I was in the middle of a Rendille lesson at my language helper’s house when the rain started. It was so loud on the mabati (corrugated metal) roof that I couldn’t even hear her when she was six inches from my ear. We finished what we were doing and decided to call it quits for the day. Anyway, this Vancouver girl was eager to go outside and enjoy the wet!
It was incredible! There were little rivulets flowing all over the sand and rocks, and I had a hunch that the lagas (river beds) would be flowing. I was right! Everywhere I looked, little lagas were full of water. I heard the sound of kids shouting behind me at one of the bigger lagas on my way home, and headed over. By the time I got there, it had stopped raining, but the effects were still able to be seen.
I was amazed at what I found – a raging river flowing through the middle of the desert! It wasn’t very deep (maybe to my knees?) but it was wide and swift. The rocks at one side created huge rapids and the water was just gushing down the laga. There were all kinds of people gathered to see, but nobody was crossing. The water was flowing too fast. I dipped my toes in the side just for fun and people all began shouting at me, afraid I would try to cross and would be swept away. We just stood and watched, amazed at how such a short rain could create such a river!
As the rain had stopped, the water began receding fairly quickly. Boya, one of our night guards, helped an old woman across with her bundles, and I quickly joined the kids who had bravely ventured in a little farther upstream. And what does one do when in a river with children who see this kind of water only every couple of years? Begin a water fight, or course! They were a little reluctant at first, but soon discovered that HEY! This is FUN! and loved the idea of splashing the crazy mzungu.
Already mostly soaked, I decided to pull some dramatics and lose my balance and "fall in" to the river. I joined the other kids who were allowing themselves to float downstream a little. The water was maybe a foot deep at this point, so, lying on my back with my feet downstream (mostly so the water wouldn’t carry my skirt up around my ears!), I straightened out and floated down the river (just trying to ignore what might be in the water I was now immersed in! Ah! Fresh rainwater… right?). The kids were all amazed – “Madam! You know how to swim?!?!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that lying in a foot of water and bumping my butt and my elbows on the rocks beneath me didn’t exactly count as swimming!
After the kids started dispersing, I soggily wandered home, taking a moment to enjoy the view. The clouds had mostly gone, and the setting sun turned what was left of them golden against the pink sky. The river had dwindled to a quiet babbling brook – a sound that was at once familiar and foreign. The birds were twittering and I could hear the laughter of the kids farther upstream who had remained to play.
In another hour or so, the water would be gone completely, and by the end of the next day, the riverbeds were dry again and the rain was but a memory. I learned that for these lagas to flow, especially the big one, is quite rare! It’s been a at least few years since there’s last been water in it, so I’m really grateful I got to experience it!