When the Wind Comes From the South

My señora friend and I sat behind her house in a shady patch amongst the trees and not so far from the fire where she was cooking beans for lunch. We were sitting there because everywhere else was too hot. It was a suffocating heat that leaves one misted even if she lies down or sits like a statue. We talked about the heat, perhaps the most important topic of conversation except when it’s raining, and drank terere.

“At least there is a strong wind,” she said.

“Yes. That means it’s going to rain for sure, but maybe not because it is coming from the North,” I said. Paraguay has taught me how to feel the rain before it arrives. Life changes when it rains. It is critical to know when a storm is coming.

“That doesn’t matter, the wind can come from whatever direction,” the señora said. She smiled.

“When the wind comes from the South even the girls’ faces are ugly.”

“What?” I asked.

“We say here that when the wind comes from the North girls smile and there are flowers, but when it comes from the South even the girls are ugly. You know that everything unpleasant, the cold and rain, come from the South,” the señora said.

She got up to check on her beans. She was making a dish that when done would have beans, vegetables cut too small to see, noodles, cheese, milk, animal fat to get it started, and potatoes. It was one of the yummiest dishes I have had in Paraguay. While she cooked, I stayed to nurse the terere. I am not from here. The señora knows I can’t handle the fire smoke, it makes me cry and hack.

The thunder started that night. I hurried to fill every empty container with water. I did my dishes right away. The water went out as soon as I was rinsing my laundry. I would have liked to rinse it one more time and fill the basin, but one can’t have everything.

The rain started just before 11 pm. It poured so hard that it was still going at dawn. When the first drops pelted my roof I sprung out of bed. My ceiling leaks in a couple of places. It’s not a huge problem because most of the leaks are over nothing important and I have a cement floor that soaks up the water. I put out pots. The tat-tat-tat of the drips beat like a drum. A new leak started last rain storm, so I had to move one of the chairs I use as a bookshelf. To be safe I put a plastic bag over the fan motor. It was raining so hard the water blew in the peak at the crest of my roof. I slid my bed as far to one side as I could without getting too close to the window that even though closed was letting in a small stream. I was thankful the power didn’t go out. Last storm, I was surprised by the wind and caught by 27 hours without power.

The thunder made our community sound like a war zone. I have never heard thunder or seen lightening as dramatic as Paraguay. I doubt there is a sky more beautiful than Paraguay’s, and though I decided this long before my first Paraguayan lightening show, the electricity in the air confirms my judgement every storm.

The morning after the conversation with the señora and the following storm, I carefully observed the few girls who passed my house in the rain. They looked as they did the day before, however the plants around them were a brighter shade of green. Maybe the North wind didn’t change the girls or bring flowers, but it did highlight the best side of the foliage.