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  • The sky had grown darker since dawn. It was ten minutes till school was supposed to start, but the rain came first. Guess I'll be late again. The violence of the rain seemed unprovoked, an affront to my tranquil morning. And then came the rattle of hailstones hitting the trees, the roof, the windows, the fragile pomegranate flowers, orange and trumpet-shaped. My host family during training taught me what hail was called; I had been eager to learn a new vocabulary word, but Anzhel had answered me gravely, shaking her head. Karkuyt, I thought. Great.

    At home, hail meant running outside as soon as it was over and looking for the biggest one you could find. You had to get them before they melted. The holy grail was the size of a golf ball, but that never happened except in the newspaper, in pictures from faraway states.

    Here, I just wanted it to end. Spring had brought green to our dusty brown village, and the grapes were doing well. The apricot trees had bloomed, and the flowers became little sour baby apricots. The cherries were my first taste of summer. No more sticky-sweet plum juice, no more pickled tomatoes and cabbage--it was finally time for fresh fruit.

    But the top branches of cherry tree outside my window whipped violently. It was too blurry to see the little red dots that had been warming in the sun, tantalizingly out of reach, the day before.

    And then it stopped--it all stopped. Darn. I'd only missed half of a period. The downstairs door was wedged shut, so I went out through the garage. The road was gone, or rather, added to, covered in a foot of mud and rocks that had slid down the side of our mountain. "Where are you going?" my host mom asked.

    "To school."

    She laughed.

    It took two days to shovel the rocks from the stairs and the bathroom. The sink that had never worked was finally removed completely and the basin put upside down on the outside sink, the one that used to work. The toilet was fine.

    Most of the roads had gained a thick layer of debris, and a few days later a bulldozer came to clear it out. The ditch I had to cross to get to school was deeper now, and required a heavy jump down, then a two-handed scramble up. But the teachers still wore high heels, leaving pock-marks in the mud on the school driveway.

    The persimmons and the apricots and the walnuts probably won't make it. The cherries are gone. The mulberries are tougher and most of them made it through, but I don't like them nearly as much.

    "Were you scared?" a colleague asked me.

    "Ehh, it wasn't that bad," another teacher cut in. "The one five years ago was worse."

    "How often does this happen?"

    "Every year."
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