Africa

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!

139 replies »

  1. Hi there, I am from Namibia, and I know the excitement about rain……even if I am not so keen about rain, as I am coming from Germany, but here in Africa, rain has a different meaning and I love the comment,” nothing lift the spirit the way rain does” from ‘Booted Tales’ above.
    Will follow your blog. Thanks for the great pics

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  2. Fabulous blog post. I am so glad that I was able to find this on my reader. Not only are your photos fabulous, but your story is great. I want to buy a lighting bolt!. I know where I can now. Thanks

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  3. Beautiful photos! Also, I always thought the “don’t shower during a lightning storm” thing was an old wives’ tale my mom used to tell me to scare me as a kid. Now I know it’s true and she actually knew what she was talking about!

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  4. Your images are beautiful! You seem to easily capture both the excitement and apprehension of the storms. Here in Missouri we don’t think twice about lightning or how dangerous it can be. Heavens, we even like to head outside when the tornado sirens go off to try and catch a glimpse of the funnel cloud! It is truly humbling to get a taste of how people across the world live. Makes me awfully grateful for all of the opportunities I have here.

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    • thank-you kindly 🙂 While the snails made great subjects for my blog, my garden is being devoured! Tried feeding them to our pet guinea fowls, but they simply turned their beaks up in disgust and went for the chicken feed instead.

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  5. Have you done any research on rubber as a way to prevent lighting? I’ve never actually researched this myself… but was told that the reason you don’t get electricuted in a car is because the tires are made of rubber. If possible to get rubber, maybe out of dumps or wherever it can be found, and attached to the huts… it might prevent some deaths?
    Who knows! I am no expert.

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    • Hi there, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve googled this (since I am no expert either!) and apparently not. In the case of the vehichle it is the metal frame which protects and not the tyre. I found a really good website that spits out some info on lightning that I did not mention in my blog. Check it out. Thanks for reading my blog 🙂 http://www.noaa.gov/lightning.html

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  6. Wonderful account of living with those close to nature. Reminds me of years living with the Hopi and their ceremonies and prayers for nature’s most basic gift of life, rain.

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  7. Wow. What amazing photos and stories. Not all of them good of course, but what *is* all good in this love? (Love, maybe?) I’ve never been to Africa but have a friend who worked in Kenya for 25 years. I met her in Hong Kong; spent the last three years in Asia myself. Anyway, my point is thank you for sharing a piece of your world. Am following.

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    • Thank-you Jessica. Africa, like Asia I’m sure, kind of takes you on a rollercoaster road, bittersweet in many cases! It throws situations, experiences and people into your life that are guarenteed to challenge your beliefs. While it’s certainly not all good, it’s the ‘bad’ that very often shocks us into reality and gets us up and doing something. Thank-you for reading 🙂

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    • You’re more than welcome. My adventures in Asia certainly *did* open my eyes to many things I wasn’t prepared for!!! But even things I considered “bad” were often considered “normal” by other people… It makes you seriously consider what role upbringing plays in the people we all are today—including religion, lifestyle, etc… You’re more than welcome for reading! I can’t wait to read more. 🙂

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  8. This post is eye opening and beautifully articulated. It is hard for those living in a modern, westernized world to grasp what life would be like if they had to survive on the harsh, natural elements surrounding them. A gift as simple and as pure as water brings and breathes life into those that live in areas like this. Like you said, it comes with it’s complications such as flooding, disease, and explosion of the insect population. The scene you’ve portrayed is an amazing one, and your photographs are stunning. Thank you for sharing these with the rest of us. Congratulations on being freshly pressed too!

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    • Wow!!! That got me by surprise! That is super exciting for me, to get freshly pressed 🙂 Thank-you so much for your support. I feel priviledged to live in this part of the world and taking up photography here has allowed me to explore the everyday life of Africans, mostly Mozambicans. This experience has truly opened my eyes to a world I’ve lived in, yet have been blind to. I hope for my blog to give the reader fresh insight, good and bad, on the every day life in Africa!

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  9. Your pictures are so real and touching. True grit ,you have to have to live and love where you are. I knew many of those lightening warnings; my mother pounded them into us, she was terrified by storms. I love that pounding rain that hits so hard into the earth. Great post! Liz.

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