Friday Five

Five Things I look forward to in my first Autumn in the non-tropics

Crisp Air/Weather
Does this go without saying? After nearly two years in a country which the seasons can be titled ‘hot, hotter, and hot and wet,’ I crave the husky, dry air of Fall. It’s a different kind of air than spring, what I’ll be diving into when I first get home and don’t care for as much. All that yay renewal stuff means nothing to someone that’s been in a technicolor green haven for an extended period of time. I want the dead smell of leaves falling and air not quite cold enough that my ass cheeks have turned pink after a day outdoors. Mmm, hoodies.

Layers! Cardigans! Scarfs! Boots! I’ve spent a significant portion of the past year learning about fashion and hair things that I am so excited to try out in a place that will not require heavy sweating while accomplishing those looks. Sometimes I wear long sleeves or pants around the house on days that don’t really necessitate it, but because I can. In the next Autumn, not only will I want/need to, but I’ll have options as well.

I feel like leaves own its own category because I’m just so sick of seeing green, Green, GREEN everywhere I look. I know once I leave, I’ll miss seeing palm trees everyday, but I’ll gladly change that in for a nice oak or maple with red, orange, and yellow leaves, hopefully put into a pile so I can jump and roll around in them.

Autumn has a nice line-up of fun that Thais generally don’t recognize and/or decorate for. I want to drive through neighborhoods with jack-o-lanterns and ghost decorations. And then see stalks of corn next to kids dressed up as pilgrims and indians, despite how wrong that story is. These are of course leading up to the big shebang also known as Christmas. One thing I’ve realized during my time in Peace Corps is when the people surrounding you don’t celebrate something it both helps and depresses you. No one reminds you of it, but then at the same time, no one else reminds you of it. I’m so looking forward to getting swept up in the holiday spirit and soaking it all in to make up for two years worth.

A tie in to the holidays is of course the temptations that appear alongside them. And what dessert doesn’t taste better on a Fall Sunday afternoon wrapped up in a blanket with the fire going watching a movie with people you like to grace your presence with? A few I’m looking forward to: my Mom’s 3/4 baked brownies with vanilla ice cream melting on top, my aunt’s inch thick sugar cookies, eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough, my grandmother’s peanut butter and chocolate pie, and apple pie (something that I’ve acquired a taste for in Thailand oddly enough). I think I’ll be taking pictures of a lot of food when I get back to America… and not just in Autumn.

Rain, rain come back again every day!

Forest Gump said that ‘One day it just started raining and didn’t stop for four months…’ He did make some correct descriptions about the kinds of rain, but I don’t know if I’d go as far to say it starts, goes for four months and then stops. Ok, maybe kinda, sorta. This video is some thoughts about rainy season, a little about weather in general for Thailand, and how it affects my opinion of when to travel to Thailand.

The Delicacies of Thai Weather

The average temperature in Thailand is hot with a side of sticky humidity. That’s what all the guidebooks tell you and when I first arrived in country, I definitely agreed. It’s amazing how much climate impacts a culture and the personalities of the people living there. Before I came to Thailand, my perfect day was sunny with minimal cloud cover and a general distaste for rain. Now it’s quite the opposite.

Sixteen months ago when we arrived as the fresh-faced Trainees that we were, I couldn’t believe it was considered ‘cold’ season. How could it be, it was still hot! This led me down thought ruminations of a sort of what the hell am I going to do when it’s hot season?!

We got to hot season and guess what? It was still hot. Maybe a little hotter than before, but the only difference I really felt was at night when it remained the same temperature as daylight hours until about 2am when it dropped two degrees and I could manage some semblance of sleep. My fan remained on the highest level constantly pointed directly at me. If you need a good explanation of ‘heat indications’ for Volunteers in Thailand, Jeffrey wrote a blog titled just that.

This continued through rainy season until the days of downpours arrived and when the storm started you could feel drops of five to ten degrees. To me, it made life more comfortable and I could sleep at night with things actually touching my body. This was the Thai reaction.

Why yes, Mother and son are both wearing winter coats and long pants. The boy has a beanie on too. I looked to make sure the exact degree, it was 82F.

I wasn’t exactly the fan of rainy season that some of my PC friends were, but we had settled in a companionable rhythm. I thought this was as good as it could get, not quite drenched in dripping sweat and sleeping through the night with a light covering. And then cold season came through and I fell head over heels.

Cold season came breezing into town and capturing my attention. At first I tried to deny it. It was a foolish endeavor and not one I plan to repeat. It was glorious. I came home from my October vacation and within a few weeks, I was wearing sweaters, my hair down, and hats with the best of them. It was then I realized how much of a cold weather pussy I had become. I mean, that shit was teeth chattering, swath myself in a blanket to eat breakfast, and shiver cold. We’re talking mid-sixties, low seventies here. I told you I was a pussy.

Now that I’ve survived another hot season, I couldn’t help but notice how much harder I took it this time around. Look back through any posts through April/May and I was pretty much a zombie lacking motivation for anything. The only explanation I could come up with was that because cold season actually felt truly cold to me, hot season hit me so much harder this year. I’m noticing the trend continuing with the turn of rainy season.

With the overcast days and sporadic storms starting, I feel the chill in the air with the breeze. Outside of battling with the huge influx of bug population, rainy season and I are back together for the long-term. At least until next November when I probably will cheat on the lovely rain again.

A nearly daily site during rainy season.

It’s taken me sixteen months to notice and appreciate the slight differences of hot and what seasons are like in Thailand. Though I wouldn’t put it in the same ballpark as autumn (sigh) and the gang we enjoy in the non-jungle part of the world, it’s not one block of sticky heat like I once thought. I’m surprised and pleased that Thailand still has quite a lot to teach me.

Another Weather Related Post

My friend Jeff wrote this article for our PC Thailand newsletter, Sticky Rice, this past edition. I figured since I just posted about cold season, Jeff’s explanation of fan usage is far more effective in explaining how PCVs in Thailand understand heat now, rather than reading thermometers.

My view of ‘hot’ has totally changed now that I’ve lived in Thailand for almost a year now and it’s hard to explain to my friends and family that at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I think it’s time to turn the fan on low. Jeff and I have talked about this a lot and I feel like many a phone conversation has been dedicated about the weather. He’s from the midwest. We’re living in Thailand. Enough said.

Heat Indications
By Jeff Jackson

Much like the pace of life, weather can come on slow in Thailand. If it‘s going to get hot, it seems to take a few days and the same if it should turn chilly. Weather websites hardly seem necessary. If you need a forecast, open the window.

Volunteers from group 123 have been in Thailand for almost a full year and two years for those in 122. All volunteers have a pretty good idea what to expect.

Sometimes looking out the window isn‘t necessary to get an idea for how hot it is. There are other indications such as how the old Thai ladies respond when you ask them if they‘re hot (―rawn mak mak!‖). Volunteers can also count how many times in a day they‘re asked if they‘re hot or the number of times they shower.

I prefer the fan situation. When I go to bed, what is my fan doing and where is it?

The fan is off
This indicates lower than regular temperatures which generally means the Thai people are dressed like American Midwesterners in January.

Fan is blowing, but pointed elsewhere
It‘s cool, but not so cool you don‘t need a little airflow in the room. You might even be able to wear long pajama pants to bed.

Oscillating fan
Still a bit ―cold‖ for the Thais, but a comfortable night‘s sleep with a bearable cool morning awaits. You fall asleep welcoming the breeze when it hits you and wake up cursing it.

Fan at foot of your bed on low level
Most Thais wouldn‘t have it any other way. These are days you can easily get sunburned and the first hour of sleep probably doesn‘t involve any covers.

Fan at foot of bed on high level
Hopefully you showered before hitting the hay otherwise you‘ll be sleeping with that layer of dried sweat you‘ve been accumulating all day.

Fan within two feet of your face on low level
It‘s been a rough day, hasn‘t it? Unless you have an air-conditioned workplace, men have spent the day cursing the long- pants policy while the ladies are dreaming of the spaghetti-strapped dress they could have worn in the states.

Fan within two feet of your face on highest level
You hit the pillow thankful you‘re alive. You‘ve drank so much water today that you‘ll have to get up another three times in the night, but that‘s okay because you can‘t sleep anyway on account of the parts of your body not hit by the fan and the fact that the breeze will dry your mouth and throat and you‘ll likely have a sore throat before your second bathroom break when you‘ll not only empty your bladder, but possibly take a bucket shower to cool off. I have yet to experience this last level. I‘ve heard from 122 volunteers that the hot season this year was very mild. Last April in Thailand was no worse than August in Washington D.C. I may regret this come hot season, but I didn‘t sign up for Peace Corps to be comfortable. I‘m looking forward to going back the states with some Thailand heat stories