Saturday, 5 May 2012

How Dry I Am

It’s pouring outside, making May the sequel to the wettest April on record. There are buckets in the upstairs bathroom due to a leaking roof.  If this drought gets any worse I don’t know what we’ll do.

Yes, the government is still going on about the drought in the Southeast. Which means it’s illegal to go out in the rain and wash your car. It’s too hard to water your lawn holding an umbrella, anyway.

In a single day, I heard two explanations for why all this rain hasn’t ended the official drought.  One government voice—Agriculture, I think—said that the ground was “too hard” to allow the water to soak in, so it was all running off somewhere. But a spokesperson from Environment said that water was not collecting in the reservoirs, because it was all soaking into the ground. One of them is bound to be right, I figure. Either way, I don’t flush as often.

I’ve seen droughts in Africa, and they don’t look like this one. There you get skinny animals and clouds of dust that make little mini-tornados. Everybody walks real slow.  One season in Botswana,  the national reservoir near Gaborone got so low that yachtsmen had to stop practising for the Olympics. They were never very good at it anyway; they just needed one more sport to enter in order to qualify. The village boys I worked with had to stop growing Swiss chard in a small patch at our community centre, an important intervention in what was a virtual epidemic of tuberculosis.

One Saturday night I drove two boys to a church hall in a neighbouring village to see a film.  I don’t remember what it was about, just the looks of awe on their faces as they watched scenes of an English village. On the way home, Thabo prompted Nsimane to ask me a question.  He did, with an air of trepidation.

“Art,” he said, “Why does it always rain where white people live?”

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