Saturday, July 10, 2010
When it Rains it Pours
In my invitation kit I received before coming to Samoa, there was a packing list which was provided to me. Among the several dozen suggestions of things to bring was an umbrella. That seemed practical, considering I was moving to the tropics for two years. But the list didn’t just say umbrella, it said a “sturdy umbrella that could withstand the heavy rains and winds of Samoa.” Well somewhere in my daze of visiting shopping malls in Michigan, Indiana and Texas, I forgot about the last part that advised to bring a “sturdy” umbrella, and I ended up settling for a black $9.00 Nautica brand from T.J. Max.
I picked that particular umbrella because it was light and compact—one of those nifty retractable ones that opens when you press the button. I was packing two years worth of possessions in two suitcases and could hardly have made room for a golf-sized umbrella. To my delight, my umbrella was working very well during my first few months of training and settling in time at my village. It was withstanding the torrential downpours that Samoa is famous for and the high winds from the tropical depressions.
However, one day I started to recognize rust on the handle and even on the fabric. I wasn’t worried, what could rust do to an umbrella? How bad could this climate really be on an umbrella? The answer turned out to be pretty bad. The fabric was the first thing to go and began to rip and leak. That all came about after the heaviest and longest rainstorm I have ever lived through. Next the handle started to go and I could feel it becoming loose. I still wasn’t worried. But then one day, that neat little button that opens the umbrella was jammed and wouldn’t work at all. I couldn’t get the umbrella open, although even if I did, the thing was rusted and leaked. So I finally decided to part with it at the beginning of January and gave it to my twelve year old neighbor, Milo. I think he still has it, although I never see him with it. A lot of Samoans do without an umbrella and just walk through the rain and dry off later. If anything, they use the umbrella more as a shield from the hot rays of the sun.
When I was left without an umbrella I broke down and bought one in town for only $15 tala, which in U.S. dollars was actually cheaper than the first umbrella I bought back at T.J. Max. I knew it was only a matter of time before this one was trashed as well. Well sure enough, I had to pronounce it dead in the middle of June after it made a very long walk with me down a very dark road in a very heavy rainstorm (see picture above).
We are now in the “dryer season” for Samoa, which means it rains less than it does in the wet season, which still means it rains a fair amount. Are you still with me? So now I’ve gone nearly a month without an umbrella, but I’m beginning to wonder when my luck may run out. But the longer I go without one, the longer I want to push my luck. Joey from Group 80 laughed at me in the office one day when I told him I was on my second umbrella already. He’s gone more than two years without an umbrella here in Samoa, and I know that other volunteers have gone without as well. Yet, I still feel that I’ll have to get another one, although I may try and hold off until October when the rainy season begins again. In the meantime, I’ll keep a close eye on the sky in an effort to avoid getting caught in a messy situation.