The rainy season in Namibia, roughly November through March, is by far the best time of the whole year. The otherwise dead and dry land, with just a bit of water, suddenly turns into a lush, green (almost) rainforest. When the clouds hang low over the hills, I half expect to meet a mountain gorilla out there.
When it rains, work out on the farm becomes something to look forward to. Not only do the clouds give us a break from the heat, but once out of the front gate, life turns into one big treasure hunt. For the rainy season is omajova season – the termite mushrooms are out.
I could write a short book about the joy that is the omajova, one of the most peculiar yet fantastic things about this country. And I might. But for now it will have to suffice to say that searching for omajovas makes every day more interesting and finding them, spotting that bit of white through the green, is like Christmas; a feast is sure to follow.
Once infected with omajova fever, you are always on the lookout. Trips into the bush become devoid of conversation; everyone is far too busy looking for mushrooms. And with this heightened awareness, you see much more than termite mounds. You fall into a trance of the life that rain created.
You’ll see the oryx, hartebeest, and eland have given birth to fuzzy and awkward calves. The warthogs too, have their wartlets at their side, all of them covered in a fresh layer of mud. And with newborns come predators.
The flowers are out; fire lilies creeping through the bush, their charm belying their fatal poison.
For me, it’s as if all the plants and animals are saying exactly what I am thinking, it’s a great time to be alive in Namibia.
Or it was. Before the rain disappeared.
At first, I thought it was maybe my fault, that I had pissed old mama Namibia off with my recent post about the garden. But we were actually the lucky ones. Most parts of the country look as though they skipped the summer entirely and went straight back into winter.
With the new year, the sun that Namibia is famous for, so characteristic that it’s on the nation’s flag, that ball of fire insistent on baking us all to raisins, came back. For days, and days, and days, only sun.
With time, the clouds began to pop up again and there was hope. We’d talk about very little except the latest development in the sky.
“The clouds are pretty fluffy today.”
“Yeah, but it’s a west wind. No good.”
“It’s almost new moon, maybe that’ll bring rain.”
But it didn’t.
Then came the army worms. Appropriately named, these inch-or-so-long worms moved through the fields like soldiers, systematically eating each blade of grass down to the nub as they went. Thousands of them filling their ever-hungry stomachs. All the grass we watched so happily spring up after the rain, the thick, green grass we were saving for the winter, turned into a horde of worms.
Word on the street said the only way to get rid of them was rain. Buckets of rain to wash them away. The one thing we didn’t have. And so we regressed into the dead brown phase just like everyone else, reminded of it with every step.
But the clouds kept coming. Every afternoon we watched with utmost anticipation as they grew thicker and darker. A few droplets, prayers that they wouldn’t stop, but they always did and the sun returned and the worms ate on. Eventually, hope conceded to the sun.
Yesterday brought blue skies and the same old story. By late afternoon, the same puffy clouds. As they grew bigger and bigger, hope bubbled up again, but I did my best to ignore it. And then just before sunset, this:
Not just water, but a painting. As if to reward our patience, and remind us all is not lost.
No one can say if it’ll stick around, relieve us of worms, return us to green, but I do know one thing: whoever wrote that “rain, rain go away” song never lived in Namibia.