Friday, May 14, 2010

The sound of rain in Santiago (and everywhere)

What is it about rainy days that brings back every rainy day I've ever heard? The pattapattapatta on the flashing on my building sounds like rainy days at college where under the metal roof I sat bundled on my futon (convincing myself that this was comfortable, oh! youth) reading theoretical linguistics. It sounds like sleeping in a tent in Iceland, thinking about how going to the bathroom meant going outside, which meant getting wet, which meant just going back to sleep and ignoring it. It sounds like DC, where I wondered if my circa 1910 house would spring a leak, and like lying in my bed in Brooklyn as a child, tracing my finger over the "grain" on the blue-tinged wood paneling I'd chosen when I was little. It sounds like Portland, where I rode so many miles in the rain I thought I might to smell like rainbows, or something decidedly worse.

Rain is the beginning of many things in Santiago. This is our first true rain of the season, which beats the smog into submission, or at least washes it into the street where it splashes up on our pantslegs, angrily splotching them a brownish grey which does not come out in the wash. It is the beginning of hibernating, not going out unless it's truly necessary, of rainyday foods like sopaipillas pasadas (fried disks of dough enriched with pumpkin and served with a sugary syrup, more on them here) and cazuela (Chile's brothy soup with half a corn cob, squash and a cut of meat or chicken in it).

I knew it was going to rain today, as it was strangely misty yesterday, my hair a tangle of poodly curls. As I pedaled home last night around 11, there was a penumbra, a starry blurred shadow around every streetlight, and even most of the dogs were hunkered down (though one, apparently called "Ruso" did jump out and nearly scare me off my bike). And even knowing it would rain this morning, as consciousness creeped into my eyes-still-closed but brain-waking-up stage, I could hear the fuzzy sound of someone opening velcro, and it was the longest velcro in the world, ripping slowly and constantly, the sound of "snow" or static on the TV from when I was a kid, an exaggerated fffffffff sound.

And I realized it was raining, and it reminded me of every rain I've ever heard, and I wondered how that's even possible, for the soundtracks from all the rains to hang out in the same part of your brain, the ones from Brooklyn, from Massachussets, from Iceland, from Washington, from Portland, from places that the only thing they have in common is you, and the rain that washes them clean or beats down their smog into puddles where it splashes back on the clothes as stains that won't come out in the wash.

And the fffffffff keeps repeating itself, and it sounds like a tent, a house, a college dorm, my apartment in Santiago, and most of all, it just sounds like winter.

Want more talk about rain in Chile? Go here.


Ely's Mom said...

So true! Rain ( well the first of the season, anyway) is deliciously familiar.

When I woke up and heard the rain, my first thought was, " I'm sooooo glad I don't have to go to work in that!"

Sara said...

It is like that! It does make me a little nostalgic. However, after the first one, the following cloudy/rainy days usually make me a little depressed.

I was thinking about blogging about the sopaipillas too, but the soup seemed to be more what I was craving yesterday :p

Margaret said...

Beautiful post Eileen!
I was happy to hear the rain this morning... which means I have been in Chile for a long time. Chileans love rain... or at least the first rain... like New Yorkers with the first snow... but my main reason for being happy is thinking that when it clears we should have clean(er) air and white mountaintops!

Fly Girl said...

Oh I don't know what I would do with a rainy season, considering the few days we've had in Chicago have made me cranky. I like the idea of sopapillas as rainy day comfort foos, I've tasted them before and rain sounds like a good justification.

planetnomad said...

And now forever more, rain will sound like Santiago for you. For me, it's always Welsh rain from when I was 8, and Portland/Seattle rain, and even a tiny bit of Nouakchott rain from the one time in 6 years it actually rained properly, and now Rabat rain. I love rain. We had a terrific and totally unseasonal thunderstorm the other morning--exactly right overhead, and so loud it woke us all up with a bang and a flash.

Candice said...

I'd like to have a day where it doesn't rain in Newfoundland. That'd be nice.