With just about a year’s experience of the weather in Mekelle, my body has received enough operant training to predict the weather. Sitting atop the 10th floor of the tallest building in Mekelle (that I have access to) I peer just over the top of her stadium. A currently empty concrete bowl. To it’s right and many kilometers away I watch as clouds condense, darken and lower. As its preceding cool breeze glides across my skin, the little muscles around my arm hairs contract as pressure sensors all over my body send signals that my brain. These sensations are analyzed by my brain to suggest increasing atmospheric pressure. The almost circadian rhythm of the rainy season is back. Each early afternoon, Mekelle’s earth is graced with a heavy downpour (Video from the balcony of my apartment; it’s not usually this dramatic).
This phenomenon was the subject of my first post in Mekelle exactly a year ago. Then the rain meant something completely different. An inhibitor, a nuisance of sorts. I remarked how it kept me undercover, but that the rest of Mekelle continued on as if it didn’t exist.
The country is currently burdened with a severe electricity shortage. According to the government, water reservoir shortages have lead to the decreased production of hydroelectric power resulting in countrywide rolling blackouts. For 8 hours a day, a particular area of the country is without power. This includes the only tertiary hospital in northern Ethiopia in which I work. 8 hours a day, the hospital must rely on its unreliable generator for power. When it fails, which is OFTEN does, the entire hospital is left without power.
This means emergency cases in the OR cannot proceed, ventilators with limited batteries fail and hand bagging becomes the only way to keep some patients alive, laboratory investigations are halted and ruined, and patients die. It reminds me of the stories told after Katrina ravaged New Orleans leaving its hospitals without power. That was a catastrophe when it occurred. It happens here every day.
This habitual rain promises to refill these vital reservoirs and perhaps, over time, provide vital electricity back to this essential hospital.
So, I get it that when rain falls on the face of a Habesha (the local term for Ethiopians and also the name for a local beer company), their first thought isn’t “not this again” or “oh my god, my hair!!”, its “thank god,” “ma shaa Allah,” or “Egziabher** yemesgen.” This rain, absent for the last 8 months, provides life. It took me a year to really understand one of the first observations I made after I moved here.
Just a little post to stimulate your appetite. I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks…
**One of my very intelligent residents pointed out to me after I posted this that I spelled this word incorrectly. I said “xavier” because thats what it sounds like. But its actually “Egziabher” meaning:
Egzi: the lord
Ab: the father
her: the holy spirit
Thank you for the education!