Our Neighbors and the Rain

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it most of the time….


I don’t think it’s set in fully, that this is our home. We own it, it’s here for US. These people are our neighbors, these shops are our shops. I imagine it will feel more like it in January, when we treat our time here more like settling in versus vacation, as we will be here for months versus weeks. It will give us time to really decorate, make the place our own versus the almost hotel room feel it has now. Even still, I love it, and what it means for us. It’s a goal we set, listened to people question and laugh about, and here we are. We own a home in another country. I’m very humbled but proud of that.

Yesterday I was awoken by the sound of hard rain. Despite it being monsoon season, and forecasters declare every day to be 80% rain, we’ve only had rain a couple of times, and it’s never affected our day. Once, it stormed for about 10 minutes before completely disappearing. Once, we were in the pool, and though the sun shone, a light, refreshing mist fell. And then yesterday. Yesterday was a big one.

The rain here, from our apartment, sounds incredible. We are on the top floor of our building, 8 stories up. From our balcony, We have, to the left of us, a spectacular view of the pool lagoon and foliage, the beautifully landscaped oasis we call home. To our right, we can see over the high walls of our resort, into the area where the local workers live.

The contrast is so stark and vicious. Where we have grasses that are manicured and lush, our neighbors live in a football sized field of dirt. Our stucco condominium with large bright windows hovers over their mecca of “apartments” made of nothing more than sheets of galvanized metal. Walls, ceilings, it is all corrugated metal, full of large gaps, covered in places by rag-tag scraps of plastic tarp. They have no windows, no running water. We watch sometimes as they haul water in used 5 gallon paint buckets to the backs of their homes, perching the filled buckets on the stoop. An exhausted grandmother carries a baby -maybe 6 months old?- out onto the stoop and dunks her into the bucket. The baby doesn’t cry, only holds the rim as her hair is washed with a plastic cup. I assume the mother is at work, possibly downstairs from me mopping the hallway.

There are about 8 young men, shirtless, setting up a net in the dirt yard near the stoop where the baby is bathing. It’s at least 90 degrees, and the humidity is suffocating, but they have the afternoon off and are playing a type of volleyball I’ve never seen. They use a small ball, kicking it and bouncing it off their heads, never using their hands. Maybe it’s a common game, I’ve just not seen it. A cross between volleyball and soccer. To be honest, they’re not very good at it, but I watch, fascinated.

Around the corner, about 200 feet down one side of the metal complex, a group of women have music playing and are dancing in the road. Just dancing, giggling. They are wearing too many clothes- long pants and tee shirts over long sleeved shirts, a customary ensemble that surprises me every time I see it in this heat- but are full of toothy grins and happiness. Dancing.

I think of these people as I am woken by the sound of the rain slapping their metal roof. It is thunderous, the rain, hearing it echo up to our apartment. I wonder about the baby, if she is so used to the sound that it no longer wakes her. I imagine it is dreadfully dark and stuffy in those rooms, with no windows or air conditioning. I wonder if they have proper beds, how they arrange what things they own. I wonder what it sounds like in those rooms. I wonder if, or how bad, those roofs leak. I wonder if it matters to them. I wonder, if while I’m wrapped in my down comforter, too chilled to crawl out of bed because of our amazing A/C, if they are not aggravated by the dripping, but instead grateful for the temperature drop this storm has brought, and relieved by the splash of cool rain on their skin.

After watching them for so many days, the games, the laughing, the dancing…I assume the latter.

These are my neighbors. And I am humbled.

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