Barka la Mvua

Story

In Swahili culture, it is said that when a guest comes with the rain, it is a sign of blessings. Additionally, when a guest is trying to leave but the heavy rains are delaying them, that is supposed to be a good sign, too. Especially when the rains cause so much damage, and even death, this belief is certainly tested. However, I still heard it many times this year even after the devastation in Dar and Unguja. People know that despite the damage and no matter how unpleasant, rain will also bring life in the form of plants, crops, and natural balance. This belief first had meaning for me when I walked to my first day of work as an intern in Stonetown two years ago.

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The rainy season in March began that same morning. For that is how the rainy season begins on the islands: it suddenly changes and it commits–no back-and-forth continental silliness. No, when the rains come they bang down your door and keep going until they’re finished in May. Even with an umbrella, I was doomed to muddy feet and wet calves. The rain there tends to fall straight down. Nonetheless, it’s a downpour. That day when I went into town from home in Kikwajuni, I thought I would be a little late and utterly foolish-looking for being so soggy. But when I arrived, my boss–a genius of a woman named Sabrina–simply said:

Karibu sana. Naona kuwa umeletea barka la mvua, asante sana.” This translates to “Welcome! It seems that you’ve brought barka la mvua with you, thank you.”

I thanked her in return, and then asked what she meant. She repeated it, and I smiled back, confused. In my rush to work, I was flustered and forgetting my Swahili. Finally, she slowly explained, “Ba-ra-ka la mvu-a–it is blessings from the rain.”

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