The rainy season. I thought that I knew what that meant, but one of the joys of travelling is that it opens ones eyes to how little you know in practice! The rains here are not the sort that build up over a hot morning, gathering at midday and then depositing themselves over you in a torrential downpour in the afternoon – only to evaporate almost as fast as they fell, thus starting the cycle again for the next day. No, the rainy season here is very different to that.
It gets blisteringly hot for a few days. People get nervous, saying that this is what hurricanes feed off. The odd cloud might appear in the sky, and there may even be a short rain shower. The clouds may build up more, or it may clear completely for a day or two. Currently, only two weeks in so too soon to be sure this is typical, the build up of clouds is predominantly, but not only, in the evenings. First of all I notice that I suddenly come out in a sweat. I start raining before the sky does!
(It reminds me of my grandparents who lived by the sea. They used to hang a long piece of wide brown sea weed outside their back door. My grandfather, known to everyone as Jeff which was an abbreviation of his surname Jeffkins, my grandfather Jeff would go out and check his sea weed. He used it as a barometer. When it was damp he would assure me that rain was on the way, and he was invariably right. Or rather, the sea weed was!)
So, my body barometer gets damp like the sea weed, really damp and sticky, and then the sound of thunder or the flash of lightening will appear. The pattern seems most typically to be an initial shower, lasting 1-5 minutes and then whoosh! It is as if someone has turned a power shower onto full out of the blue. The noise level is quite phenomenal. In our bedroom at night, it falls onto the sloping roof above us, which like all roofs round here is corrugated. When I just listen, it reminds me of the symbols in a drum kit, just creating a vibration between them. Or a very fast drum roll, the sticks leaving barely any space between them. It is relatively high pitched, and behind that is a deeper drone made by the fallen water cascading through gutters and storm drains. The thunder has been most usually single peals, followed by lightening.
(When I was little my father taught me to count the seconds between the thunder and lightening. Every 5 seconds is a mile away. I still do it, though it tends to be pretty obvious if the storm is overhead! But dad was a sailor through and through, and was wanting to see how the thunder was circling which he said it always did so that he was facing the right way in his boat! Always put the bows into the wind in a storm.)
Last night I was enjoying again the sound of the downpour, when suddenly the thunder came again. Only this time, the thunder came from here, then there, then somewhere else, as if ricocheting off the clouds or the gods playing squash! As I listened, fascinated, I suddenly saw Keith Moon, the legendary drummer in The Who, doing his fantastic drumming, arms and sticks flying from one drum to the other, to the next and back again.
Today I was talking with someone about the rain. (This person has elected himself as my educator about things Belizean, for which I am most grateful. Today he told me that when I buy mangoes in the market, I have to ask for mango 11, as they are particularly sweet. When I said that they could give me mango 24 and I wouldnt know, he replied that it is the only one mango with a number. He also said that blue mangos are especially good too, but not blue in colour! I am still uncertain how I would know the difference, but no doubt the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.) Anyway, this man explained that a tropical wind with rain was expected today, most probably this evening it is threatening to rain now – and from there we got talking about the noise on my bedroom ceiling at night. He asked me if it was the same in the UK, and I tried to explain how we get 3 hot days then a thunderstorm, which is then all over till next summer but he seemed bemused. He asked me if I had ever heard the thunder drumming and I got very excited and told him what I had heard last night. He said that sometimes it goes round like that right overhead with lightening, and is unbelievably loud. I smiled as I thought of sitting under the drum kit as Keith Moon was really going for it. And I wonder what direction dad would point the boat in when it is going round as fast as that. He could get quite dizzy
These rains could fall as one 15 minute episode, or last for a few hours or even days. Then there could be two weeks of really dry hot weather before the smaller rains followed by a few days of rains again. Or so I believe!