The unkind call it Brownsville. They forget the sound of the rain drumming on the roof, the water running down the footpaths, streaming along gutters, gurgling down drains. They forget how it rains day after day and how the plants grow, swelling upward with a rapidity that stuns. The detractors complain of the heat, the humidity, the mossies, the cyclones, the grass growing too fast, the possums, the flying foxes (fruit bats) that drop mangoes on the roof. Loudly, and unendingly, the city’s detractors express their desires to go south, or to flee overseas, to be anywhere but here.
Yet the believers call it paradise. They remember the blue winter skies, the sparkling seas, the welcoming beaches and the perfect weather. They remember catching the ferry across calm seas, hoping for a glimpse of migrating whales, watching coral bommies beneath boat keels. They remember diving the reefs, snorkelling, swimming among colourful fishes, over velvety clams, counting starfish, watching in wonder as the school of curious coral trout follows the boat, tantalised by the sight of toes bobbing in the water.
We are all of us right. In the dry season, in the lead up to spring, the time of no rain, the leaves turn brown, the grasses die, the mountains lose their purple haze and we sigh and wish for the summer ‘wet season’.
Once the rains start and the land floods, the whingers have a new cause to bemoan. Roads become impassable, there are food shortages when the highway closes, shoppers have verbal stoushes at supermarkets over who will get the last bottle of milk or the last can of baked beans and bewail the lack of lettuce. We who have never experienced attempting to walk along an icy footpath have our own slippery travail on sidewalks slimy with mould, moss, or mud.
Yet, there is a certain magic about the roar of a heavy downpour on a tin roof, even when television volumes are increased and then increased again, accompanied by complaints that ‘we can’t hear the flaming TV’. There are times when it seems you must run frantically to catch enough raindrops to get wet, other days when a single drop drenches you. It’s all part of living in the tropics.