#143 Predicting Rain
Expat aid workers are skilled people. We have sacrificed jobs back home that would unquestionably be handed to us on a silver platter in the ‘private sector’ to help those in need of our unique, and locally unavailable, skills. Despite the fact that we may have no practical work experience in any world (much less the developing one), many EAWs are born leaders and natural experts in areas generally not handled by political science graduates (like poop). We are quick learners and, in addition to those we already bring to the table, we develop innumerable skills during our stints abroad. Almost overnight, we become fully proficient in local culture and dress, obscure languages, and the location of the best expat coffee shop.
However, the most underrated skills of an EAW come from those days and nights spent in the bush under the stars, swatting mosquitoes and protecting our anti-bacterial hand sanitizer as if it were the cure for cancer. It is only after time (at least a week) spent in a remote field post that one is qualified enough to predict the weather.
Comments like “It’s oppressively hot today with little wind; it’s definitely going to rain tonight” are generally met with clicks, sucking sounds, and nods by other approving EAWs. Local staff may or may not showcase a quizzical expression upon hearing this, but what do they know? “The compound cats aren’t catching rats like they used to. It’s not going to rain until next week.” *click, click* You are so right, man. *click* Right on.
Thankfully for EAWs, this is a very transferable skill. When deciding whether to walk or take the gondola in Venice on R&R, being able to accurately predict the coming rains can elevate your status among attractive locals who desperately need more impressing, even after that story about how you had to outrun a pack of hyenas just last week. We won’t even discuss the aphrodisiac-like effects such an event would have on a ‘regular tourist’.
Traditional methods of weather prediction – when clouds turn an ominous black or when Jennifer Delgado worries CNN viewers about an upgrade of a tropical storm in Micronesia – are typically useless in the field where tv and internet are a distant memory, making the EAWs powers more important than a good portable mosquito net. Nothing ingratiates an EAW with local leaders (or leads to his or her immediate expulsion from the community) faster than a prediction of impending rain. We are awe-inspiring experts in drought mitigation, emergency water relief, hygiene and sanitation… so why not believe us when we tell you it will definitely rain at precisely 17:43pm this afternoon?
In many cases, however, it’s the EAW’s keen ability to quickly harness local knowledge that allows us to understand the ancient local rain-predicting methods much better than our friends and cousins left back home. Whether by native dance or by an analysis of the wind-blown direction of a snot rocket, we pick up on all the idiosyncratic signs that certainly mean rain, scoffing all the while at weather people on tv with their newfangled ‘modern’ technology. Don’t they know they just need to throw a bamboo pole up in the air four times alternating hands to know when and where it will rain?