Archive for the Climate Category

Flying ants (and other insects)

Posted in Animals / Fauna, Climate on May 3, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Super-Ant!

The recent advent of the rainy season has caused all sorts of insects to come out of the woodwork. It is true there are more mosquitoes about after the rains, but in general there aren’t many mosquitoes in Hargeisa (it is too dry here), and in any case they don’t carry malaria.

However, there there are plenty of other creepy crawlies moving about – cockroaches, crickets, beetles, ants, and scorpions – necessitating frequent removal of one’s flip-flops to swiftly smash them. (Flies are not even worth mentioning here because they are so low on my insect-radar – I’ve reached the point where I don’t even bother to flick them off my body, unless if they are either A: sitting on my face, or B: two of them are trying to mate on me.)

The most recent actors to appear on the Hargeisa insect scene are the flying ants, which have emerged post-rains. While my interest in insectology (if that’s even a word) is limited, a brief internet search revealed the following riveting information. It seems wingless, sexually-immature ants live in underground colonies, and after heavy rains, sexually-mature winged ants emerge and engage in a mating frenzy that lasts only one day (so, basically one big ant orgy). After mating, the males promptly die (having gotten everything they ever wanted in life) and the females lose their wings and go on to establish a new underground colony.

How does this affect us? Well, it basically means you have a hell of a lot of big-ass ants flying around after the rains. These ants are huge – I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are an inch long – and so it’s good fun to swat them out of your face or dislodge them from your shawl. And it seems as though they bite – my house mate says he was bitten by a flying ant, and another house mate was bitten by a flying beetle.

Tempest

Posted in Climate on May 2, 2011 by Home Strange Home

A full rainbow arc across the sky after one afternoon storm.

Last night I experienced the most extraordinary storm of my life. I was woken up close to midnight (having gone to bed quite early) by all sorts of noise – glass breaking, wind blowing, and rain pounding.

I groggily got out of bed and, upon placing my bare feet on the floor, confusedly stepped into a puddle. I walked across the room to shut my window and realized that the curtain was completely soaked. The rain had blown horizontally into my room and the floor was covered in water.

The storm was absolutely raging outside, like nothing I have ever seen before. The electricity in the house had gone out, but my room remained fully illuminated by the lightning. Not a flash of lightning, but a continuous flashing of lightning so frequent that you couldn’t distinguish individual bolts. I didn’t know such lightning was even possible.

I walked out of my room and found my house mates closing all the windows; rain had poured in onto the floor and cushions, and the wind had blown our dishes off the drying shelf in the kitchen, breaking a glass. I opened the back door to have a peek outside, and the instant it was open a howling force of wind and water was blasting at me. I quickly shut it and crawled back into bed.

I lay in bed, watching the strobe-lightning through the (now closed) window and revelling in the glorious monstrosity of the storm. Having grown up on the East Coast of the United States, I am no stranger to storms, and I have childhood memories of Hurricane Gloria, which took down a large old tree in our backyard. But before last night I had never heard a storm with so much energy and force, or seen such spectacular lightning. It was chilling and beautiful.

While this most recent rain was excessively strong, making some Somalis say it was “too much,” the usual reaction here to the rain is joyous– smiles, shouts of glee, and exclamations of “Allahu akbar!”  The rainy season has come late this year, and as a result the country has experienced drought. The arrival of the rain has been sorely needed.

When I lived in England, I used to complain about the regular rain, but here rain is anything but regular, and so its appearance is a reason for excitement and celebration. And, after the storm clears, the gift of rain is iced with the most spectacular of rainbows arched across the sky.

Hot. Hot. Hot.

Posted in Climate on April 21, 2011 by Home Strange Home

"Sheesh, I'm roasting!"

Since the advent of the “rainy season” (read: it has rained twice in the past week), things have cooled down a bit. But, in general, the weather around here is a bit toasty. I love warm weather, so I’m perfectly comfortable here, but many people may find the relentless heat and sun tiring.

The weather is very predictable. There’s no need to worry about what you wear when you leave the house. Every day it is sunny, and the temperature is consistently around 30 to 32 degrees Celsius. Even at night, it is warm (17 to 18 degrees Celsius) and you don’t need any sort of jacket or sweater.

Berbera, which is at a lower altitude, is significantly hotter, probably closer to 33 to 35 degrees Celsius. When I went there, I was sweating like I was in a Turkish bath. I’m glad I don’t live in Berbera.

Rain

Posted in Climate on April 10, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Clouds in the sky: a rare sight.

Today it rained for the first time since I arrived in Somaliland. In fact, it  rained for the first time this year. I recalled my first week of work, and in particular Wednesday, March 16th, when nobody showed up because of a national prayer for rain. That prayer has been answered, albeit belatedly – rains were expected on March 21st (how exactly this date is arrived at, I couldn’t say).

Rain has come quite late this season, and as a result there have been water shortages. Several people I know ran out of water in their household water tanks and were unable to refill them. In Hargeisa, the cost of filling the tanks has steadily gone up since I arrived.

Seeing the rain come was pretty spectacular. I was out in the countryside, between Berbera and Hargeisa, and the sky was hazy and full of clouds.  Normally the sky is a bright uninterrupted blue, so to see the sky overcast and sporting any sort of clouds was very unusual. There was something ominous about the gathering darkness, and – even before the rain began to fall – the new, darker colour of the sky transformed the way the normally dry and dusty landscape looked.

When the first few drops began to hit the windshield, our driver and guard began to enthusiastically thank Allah for the rain. Unlike in England, where the rain is another reason to grumble, here the rain is an exciting event an an occasion for joyful celebration. So let it rain!