I knew it was going to rain today from 30 miles away. Standing on the balcony of the Hoima Resort Hotel (which is definitely a hotel in Hoima, although it hasn’t yet realized its potential as a resort destination) I could see roiling black clouds forming over the green mountains in the North and rolling closer. The rain was a solid wall of water, and I watched in fascination as the red dirt turned instantly to mud in a clean line as the rain swept across the landscape. Then the storm was on me, and in the instant before I ducked into my room it soaked me as quickly as if I had jumped into a river.
I’d never experienced a rainstorm like this, never. In no time at all it was everywhere at once. The room smelled like rain, all sound was drowned out by the heavy drops drilling into the zinc roof of the hotel, and looking out my window I saw that the mountains where the storm had concentrated were now obliterated by gray sheets of water pouring from the overflowing gutters. The power cut out as soon as the storm hit, and I was alone in a gray room feeling as if I wouldn’t be capable of pushing my door open against the onslaught of water. I turned on music on my laptop, and found that even with the volume turned all the way up I could barely distinguish the lyrics of the music against the white noise of water on the roof, the deck tiles, the sodden ground. I got off the bed to look out the window and sloshed into an inch of water: the gutters had backed up and the room was flooding. I unplugged everything in the room, stuffed a rolled towel under the door, and lay down on the high ground of my bed to think.
After a little while the storm slackened, and I heard someone rapping on my door. I opened it to find a man wearing a shiny pink raincoat over a double breasted suit, who flashed a brilliant smile and said to me “Good evening sir. Shall I push you out?” I hesitated, scrambling to remember if I had paid for that nights stay and trying to think what kind of bouncer would wear pink raincoat, when he hefted a squeegee and said “I am here to push water from your room.” I stepped aside, and he came in chuckling and clucking and started to splash the water under my bed in the general direction of my door. “You will observe that there are very few mosquitoes this time of year!” he chirped gleefully, wringing out a sodden rag. “And the weather is not too hot! The rainy season is the finest time to visit Uganda!”
He might be right. As I lay in my bed I thought about all of the people I worked with in the villages of Hoima district, and wondered what the rain sounded like on their palm-thatched roofs as they lay in bed themselves and waited out the storm. After the dapper man had reduced the standing water in my room from an inch to half an inch, I pulled on my boots and wandered downstairs to see what else was happening in the hotel. I saw groups of men drinking warm beer by candlelight, women laughing and emitting billows of steam outside the wood-fired sauna, and expats cranking their battery powered radios to tune into the BBC world service. I stood outside and thought about how few mosquitoes there were, and how it wasn’t too hot out. The moon shouldered its way through the clouds, and bullfrogs announced their presence in the new constellations of puddles that had just formed in the cassava fields, and then came the night.