‘I bless the rains down in Africa …’ - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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After finishing language class for the day, Kyle and I headed to one of the fruit and vegetable markets to buy our groceries for the week. Being one of the larger sokonis (markets) for buying produce, it is always busy and a bit chaotic; it also has good prices and quality produce so we are usually willing to brave the craziness once a week. Trucks filled with fruits and vegetables pull in and out, sellers of small goods line the streets trying to sell their wares, and crowds of piki pikis (motorbikes) wait outside the market to give shoppers a lift home.

At a produce market in Mwanza

That day was no different than any other as we wove in and out of the traffic and pedestrians trying to find a place to park our car. The market was in full force and the loud hum of a busy sokoni met us as we walked between lines of sellers searching for beans, carrots and onions.

With our bags half-filled we were in a hurry to check off our list of needed items before heading home for the day. As I stood waiting for a lady to measure and crush the cassava leaves I had just bought, a loud crack of thunder sounded above us.

Within seconds, the heavy tink-tink of raindrops began to hit the metal roof above. Within a minute, a torrential downpour opened up and it felt like half of Lake Victoria had been picked up and was being dropped down upon us.

I am from the Oregon coast and grew up with heavy rains; I also lived in Arizona for a time and experienced the flash flood rains of the Southwest during monsoon season. I have never experienced rain like I have in Africa.

The intensity and duration of the rain in Mwanza is like nothing I have ever seen before. Within minutes, the walkways of the market had turned into a raging torrent of muddy water. Vendors quickly covered their goods with tarps. Kyle and I found a dry space under the metal pole roof that covered the market; the sound of the rain on the roof was deafening. The air became chilly as the rain continued to pour down.

And then, because we could not talk due to the noise of the rain — and because we could not leave due to the downpour – we simply stood. And what I noticed was quite stunning and quite unexpected. The movement, the chaos of the market — had stopped. Completely. Vendors leaned back and rested now that their produce was covered and safe. Customers found a place to sit amidst the colorful rows of mangoes and pineapples. First one thermos, then another, emerged from beneath tables. Cups of tea were poured and passed around.

The woman selling the cassava looked at me, smiled, and asked “Karibu chai?” (Do you want a tea?)

Rainbow over the Serengeti plains (photo by Frederick Mallya)

The rain lasted almost an hour. It thundered down in an incredible show of Mother Nature’s power and resolve. The hush that had fallen over the market crowd continued with the rain; tea was shared, lunch was eaten. Everywhere people rested and waited.

A collective, unspoken wisdom permeated it all: Here we follow the rhythms of nature. Here we listen to her voice and heed her call. Here we are not in a hurry — we are willing to wait.

When was the last time, I wondered, I was willing to wait? When was the last time I was willing to bend my will to the will of Mother Nature without resentment or irritation at having my day disrupted or my plans ruined?

As I stood listening to the rain, watching those around me relax into the storm and drink their tea, content in the moment — something in my soul wanted desperately to join them in their willingness to wait — and be with — the rain. And the lyrics from the song Africa by Toto began to run through my mind: “I seek to cure what’s deep inside / Frightened of this thing that I’ve become … I bless the rains down in Africa.”

I am so grateful for this opportunity to live in Tanzania, to see the world through different eyes. Instead of me blessing the rain in Africa, however, it is the rain that is blessing me, curing me. Perhaps, with time, the rain will bless me with the wisdom of how to sit back, relax into the storm, drink a tea — and simply be present with those around me, content in the moment, as we wait together for the storm to pass.

Anna Johnson
Anna Johnson provides healthcare to children living with disabilities at Huruma School in Mwanza, Tanzania. Together with her husband, Kyle, and their three children, she joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners at the end of 2022. She is a registered nurse.