Rain On Me

September 18, 2000

Back in my hometown in New England summer is coming to its close. It was a rainy summer indeed but still allowed people days of sunshine and sweat. Soon fall will raise its colourful head and the trees will explode in brilliant spectrums of red, yellow, and orange. Here in Bangkok it is raining on my head every day.

I am not sure if I have fully adjusted to having only three seasons and plush tropical greenery around me 365 days a year. I do realize that the rainy season brings with it its own reflections, patterns of behaviour, and phenomenon. If you are in Thailand during this time prepare to get wet.

Back in the States, rain always meant the smell of deep dark earth, worm-like in its aroma. In Bangkok, besides happening at a different time of the year, the rainy season is much less of a smell and much more of a visual spectacle.

Amazing flashes of lightning fill the sky. Mushroom clouds with wet tentacles fall to the ground and can be observed180900k1.jpg approaching from the distance. Areas of sky can be black as night while others remain blue and cheerful. Raindrops are large in size and can be blown sideways, thus rendering your umbrella entirely ineffective. One night while I was sleeping soundly, thunder struck so loudly I was sure a gun had gone off next to my head.

Sometimes I see the sun suddenly pop out and I decide to head outside and soak it up. I gather my things and by the time I have made it outdoors the sun has vanished. I once played this game for an entire afternoon and caught a maximum of 15 minutes of bright light for which I was grateful. While it may be pouring at my home, I can ring up a friend across town to learn the sun is shining.

The torrents of sudden rain make life in Bangkok even more unpredictable. Traffic worsens making travel by mule a sometimes more viable alternative. Potholes grow and give neck-wrenching bumps, and windshield wipers have no speed high enough to succeed with180900k2.jpg their chore.

Walking the streets becomes more of a challenge. In addition to all of the usual obstacles there is now the addition of small lakes, calf-deep water filling the streets, and all the other open umbrellas going by.

Husbands arrive hours late for dinner. Plans get cancelled. People become less willing to venture about. Massive flextime goes into effect. In Bangkok you can always be late because of the traffic. Now you can be double late because of traffic with rain.

Due to increased humidity, mold grows more rapidly on any surface from metal to paper. Photographs stick together and need to be plied apart with the longest and sharpest of fingernails. My hair gets bigger and bigger and the frizz forms a near halo over the top of my head.

During this season the mosquitoes gain speed. When it is extremely hot, they, like the rest of us, slow down. Now with the cool breezes blowing, they zip and zoom around making them difficult to180900k3.jpg catch. Ankles turn into feasting grounds and insect repellent is used generously.

With a hopeful attitude many of us venture out while the sun is shining, hoping not to get stuck in the rain and therefore find ourselves defenseless when the inevitable occurs. Conditions change within minutes. People cover themselves with tarps while riding in the backs of pickup trucks. Umbrellas are shared.

The Buddhist holiday of Khao Phansaa, also known as the Buddhist Rains Retreat, is based on this time of year. July marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent and during the next three months of heavy rain, monks stay at their monasteries to study and meditate. Many novice monks are also ordained at this time.

The Buddhists see the rainy season as a time for reflection and renewed spirituality. This is a practical approach to avoid the mud that takes over the country. This retreat is also at a time when the labor needed for farming is at is low-point.

Rain has always spawned a reflective mood in me. This is definitely the season to curl up with a good book and probably end up falling asleep sooner than expected. It is a lazy time. Time to do ‘spring cleaning’ and remain indoors. Time to rent lots of movies. Time to have no big plans. Time to worry about your house flooding.

The rainy season reminds me of those dead-in-the-middle-of-winter days back in Vermont except that I have no woodstove to gaze into and no snow to shovel.I like the rainy season. It is an official excuse for lethargy. You can pop into a coffee shop and sit for hours waiting for a storm to pass. Time goes even slower. Days linger.

It is time to have time for yourself.

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