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rain clouds

The last 3 weeks have seen the most amazing rain over much of Namibia. In fact, during this time, Windhoek has had more rain than the annual figure for any of the last 6 years. And with it, people’s spirits have been lifted. So I thought it would be fun to explain, to those who have not lived here, Namibians slightly obsessive love affair with rain.

Even the longing Europeans have for sun, in the darkness of winter, cannot compare with the joy we feel with the first cloudburst and the unique scent of wet African earth. This is a gorgeous, happy day. Which can be confusing when it comes to forecasting the weather. Many years ago, I remember someone complaining on NBC radio that the local weather should not describe a sunny day as ‘fine’. Obviously, a fine day would be one with showers! I look forward to when I hear a meteorologist saying “today will be a glorious day with dramatic thunderstorms and significant downpours”.

Avis Dam with water in it for the first time in years

Avis Dam filling up with water

Living in such a harsh arid country, we are more aware than most of how our survival is directly linked to rain. After roughly five clear-sky months over winter, our excitement starts to build with the appearance of clouds in September and October. Often as not, these hopes are dashed as the scorching sun burns up all promise of precipitation. However, when it does rain, it is the first thing on people’s lips, and often businesses come to a standstill as people look out of windows to see this wondrous sight.

We are also keen to compare exactly how much it has rained in various locations. A good portion of people have their own rain gauges, and these figures are enthusiastically shared. The “Reën In Namibia” Facebook page is a platform for precisely this, along with pictures of dark skies, puddles of water, and if really lucky, images of running rivers! This is another thing that differs to a more global understanding of rivers – in Namibia they are ephemeral (other than the 3 main rivers on our borders) and only flow when it has rained in the catchment areas. Therefore, when rivers start to run, it is a real spectacle and inspiration for an outing. Children splash about in water while adults stand around with smiles on their faces.

Children and adults enjoying the Klein Windhoek River in flow.

Enjoying the sight of the Klein Windhoek River in flow

Our neighbours to the east (Botswana) clearly give value to the rain by naming their currency after it. Pula in Setswana translates to ‘rain’. It also means ‘a blessing’ or ‘good luck’.

With the rain comes a transformation of the land – what was previously rock and dust, turns into a landscape of greenery; wildlife frolic and procreate. This is a time to make the most of nature’s abundance as it can be fleeting. “To make hay while the sun shines” comes to mind but clearly the words are all topsy turvy! I was sure that one of the Namibian languages would provide a relevant alternative but so far I have not found anything similar. However, on my search, I did find this Bob Marley quote which I rather like – “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet”.

Raining at our house in Windhoek

Raining in our Windhoek garden

Trying to pump water away from our house

Pumping water away from our house

Our garden under water due to heavy rain

Garden under water

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