The rain has arrived and in Albania, that means winter is here. I've been a bit out of sorts since the calendar tells me it is December and we are a mere 2 1/2 weeks away from Christmas, yet the weather has felt more like a New England September day. For over a month now, people have been telling me that the rainy season could start at any time. Prior to this week I could count the number of times it had rained since June on one hand (and half of those were rain incidents that barely qualified as such).
We desperately need the rain. It seems as though the entire country is covered in a thick layer of dust. Tree leaves and plants having been looking gray, not from a change of the seasons, but from an ever growing dusty film. More importantly, Albania is a country predominantly powered by hydro-electric power. No water means no electricity. Even during the best of times, electricity in Albania is notoriously unreliable. Six plus months without any measurable rain only adds to the problem. In the past couple of weeks I've noticed that our generator has been running more than usual and the neighborhoods surrounding our house have been suspiciously dark at night. We may be inconvenienced by the flickering electricity but for most Albanians, unreliable electricity is a true problem.
So what does the rainy season mean in Albania? Well, if you live in a concrete house like we do, it means it is loud. Sometimes the rain sounds like bombs are going off. This is especially true when the heavy rain is accompanied by thunder. After a heavy rain what had been dry dust becomes gloppy mud. The regular piles of litter are even more pronounced since they get washed downhill and collect in low lying areas. Navigating the Embassy compound becomes a challenge as I must now dodge raindrops and puddles as well as traffic. I must find new ways to entertain Sidney since outdoor play is not an option. When it rains, it is damp, raw, and just plain gray.
The weather changes quickly here. What starts off as a beautiful morning- like today- quickly turns dark and ominous as the day progresses. Or the opposite could be true. Yesterday morning was gray and drab but the sun peaked out at noon and the afternoon was beautiful (well, compared to the gray rain, that is). For a brief time the air actually smelled clean and refreshing. Some days are just dark and gray with the cloud bank never lifting off of the mountains. There is a constant drizzle that makes the drabness of Tirana even more pronounced.
If nothing else, now that the rain has arrived the weather is just plain unpredictable. After months of bright, hot sunshine I don't know what to expect. I'm quickly learning to carry an umbrella in my purse at all times. I have a couple stashed in our car, several at home, and one in my office. (Somehow I still seem to get caught in the rain). After ruining two pairs of good shoes- even the pavement is muddy here- I've broken out my rain boots. If I don't wear them to work I at least bring them with me since the chances are good that I'll be needing them before my day is over.
Yes, the rain is a messy yet necessary inconvenience and it appears as though it is here to stay. I'm already tiring of it and am looking forward to spring. I'm told that by April, the rains will stop and the sun will once again come out on a regular basis. I know its too soon, but I'm already counting down the days.