There are storms that are frankly theatrical, all sheet lightning and metallic thunder rolls. There are storms that are tropical and sultry, and incline to hot winds and fireballs. But this was a storm of the Circle Sea plains, and its main ambition was to hit the ground with as much rain as possible. It was the kind of storm that suggests that the whole sky has swallowed a diuretic. The thunder and lightning hung around in the background, supplying a sort of chorus, but the rain was the star of the show. It tap-danced across the land
- Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites
I can’t remember what it feels like to wear dry socks. I can barely remember a day without rain, but even then only in a hazy, unreal sort of way. Like “Hmm, did I actually dream that? I really can’t say for sure.” I think I’ve become acclimated to an environment of lightning, thunder, and perpetual dampness. Last week I was noticing everyday that my toes would feel cold and wet almost immediately after walking outside. Then at work, a coworker pointed out to me that the front of my shoes had come completely away from the sole and my toes were totally exposed to the elements. The cheaply made leather could not stand up to constantly being wet. Yesterday I was walking home from dinner when a car passed slowly by, and I got hit by a wave. I don’t mean the car splashed a puddle on me like in the movies. I mean the car’s motion actually generated a wave of water almost up to my knees. At the time I was too amazed to be frustrated or upset, and writing about it now I realize how ridiculous it sounds, but it happened.
See, they call this the rainy season over here on this side of the world. Personally I think referring to the past four weeks as “rainy” is about like calling Thai food “spicy” or calling the durian “smelly” – it just doesn’t quite get the full effect. “Monsoon Season” is getting a little closer to reality, but I could also suggest a few new terms. “Waterfall-on-your-head Season” or “Where’d-the-sun-go Season” or maybe “Umbrella? Hahaha Season” seem to effectively capture the feeling of this time of year. It really is absurd. There are times when I stand on my little balcony and look out and think, “Wow, there really is more water in the air than air.” Back home, I remember the pitter-patter of an afternoon rain storm could create the perfect element for lulling me into a quiet nap. Over here, it would be less noisy if it literally rained cats and dogs.
This is supposed to be the very end of the rainy season. Typically, November is the beginning of the cool, dry winter. That’s only two weeks away, but just when I think it has finally rained all the water there is to rain on the side of the world, it dumps on my head two hours later. Who knows when an end will come to the continual downpours, but it certainly isn’t reassuring to those of us who have our fingers crossed hoping that Bangkok can withstand the flood waters that have inundated the rest of the country.
In case you haven’t seen it in the news yet, allow me to inform you that basically the entire country of Thailand is underwater right now, and has been for two to three weeks. The flooding began in and around Chiang Mai in the north, and has slowly drained southward, seeping its way through every nook and cranny of the country. Some of the hardest hit areas are in the vast farmland plains of Central Thailand. Ayutthaya, a city known as “the old capital,” which is located about 90 minutes north of Bangkok, has had the most publicized damage so far. Earlier this week, there was anywhere between one and two meters (4-7 feet) of water covering the entire city which is a UNESCO Heritage site because of its many ancient temples. I’ve seen maps of the country in the newspaper that show all the provinces that have experienced extensive flooding. I joked that the newspapers could have saved money on ink by only showing the provinces that haven’t had any flooding, but it was true.
To get an idea of how saturated this country is right now, try to image the entire state of Texas. Now picture every mile of that land underneath anywhere from a few inches to a couple feet of water. Finally, understand that all of that water had to rain from the sky. It is an almost unfathomable act of nature. I’ve read that this is the heaviest rainy season Thailand has experienced in over 50 years, but that means that there are people alive who can actually remember a season that had more rain than this one. That I find truly unfathomable.
When the waters started knocking at Bangkok's door, people really started to panic. People rushed out to by all the rice, ramen, water, and toilet paper they could carry. I had never seen Tesco's isles so crowded and its shelves so empty. This mass hysteria was perhaps not entirely undeserved. Up to that point no force of man, nature, or God had been able to withstand the flood. The government had proven to be late and all-together ineffectual in dealing with the crisis. The flood had made its lazy rampage across the country like a schoolyard bully, beating up each town it came across and stealing its lunch money. Indeed, at one point it seemed like all Bangkok could do was throw its hands up in weak protest and shout "please not in the face!" However, I am happy to announce that we are currently in the final day of Bangkok's "emergency period" and the floods have not broken through the barriers around the city. The government succeeded in protecting its precious capital. With that said, do not for a moment think we have been able to stay dry. The "Turn-the-ocean-upside-down Season" has taken its toll. My socks will never be the same.