Kijumi is Coming

I woke this morning to the welcome voice of thunder and the syncopation of rain. I drew back my curtain and breathed in the relief. It hasn’t rained in Gulu in a month and a half, leaving everything and everyone parched and jacketed in ruddy, red dust.
I threw on some clothes-okay, I really just yanked a skirt up under the nightshirt I’d peeled off and thrown on the floor. I didn’t bother with shoes or anything else. I grabbed my camera and iPad. I tiptoed to my mom’s room to see if she was awake to watch the storm with me, but the crack under her door was dark. So with my camera and iPad in hand, I scrambled back down the hall to the balcony outside of my room. The sun wasn’t up yet and I knew I was in for a spectacular lightning show across the dark sky. I sat on the balcony writing and snapping photos.

The storm was behind me, so I didn’t see the fingers of lightning pointing from the sky and touching the ground. Instead the whole of the sky would go from pitch black to electric pinks and yellows all at once, like a camera flash to the face. As my retinas recovered from each flash, I’d count the seconds between the turbulent thunder and the blinding flashes of lightning, counting the miles separating me from the storm, just like I do with my students at home when a thunderstorm rumbles in. To my delight the increments quickly shrunk from five seconds to one second and then the thunder and lightning were stacked on top of each other, a thrilling assault on the senses.

Not to be outdone by the thunder and lightning, the wind rushed in as well, a welcome reprieve from the stifling, still humidity. The wind whipped at my skirt and splashed my bare feet with rain. My balcony overlooks the once grand Pece stadium and I watched the field puddle.

During my first two nights in Gulu, sleeping was a near impossibility. My jetlagged body struggled to adapt to the correct clock and to the humidity that always sucks the life out of me at the beginning of my trip. At night I’d lay naked under my mosquito net, not the sexy kind of naked, the ugly, sweaty “peel everything off to survive” kind of naked. Mosquitoes buzzed around my net and I laid there sweltering.

I can only imagine what the last month and a half in Gulu have been like. I’ve seen the parched, brown crops and can imagine the utterings from cracked lips praying for rain in this unexpected dry season.

The morning of the storm, I watched the sun peek her pink face from behind the clouds as the spaces between the thunder and lightning counted back up to six, then seven, then ten miles away until the storm held its breath altogether. The soccer field drank the puddles and they vanished almost as quickly as they’d formed. Just when I thought the storm was through, a fresh slashing of rain fell, and a second helping of thunder and lightning filled the sky until the ground was sodden and swollen with rain.

Later that morning, I sat downstairs talking with an old musee. He taught me the Luo name for thunderstorm (mwoc pa-kot) and the Luo names for different kinds of rain. There’s ngito, meaning a drizzle. There’s kot paminilemu, an unexpected rain. But my favorite kind of rain is kijumi, a long, hard rain.

The musee talked about the parched crops and how this mwoc pa-kot and kot paminilemu vanquished his worries of famine. 


And here I was complaining about the heat because it made it hard to sleep. Fear of famine had never even crossed my mind. I’ve never known the worry pangs of impending famine. Hang on, I need to add that to the list of things I’m thankful for so I remember it the next time I pray. Be right back.

While I’ve not known physical famine, I have known the feeling of famine in my spirit, the ugly nakedness of feeling bereft. I know about waiting and praying with dry, cracked lips for some relief, any relief to fall from Heaven. I also know the reprieve of rain and the joy of hearing the cool whisperings of God blow into my life.

Vigilantes, it’s a privilege to know so many of you in person, to know your stories well, as if they were my own. Some of you are impossibly parched right now, famished down to brittle bones, praying desperate prayers from cracked, dry lips. I don’t have any pretty, pious words for you, but I prayed for you today, prayed that you’d be absolutely sodden with a first and second helping of rain. I want to encourage you to hold tight, dear ones, in the midst of your dry season keep praying. 

Your kijumi is coming.  

Memory of Rain

Over at 1000 Awesome Things I read a great post on the joy of getting caught in the rain and I couldn’t help but think of the day Terry and I got caught in the rain in Cancun last July.

It began as a drizzle, plinking on the marble that surrounded the pool.  We were laying on one of those canopied poolside beds reading our books in the heavy summer air.  I thought the rain would relieve the humidity, but Cancun still breathed down on us.

We didn’t care about the rain or the humidity.  We relaxed and watched the drizzle become a steady rain.  And then the steady rain broke open into a deluge.  Never in my life have I seen rain like that!  We set our open books on our stomachs and watched the rain fill the walkways.

Our canopy leaked, gently at first, a drop here, a drop there.  And then the rain came in sheets, rivulets becoming pools where we sat.  It soaked through our towels, our clothes, our books.  It soaked through everything.

We watched others create makeshift umbrellas from towels and shirts as they ran for refuge at the thatched roof bars.  But not us.

Terry and I have been caught in the rain on our bicycles and we’ve learned that there is a saturation point, a point at which clothing, hair, skin is so sodden with water that it simply cannot contain another drop.  And we had reached that point.  So there was only one reasonable thing to do.

We stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped in the pool.

We were the only two swimming as the rain pelted the surface of the pool, but did not touch our bodies underneath.  We laughed and I kissed Terry, sucking the rain off his bottom lip.  The pool water was so warm, warmer even than the sultry air.

After our swim we dashed back to our canopy, gathered up our wet things, and sat down at an umbrella covered table at an outdoor café.  The waiters cowered in their white uniforms under the awnings, waiting for the downpour to stop.  We giggled at the people dodging from awning to awning trying to stay dry.

But this rain allowed no survivors.

The water puddled up over ankles and the waiters used giant squeegees to usher the water from the marbled paths back into the flowerbeds over and over again.  Men turned Coca Cola crates upside down and stood on them to save their leather shoes.  Terry and I ate lunch, my wet hair dripping on the table.

We walked back to our room in the rain and my arms and legs prickled with goosebumps.  Back in our room we sank into a hot bubble bath.  This is the part of the story where I fast forward.


Later that night I toweled off my wet hair until it sprung up in huge soft curls around my face.  No straight hair allowed in Cancun air.  I wrapped myself in a bathrobe and Terry and I pulled out our books and read some more while the rain pattered a percussion on our patio.

The rain had soaked through all 560 pages of The Poisonwood Bible and the pages crinkled up into waves.  Days later when all the pages were dry, the book was so fat with memories of the rain that it couldn’t even begin to close.  That book will never be the same.

And neither will I.

I, too, am fat with memories of that blessed rainy day.