One aspect of spending time in Haiti every month for a year that particularly appealed to me was the opportunity to witness the country’s full cycle. The seasonal adjustments of a Caribbean nation are minor compared to those of New England, but I looked forward to experiencing the subtle shifts between warm days morphing into cool nights (January) and hot days that stick to you 24 hours straight (August). Be careful what you wish for, however, for either of those options seem preferable this time of year – we are thick in the rainy season.
Haiti has been cloudy since I arrived. It rains every night, hard, and often during the day. Haitians are notoriously, almost hilariously afraid of rain. At the sign of a few drops the entire crew at BLB scurry down the ladder and huddle under the second floor slab until it clears. Today they just quit at noon.
The rains lay a lugubrious blanket of humidity over everything. In a country where mechanical objects are precarious to begin with, the moisture seems to make everything break down. The water pump at MoHI is on the fritz, the main generator is kaput, so we haul portable generators back and forth between home and work. None of it much bothers me because if there are no lights it just gives me more time to sleep and if everyone is taking bucket showers, then we are all equally slimy.
The impact on the natural world of so much rain is anything but subtle. The corn, so scrawny just three weeks ago, is reaching Kansas proportions. A bird got disoriented, flew into the chain link fence at BLB and broke its wing. Gama brought it into the shanty where it scurries from corner to corner to avoid Christlove’s attentions. If its wings heal, we will release it to the sky, though Gama threatens to mark it with a BLB.
The most bizarre natural phenomenon is the rain bugs. They emerge every night around 7:30 pm, when night falls, and swarm any place with light. They are a monstrous version of the ‘noseeum’s that swarm Massachusett’s ponds on wet summer evenings. These are long, up to an inch, with wide wings. They are so easy to kill there is no sport in it at all. With one thumb you can smudge out half a dozen. Of course, that is also a testament to their density. Well over a hundred are circling my light bulb as I type this. I only bother to kill them if they land on me, but since I don’t glow I am not an object of their attention. Besides, only the most literal animal rights activists could protest rubbing these guys out; they are all dead by morning anyway.
Like all minor annoyances, the rainy season offers its particular pleasures. Last night Lex and Renee took me up to Saint Etienne in the mountains to give them some advice on a project they are building up there. It was twilight when we arrived, the clouds drifting over the mountains created a mist shrouding the terraced hillsides. It was green as any corner of Ireland I’ve ever seen yet more dramatic. The hills of Haiti are so steep they defy physics; which makes them seem unreal. In the silvery mist, Haiti looked like nothing other than Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is a small trial to persevere a few rainy days to experience such magic.