sheltered in a rainstorm

Last night, written in a thunderstorm—short blackouts and no internet:

Pouring does not do the rain in Nicaragua justice. It sounds like Hotel Brio is under siege from some opposing army. The lightening flashes outside, which illuminate the landscape, and the roar of heavy rain on a tin roof, do nothing to lessen this sensation. This is Noah’s Arc rain, wrath of God rain, RAIN. There’s so much water the rain could just as easily be coming from above as up from the ground, like a geyser shooting up. It’s fun like riding on a roller coaster is fun: scared, loving it.

It’s rained several times since I’ve been here, all of which have been opportunities to sit and listen to the rain, so to speak. Tonight is something else entirely. You don’t listen to this kind of rain. It’s so loud all conversations cease. You can sit a foot away from someone else and still have to scream to be heard. The rain pelts your eardrums, is in your head. Part of the reason for all the noise is that all the roofs here are tin, which is an obvious choice given the drippy climate. Tin roofs plus pelting rain equals a very loud rainstorm. 

I was giving my evening English class downstairs in my ‘classroom’. Connected to the main building is a cement slab with a tin roof covering. (Pictures soon to come). I was literally mid phrase: is she going to the… and I was cut off. Like mouth open, words forming, and no sounds coming out. A giant pitcher of water somewhere high above tipped over and down it came. I couldn’t hear my students and they couldn’t hear me. The wind started blowing sheets of water into our little covered area, so we retreated upstairs to the main room. The students sort of hovered in the corner, while Rob and some others moved the computer and TV living below a now-leaking roof onto dry land. I asked one of the students: is this normal? ‘Yes.’ ‘What do you do?,’ I asked. ‘Wait,’ she told me. Ah, of course. Wait. Waiting is the only option. Wait for a storm to pass isn’t an option in the U.S. Re-route our flight pattern, plow the roads, buy North Face rain gear: whatever it takes to avoid waiting.

The lights flickered on and off, the lightening flashed in the background. There we sat. I went downstairs to cower under the roof and watch the storm through the pitch black. Every lightening flash illuminated a soggy green landscape, blurry through sheets of rain. Pretty exciting.

I went for a run earlier today, my first. The only time I could go was at high noon because of tide and class schedules. Despite the heat, it was spectacular. I realized I hadn’t left the Hotel Brio property, or more specifically the path from the volunteer room to the main room to my classroom, in two days. Getting out and moving was amazing, albeit a bit toasty. I ran down the roads through Gigante and out on the beach. The beaches go in coves, half moon bays separated by natural rock jetties, and are named for their respective pueblos nestled in the forests off the coast. I ran down into the town of Gigante, swung a right on a road to the next cove over, called Amarillo. Amarillo is the beach I’ve been getting beat up on—I mean, learning how to surf. The beach was empty, quite, flat, soft dark sand, wide from the waves to the sheltering, green forest. My ipod wasn’t charged, so all I had to listen to was the surf and the humming of bugs. That strip of hard sand beyond the reaches of the tide and before the soft sand—that was mine. Except for the occasional mosquito, it was blissfully void of critters and people. I arrived at the end of Amarillo beach and decided to clamber over the thirty or so feet of rock sheltering the cove and separating it from the next one, called Colorados. This is where all the surfers head out to, a longer beach that apparently gets some ‘sick’ waves. Because of this, the strip of forest that borders the beach is much more developed than Amarillo or Gigante. (Take the word ‘developed’ with a grain of sand, as living in jungle seclusion makes four actual buildings within a mile look developed). But, it’s clear there is a lot more wealth on this beach—obviously because of the surf. I passed by four hotels, all much nicer than Brio, and thought to myself: now that’s how I’d like to live here. Alas, though, that is not how the other side lives. Brio is lush compared to the houses in Gigante. We have beds (as opposed to hammocks, which is how everyone else lives) and electricity.

I finally got a grasp of the town of Gigante on my run. There are three restaurants, a ‘bar’ with three pool tables, and a cheap hotel in the center area of town, which is feet from the beach and the center of the Gigante cove. Apart from this, it’s decentralized. Roads wind through the forest and house spatter throughout; families are scattered in small clearings off the road, clearings that punctuate a dense, impenetrable forest. All the roads are dirt, knotty dirt with veins and rivers from all the rain, four-wheel drive accessible only and even pretty crazy to run on. I only today fully understood the poverty of this town. Houses are shacks, a word I hate to use. I had seen the houses before, but somehow it took some repetition of views to see them: a family sitting around a small fire cooking lunch, barbed wire clotheslines with threadbare clothes hanging off them, pigs running around in a ‘yard’, the mud, the hammocks all in a row. I also don’t mean to portray this as some kind of primitive society, to express any kind of judgement. This is just what a third world country looks like, something I’ve never seen before. This is where these people live—this is home. This is normalcy for them, and I’m over at Brio freaking out about a few crabs. Offers a little perspective.

Perspective, indeed. Today on my run I’m thinking of all this and then I walk into my bathroom and there is a massive scorpion in the sink. Three inches. This is the third I’ve seen lurking in the bathroom. This, and Yan tells me he got stung twice in his first week. He was sleeping and he woke up with one on his hand. And then he was digging in his bag for a clean shirt and got stung again. Both of these are activities I do daily. You know, sleep and put on clothes. Pretty indispensable. It’s only a matter of time, which does not help my weariness, as I must prepare myself for what’s ahead every time I open a door, dig in my bag, or, apparently, sleep. Sleep is not something I’m doing well right now, so I find myself constantly exhausted and thus more inclined to be exasperated by simple things.

Back to the storm though: I’m incredibly grateful for a roof over my head and electricity. I can’t imagine that the residents of Gigante are faring as well as I am right now, in this storm. How do the homes not lift up and float away? Perhaps the shacks are more sophisticated than my eye can see or than I can understand. I hate calling them shacks. The homes. The rainy season lasts until October, last for 6 months of the year. It rains and rains and rains, and we cower under tin roofs. 


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