Water, Water, Everywhere . . .
This morning I awoke with a song in my heart and frogs in my ears. As I lay a moment in bed, expecting to hear the soft cooing of mourning doves and fever birds I was assailed, instead, by a raucous chorus of delighted, copulating, frogs – who were splashing and croaking about in perfect hysteria from last night’s immense rainfall. Well, I told myself with good humor, that’s Thailand for you. I stepped out of bed . . .
A half inch of water on my bedroom floor. I slid into the bathroom to take care of the morning chores, slid back into the bedroom, slid over to the wardrobe, collected my clothes, slid over to the bed, hopped on, and dressed myself. Then slid to work.
Well, I told myself with much less good humor, that’s Thailand for you.
As a boy I lived through a terrific cloudburst one Sunday in church – the heavens opened and a deluge turned the streets around the chapel into canals; I could imagine a Venetian gondolier paddling by, singing O Solo Mio (or, since this was Minnesota, perhaps an old Norwegian fisherman in a bass boat yodeling Yust a Little Lefse.) The church basement began to flood and, by a heroic effort, the men attending that morning whisked the old upright piano up the basement stairs and out of danger. It sat in the church lobby for the next five years before there was enough group spirit to lug it back down again.
I thought to myself back then, boy I’ll never see that kind of rain again.
25 years later I moved to Thailand. I see, and experience, that kind of rain all the time.
And right here let me take my hat off (if I wore one) to the valiant men, women and children of Thailand, who somehow manage to look smart and clean during deluges that would make Noah turn green with envy.
I have always tried to emulate their sang froid during floods, especially when I have been teaching English in their schools – with varying degrees of success.
When I taught up in Bangkok many long years ago, long before there was a Sky Train, I had to trudge through the flotsam & jetsam of streets surfeited with the overflow from klongs and the seasonal high tides that caused the river itself to come creeping up to my ankles. The first casualty to this inevitable, unavoidable, moisture was my pride & joy – my expensive leather Florsheims. I wanted to impress my students with my sartorial savvy. I unwisely left them soaking wet over a few days and when it came time to wear them to school a fungus had turned them from tawny brown to dull green. Not having another pair of shoes handy at the time, I wore them anyway. I got away with this for a few days, since we all took our shoes off before entering the classroom – but the darn things eventually just melted apart like cheddar cheese slices. I’ve been wearing flip flops ever since.
Another time I was daintily wading down a soi to my first English class of the morning when I took an unexpected plunge down an uncovered manhole into the unspeakable depths of a Thai sewer. I showed up to school that day looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, while all the faculty and students, who had had to wade through the very same muck and mire as me, were as fresh as a bunch of blankety-blank daisies.
How do they do it? I see them with flimsy parasols and in cheap plastic rain ponchos during horrendous downpours cheerfully wending their way to business or pleasure – and once inside they look as calm and dry as a desert sunrise.
I, on the other hand, having invested in huge, expensive bumpershoots that would cover nearly a full rai of territory, and rain slickers guaranteed to come through London fogs and Madagascar typhoons unscathed, inevitably look like a drowned rat terrier when I reach my destination.
I know, of course, that fully half the population of Thailand utterly refuses to go outdoors during even the lightest mist. They claim it is madness to do so – and on rainy days I could always count on about half of my students to be absent. As an enlightened Westerner I have always scoffed at the Thai’s belief that if you go out in the rain you will inevitably catch a cold. Proper dry clothing and a good dose of vitamin C will keep that laughable bugaboo at bay!
And then I get the worst head cold of the century.
The longer I live in Thailand, the more I am becoming like the Thais in their avoidance of rain at all costs. In a tropical country with regular monsoons that is pretty hard to do.
But I’m getting better.
Oh, by the way – when does Songram start this year?