I’ve always loved the rain ever since I was a child. Whether it was a spring thunderstorm, warm summer shower, or the tail end of an autumn hurricane coming up the coast, I could smell it in the air and I would wait in anticipation for the first droplets to fall. It always felt like it was cleansing the sky or washing the world clean and everything seemed to be happy. It would cool off the hot earth, the flowers and trees would soak it up, my dog would play in the puddles, and especially when it was a hot summer, I would go dance in it. I’d be in my garage or standing by a doorway and stick my hand out first to see how much water was falling from the sky, then I would take a step outside. Looking up at the sky, I’d catch drops on my tongue, then open my arms wide and spin in circles. Sometimes if there was no lightning, my parents would let my sister and I stay in the pool and swim in the rain. The pitter-patter of it on the roof always lulled me to sleep and there was nothing better than a lazy day inside, occasionally staring out the window at an all day soaker. Rain makes me happy.
Here in Vang Vieng, Laos, it is the hot, dry season, and although there is often high humidity, it doesn’t rain all that much. It was a balmy Thursday night and I had just come back from teaching my after school class. I was going to take a shower before dinner, but
there was no water. Remember those black trashcans in the shower that I mentioned in Shades of Culture Shock and found so curious? Well, they’re full of water for times like these. I opened the lid, dipped the large plastic scoop into the cold water, and poured it over me. The cold water is refreshing but the first splash is always a shock to the system. I poured another scoop over me, lathered up with soap and then took a few more scoops full of water to wash off. It’s not ideal, but works well enough.
The next morning, there was still no water, so I went to the trashcan once again to get a scoop of water to wash my face and used my water bottle full of filtered water to brush my teeth. It’s Friday, so I was off to the garden to start with the watering. The plants and trees need the water as much as I do in the heat. This is also the Friday I referred to in Juggling Act – Volunteering in Vang Vieng when I got to plaster cement to the side of the village primary school in Keo Kuang. We were in a bit of a rush on this afternoon to get back to the house to shower and change for our after school class. It was one of those days when I was already soaked in sweat, water, and mud from carrying 5-gallon jugs around the garden to water banana, mango and papaya trees. Then I spent the afternoon with cement up to my elbows. With three of us working on the same patch of wall, I had cement smeared on my pants, caked on my shoes, and stuck in my hair. I was not a pretty site at the end of that afternoon, and Sanne and I were both really hoping for water when we got back to the house. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. I know there wasn’t much that can be done about it, but trying to rinse cement out of my hair with cups of water was no small feat. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it all, but I figured the kids at the school wouldn’t care.
After all, I’m sure that they were in similar situations and it didn’t stop them from running around the yard, playing games and getting dirty. That night, I think we all went to bed hoping that the rain would come. I used my trashcan water sparingly because I wasn’t sure what would happen when the trashcan was empty, but I had heard stories of prior volunteers going down to the river to rinse off, which is often what we see the locals doing when we drive through the mountains to Keo Kuang where many of them don’t have running water.
On Saturday morning, I awoke to a familiar scent. I pulled back the curtains shortly after sunrise to find that the sun wasn’t shining as bright as it normally does. There was a flutter of excitement and anticipation in my belly. I closed my eyes for a few more minutes, planned my day in my mind, and listened. Only a few minutes passed before the familiar scent was followed by a familiar sound. Pitter-patter at first, and then plunk, plunk, plunk. Yahoo!! It was raining. I jumped out of bed, scooped up some trashcan water to wash my face and got myself dressed. I went outside on the patio as if I were 8 years old again. I stuck my hand out to test the water, peered up at the sky, and then started my happy rain dance. This was a full-fledged thunderstorm and it was glorious.
On Saturday mornings, the program managers all meet with the volunteers to hold a weekly planning session. We held that Saturday’s session on the patio so that we could all listen and watch the rain as it fell. Normally, we would have to go to the garden after the meeting to water so that the plants and trees didn’t dry out over the weekend, but rain meant it wasn’t necessary. It was shaping up to be a great weekend. The rain stopped by noon and it was a beautiful afternoon afterward with slightly cooler temperatures.
Thankfully, we had another huge thunderstorm on Monday night, so we had plenty of water in the house and we didn’t have to water on Tuesday at the garden. We were able to get a ton of weeding done on Tuesday since the soil was soft. It rained again on Thursday and by that point, it was even cool and windy and I found myself pulling out my rain jacket. I’ve never been so happy for rain.
On March 22nd, the day after I did my happy rain dance, the world celebrated and honored World Water Day. From a town where we keep trashcans full of water in the shower for when we run out, extra 5-gallon filtered water bottles on hand for drinking, and pull buckets up from a well to water our garden, I’m begging you… I’m shouting it from the mountains of Vang Vieng… please don’t take water for granted. Do you really need to let the water run when you are washing your dishes, or brushing your teeth, or washing your face, or shaving your legs? Are you collecting any of your rainwater for your plants or gardens instead of running the sprinklers every day? What can you do to celebrate and honor water in your life? If you missed it or didn’t know about it, you can visit http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/home/en/ to learn more about World Water Day.
Revelling in gratitude for so many things… but especially for water this week.