Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bailando en la Lluvia ~ Dancing in the Rain

Jane, or Talia as she is called here in Ecuador, volunteered with Starfish during summer 2014, and has joined us again this year.  Since rainy season has been longer than usual, Jane is experiencing her first rainy season and today shares with us a great reflection on what rain means in our Starfish communities.

Photo Credit: Mary D.

"We were soaked, from head to toe. At that point, it didn’t matter anymore. The rain soothed; it cooled our bodies. We were going to get drenched anyway, so we figured, Hey, might as well enjoy the precipitation.

There was a sense of liberation in feeling the rain on our skin, allowing the earth to soak us.

We were alive.

Dancing in swirls, singing “Bailando,” happily eating guineos empastados, hopping around giant puddles, trying not to fall into any rushing “rivers” as we made our way up the steep loma to Erica’s house.

We peeled garlic under a wobbly tin porch “roof,” surrounded by Erica’s family, cousins, and neighbors. 45 pounds of peeled garlic earned the family $5.

I had been thinking about the rain. Pounding on the tin roof, flooding the streets and walkways, soaking our clothes, saturating the dirt cancha where the children played soccer, inviting mosquitos to rest in its puddles, nourishing the earth’s greenery.

“What struck you most of about your first week?” Meredith, a rad Catholic missionary we were blessed to meet this week, asked us.

“La lluvía. The rain,” I answered immediately, without hesitation. After three previous trips to Ecuador, what stood out most in my mind was the liquid precipitation that fell from the sky. Before this year, I had never been to Ecuador during the rainy season — only during the dry season, when it never rains.

The rain had been challenging me.

I had never given it much thought, especially from a social justice perspective.

In the U.S., rain is just rain.

It waters the earth. It means a gray, drizzly day. With an umbrella and adequate infrastructure, liked paved roads and sturdy houses, it doesn’t physically affect us much. In fact, for me, the rain carries hope. April showers bring May flowers. Rain helps the flowers grow and bloom and radiate brilliant beauty. We can wait through the storms with the hope that the flowers are coming — that the rain is going to result in something good and beautiful.

Rain is not quite the same here, nor does it carry the same hope. Yes, the rain waters the plants, allowing for a lush landscape, and allows for cooler temperatures; however, its negative consequences seem to far outweigh its positive one(s).

Here, the rain directly affects the marginalized — our host family, friends, students, neighbors.

In Ecuador, el invierno (when it rains) normally lasts from December to April; however, this year it’s decided to stick around with a vengeance for a few extra weeks, raining at night and sporadically throughout the day. Just yesterday, it started pouring as the Integration Day came to a close around 2pm.

The rain doesn’t appear to bother the kids much — they’ll happily continue playing soccer barefoot and walk home without an umbrella or anything to shield them from buckets of water. They will talk about the rain, though, and how awful it can be at its worst. They will mention family members who have been sick and in bed with dengue or chicuguña, two serious mosquito-borne illnesses. As Marcos, one of the Starfish’s educadores, explained to us, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases this rainy season.

Here, rain is a public health threat. Especially for the many people who have limited-to-no access to quality medical care. Mosquitos, which thrive in warm, damp places, especially in standing water, carry potentially fatal diseases if not treated.

The rain affects infrastructure. It wrecks foundations and causes roads and the exterior of buildings to wear down. It can destroy weak cane houses, leaving people homeless or with significantly damaged homes.

The rain affects transportation. It floods the roads, forming large “rivers” and puddles in dirt roads, making it impossible for a car or bus to pass. Just walking through these muddy messes is a challenge.

The rain affects pollution. It carries heaps of trash, sewage, and other pollutants, into the streets where people step.

And Jackie and I are not even here for the thick of it. We are only here for the tail of the season, when the rain is finally beginning to calm down.

I had never given much thought to weather and precipitation before — something that is out of our control, but without a doubt, seriously impacts poverty. No wonder countries in tropical regions tend to be the most underdeveloped. In many ways, intense rain and heat coupled with poor infrastructure perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

I’m not sure I’ll ever see rain in quite the same way. And maybe you won’t either."

~Jane L., Starfish Volunteer.  Read more reflections from Jane on her blog!

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