Another day in the classroom was wrapping up, and I started to hear mumbles from the students and teachers about rain clouds. I briefly glanced outside and sure enough, it was windy and dark. I guess it’s going to rain. I hadn’t looked at the weather forecast that day so this was news to me. I didn’t think anything of it, dismissed my students, and started checking emails.
Teddy burst into my room in a frenzy, also talking about this storm. I hear more and more commotion from the hallways (which are open to the outdoors). I peek out and it’s coming down. Still at this point, I’m thinking “What’s the big deal?” Now, people are leaving their classrooms in parkas and rain boots, umbrellas open, and there’s an announcement over the intercom that teachers need to leave now. No need to stay until contract time. Now I’m feeling confused. Have I missed something? We are talking about rain, right?
I am from Kansas. I’ve driven in a foot of snow. I’ve driven on roads that were sheets of ice. I’ve driven through blizzards and tornado warnings. A little rain is nothing.
Teddy and I pack up our things, and head out, unprepared without umbrellas or proper footwear, but again, I’m from Kansas… Rain does not scare me.
We step outside, and immediately, I realize that I’ve never been in rain like this before. It’s hard to even describe the amount of water coming down. We weave our way through campus, running from building to building, and after making it to our last underpass, I’m starting to feel worried. Half of the people we pass say they are staying at school to wait it out. Half of the people say if you want to get home, leave now. Soon the roads will be too flooded for driving.
I decide, we are going to leave. At our school, we park about a football field away from the school building. So, I take Teddy by the hand, and we start running through the rain. About halfway to the parking garage, I start doubting my decision, but we keep running. By the time we reach our car, we don’t look like like we’ve been in the rain. We look like we were thrown into a swimming pool. There isn’t’ an inch of me dry. My hair and clothes are soaked. Teddy’s backpack, which was zipped up, is full of rainwater. We bust into our car, and I’m in shock. “What the hell was that?”
Now it’s one of my first times driving by myself in Tunisia on this particular day. Tunisian driving is already a bit crazy and I’m not used to this car. It took me a few minutes just to find the windshield wipers and caution lights. Again, I second guess my decision as I back out of my parking spot.
I get onto the roads. I can’t see. Places that are normally 2 lanes now have 5. The honking horns are constant and people are just pushing their way through, like a mob of Kindergarteners trying to get out to recess first. It’s a bit of a miracle that the cars aren’t physically bumping into each other.
But the scariest part isn’t the traffic. It’s the flooding. There are sections of road that look like a river. There were multiple times I held my breath and just went for it even though I wasn’t sure my car would make it across the deep water.
And here’s the kicker- In all of the confusion, blind driving, and tense moments, I somehow took the wrong exit on a roundabout and now I’m completely lost. It took me a while to figure it out. I kept asking Teddy, “Does this look familiar?” He kept reassuring me that, yes, we are going the right way, but at a certain point, I realized that I had no clue where we were. I pulled over and called Justin in a panic. I tried to give him landmarks to look up, but I couldn’t read any signs through the rain. Google maps couldn’t find my location, and for a few minutes there, I wondered if we would ever make it home.
I managed to find the Carrefour (our mega-store- like Walmart, a grocery store, and a mall combined) on a map and slowly drove toward that direction until I got there. I’ve never been so happy to see that awful place! Now that I had my bearings, I got us home.
At one point, a man rolled down his window and flipped me off. I still have no clue what I did, but he was obviously offended by my awful driving. I hoped that when he saw my white knuckles clutching the steering wheel and the look of panic in my eyes, that he forgave me.
Eventually we pulled into our garage and I staggered into the house wide eyed and shaking. I hugged Justin and finally let myself relax.
Later that evening, a few coworkers messaged to see if we made it home okay. I felt like I had passed my initiation, like- You survived your first time driving in a Tunisian rainstorm. Congratulations. You’re one of us now.