Praying for Rain

April 25, 2010

It hasn’t rained for months (except for a period of about 7 minutes the other day) and the temperature has been over 40° C every day for the last few weeks, so I have been thinking a lot about the next rainy season.

You’ve probably heard that rain in the tropics is not the same animal as rain back home.  Coming from Seattle I should know something about rain.  But a real tropical rain shower is a quantum leap from a typical Seattle drizzle.  Here is what happened to me last rainy season.

An old colleague from the university asked me if I were interested in joining her exercise group.  They meet after classes in the afternoon and go for about an hour doing a kind of exercise combining aerobics and Tai Chi.  I had studied a little Tai Chi, and I certainly could use a bit more exercise, so I thought I would take her up on the offer.

The university was not very far from home, so I figured that I would really get a good workout by walking, and I left the car at home.  That was my first mistake.

The class took place in front of the English Department building.  There were about 20 of us and I followed along with the accompanying Chinese music.  It was fun and the old Tai Chi moves came back to me quickly.  I was just feeling the first beads of sweat forming when a huge drop of water struck me right between the eyes. When I looked up I saw that the cumulous cloud that had formed right above us was turning dark and was growing so fast it was beginning to look like the plume of a volcano.  We were in for a rain shower.

There is not much of a warning before a storm breaks here.  You get one or two drops and then it is as if someone overturns a bucket over your head.  Everyone broke for cover.  In the three seconds it took me to get under shelter I was completely soaked.  We were all laughing and knew that the usual storm would last only a few minutes and we could get back to working out.  When lightening bolts started striking all around us, and the rain seemed to come even harder, if that were possible, we realized that maybe this wasn’t your usual storm.

After about a half an hour of cowering from the lightening and downpour people started peeling off to their cars and headed for home.  I had thoughts of curling into a ball and settling down for the night when a teacher offered me a ride home.  I quickly took her up on the offer.  That was my second mistake.

Even in her pickup truck, with the wipers going at full speed, it seemed that our visibility was no more than about three feet.  Going down one of the main streets of the university the water was now almost over our tires.  Her driving must have been pretty good because I couldn’t see anything out of the windshield but she somehow got me to the intersection of my lane.  I told her that this was fine and I could walk from here.  That was my biggest mistake.

There is a slight incline on my lane up to my house.  That was enough to create a bit of a stream of water that I would have to walk against.  My glasses were all fogged up so I took them off and put them into my shirt pocket.  Do I have to tell you that that was a mistake too?

That little stream coming off my lane quickly became a torrent.  It was like walking against a force 4 rapid.  Before I knew it the water was waist high with waves striking me in the chest.  This was the narrow lane that I drive down every day.  And I had never seen a trickle of water before.  I know now that if I had fallen down I could have been in real trouble.  But with the rain still pouring down and the raging river to fight against, and being almost blind without my glasses, I didn’t realize what danger I was in.

That's not me - but it could have been.

I’m not sure how I made it home but I finally got to my front porch, sat down and went to put on my glasses.  They were gone.  One of the waves must have knocked them out of my pocket.  Just then, as if a spigot was turned off, the rain stopped.  A half hour later we were out on the lane, completely dry now, looking for my glasses.  I figure that they are somewhere out in the Gulf of Thailand by now.  But at least all the garbage that lined my lane was gone.  I had never seen it so clean.

Epilogue:

A while back, a group of tourists where walking through a cave at one of the national parks in the south.  The cave had a small stream flowing through it and they were following the stream to the other side of the cave.  While they were inside the cave there was a rain storm a number of kilometers up the mountain.  A flash flood came raging down the stream bed so suddenly, and with such force, that the whole cave system was almost instantly flooded to its ceiling.  Eight foreign tourists and two Thai guides were in the cave at the time.  No one made it out alive.

After hearing that I realized just how lucky I was.  My heart goes out to those who lost their lives.

I sure hope we don’t get that kind of rain but we sure could use a nice safe Seattle drizzle around now.

Just can't wait

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3 Responses to “Praying for Rain”

  1. Catherine said

    Hugh, I’m one of those who loves a good drenching. The wimpy rains of the UK only frustrate me. Constant drizzle is a bother, while a dumping is fabulous! Of course, in Thailand you do have to take care of the ferocious stoms out here. If you are out in them, the power of storms can be frightening.

  2. Nate said

    Hugh, ironically, I’m sitting here reading through your blog I just discovered and it’s dumping rain in Puyallup, south of Seattle :). Probably nothing like you’ve experienced in Thailand though.

    Interesting read, I’ll be covering more of what you have to say as I am considering living overseas with my family in the not so far off future.

    Sincerely,

    Nate

    • Nate,

      I know Puyallup well. Was there 2 years ago for my son’s wedding. Good luck with your plans. (The rains in Chiang Mai are just about over but the central and northeast have had some pretty bad flooding.)

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