I want you to imagine rain. I want you to imagine the hardest rain you can, then kick up your imagination yet another notch. Rain that goes on for hours, is loud enough that you can’t hear your television inside your house, has you drenched in minutes despite your umbrella.
In Guatemala, people generally don’t talk about winter, spring, summer, fall; there is only the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season, which runs from May to September-ish, keeps consistency like a well-oiled machine: beautiful skies in the morning, and then around one or two PM, the skies open up and drench the unlucky umbrella-less people who happen to be outside. This goes on until it gets dark.
Yesterday was the worst day I had in recent memory, thanks to this rain.
At 1:45 in the afternoon, Rachel and I leave her homestay. The skies are blue, but I’ve got my umbrella, just in case. I’m wearing a backpack with my laptop in it. By two o’clock, the rain has started, and by 2:15, it’s torrential, worse even than I’ve seen during my two and a half weeks here in Antigua. My umbrella doesn’t stop my pants and backpack from getting soaked, and my sneakers aren’t going to be dry anytime soon, which means I hate the world and all of its denizens. (Wet sneakers are the worst!) We decide to take refuge in a tiny little tienda– in which the maximum occupancy is probably not any more than 8. I buy a wafer for 5Q or ~65 cents, so I don’t feel so bad about usurping this (mostly) dry space.
It storms for about half an hour before we dare to leave the tienda again. Our steps are silent and determined in a weary sort of way. Oh. Did I mention that we don’t know exactly where the house we’re headed for is? “Wandering until we find it” was a much better idea without the rain.
Don’t worry, though! I haven’t even gotten to the best part!
We find the house eventually– or at least, we find ourselves a block away from it. So close! Yet so far. And therein lies the rub.
Separating these two girls and the destination is one flooded block. The water, at is deepest on the sidewalk, goes up to the mid-calf; I’d wager that on the actual street, it’d be up to my knees. It isn’t rainwater, though– I immediately notice the darker color and the fact that there are things floating around in it. A man wades over to us in the largest rain boots I’ve seen in a while and informs us kindly that the water is from the sewage, and that it isn’t safe for us to get our feet in it. I don’t exactly understand how sewage water flooded the block, but as I take another look at the water, I easily begin to believe it. Lovely, right?
I make a half-hearted attempt to find another way around, but it doesn’t work out, and Rachel, ever a sturdier soul than I, immediately starts fording the River Feces. This girl, on the other hand, who comes from a suburb comparable to Stepford and studies in another suburb proud of its tree diversity, stands in the dry part for about thirty seconds and panics. What am I going to DO?!, I think to myself. Am I going to follow?! What if I fall over?? My laptop is in my backpack, still!! Eventually I suck it up and follow her through, but my heart is pounding and I’m pretty sure I spend the whole time screaming.
It is the slowest minute or so of my life. Rachel tells me not to think about what our feet are in but, you know, that’s sort of hard. We pass by a house, and a woman has her head out the window– I look at her and am rewarded with the most terrified expression I’ve seen on a person’s face in quite some time. She tells me immediately that we have to wash our feet carefully with alcohol as soon as possible, or else salen hongos. Fungus on my feet?? I need fungus on my feet like I need a hole in my head. I would probably buy a large bottle of Everclear and pour it on my feet if there remains no other option. (I do not actually end up doing this.)
We make it through, obviously, but I’m pretty sure I’m traumatized. The next couple hours on my part are characterized by nervous, high-pitched laughter, heightened emotional sensitivity and a lot of spinning in circles, just in case I burst into tears or something. When we get into the house occupied by four boys, though, we find that we are only out of the frying pan and into the fire: the sewage water has infiltrated there, too. One bedroom is completely flooded, and another bedroom and bathroom are, well, contaminated. The boys are running around and attempting to clean– there’s a lot of arm-waving, yelling, and what appears to be silent freaking out; somebody is standing in a box to avoid getting his feet dirty. I can’t blame him.
Sitting in a chair in the living room, I hear an impassioned voice coming from the flooded bedroom: “Fuck rainy season.” I am soaked, tired, there is probably fecal matter on my shoes and calves, and my thoughts are occupied by possible hongos. At the moment, I can’t help but agree.