It Rains Down in Africa

orange building

At first, the rains here in Africa (cue Toto) seemed completely unlike the monsoon rains of Asia, as they occurred with far lesser frequency and for shorter periods of time. Here, at first, the rainy season meant something less palpable than a few monsoon months; an ambiguous length of time where downpours of rain might occur at oddly short intervals, interspersed between periods of beautiful blue skies. The rains didn’t come everyday, and hardly for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

That was at first. And indeed, for the nine months I was first here, Dar’s ‘rainy’ weather was like this, all the way until two weeks ago. Then for four nights in a row (and during some mornings), rain thundered on rooftops, conveniently pausing during most of the daytime hours but inconveniently coming back again each evening and flooding homes, businesses, and roads. Medical supplies washed up on our beloved Yacht Club’s typically pristine beach. Our household staff’s homes in the poorer areas of town washed over. Typical 20 minute commutes extended to 1.5 hours. It was the rainiest I’ve seen Dar in my near one-year living here.


pushing taxi

This is when I am reminded—despite the fact that I can find Nutella on my supermarket shelves—that I am living in a 3rd world country. Severe lack of infrastructure and planning caused what would be a nuisance in America: four days of rain, to render much of the city frustratingly unaccessible. And when I say a lack of infrastructure, I’m not talking about the fact that we need to pave a stretch of road; I’m talking about the need to create complicated irrigation systems, implement systems of drainage, and re-map entire communities and their layouts.

Last week, I felt terrible pangs of irony as I watched rain water pool into muddy pits and sloshing about the sides of the roads. In a country where untainted water is scarce, there it was just falling out of the sky, potentially available for anyone who could collect it, but instead wreaking havoc to the same folks that desperately needed it. It seemed like the most vengeful example of the snarky comeback, ‘you get what you ask for’.



It’s been raining a little more lately, not for four straight nights, but on most days viscious downpours for fifteen minutes, half an hour, a few times a day. This morning I left the house, looked at the bright blue sky, and forwent my umbrella. Three hours later sitting in a second-story coffee shop, I thought we were being attacked by flying monkeys on the roof (it was just, disconcertingly, very VERY loud rain). Bless the rains in Africa.

I don’t have any of my own photos of the rains and flooding it may cause here in Dar, but in order of appearance the photos are from 1), 2), and 3) a blog I just came across called ‘View From Dar‘ (no longer updated), 4) Al Jazeera, from a feed with weather photos from across the world, and 5) an article from the floods last year

My Sandy Day

You’ve all seen pictures and heard the news of Sandy’s hit here on the East Coast last night. First off, we’re totally fine. There’s one person still sleeping in our bed (and it’s 1pm), but other than that, it’s a normal Tuesday.

We had a gorgeous day here on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around, the grey skies reminded us that yes, we really were in for a storm. The weather reports oscillated between it being bad, really bad, and the worst. One late turn, and Sandy’s eye could be focused on us, rather than closer up north. So of course, we prepared for the worst.

On Sunday night (we were a little late in the emergency preparedness process) the DiploMan and I headed out to gather some food, water, and beer. Enough to last a few days without having go to the store, at least. He had just found out that work was called off on Monday, so we were going to hole up, and have a hurricane party to celebrate.

This is what we found at the store.

grocery aisles

Okay to be real, this was only the canned food aisle, and a little bit of the water and cereal aisles. I was tempted pretend I didn’t know a thing about this storm, and be the one person in the store buying eggs, milk, cheese, and sausages during a semi-emergency state. But I refrained, but mostly because we had to save room in our bags to carry all our beers home.

Being from the West Coast, I’m used to earthquake preparedness. Mind you, being “prepared” for an earthquake really only happens when you are in elementary school, and you bring a bag of canned food with your name on it at the beginning of the school year. And then the first week of school practice your ‘duck and cover’ routine as a class. Other than that, there is no earthquake preparation. Earthquakes give no warnings!

We walked home from the store, and by that time a light drizzle had started coming down on us. I woke up on Monday to hear the rain rapping on the windows. Nothing too crazy, just a rainy morning. I played on my computer for a little bit, and then a couple of our friends came over. We popped a few drinks and played some games. I took a nap. We had an amazing dinner: a hurricane soup, comprised of mostly leftover vegetables from the vegetable drawer (recipe below) and spaghetti with sausage ragu (sausage c/o Eco-Friendly Foods).

sandy soup

We kept peering out the window, waiting for the worst. We kept our eyes on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, eventually realizing that it was New York who was in for the worst.

While we here in DC were ‘victims’ of non-stop rain and pretty gusty winds all day, it was no match to what my friends up in NY saw. I kept checking the front page of the NY Times, which was constantly updating the website with photos of the city under four feet of water. I couldn’t help but think: the art in Chelsea!! The trees in Brooklyn!! The basement storage rooms of all the restaurants in the West Village!

Here in DC, our power stayed on, we were connected to wifi, and we were warm and dry. Our bellies were full. Our shelves were stocked. We even went out and danced in the rain for a bit.

ready for the rain

This is how you dress to go dance in the rain in Logan Circle.

Thank you anyway, friends and family, for thinking of us and for all the little texts and emails and phone calls that came our way. Unfortunately, my day was nothing but a stormy day stuck inside with a few boys (I went just slightly crazy with cabin fever) and a lot of drinks.

Hurricane Sandy Soup


  • 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 large kale leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small bunch broccolini, florets only
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, loosely packed


  1. Combine first four ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. If liquid looks low (neither the DiploMan nor I like too much broth in our soups, but some of you do!), add up to another cup of water. Add chopped celery and broccolini, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally add spinach. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 more minutes. Serve from the pot, hot, alongside bread, pasta, or salad.

Options: (1) Carrots, cubed potatoes, bok choy, or any other veggies you might have lying around. Or, (2) crack a few eggs into the soup after adding the spinach, so you have a heartier serving with poached eggs. (3) If serving as an entree, vermicelli noodles would fare well in this soup. Make sure to soak the noodles until they are clear and add them with the spinach.

Yield: 4 appetizer-sized servings, 2 entree-sized servings