I wish I had had my phone yesterday to take a picture of the torrential rain storm we were caught in at the end of the work day. Without a picture, I’ll have to use 1000 words to describe it and you’ll just have to believe me.
The ethnic group in this region, the Fang, has many words to describe rain, or “nvong.” One “otaba tab nvong” describes the drizzle that lasts a long time, is just serious enough to annoy people on their way to work, school or market, but not serious enough to collect any water useful for the household. My favorite happens to be “ndoum” which is the surprise rainstorm that comes early in the morning and is heavy enough to keep everyone inside. Kind of like a snow day, but we haven’t had one of those yet.
There’s another called “nkoulou” (wind and rain) and “nzalang” (thunder and rain) and that’s what we saw coming for about 30 minutes but were not smart enough to make preparations.
Drew, Nico and I finished work a few minutes early to walk the 2 kilometers to the house of the man who was making bricks for the school windows. We were short about 50 bricks. Off in the distance we could see dark clouds forming. We knew it meant rain but we thought maybe not here, maybe a little later. Perhaps the rain would be so kind as to wait until we had seen the brick man.
Twenty minutes later when we arrived at the intersection in town, all the market stalls and shops were closing down as the wind picked up. It was ten more minutes of walking and we wasted 30 seconds of debating whether to head home or complete the assigned task. On to the bricks.
Once there, we knew our time was short. The brick man was not there, and as we were counting the 28 bricks already made on his front lawn, a lightning bolt caused electrical sparks in the wires above us, sending us into a momentary wild dance of fear.
We said our goodbyes to Nico who was close to his house and headed back home. By then I had put on my poncho but it was just dropping the occasional pellet. A brisk walk.
We were minutes away from the intersection when we caught the full force of the nvong. A quick dash, or at least as fast as two 60-plus year old men could waddle, and we found the first shelter. We were drenched nonetheless. Luckily, it happened to be Papa Joseph’s buvette, and he offered us a warm beer to watch the downpour. Inside was one customer, the catechist from Palm Sunday and you guessed it, he was having a glass of red wine.
A river quickly developed between his door and the road. A mini-van pulled up and a couple of people ventured out in a sprint.
From our seats we had the vantage point of the soccer field where we had earlier seen boys playing as we walked by. Amazingly, in the wind, the rain, the lightning bolts and the dusk light, they continued playing. For another 30 minutes. There’s something about rain and its universal appeal to children to play and jump in puddles. I guess once you get completely wet, you’re not going to get more wet.
After a second beer, we imagined a slight let up and headed home in the dark. When we arrived, Mary had collected 3 buckets of water at the edge of the roof. Someone was thinking.