Dubai Diaries: Rain means different things to different people

It can mean peace and quiet, but can also be an unwelcome occurrence.


Kirstin Bernabe

Published: Tue 4 Jan 2022, 7:47 PM

Like many other things that come from above — rain means different things to different people.

It can be the peace and quiet you can savour with a cup of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. But it can also be an unwelcome guest in a much-awaited beach wedding.

It can be the saviour in the middle of a drought, or a giant that threatens to take everything away from a town lining the coast.

The scientific process behind it may be universal, but once millions of droplets start falling on our heads, stories unfold.

The gentle pitter-patter that woke us up on New Year’s Eve filled our room like a tight, warm hug. But when I stepped out onto the balcony and looked up, my morning turned sombre under the thick, rolling heaps of dark grey clouds.

When I was a child I loved the rain. Sometimes, it meant one full day of playtime at home as classes were suspended. Plus, grandma would automatical- ly make my favourite chicken noodle soup for lunch.

On lucky days, when the downpour hits the ‘right’ in- tensity, the adults would allow us kids to go out and play in the rain. We had to wait for the perfect mo- ment to ask for permission, though. If it was just a drizzle, they would say, ‘no, you might catch a cold’. If it’s too heavy, it would be too dangerous.

As I grew up and discovered the ‘real world’ beyond my bubble, things changed. I was 18 when a tropical storm wreaked havoc in the Philippines. Hundreds died; thousands of buildings crumbled; countless families lost their homes. Those who survived picked up the pieces while holding back tears.

I joined a team of volunteers then. I packed relief goods and went to the communities to offer whatev- er support I could give. I helped a family wipe down mud from all their furniture, and delivered meals to the workers who had forgotten to eat. I cried with a student who was orphaned in the tragedy.

Then came stronger typhoons that wiped out entire com- munities, and landslides that buried dozens of vil- lages. Back home in the Philippines, storms mean instant tragedies. A little over a week before Christmas last month, a super typhoon left an island paradise in shambles, and more than 4.8 million people are believed to have been affected across the archipel- ago.

Typhoon Rai claimed over 400 lives, and maybe more. Over a week after the storm left the country, relief operations continue and victims are still in shock. During the rainy NYE in the UAE, I remem- bered them.

My family and I were lucky to be safe and dry—ex- cept my husband, who showered in the rain, reliving a childhood memory. Here in the desert, the down- pour is a blessing. But to others in some corners of the world, it can be a nightmare. In any case, one thing is certain, rains call for a little prayer.

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