May 27, 2017
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Rain hurts. Butterflies hurt. Pretty much any normally harmless small object hurts when it hits your face at 50kph. The motorcycle helmet that I have been using does not have a face visor. Most times, that is preferable to me, as I enjoy feeling the wind cooling my face (and the rest of me) as I ride along on the far left side of the roadway. Sometimes, if I’m not going on the big highway, and there are unlikely to be police checkpoints out, I don’t even wear a helmet. Foolish? Yes, of course. My mother would tell you that even sitting on a motorcycle itself is foolish. But that’s how most people in southeast Asia get from place to place. And sometimes it’s the entire family on one motorbike. Smallest child in front, standing on the footpads, father or mother operating the bike, and the next child and/or spouse sitting behind. And most of the time, none is wearing a helmet. It’s a way of life here.
Of course, I don’t have to follow suit. Just because the Thai people choose not to wear a brain-saving device on their noggins doesn’t mean that I must join the crowd. But I have discovered how much I absolutely love the feeling of the wind rushing through my hair as I ride the rural roads, passing fields of rice, cows, the ubiquitous roadside food or coffee stands. It is definitely a risk, but it’s one of those risks in life that I believe is worth it sometimes. Don’t tell my mom.
But back to the rain. It is now that season in Thailand, when the rain pours out of the sky on a regular basis. When I first moved here, I experienced about four months of almost complete dry weather. I believe that it might have rained one time in January, and then not again until Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration that happens in April. I’ve been told that it ALWAYS rains during Songkran, due to the fact that it is a three-day nationwide water fight, and that all of that water being thrown around evaporates, condenses, and then falls back to earth. I guess it make sense. Mid-May is when the “monsoon” season seems to begin. It has been raining most days since I returned from Laos. Last Friday, I arrived at the school to begin teaching English to the first and second grade classes that have been assigned to me, only to find out that school was cancelled for the day because of the flooding caused by the torrential downpours the previous night. Ironically, from that point on, through the rest of my unexpected three-day weekend, it didn’t rain a drop. It seemed to be saving up for Tuesday. Because on Tuesday after school, I had to ride about 15km from the little village where I am living outside of Chiang Mai all the way to the opposite side of the city. It was time to renew the rental agreement on the motorcycle, and payment over the internet or phone isn’t something that they are set up for.
The rain was constant. Drenching. I had put on a flimsy, disposable plastic rain cover that someone nicely gave me, but it only did so much for only so long. As I mentioned at the outset, I was being pelted by raindrops on my face. After colliding with my forehead, these little bits of wet were pulled by gravity down into my eyes, threatening to blind me. As I was unable to dodge every puddle, my feet were soaked, my legs were soaked, and if it had not been for the plastic pouch that I had saved from my Songkran adventures, my passport, wallet, and phone would have been soaked as well. I arrived at the rental shop looking pretty much like an otter that had been playing in the river all day. I asked the owner for a different helmet, one with a visor, so that my face would be spared some pain at least. On the long return trip, I discovered that I really didn’t like the visor that much, either, because it felt too enclosed, and the rain dripping down on it was a distraction. But it did provide some protection. I stopped at a small cafe and ordered food, which was accompanied by a lovely bowl of hot, steaming broth, serving as a much-welcomed warm-up.
It rained again last night, and my friend and I got a little bit wet as we walked to the music venue that was playing some pretty good jazz next to the north gate of the old city. This morning, the clouds are out, but the sun is currently shining, and I’m taking advantage of it to sit by the pool with my laptop and do some writing that has been seriously neglected as of late. The French girl who also stays here just walked out to her motor scooter and is heading away, possibly to her Muay Thai fighting lesson. And I am beginning to hear raindrops hitting the umbrella I’ve been using for shade…gotta run!