Thursday, November 1, 2012


Happy Halloween!

Yesterday afternoon a ferocious storm rolled in about 4pm. The temperature got eerily uncomfortable and the sky and air turned green. Having grown up in central Illinois, my first thought was that it was a tornado, but I’ve been told we don’t have them here, and it was far too windy to be a tornado. It started to pour, the wind picked up, and the power went out. It was pouring so hard that our house started leaking and flooding in multiple places. We had most of our electronics on a table and a chair in our living room and had two open umbrellas over them, because there were so many spots throughout the house that our roof was leaking. Then Anna’s room started flooding. We opened the front door and found the reason—our poorly designed porch had turned into a swimming pool and the built-up water had found a way out via Anna’s room. Our yard slopes down toward the front of our house, and the down away from the back of our house. Because of this, we couldn’t bail the water on our front porch out the front, we had to bail into buckets and run them through the house to dump them out the back. Given the fact that our house was struck by lightning only a few days ago, we thus had to make the fun decision between the certainty of flooding and the possibility of electrocution. After about 30 minutes of this it was clear that we were no match for the buckets of water pouring down from the sky, so we gave up. So Anna and I locked the doors, closed the curtains (because the windows shattering was a possibility that crossed my mind), and settled in on our couch.

At 8pm the power was out, so we had one candle lit and were cuddled on the couch watching a movie on my computer with our headphones in, because the intermittent rain on the tin roof was so deafening we couldn’t hear the sound. Then we both heard something. We paused the movie and took our headphones out to listen better. There was something on our roof. Then one of us said what we were both thinking, “I think there is someone on our roof.” We got up quietly and grabbed weapons. Our roof is made of rectangles of tin, laid from one wall to the other and nailed at intervals to wood beams—I could lift them off or pry them open enough to get a body inside if I wanted to. I said I wanted to call our Safety and Security Coordinator (SSC), but Anna told me to wait—we wanted to make sure it was a person before we made a call. Anna banged the roof hard, since that would have scared away an animal—it’s what we do to scare away the chickens that land on the roof. We continued to listen to the distinctly bipedal sounds moving across our roof. After a couple more minutes I called our SSC. He asked if there were neighbors we could call and I told him I wasn’t sure. The problem is that most of the people we know here are women and wouldn’t be too keen on leaving their houses in the dark and rain. We called Peace Corps drivers who were here in Namaacha to see if they could come. Then I called my host mom and explained to her what was happening—her husband was there, so she told me they would be right over. Throughout all of this we kept hearing the sounds from the roof and at one point Anna saw a flashlight outside. It wasn’t until Anna got the phone call from the Peace Corps driver confirming that we were on their way and would arrive within a few minutes that the sounds stopped. By the time the Peace Corps driver and guard showed up, and my host mom and husband came a few minutes later, whoever it was had disappeared. The driver searched around the house but didn’t find anything. Eventually they left, so Anna and I locked our doors and crawled into the same bed with our cell phones, weapons, flashlights, and rape whistles and settled in for a fairly sleepless night.

The next morning Anna and I took turns climbing up on top of the house to see what a person walking on the roof sounded like. (It is extremely easy to get up on top of our house.) We both agreed that the sound patterns were the same, but we were heavier than what we had heard. We didn’t see other signs up there. At one point in the morning some neighborhood kids came by and asked if they could come pick papayas. They always climb up on the roof to do this. I was in the kitchen, “Anna! Come in here!” When she came in she nodded, “yep, that’s it.” Whoever was on our roof last night was either a child, or a light person who is better at walking on roofs than we are. But the sounds were the same, it was definitely a human. It seems like they were on our roof because they thought nobody was home (since the power was out and we were being completely silent), either because it was a kid playing around, or people wanted to rob the house while nobody was home. We hope so. This is better than the alternative of someone wanting to come in because they knew we were in here.

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