Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hot, Cold, and Wet

There are three seasons in Thailand. Perhaps to make up for the lack of a fourth, the three that do exist come in extremes: Hot, Cold, and Wet. When it is hot its bone melting hot, the kind of hot that feels like a wall when you attempt to walk outside, and that slowly smushes you into the ground if you do not immediately retreat. When it is cold, it is…well not cold…ok I confess anyone back home would say I’m a wimp…but you try riding in a t-shirt and a skirt on your motorbike at 7 am at 50 degrees! I will leave it with – it is comparatively cold. When it is wet, you swim. No more need be said.

Yet after saying all this I must confess that this year has been different. After being warned that rain would fall with reliability and regularity daily from June through August we had barely two weeks of monsoons and instead went through a wide-spread drought. When I returned from mid-semester break at the end of August I was told that the non-existent rains would have stopped and the cold would have set in. Instead I came back to a hot spell. A week later the temperature did drop, not only dropped but plummeted – from 80 to 50. We shivered for a week, pulled out scarves, considered purchasing jackets, until….it went back up to the 80’s a week later. (I will note that when we did go further north into the mountains a week ago I nearly froze my toes off because it got so cold at night, at least some parts of the country are indeed brisk).

There was one gorgeous weekend shuffled somewhere into November where I woke to crisp air and blue sky, the kind I relish in mid-September back in New England. When home, I love to go apple picking and gorge on Cider donuts. Lacking both, I satisfied myself with sugar donuts and a trip to the zoo.

We are now firmly in the cold season, but already the temperature slowly seems to be rising – where was this supposed cold season? Today was grey and cool, but the kind of cool that foreshadows spring, the kind of cool with the earthy undertones. Again I know we don’t get snow, but we did just seem to march rapidly through three seasons in a little less than two months.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. There are no complaints from me when the weather is usually between 80-70 and the sky is cloudless blue. But what the relatively warm weather has meant is that I now have a warped sense of time. I know empirically that holidays and celebrations (Rosh Hashana, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, my birthday, Christmas, New Years) have come and gone. And yet none of them felt particularly real. True I did teach Thai students about the tradition of over-stuffing oneself at a thanksgiving dinner for American Culture students, and there was a two story white and purple tinseled Christmas tree in the mall. I even spotted a man up in Laos bedecked in a Christmas hat with framing strings of pompoms that strangely resembled papayas. But somehow these things failed to convince me that the actual holidays were upon us. Weather has been the culprit. Instead of feeling deep down that we are indeed in the middle of January, I am half convinced someone has pressed pause at the cusp of September and we have progressed no further.

But for all those who do reside in countries, cities, islands, and mountains where the seasons and months have carried on as usual and with them their respective holidays – I wish you all a (somewhat belated) Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and a Good New Year!

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