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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Rain from trees and other unusual things

Every year in the spring, when I go for a walk in our neighborhood it feels like it is raining, but only under the trees that line the sidewalk. The drops are large, make real rain sounds when they fall and leave wet areas on the ground. Around those areas it is dry and most of the time the sky is blue and the sun shines which altogether makes for a strange experience. When drops fall on my skin, I can see they are yellow and they feel a little sticky (yuk!)

The culprit is a parasite that lives in a tree called Tipuana tipu (or commonly Tipa), native of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The phenomenon is poetically referred to as "the weeping of the tipas" but it is not all that poetic: little insects feed on the sap and secrete the "rain"- so basically it's bug pee... But this is greatly compensated by the tree's bright yellow flowers that light up the streets in December and January. When the flowers fall off, they create a beautiful yellow carpet on the sidewalk. Tipas grow fast and give a welcome shade in warmer countries which is why they are often used along city streets.

This is the view from our house today when you look to the right (the picture above is what you see when you turn your head to the left)

And this is what a Tipa in bloom looks like (there is no rain anymore then)

These liquid shedding trees remind me of two unique liquid-related customs here in Argentina. One of them is the cult of La Difunta Correa.

The legend goes that Deolinda Correa set out on foot with her infant son to follow her husband's battalion during the civil war in the 1840's. She eventually succumbed to hunger and thirst in the desert of San Juan but when her dead body was found, her son was still nursing on her breast, alive and well. A miracle was declared and a shrine emerged where she was buried and until today, thousands of Argentines make the pilgrimage and leave La Difunta (the deceased) gifts and bottles of water in thanks for the miracle. In addition to the main shrine, hundreds of little roadside shrines have been erected where drivers leave gifts and water bottles to quench her thirst.

The other custom is placing bottles on the roof of cars to indicate that they are for sale. It's like a secret code: until you understand, it just looks as if someone forgot something...

But many other unusual things are happening this year in everyone's attempt to adapt to Covid: restaurants have placed tables on sidewalks and parking lots, museums and supermarkets have established directions of travel inside their premises (ooops, I just entered the detergent aisle the wrong way, I hope no one saw me else I will be perceived as a bad citizen, let me go aaaallllll around the other way to buy what I need, or.... maybe I'll just skip the detergent today, too complicated!). Schools are also creatively adjusting: my sister in law Sandy teaches English in the 5th grade. Her school, like most, has just recently reopened to give the students an opportunity to socialize a few times before summer vacation (which starts December 15th). This is her new classroom:

Good thing there are no Tipa's in the schoolyard !

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