Today, the Mango Rains started.
It was a slight eye-opener when I referred to the season ‘Fall’ with a local friend once who had no idea what I was talking about, as the traditional four seasons do not exist here. Instead, they refer to the seasons according to the different fruits that ripen, or to the weather. The year is most generally divided between ‘the Wet season’ (July-November) and ‘the Dry season’ (Dec-June). But within those are various fruit-referenced seasons.
The first I experienced in October was ‘Watermelon season’, when the fruit stands were piled high with the juiciest and most delicious watermelons I have ever tasted. I was eating one a day for a month! After that came ‘Veggie season’, starting with the sweetest, most mouth watering carrots you can imagine. Surprising, really, since I only know carrots as a sort of crunchy type of vegetarian jerky. Then came the Broccoli…tasty and explosively crunchy. I have no idea why or how Burkina grows such amazing vegetables, but they really are among the best I have eaten in my life.
After Carrot and Broccoli season came the big one…Strawberry season. Luscious, sweet little lumps of deliciousness. Every fruit stand in town was selling them, prices dropped precipitously, and all of our freezers became stuffed with packets of frozen strawberries as we gorged ourselves on fresh ones.
Now comes Mango season. The abundant mango trees are hanging heavy with fruit, and because of a nice quirk of nature, this season is accompanied by a brief spell of daily thunderstorms…the Mango Rains. I believe they occur because the northern migration of the ITCZ affects Burkina at this time (for all you other science geeks), but they coincide with the ripening fruit so the water gives the mangos a nice boost.
And not just the mangos! For the past month, the cool part of the dry season had ended and daily temperatures were climbing. This past week, daily highs were around 43°C (109°F) and they will keep climbing for the next few months. Trees and grasses are getting baked, and a fine orange dust is accumulating on everything. In the evenings, the dust churned up by the life of the city hangs in the air like a dense fog, and sweat trickles down your face streaked with a slight orange tinge.
But not this week. The rains are bringing cool, moist air. All the windows and doors of everyone’s houses in Ouaga are thrown wide open, bringing in the new air and sweet relief. The grass and plants in my yard are exploding in green…I swear the hedge and bougainvillea plants are growing two inches today only! And my mango trees are rejoicing, as is the big Shea tree that brings shade and cools my front porch.
Getting used to these new seasons is an interesting experience…but just like winter back in Maine; the severity brings a certain beauty. But when there is a break in the normal…like Indian Summer back home…there is an irrational exuberance that fills the air.