Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Campfire Stories... Weathering the Storms

Here's the thing. It is an unavoidable cliche that every time it rains here in the States, someone, strangers and friends alike, will turn to me with confident assumption and throw this rhetorical gem at me; 'I bet you feel right at home with this English weather?" Take note, citizens of America, British rain is nothing but a persistent, dismal dribble. Mildly irritating at the best of times, depressing at the worst. These fervent Tennessee downfalls are often total wash outs; weather that invokes a sincere use of the phrase 'batten down the hatches' in everyday conversation.

The first time I came in close contact with a real American storm, I was a timid 2 days into camp counselor training in Ohio, my very first summer job overseas. As the sky began to pale and alter into a shade of purple I had not before seen and not since witnessed, my intuition kicked in. Hovering in a large group around an outdoor stove, learning how to cook' pudgey pies' and 'dough boys' seemed slightly less urgent once the tornado sirens began to blare. Quiet at first, their outcries were almost impossible to comprehend but once attention had been drawn, believe me, they seemed to grow in volume. Hauled with more speed and much less haste through the camp grounds underneath a briskly darkening backdrop, everyone on site was rounded up, sprinting to the only tornado shelter on site. Once inside the shelter, trust me, there was little comfort. Especially when the electricity supply died 4 minutes later. The sounds of the wind and the impact of random flailing objects outside the walls were without a doubt alarming, and yes, somewhere in the darkness of that shelter I did make a promise to myself that should I survive, the next flight home to dreary, drizzling England, indeed had my name on it.

An hour and a half and many shattered nerves later, the entire staff including myself, emerged from the shelter blinking into the remarkably peaceful and well lit day that the storm had left behind for us. Many trees were down across the camp grounds as well as other, hardly missed objects having found new, rather unconventional homes. Not much later on, the staff would sadly learn that the same storm had carried itself through to the neighbouring state of Indiana, claiming the lives of 4 boy scouts who did not have time to make it to their own shelters. It was certainly quite the introduction to the potential for destruction that American storms have.

I did not end up fleeing on the first flight home and truth be told I now actually rather enjoy the threat of the clouds rolling in and the sky becoming eerily electrified with rogue energy. But when the really big ones hit, with all the force they can muster... I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the safe monotony of a little English drizzle, however depressing it might be.

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