After a few weeks off over the March/April school summer break, I’ve been back in Thailand a month now. May has been occupied with settling back into the school routine, sweaty cycling in the heat, learning new words (phrase of the week is ‘kanale naw’, Burmese for ‘wait a minute’), tasting new foods and having students adjust my outfits to their satisfaction. May also brings the start of the 8-month-long rainy season here.
Wherever I’ve lived before, I’ve always loved the changing of the seasons. Spring time with its vivid flowers and changing temperatures causing ferocious winds to batter buildings and whip through trees. Tempestuous winter storms and snow fluttering like icing sugar from the sky. Autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet and feeling the summer heat dancing upon my face. The rainy season’s onset in Thailand has been no exception. It started with stormy afternoons, buckets of water spilling incessantly from the sky. Deafening thunder instilling chaos among 100-odd students on the first day of the school year, forcing us to modify our planned whole school activities. And then, the creatures came.
View from my back balcony – the hills shrouded in rain clouds; water tumbling down the front of our apartment block
Water encourages growth and it seems like every living creature has decided to come to Ranong for the party this month. A family of cockroaches has invaded my bathroom, leading me to become a midnight cockroach slayer and embark upon a spot of grouting to fill cockroach hideaway holes. The population of sneaky spiny-tailed house geckos, who dart behind furniture and leave trails of droppings behind, has increased. One poor fellow met a sad end, drowning in my rice cooker I’d left soaking over night. An army of ants has arrived, hundreds converging instantly on the tiniest speck of food. In the evenings, they irritate me by crawling all over my body while I’m trying to relax.
Perhaps the most disruptive change has been the nightly visit by the local frog choir. They usually arrive at sun-down and sing to their hearts content until morning. Loudly. Instead of sopranos, altos and tenors, we have ‘motorbike’ frogs (imagine a fleet of motorbikes doing laps); ‘cow’ frogs (emulating their bovine cousins); and also the familiar ‘ribbet’ sounding frogs. I’m sure I’ll get used to them, but until then, I’ll be sleeping with earplugs.
New tastes: rambutan and mangosteen
All these changes add richness to the colour of life here in Ranong. We need the rain, as much as we need the sun’s warmth. Aside from the creatures, we are also treated to glorious sunsets and sumptuous fruit – spiky rambutan and juicy mangosteen. I am reminded that even in our concreted urban centres, where we can sometimes feel insulated from nature, nature is all around us. We can’t help be affected by the seasons, the weather and natural cycles. Even though our lifestyles and decisions may not always prioritise nature, it is nevertheless ubiquitous, altering us more than we’d probably like to admit. It is a timely reminder of both nature’s power and its vulnerability.