During training in Ebolowa, the rain meant that we had a slight reprieve from the heat and humidity. Training continued despite the thunderous noise and spray seeping into our training center, but here in village rain means that time stops. In one of my other posts I mentioned that time seems to flow differently here, but at the time I had no idea how true that was. When it rains, time practically stands still. Everything pauses: stores close, street vendors hide, conversations stop, moto-taxis vanish, and if it weren't for the overflowing bars I would think that everyone had been abducted by rain aliens. The bars, however, are the only signs that life continues as normal. When it rains, it seems that everyone runs to the nearest bar and starts drinking, whether is 5 pm in the evening or 5 am in the morning. There is no correct or incorrect time for drinking here: beer time is all the time.
Cameroonians are incredibly conscious of their appearance. I can't say they're a particularly vain culture, but the phrase cleanliness is next to godliness has never seemed more true. This summer, I had one student stop me in the middle of a lesson to inform me that I had dirt on my pants. I quickly responded that the dirt on my pants would not help her pass her next test and that it wasn't as important as the lesson I was giving, but she very seriously informed me that cleaning off the dirt was VERY important.
The volunteer who lives closest to me, Cristina, slipped in the mud in the market near us last weekend and the vendors around her would not let her leave the vicinity until she had changed out of her muddy clothes. They sold her new clothing items at the lowest prices I've seen yet, and gave her a space to change and towels to wipe of her bags and arms. To them, the idea of being seen covered in mud, at the MARKET no less (where people often dress up in their best regardless of whether or not they're there to buy anything), was inconceivable and they would not allow her protestations of "It's fine, I'll change when I get home".
I think this strong aversion to mud and need for cleanliness is easily the root of the time-freezing nature of the rain. To knowingly go out into the weather that will inevitably lead to more dirt and mud than can be controlled is madness. So when I got caught in the rain this morning on my run, I quickly became an object of horror and fascination. I was already 4 miles from my house, and fairly damp due to sweat and the morning fog, so to me it made no sense to be worried about the steady mist coming down, but every bar I passed, on my 6 am morning jog, was filled with villagers calling out to me to come inside and wait for the rain to stop. I smiled and waived and called out my memorized phrases of the local language, but kept running, much to their amusement... and disgust.