I’ve been studying in Barbados for approximately six weeks. I have been dry precisely one time: on the airplane before I landed. Although as I disembarked from the plane, I walked into a light drizzle and a sudden sweat.
As I’m sure anyone knows, the Caribbean is prime for hurricanes, and during hurricane season, the rain is as iconic as the rum. It is, in fact, called the wet season, as opposed to the dry season, which starts around the end of November/early December. For a Cali girl who has spent most of her life in the desert, I assumed the rain would be a welcome change. In the beginning, it was. I spent most of my time in my bathing suit, so when the rain came it was like swimming at the beach.
But the rain doesn’t really slow down; it pours, turning the streets into rivers. My Rainbow sandals started dying my feet orange, permanently. A perfectly clear day can turn into a day that gets more rain than California sees in a month, maybe even a year. I started by never letting the rain stop me. I would go out in the pouring rain and just get drenched. Sometimes I wouldn’t even notice it, but then my clothes started to smell from perpetual mildew, my dorm room windows — with wooden slats instead of a window pane — drenched my desk and flooded my room, and my island-hopping adventure was delayed in the airport due to heavy rains. Also, school started, and my backpack is not waterproof. Ipods, laptops and digital cameras are also examples of non-waterproof things. Lighters don’t easily light in the rain. But wet doesn’t end there.
Rain isn’t the only thing that keeps me and all other inhabitants of this country eternally wet; I would venture a guess that sweat is probably the other leading cause of wetness on this island. September’s average temperature is almost 88 degrees, with October’s average dropping down to a chilly 87 degrees. And I am not talking about the dry, desert heat we love about Isla Vista; this is the tropics, where the air is humid. Walking up a flight of stairs is enough to break a sweat, even at night. And I live on the third floor. Imagine a three-hour class in a room with no air conditioning at the peak of the day’s heat. It’s enough to get me sweaty and yawning just thinking of it. Most people carry around little towels just to wipe their face with, and I find that most of the bras I brought here will be ruined by the pools of sweat that stream down my chest.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not complaining. When I decided to study abroad, I chose to do it on a tropical island in the Caribbean. How much complaining can I really do? Aside from that, there are all the fun sides of wet. For instance, I spend a lot of my day drenched in sweat lying on pristine white sand at the beach. Similarly, I also spend a lot of my time wet from swimming in the Caribbean Sea, scuba diving among coral reefs and sea turtles and jumping off cliffs.
I also enjoy whetting my whistle by going out and really appreciating Barbados’s superior rum. Rum is a huge part of Barbados culture, especially since sugar cane is practically the only crop grown here. Rum is one of the cheapest things to purchase, and I definitely have not wasted any time finding the best places and beaches to consume Barbados’s prized Mount Gay Rum and Cockspur-You can giggle about both of the names now-Banks Beer is another way to get wet; it’s a beer brewed here on the island. A few of my fellow students and I spend a lot time getting wet at the beach at night, drinking Banks while avoiding the hundreds of crabs that only come out when the sun goes down.
Among the good things of wetness is that Barbados grows some amazing things that benefit from lots of rain and strong sun. I’m talking, of course, of sugar cane, which I enjoy chewing on and sucking the sweet juice out of, although I might be making a veiled reference to something everyone associates with Jamaica and Santa Cruz.
Wet is what defines Barbados, and I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the pleasures of being wet this semester.