I’ll never forget the feeling of waking up in the morning with that bright white light filtering in through my window and peeking out to see the garden covered in snow, and then waiting with baited breath by the radio until they finally read my school’s name (they were always the last to make the call-typical), and rushing straight outside to make a snowman. There is no day like a snow day. In England, for those of you that are not familiar with it, the entire country grinds to a halt when an inch of snow falls. Some people find this annoying, but I think it’s pretty magical. Here in Brazil, the equivalent seems to be a rainy day, although no one gets to make a snow angel. There may well be parts of Brazil where it never rains, (São Paulo seems to be having the worst drought it’s had in decades) but Bonito is definitely not one of them. For the first few months here it was fairly intermittent, and there were days of 45 degrees in October when I was praying for it, but with November has come the wet season. This is clearly phenomenon that occurs year on year, but they still don’t seem to have learned how to deal with it (sound familiar?!).
At the beginning of November I was woken in the middle of the night by the loudest thunder claps I have ever heard. In the morning, when it was still absolutely torrential, the minibus to work was suspiciously empty. When I asked why, I was told they hadn’t turned up at the pick up point, and when I again asked why, looked at a bit strangely and told ‘because it’s raining’. Right. Since then it has rained and thundered most days (although the temperature still remains above a balmy 20 degrees day and night so I’m not complaining), and whenever it’s raining in the morning someone is certain not to show up for work! Just as we don’t have enough grit and no one has winter tyres on their cars, here no one seems to own boots, rain jackets or umbrellas. Everyone is just stuck. I find it hilarious as I walk home from work in my rain jacket that everyone is hovering outside their work places because they couldn’t possibly ride their motorbike home in the rain. They look at me in my daisy rain jacket and exchange raised eyebrows. I’m sure they’re making comments under their breath about the eccentric gringa. Can’t she see it’s raining?! It makes me realise just how ridiculous we must look to people from countries that are buried in snow every winter, and life goes on!
I am quickly warming to the no work when it rains philosophy, although I think if I adopt it I might be in trouble in my last year in Southampton. If I never went to a lecture in the rain in the wettest city in England I think I might make it to about 5% of my lectures. Once high season hits this is never going to happen, but since it’s been raining we have had a couple of afternoons when everyone cancels and we get to go home at 2pm. Woooooooo rain day! When you’re a bit tired, there is nothing better than curling up in your bed for an afternoon map with a thunderstorm raging outside. On a side note, on a not so rainy day a few weeks ago, I did a water rescue course, a follow up from the first aid course the week before (what’s the betting anyone in England will take these seriously?!). I was extremely proud of myself being able to do all this (and pass with flying colours) in Portuguese, but it seemed that what was remarkable to the men on the course (95% of participants) was that I am, as you may have noticed, female, and still managed to do the whole thing just as well as if not better than the majority of them.
I kid you not, on the first day of the first aid course the guy was describing all the potential risks that one could face whilst out on the ecotourism trail in Bonito, then turned to me and the only other girl in the room and said ‘and girls…when you’re in the kitchen…’. He earned one of my well honed death looks. Went straight over his head. Anyway, before I get into a rant about machismo (let’s save that for another post shall we?), I digress.
A fun side effect of all this rain is the level of the river. Before November arrived, the River Formoso was dangerously low, so much so that they were talking about cancelling boia cross if it didn’t improve so as to not damage the waterfalls. However the rain very much arrived and with a vengeance. The river has gone from a beautiful crystal clear blue to muddy and risen about a foot, and my shins have suffered. My job as a monitor involves standing either above or below the waterfall to either place the tourists in the right spot or help them if they flip over.
The water is normally this colour! The other day I didn’t so much fall down the waterfall below as scrape down it. My feet were taken out from underneath me by the power of the water and I went down head first, managing to break the fall by catching my leg on a handy ledge, and emerging the other end having lost my shoes, my dignity and quite a portion of the skin from my legs. If I take nothing else away from Brazil I’m going to take huge numbers of scars as a souvenir!
As the rainy season goes on, high season is fast approaching. This means that cancelling is no longer going to be an option, come rain, thunder or lightning. The other day we were in the midst of a thunderstorm, but there were two boia cross trips due to go out. After faffing around for a bit, my boss decided that he valued the money more than his life and after not seeing a lightning strike for about 5 minutes declared that the conditions were perfectly safe, so off we went! We descended the river accompanied by the rumbling of thunder. Granted I didn’t see a lightning strike, but I was determinedly not looking. I was never much good at science, but I’m pretty sure that water + electricity don’t mix. Wish me luck!