Sunday, 26 February 2017

Malawi – Here comes the rain again

February 12

Hello everyone!

It didn’t rain for the first two months after we moved to Malawi and rarely rained before the end of November. Things have changed recently, though…

School doesn't get affected much by the rain

Well, it is rainy season. Malawi is one of those places which doesn’t have what we view as traditional seasons. They have three. We arrived at the end of the dry season with moderate temperatures (which were similar to the UK in the summer) and then endured the hot, dry season which runs from September to November. From November to March it is also hot but with a caveat – a very watery caveat…

A newspaper picture of recent flooding in Lilongwe

What I’ve identified above is the ‘typical’ climate for Malawi. Unfortunately it hasn’t followed that pattern for the last couple of years, with rain not arriving until the end of December. For a country which is mainly agricultural and lacks significant irrigation, this delay is disastrous. Crops don’t grow, people don’t get food: all sorts of problems arise.

The view of from our back garden when we arrived...
The rainfall is also important for Malawi’s power network. 99.3% of the country’s power comes from hydroelectricity generated by dams to the south. Without sufficient rainfall, those dams cannot produce enough energy to power the country. As the last two years have been close to drought conditions, the water reserves in the dams were very low. Thus it was common for us to go in excess of 24 hours without power, which of course results in major problems for food safety in addition to making our lives slightly less cushy.

Our first night in Malawi was spent by candlelight

We’ve arrived in a more prolific year, as you’ll see from the various videos. Even this first deluge was in October, though that was very much a one-off.

Rain on 29th October - it didn't rain for a while after this

It has rained fairly frequently since the end of November and it’s amazing how the landscape has been transformed. Land which was once brown and flat has blossomed into lush, vivid greenery, with maize stalks on the side of the road towering taller than the men and women walking past them.

Honey I Shrunk the Teacher!

This was the view from our garden after a February downpour.
That area used to be my running route...

At the moment, a typical day begins overcast, with bright sunshine heating up Lilongwe until the early afternoon, when dark, ominous clouds start to dominate the sky. A shower will then burst, making a cacophony of noise on the tin roofs. A couple of times a week this will be more persistent heavy rain, accompanied with an incredible spectacle of thunder and lightning. It’s quite the show, which admittedly we usually watch from indoors.

A storm approaching

Of course, you can have too much rain. Last week had a particularly huge downpour which flooded parts of Lilongwe, including the land behind our house. A helicopter, possibly one of the only ones in the country, belonging to the Malawian Defence Force had to airlift some stranded souls to safety. Many crops were also washed away in this flash flood.

A newspaper picture of the flooding from February 10-11

This helicopter landed quite close to our house

Even with rain, life still goes on. Even the volleyball matches in our league are seldom stopped, though it takes a bit of creativity to get the water off the court…

Volleyball court at 6:30pm, more resembling a water polo arena

Volleyball court just after 7pm after trenches were dug on the
left-hand side of the court

The rain is expected to start relenting from its almost-daily deluges in March and is predicted to not appear from April until next November or December. Being British, I’m used to the rain so a daily dose of wet doesn’t overly bother me. It’s also made Malawi much more beautiful than it was when we first arrived. To badly paraphrase a Christmas song…Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

Love you all


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