My first night, myself and Georgie, whom I’d spent the day with laughing and chatting with, were sitting under an umbrella. Drinking beer in a fog of cigarette smoke. (Something I got used to very quickly) We were looking out to the river, and there were spots of rain on the water. We were confused- it wasn’t due and we’d just been saying how reliable the weather forecasting was. Later, we ran from bar to bar laughing, the light reflected on the pavement distorted by the now heavy mist. Our hair was damp and frizzy and I was so glad to have found a friend, my relief falling around me as the rain fell around us, both reminders of a familiar life.
I’d just got back from a 15 km hike, up the mountain that overshadowed Kotor in the already hot 8am. It was unspeakably beautiful, lovely to do alone, chatting freely and openly to any strangers that I bumped into along the way, as if we were already bound by the human relief in the relative wilderness. I fell asleep after a glass of water with my trainers still on, at 11.45am. I was woken up by some deep rumbling of thunder, and the lashing of rain against the walls of the courtyard below. The force was such that there was a mist of spray from thick drops whafting into our room. I knew I wasnt leaving the hostel for a few hours, and the thunder lulled me to sleep.
It first seemed to come out of nowhere- we were sat under a porch of a hut half way along a Tarmac road leading up to Morski Oko, half of the people around us in flip flops or worse, while we were completely kitted out. We were sharing a packet of strange peach flavoured Jaffa cakes. At first it began to spit, and then all of a sudden it was falling around us, running off the roof, running down the road and the mountainside. We laughed and got our jackets on, suddenly glad for our kit. We realised the backpack cover that mum was so sure was in her bag was not, in fact. She had a bin bag which I tied over my super cheap pack, thinking hers might be shower proof at least. And a shower is the nearest that I’ve been to this rain. It was dripping down my face, straight through my lightweight shorts and soaking my bikini bottoms to the extent that jumping into water would. My lightweight waterproof was no longer that, and there was no point even trying to keep a hood up in the wind. The valley that we were walking through was BEAUTIFUL, half fallen trees and tiny streams, sandy sediment washing around pebbles as they’re all blasted by bullet raindrops. We laughed and half ran, too drenched to care. My boots had flooded, my socks were soaked and there were small rivers running down my legs, but I was laughing in disbelief the whole time. It was spectacular. Later when the rain halted we stretched out on rocks in the slightly watery sunshine, attempting to dry up. Later mum’s clothes were wet, and my socks were damp in the morning.
I’m in Kosovo, in a trendy cafe that is impossibly cheap. The weather that morning was hot- I’d briefly wandered around but I keep on forgetting to eat and that was a habit that needed to end. I can’t deal with much more snarling hunger and only a packet of crisps to deal with it. The sun was high in the sky, with a small scattering of barely there clouds. I’m sitting taking advantage of speedy wifi, sometimes writing, half planning my onward journey, at the time to Prizren. Suddenly, there’s a clap of thunder. A clap and a deep foreboding rumble. The wind picks up, and the scene on the streets that I see changes from meandering professionals and students to people running, panicked, as bar umbrellas fly over on busy pedestrian streets. The sky is a funny yellowing grey. Cars and their drivers are becoming increasingly erratic, ignoring lights and road markings and junctions even moreso than usual. I call Dad 5 minutes after telling him of my previous plan, hastily telling him my new one as I drink up the last of my Schweppes and pay my (again, impossibly small) bill. I make a run for it, praying that an umbrella won’t take me out on the way. Later, on the way to Sofia, my plan having changed significantly, the storming rain is different. The mini bus is near empty and I stretch out on the back seats falling asleep to José González’s heartbeats over and over, the thunder and rain falling around us.
I’m at the house of a new friend that I met while teaching English. After angloville, the programme that I taught on, a few of us (well, 6 of us) didn’t have a place to stay so Paweł kindly let us stay in his house, down the road from where they lived in a house where the lounge was half filled with books in Polish, German, English, Russian. The night before we’d been to see Gogol Bordello, and my feet were sore this morning. Angela and I (the only two remaining from a whole load of us) were sat outside while his extended family celebrated his youngest daughter’s birthday inside. Laughs and conversation in Polish drifted out to where we were sitting, while I planned my onward journey, sometimes writing, and occasionally chatting to Angela. A few gardens down, someone was playing the piano, and it was merging with the laughs of Paweł and his family as a light rain began to fall on the thick plastic roof above us, creating a softened melodic version of that unique conservatory rain sound in the soundtrack of the afternoon.
I’m with new friends. I met one boy while it was raining and I was reading outside a restaurant in Brno, and I was nervous about meeting them. We watched a rain cloud in front of a deep golden window to the sunset, like a waterfall over a distant hill. Later we had almost finished the wine we had brought up to the castle when it began to fall us. We were the distant hill. We laughed and screamed as we ran down into town. I was using my scarf in an effort to not get drenched, but it was dripping by the time I hung it up in my dorm room. I put on my “waterproof” (as we have previously learnt, it probably doesn’t deserve that name), that makes me slightly damp from both sweat and rain, and we ran through the old streets to an old cinema complex that has been turned into a shisha bar, with a perpetual cloud of water vapour hanging below the ceiling. When I left later, after helping new friends lose at snooker and laughing over beer, the rain had almost stopped, leaving only a light mist of drizzle, though the streets held onto their new sheen of just-rain.
It’s my penultimate day of the trip, and I’m in Sofia. There’s a light rain as I walk the streets of a new city, the last new city I’ll see alone in a while. I try to drink it in and take in every moment but I’m so tired. I don’t think I want to go home, but I do want to rest. There are people that I love and miss deeply, and even knowing that I’m close to them, or in the country that I’ll see them next, is enough. Like I’m getting ready to go to my home, my home that is made of people.