Today, at around 11:30 am, I landed home after a weekend reunion with my fellow ETAs. Home. It feels incredible to finally be able to call my little studio apartment in a soi just off the highway “home”.
When I walked in, the humidity had ironed out all the wrinkles in the clothes I left hanging, and the towel I had washed before leaving was finally dry. It was actually my first time having to hang so many washed items indoors.
It’s the rainy season in Thailand, and down in the south, the rain hath no mercy. Being in Khon Kaen this weekend was, consequently, a weirdly refreshing bout of dryness. It also happened to be relatively cool outside, which meant that my fellow ETAs and I were able to prance around without breaking a sweat every few steps.
It was so nice seeing everyone. I spoke earlier about the warmth that surrounds me every time we find ourselves together, and I can confidently stand by that statement today. Hearing about everyone’s experiences so far, reflecting on the sessions we went through, and meeting some amazing people from the Loas ETA program gave me the spiritual perk that I needed to get through the beginning of this holiday season.
Spending Thanksgiving in the heat, and at the same time as Loi Krathong was so wonderfully weird. The restaurant we went to served us some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in a while, Thai style “pumpkin pie”, onion rings, and garlic bread (that actually made me cry a little — in a good way). We then went off to the local university to check out the Loi Krathong festivities. We lit the candles and incense on pre-made, florally fragrant krathongs and gently pushed them into the water together. After walking around, we even managed to find our way into a haunted house in a natural history museum. It was as amazing and strange as it sounds.
I also saw my first English movie in a theater in ages with some fellow movie enthusiasts in the cohort. We watched Bohemian Rhapsody, which those who know me well will know was a bit of a religious experience for me. Being the only Americans in the audience, our three voices rang strongly and unapologetically through the hall with every familiar song that came up in the movie. Note here that we’re not the best singers, but no one else in theatre seemed to mind.
We later found out that we’d happened to see the movie on the late Freddie Mercury’s death anniversary, which helped me reconnect to a figure that I so admire but will never be able to meet.
Overall, the weekend was somber yet uplifting, and I am already counting down the days until I can run down unknown streets with the gang once again.
That being said, when I landed in Nakhon Si Thammarat this morning, the first thing I noticed was how much warmer it had gotten. This entire Sunday, in fact, was hot. I sat down with one of our school’s vice directors — who had come to pick me up from the airport — and almost immediately, and instinctively said, “Wow, roon maak maak!” (Wow, so hot!)
It occurred to me then that I have started more conversations with a comment about the weather than is probably normal for the average English speaker. Perhaps my limited Thai vocabulary plays into it a little, or perhaps I just suck at small talk, but there is something so undeniably universal about how we experience, or express distress and delight, at something as fickle and unpredictable as the weather.
Canonically, the weather is one of the most textbook things a boring person can drone on about. But now I’m just thinking about my conversations over the past few weeks.
- I talked to the Laos ETAs about how their weather was compared to Thailand
- I talk to my host teachers about when it randomly rains at night
- I taught my students about seasons by explaining which ones were hot and which ones were cold
- I tell my parents about the humidity and the wonders it’s doing for my skin
And that’s only a handful. Regardless, weather is now apparently very important to me, and so I’d like to invite you all into a little world I tried to capture in a creative writing spurt I had a couple weeks ago:
It was raining. Then again, it was always raining at this time of year. The only peculiar thing was that the rain had started so early in the morning. When most had been awake to wash their faces and make their morning coffee, it was a light drizzle. It wasn’t until around 6:30 am, when people were hopping into their showers and picking out their clothes that it picked up. Still, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. At least people could hear it now, prompting them to grab their umbrellas and rain ponchos. Those planning to take their motorcycles to work called friends to hitch a ride in a covered vehicle. Those that planned to walk, still walked.
By 7:45 am, everyone in Nakhon had reached their place of business. Teachers were signed in and students had unpacked in their classrooms, cooks had begun meal prep and small shops had opened up their steel doors to indicate that they were open for business. All the main lights and air conditioning units of both Robinson Shopping Center and Sukothai Plaza had been flipped on as prep for customers began. Because of the rain, many mothers had started bringing in clothes that were drying outside.
It was at this very convenient time that the heavy rain turned into a torrential downpour, the kind that muffles any other noises in the surrounding area. The thunder that rolled in shook rooms and the lightning lit up the cloudy gray sky over and over again.
The beauty of rain like this is that it kind of locks you in. No. Better. It locks you out. You’re already where you need to be, but you’re already thinking about the difficulty that awaits you while returning home. You’re thinking about those sopping wet shoes that you left outside last night, and about the bugs that are going to flock to your bathroom floor for safety. Part of you even starts to wonder if you’ll ever be able to get back home.
Happy rainy season everyone. Until next time.
This blog, medium.com/@aatal, is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of Apeksha Atal and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.