First Rainfall


First rainfall, first rain, and related kigo

***** Location: Kenya, other regions
***** Season: Start of Short Rains,

..................... Start of Long Rains
***** Category: Heavens


Just as Japanese haijin write about "first sunrise", "first calligraphy", and the many other "firsts" of the new year, Kenya haijin write about "first rainfall" -- those very first hours of the eagerly awaited rainy season. It is very clear to anyone living here when the real rains have started and when they are about to start, with a raindrop here, and a slight drizzle there, as may happen for a week or longer before the actual first rainfall.

The first rainfall usually comes in the evening after dark --it lashes down, thick and heavy, and probably lasts a few hours at least. Everyone takes notice -- standing and breathing in the rainy air, and thinking about all the work that will result, now that the rains have come.

The first heavy rain usually brings out the termites, which fly into the dusk and up to any electric light, and which get devoured by frogs, gekkos and other waiting animals. There are some people, particularly in Uganda, who value the flying termites as a source of protein, catch them and have a feast.

The first rains usually bring about power failures too, as weak cables succumb to the rains and need to be repaired. Drains need to be cleared, roads get flooded, public transport fares rise and traffic jams stretch way into the night. The first rains are usually a major item on the evening news, and reporters speak about all the difficulties they have caused. “When it does not rain, the poor suffer, and when it rains, the poor suffer too”, a wise man I know said some years back.

The first rainfall binds the dust but, because of the preceding drought, it does not immediately lead to the formation of mud, as the following day’s sunshine will quickly dry the soil again.

Once the soil has become a bit softer, the ibises return to the grassy areas and eagerly search with the beaks for worms and other delicacies.

Mosquitoes do not come out until the rains have lasted for a week or more -- so the first rainfall is still mosquito-free. Plants do not start to grow visibly until the rain has lasted a week or more. Nor do bullfrogs come out of their muddy hideouts until the rains are established -- when they start to croak, the first rainfall is over.

Text and photo : Isabelle Prondzynski, 2006

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


Imminent rains (26 to 31 October 2006)

rain in the air --
seated on soda crates
three young men chat

donkeys and carts
at Hope Filling Station --
first raindrops

waiting for the rain --
the blue patch in the sky
grows larger

First rainfall (1 November 2006)

first rainfall --
surrounded by sleep and
a steady downpour

first rainfall --
the camel foot flowers
look brighter too

first raindrops --
lined up like pearls on
my clothesline

first rain --
the soft tread of the soil

Haiku and photo :
Isabelle Prondzynski (October/November 2006)


first rains-
jacket hawkers move
from door to door

Patrick Wafula


an old man smiles --
rain drops wipe and sweep away
a huge lump of dust

Gideon Gichamba (Peacock)


no place to pass through --
the first floor corridor
forms a stagnant pond

Catherine Njeri Maina (Bamboocha)


early morning
preparing our shambas --
sleeping times decrease

Sobaha Wairimu (Bamboocha)
(shamba is Swahili for garden or field)


under the bed
I search for my gumboots --
rain has started

Beth Mwangi (Peacock)


raindrops cling to grass
catch the sunbeams sending
lights that dazzle eyes

Raymond Otieno (Bamboocha)

Related words

***** Ibis (Hadada)

***** Umbrella

***** Monsoon ..(India, South Asia)

***** .. .. .. .. Rain in various KIGO (Japan)





Anonymous said...

horns beeping
people rushing home
as it rains

in town
traffic is bumper-bumper
its raining

caleb wothes


Isabelle said...

Caleb Mutua writes :

rain drop bounces
wet the shoes on the doormat --
March rain

March rain --
mud paints the back of
the cyclist's shirt

March rain --
family debates on the use
of the only umbrella

chewing gums close
leaking hole on the iron roof --
sudden rain

rainy night --
grasses show the level of
the muddy water


Anonymous said...

In the Philippines, and when I was young, it was the custom for children to take a shower in the first rain. Probably unfounded, but it was believed that this protected them from contracting severe colds and flu for the rest of the year.

I never did this because the prospect of walking back into the house with wet clothes dripping on the polished floors was not exactly an inviting one (not to mention the scolding I would have gotten!).

By the way, with 'first rain', I am thinking of June and the start of the monsoon. These days, with global warming and climactic change, and me having been away for so long, I'm not even sure any more which rains might be classified as 'first'.