Sunday morning began like so many others in Santiago. The sky was bursting with thick, white clouds but I wasn’t worried about rain. In the three-and-a-half months that I had been here, it had only rained a handful of times and on most of those occasions, it was little more than a brief trickle. The one time it did actually rain in Santiago, I was at the beach.

The weather forecasters had predicted precipitation but I had grown accustomed to ignoring them. Their threats and promises had come to nothing too many times before.

I wasn’t too upset though. Generally speaking I’m not a big fan of the rain. Sure I appreciate what it does but it can be a hassle. At the last minute, it ruins plans and forces us into unwanted changes. If you don’t prepare for it, it leaves you wet, and more often than not, cold and wet. If you do prepare for it, you have to put up with the awkwardness of an umbrella or, even worse, a raincoat. I still have bad memories of the succession of smelly, yellow, plastic garments I was forced to wear as a kid.

Even so, I was starting to recognise the need for rain. For months Santiago has been suffering from an extended dry spell and the city is crying out for water. It’s as if the greenness decided to go. The main river is barely flowing, plants are wilting in flower pots and everything, from shoes and cars to outdoor furniture, is coated in dust. And I didn’t expecy to change any time soon.

So when I headed off for church I didn’t take an umbrella and as it turned out, I didn’t need to. My confidence grew. The clouds were blocking out the sun, making the cold day even colder but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as icy rain. On the way home, it was still overcast but there wasn’t even a hint of drizzle.

After lunch I still felt that it wasn’t going to rain and I put on a load of washing. I went upstairs to have a rest and before long I dozed off. When I woke up and came back down to hang out the washing, it was even colder and the clouds had darkened. Taking out my second shirt I felt a cold splash on my nose and heard the familiar pitter-patter of light rain. I stopped hanging out the clothes and went back inside hoping to keep warm.

About half an hour later the rain had stopped and I expected that would be the end of it. But when I headed off for church again in the evening, I made sure I packed my umbrella. Again, the rain held off on the way to church but halfway through the service, the sound of rain began competing with the preacher’s rasping voice. This time it was heavier. For the rest of the service I glanced over my shoulder to check the situation. It was falling steadily.

When it came time to go, I put on my backpack picked up my caseless guitar in one hand and my umbrella in the other. Stepping outside, the first thing I noticed was the water. In Santiago there are no stormwater drains and in just over an hour-and-a-half, the smain street had turned into a mini causeway. I was on the lower side of the road and there was a two-metre wide puddle stretching as far as I could see. The buses were making as they pulled into the kerb to drop off passenhers, pushing more water up onto the muddy nature strips.

For half a kilometre, I looked for a gap in the puddle where I could cross without getting wet. There wasn’t one. I had no choice but to jump. Adjusting the backpack and gripping the guitar even more tightly, I prepared to leap across the puddle.

Just as I was about to jump, a car lurched out from a sidestreet, sending water onto the footpath and I hopped back to avoid the splash. Mission aborted. My second attempt was more successful but far from perfect. I made it to the other side of the puddle in a single bound but one of my feet dragged, skimming through the water. I had managed to cross to other side with my guitar intact but my foot was cold and wet.

By the time I reached my street, it had been transformed into a river. Although it was only 5cm deep, it was flowing steadily. I edged along the bank that was the footpath until two houses down from my front gate, I was forced into the stream by a Kombi that had parked on the footpath and refused to budge. Now both feet were cold and wet.

Inside, I quickly changed my socks and put on my fluffy, brown grandpa slippers before settling down to catch up on my reading. When I finished at 2am, it was still raining. I tried not to think about going to work the next morning as I fell asleep.

But when morning came, the rain had stopped and outside, apart from the odd wet patch, the ground was puddle free. It was as if there had been an operation of mass evaporation overnight.

Then I looked up and smiled. The customary Santiago smog had been banished and after days of haze, the sky was actually clear and my view was changed radically. The cold rain in the valley had been accompanied by snow in the mountains. For the first time during my stay here, the rugged peaks of the Andes were blanketed in white. It was like looking into a 3D postcard.

Snow on the Andes.

I started falling in love with Santiago all over again.

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