Most of the time, weather in Tanzania is pretty much how you would expect equatorial Africa to be: hot. But each year, we get two seasons of rain.
The first, masika, is the long rains which traditionally take up the months of March, April, May, and June. The second, mvuli, is the short rains, occurring in October and November. Of course, with the advent of El Nino and global warming, these dates have become approximate, but you get the general idea.
This schedule puts us smack-dab in the middle of masika, which can be looked at as Tanzania's "winter" season. It's true the temperature has cooled significantly, but more than that, it's rain rain rain, all day every day.
The house is drafty and damp, laundry never dries, toes and fingers tingle with cold, and I wear a scarf that becomes a crucial part of every outfit, including pajamas.
Work suffers too. Kids are kept home from school due to the torrents, classrooms are wet and muddy, streets are impassable, cars undrivable.
This week, Hyasinta and I had planned to conduct parent interviews at one of the new sites, Msandaka Primary School, the smallest and most remote of the four schools in which we are now currently operating.
We had just passed by on Friday, another rainy day, and my little '96 Suzuki - true to form - got stuck on a mud bank. Not wishing a repeat scenario, we decided to leave the car at Msaranga Primary, which is always our home base, and head to Msandaka on foot.
Msandaka is a bit far, it's true, maybe two or three miles, although I am a natural walker, and so enjoy the exercise, but mungu wangu (My God), yesterday was a whole other story.
The road was pure mud, you could barely feel anything solid under your feet at all, and we slipped and slid all over the place, picking our way over rocks, sometimes just giving in and wading through, about two miles deep into the village. Our other sites are all fairly close to the tarmac road, but Msandaka is definitely well off-the-grid - I know where I'll go when I never want to be found, that's for sure! - and it was a veritable trek with the addition of the quicksand-like mud.
Hyasinta was our fearless leader, picking out the way ahead with me and Teacher Rose C. trailing behind.
Along the sides of the road, men worked in the shambas (farms), one of the boons of such bountiful rains.
The lushness of the village was definitely underscored by the wet conditions.
Certain points along the way were reminiscent of a horror movie. Dark and angry skies above signposts claiming "No Way Through."
And my Converse All-Stars will never be the same.
But I do love a good adventure, and following Hyasinta through Msaranga was a bittersweet reminder of my days as a wee volunteer, traipsing after Vumi with kids in tow and greeting villagers along the way.
Since we have to go back tomorrow, I think I'll wear my hiking boots, and give the kicks a rest....!