It’s hot today in Louisville. Stepping outside, I can feel the humidity circling in around me. I feel uncomfortable. This heat, though, cannot match a Honduran afternoon. Nearer to the equator, the sun noses its way down to the earth for a closer look. Its rays snake through the atmosphere to gently tickle my shoulders at first, and then, more maliciously, to take hold and fill my being. By the end of a week, I give into the temptation and drink half a diet coke. It sounds silly, but it’s the only thing that brings relief; a cold Imperial or Salva Vida only cools me off for the first few sips before the alcohol turns on me and warms me back up. I drink it anyway, knowing that when the sun goes down, it should cool off. At night I skip the blanket and turn the large oscillating fan on low, listening to it move back and forth, back and forth, until I fall into a deep sleep.
On my first trip, the one I made in the month of May, I grew to anticipate the afternoon thunderstorms. After working several hours after lunch, laying bricks and mortar, I’d keep one ear tuned for the distant rumble. You can hear the storms as they move through the mountains and enter the valley, announcing their arrival from miles away. I would breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing the first retumbo. Just another half an hour and it’ll be here, I’d think. And then the storm would come rushing through, snatching up the humidity and taking it with it. Ah, yes, it’s cool enough to have another cafecito with dinner now.
There was one night that an evening storm blew through. This nocturnal force was less a game of hide-and-seek, and more of a siege. In my journal entry for that day, I described her as “monumental.” The Spanish word for a storm describes her perfectly: la tormenta.
We were all on the patio when she arrived. At first, there was the unmistakeable sound of rainfall steadily hitting the tin roof. Plink, plink, plink, plink. We continued chatting with slightly raised voices so as to be able to hear each other over the rainfall. I started to feel uneasy, though, as la tormenta picked up force. The roof started to leak, so we pushed a trash can under it. Clever Americans. The storm outsmarted us, though; she rained down harder. All of a sudden, water was streaming in through the roof like a miniature waterfall. Outside the patio screen, all we could see was a sheet of rain. While I felt anxious, my friend felt emboldened. She mocked the storm by joking about taking her shower outside. Before we could stop her, she was throwing open the door with a bottle of shampoo in her hand. She danced there, in the downpour, scrubbing the shampoo into bubbles. For just a moment she looked like one of those children in a commercial, with hair piled up in suds on top of her head. It was a moment of comic relief before it washed away.
Little did we know that she was the smart one. We went to bed after the electricity went out, which happens frequently with these storms. This is ordinarily no big deal because the generator will kick in. But this was no ordinary storm. La tormenta‘s final act was to leave us without the power of the generator as well.
No showers. No flushing toilets. No big deal; after all, that’s on par with how most Hondurans live. Although I couldn’t help but think of the irony: the storm gave us all one last chance to shower in her rain but only one of us was bold enough to take up her offer. At the time it seemed to me like a cruel joke, but now I am laughing right along with la tormenta, picturing our group of college students taking “military showers” in a trickle of cold water when we arrived in Tegucigalpa a few days later.
azul, color de noche,
roja, color de vino,
su cabellera de agua,
ojos de frío fuego,
dormir sobre la tierra.”
-Pablo Neruda, Oda a la tormenta