pair of "shoes" you own, who would wear sneakers or any kind of closed shoe in a hot and humid place?!) so you don't have to worry about ruining your footwear in the water... the beauty of flip flops. There's always someone who'll snare at you for wearing them, but then you'll be the one to laugh when you can jump around in puddles and they can't! 

I want to show you, how I came to fall so deeply in love with rain. 

It happened on October 19th, 2011. At the time I was living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth: Hotel Bellavista, Marbella, Cartagena. The hotel isn't so much like a hotel, it's more of a magical place where strangers from all over the world come together to become friends, maybe even family. I'm sure there'll be a post all for the hotel, so not too much information in this one. Let's get back to the rain. 

The first important thing here is that there is only the first floor, there's no upstairs in that hotel (only one, but that doesn't count for this story). And the second one is: everybody knows everybody. 

So I woke up one morning to the sounds of my neighbours talking outside. Looking at the time I knew that something had to be up, because usually there wouldn't be that kind of commotion at that hour - that's how well we know each other there! So I decided to get up and get a look outside to find out what was going on, but not before going to the bathroom to brush my teeth, right? And here's what I found in my bathroom: 

(Yes, that's a CARS car. That's my shampoo. You're only jealous, so shut up.) 

The point is, the whole bathroom was flooded! There was no way I could shower or use the toilet and I couldn't brush my teeth either, because there was no water apart from what came flooding out the drains. 

So I went outside and found my neighbours standing in front of our rooms, observing the rain that had apparently been pouring since around midnight. Our rooms were in a more protected area, under a roof, and this is what we saw in our patio: 

Masses of water! OK, not really masses. I already said I fell in deep love with rain here, so it can't have been real masses. But enough to keep us from going anywhere far. In the early morning it wasn't that deep, as you'll see in the next picture, we still enjoyed how pretty it was. 

See? Only a few cm. Maybe 3cm. Not much, anyways. But it kept raining and soon, the first rooms started flooding. The beloved though ever-grumpy Gruñón and our collective super-mom Adri and their team had been up since 3am, waking everybody who's room was in danger of going under water so they could get their belongings up on chairs and tables and nothing would be destroyed. Again, everybody was safe. 

So we stood together, a small group of "trapped" neighbours, making jokes about Noah and his Ark and how we would all swim to work and university that day (which, in the end, nobody did because, as always when it rains, everything in Cartagena simply shut down). One single room had running water still and the family that lived there was so extremely nice and sweet to let everybody brush their teeth in their bathroom and also use their toilet, because nobody else's bathroom was funcional. There was coffee being shared, pictures taken and everybody kept asking everybody if anybody needed any help to make sure nothing would happen to nobody. 

After a while, I decided to venture to the front of the hotel and see who was in the cafeteria and what was the situation there. The way was ... interesting. Somebody had even built a small bridge in one part of the patio where the water was especially deep (and by that I mean about 10cm, but still). 

This is what the main patio looked like: 

What has to be considered here is that this place doesn't flood. Not ever. Even if the whole city is under water, Marbella usually is not. This is what happens when it doesn't really stop raining for three days and then the rain gets superheavy overnight. But that almost never happens. 

Something else you almost never see is this temperature: 

23°C. 23°C! TWENTY-THREE DEGREES CELSIUS! Basically a frozen version of heaven! I mean, not frozen for you, of course. But definitely frozen for me. And definitely heaven. 

And this is what paradise looks like in the rain: 

The beautiful thing is, it's still paradise. Maybe even more so, if you've spent enough time there. 

So what do most people do when it rains? When their place gets flooded a bit and they can't go to school or work or shopping or out to meet friends or swimming or sunbathing or anything else they might have planned on doing? Most would sulk. I know I used to. (Apart from when we had that special kind of rain that I've mentioned earlier.) 

Not there. 

When everybody had made sure that everybody was fine and nobody's stuff would be gravely damaged and the electricity was turned off wherever the water might reach up to power outlets in the rooms... we played. 

A bunch of grown-ups (and almost grown-ups and a few kids) making paper boats together, racing them over our little ocean in the patio and having so much fun, it was almost a pity when the rain stopped. Almost, because of course we wanted to get back to our real lives again. But I can't imagine another place in the world where a day of rainfall so heavy you were locked in would have been this beautiful. 

So this is my rain story. 

Of course, it's an exception. As I said, it never rained that much before or after. And it usually rained almost exclusively at night. But it makes for such a nice memory, it's one of the reasons I'll never be able to not think of home (Cartagena is one of my homes now) when it rains. 

Now, when I can't sleep or I can't concentrate on what I'm working on or I have a bad headache, rain helps me calm down. Rain makes everything better. 

Of course, the rain here doesn't compare to the rain there. No rain does. What's the difference? Well... Now I live on the second floor of an apartment building and there's four more floors above me - no raindrops on the roof directly over my head. Now my windows here have glass in them, over in Cartagena they were only wooden bars with mosquito nets in between - no uninterrupted rainsounds all around me. Now I have to wear shoes and people are in a bad mood most of the time - no jumping around in flip flops or barefoot and no laughing and building paper boats together. 

How do I survive? I'm not sure if you really ask that, but I ask myself sometimes, because of how much I miss my rain. Here's the secret

I can only hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do! 

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