The weather is changing here. Starting about two weeks ago we noticed we seem to be heading into the dry season. There are two seasons here in Southern Sudan: A wet season and a dry. Generally speaking, the wet season runs from March through October and is characterized by frequent rains - mostly late afternoon and late night thunderstorms - and moderate temperatures.
The dry season runs from the end of October through into March. I remember being out with friends at dinner last March 13th. It was a Sunday and we were out in downtown Juba. There had been a few threats of rain the previous days, but around 8pm the skies opened-up. A couple of my friends ran-out and stood in the downpour, so happy were they to be feeling rain again.
The other nice things about the rains is that they clear the skies of the dust. The dry season occurs because the weather pattern changes. Normally the weather is driven by warm, moist air heading east out of the Congo River basin towards South Sudan. But during the dry season the winds change bringing dry, dusty air south from the Sahara desert. As the dry season progresses the air becomes drier and drier and filled with a fine red dust that coats everything. You wipe your desk down when you arrive at work in the morning and by afternoon it's coated again. You cannot look across Juba and see the rocky hills on the southside of town, the disappear into a red-fog. But when the rains come the skies are suddenly cleansed of all the dust. I remember riding out to the airport shortly after the first rain and being so suprised and excited at being able to see the mountains again.
It's a very curious mix during the dry season. It's a little like winter because at night the temperatures get cold - by Juba standards, anyway. The last few nights it feels like it got down into the upper 60's, or downright chilly. But as the season progresses the temperatures during the day escalate. It gets up to around 100-farenheight every day, with clear, cloudless skies and an unforgiving sun. Last year I recall sitting at my desk, droplets of sweat dripping off me as I sat passively. Sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon last January or February, the temperature well over 100, the only relief from the overhead fans although my flatmate reckoned that these only made the room more like a convection over, until she finally said, "turn me over, I'm done on this side."
It's incredibly important during the dry season to keep drinking fluids. I find I need at least 2-liters of fluid a day and even consuming that, not to be crude folks, but I almost never peed, the fluid simply evaporated out of me. The process doesn't stop at night. You go to bed, temps still up near 100, and you sleep in a pool of sweat. Some of the first nights I would wake-up feeling hungover even though I could not recall having had a drink the night before (talk about being cheated!) and I realized it was because I sweated so severely during the night it was as if I had gotten severely drunk. I started having to take bottles of water to bed with me and waking-up during the night to drink.
The other noticable thing during the dry season, what is happening now, is how dry and brown all the plant-life becomes. The trees drop their leaves like autumn and so many plants turn brown and shrivel-up. Plants located along the roadways wear a crust of red-dust kicked-up by the passing cars. It's sort of sad, but then the reward is the great explosioin of plants and flowers that reappears in March when the rains returns. Surely we would never appreciate the Spring were it not for the winter.