Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Rain?

This region really only has two seasons, although each of these seasons has a hot and a cool side to it.

Clear Skies in July Along the Araguaia River

The dry season typically runs from April through October, though it can come early and/or stay late. Without the buffer of rain clouds, temperatures usually soar to about 100°F, with a short respite in May and/or June. These cooler months bring welcomed temperatures that can get as low as 50°F at night, with highs in the 70s during the day.

Within a month or two of the rainy season coming to an end, the region is a veritable dust bowl. Even if there is a cool breeze at some point during the day, people think twice about opening their windows (in a place where few homes have air conditioning). The fertile earth here is a fine red clay that travels easily on the wind, and coats everything in a powdery film. During these months, a very definite red haze hangs over the skyline.

The rainy season is sweet relief for housekeepers who have battled against the seemingly never-ending layer of red dust, as well as for those suffering from cracked and bleeding sinuses. Of course, the next few months of steady rain produce another irritant: mold. Aside from the mold, the rain is welcomed with open umbrellas.

October Rains in the Goiás Countryside

The rainy season can start as early as October, or as late as December, and normally continues through mid March. In the first month or so, temperatures dip slightly and last only for the duration of the showers, climbing back up to Sweltering in the humid aftermath. Depending on how heavy the rains are, and how much rainfall there is during the next few months, the rains start to have a cooling effect. The more rain received, the cooler it gets.

For personal optimum cooling effect, I have renounced umbrellas. I stay cool and... damp. While that is generally considered uncivilized for a woman [around these parts, especially, since most women get a weekly blowout that would be ruined if exposed to water], I'm willing to go to great lengths (such as "window shopping" inside high-end shops where I won't actually buy anything since I'm really only there for the AC) and resort to "lazy" practices (like "ignoring" — not hiding from the rain) to lower my body temperature. It's an ongoing battle in a place where air conditioning is a privilege. I've even considered buying a cooling vest, but that would probably make me stand out even more than walking in the rain.

"Hiding" from rain seems to be a cultural thing. I've received countless strange looks, been the subject of mumbling observations, and even audibly chided when I walk and don't run for cover, as it starts to rain. I usually laugh and tell people that while I may be sweet, I'm not made of sugar, so I won't melt. No one ever thinks this is funny. This is serious! There are various old wives' tales that allude to Death by Damp Hair — and this doesn't only apply to the women. Sometimes, we Americans are really surprised at how things can grind to a halt if it starts to sprinkle.

A fellow Texan and friend of mine was working on a construction project near the end of the dry season. It was hotter than Hades. While on a delivery of supplies to the site one day, it started sprinkling. The workers couldn't be coaxed out to finish unloading the truck until it stopped. We thought this would have been a relished opportunity for the hot and dusty workers to cool off, but they claimed that they would risk their health (in the warm drops of rain) if their heads were to get wet. My friend ended up unloading the rest of the supplies by himself. To us, this seemed quite bizarre. To the workers, my friend was a reckless risk taker.
Image found here.

I suspect this fear of rain stems from the heavy dew or sereno [pronounced: "seh-rdeh-no"] that falls at night in the countryside, where it tends to be cooler. I thought that this was all hype, like the rain superstitions, but the amount of dew that falls in this tropical region is impressive by any standard. Any uncovered surface will have small pools of standing water, within a matter of hours. If you are breathing it in, or if you get a wet head and it is cool outside, then it can cause a cold. Here, stargazing requires a hat... and some sleeves.

What about your region of the world? Are there any old wives' tales about rain? Do tell.

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