We were halfway down the hill from the clinic in Ziah when the sky opened up. We’d seen the storm building as the sun blinked out behind boiling wall of dark clouds, rolling down from the east. Raj, Jenny, Subarna, Bosco and I had walked up to the Konobo Health Clinic, on the hill at the west end of town during the heat of the afternoon, so the clouds were a welcome relief – as long as we timed our return right.
On the road today along the wishfully-named Zwedru-Ziah “Highway” (a twisting single track of mud), I’d gotten to see little snippets of the kind of work Last Mile is doing up here. In Boundary Town we stopped and chatted with a Aaron and Neah, a couple of LMH’s latest cohort of front line health workers, and tagged along on a followup visit with a boy being treated for malaria. I got to see how they worked, what they did, and how much of a difference it made. This afternoon at the clinic I got to see more of that, but I also got a keyhole picture of what happens when this kind of care doesn’t find someone until it is too late.
Tarnue was giving me a tour of the Clinic’s facilities – the men’s ward, the women’s ward, the emergency room and screening room. But as the storm built outside, I felt it harder and harder to concentrate. Maybe it was that I’d seen just a little too much today, or maybe it was the electricity crackling in the air outside. I felt the gust front build, roll in and blow past us. The air cooled and the first drops were falling as we stepped out on the red dirt road for the walk back to Last Mile’s quarters. We made it about five minutes down the hill before the sky lit up with a crack of lightning and the clouds poured down their bounty.
As a veteran of storms on all seven continents, I can assure you that the African rainstorm is a unique beast. You feel like you’re swimming through the air, standing under a waterfall. It can be exhilarating, or a little frightening if you’re not ready for it. Today, it felt like exactly what I needed. Bosco, prudent man that he is, hadn’t joined us for the walk back – he’d eyed the growing clouds and said that, um, maybe he’d see a patient or two and join us later. The rest of us were drenched within seconds, drenched as thoroughly as if we’d jumped into the deep end of the pool fully clothed. But it wasn’t a problem – I mean, it was wonderfully refreshing and when we got back indoors we could all dry off and change into fresh… uh, right. I was wearing the only pair of pants and shoes I had out here, right?
Turns out that I can totally rock the borrowed-green-gym-shorts-and-tiny-purple-flip-flops look. The rain was over in five minutes, of course, and maybe we’ll walk into town and I’ll see about picking up a larger pair of flip-flops to keep me going until my boots dry.