I’m comforted at this time of year by the trustworthy weather reports of Da Nang’s most famous weatherman, Kit Davidson. Funny yet informative, Kit has a reassuring knack of telling us the weather won’t be terrible for long. Even if the gale outside threatens to smash my garden to pieces, his cheerful analysis of the weather is some of my favorite Facebook reading.
It’s weird. Even though we get nearly 10 months of sunshine in tropical Vietnam, at this time of year I spend my time wishing I was somewhere less gloomy and moody.
Wander into any expat bar and you’ll see expats in jumpers and jackets sitting next to top-bunned backpackers in elephant trousers, sweat shirts. It’s strange how we each perceive ‘cold’. For foreigners long adapted to the local weather, it’s cold, chilly...even ‘frozen’, yet younger visitors to Vietnam still sweat away over their smartphones.
Cold weather is a time for pub quizzes, football watching, hot soup, and meat pies. Though expats are generally willing to brave the weather and listen to music at local beach bars, having sand blown into your beer while your hoodie is pulled tightly around your head takes much of the fun away. Not to mention cold feet since many of us have long ago stopped bothering with socks.
The changing season means nearly three months of hibernation while we scuttle between our keyboards and all the boring home repair jobs we put off during the warmer months. Even my dogs sniff the air and reluctantly trot back into the kitchen, staring mournfully at me as if to say, ‘When will it be hot again?’
Even for the Vietnamese, this overcast, windy, half drizzly rainy period has a powerful effect. Many of my adult and teenage students come down with headaches, colds, and a miserable disposition. While most of my neighbors are still working hard to get ready to sell their mandarin trees and flowers for TET, no one really hangs around outside more than they have to.
But even with the cold weather and accompanying heavy winter coats and scarves, I find it strange to see people racing around on motorbikes still wearing sandals! Do the Vietnamese really have such super-hot feet?
At this time of year I don’t often see expats or local friends hanging around – everyone’s hiding out at home. For me it’s a time to re-organize myself for the upcoming year – planning, writing and drawing. I quite enjoy the quietness of the dogs sleeping at my feet while I type away to the sound of the wind whistling through the trees.
What’s also odd is the rising tide of Christmas advertising, a supposedly happy event, although the thought of going out in this weather to do some ‘Chrissy’ shopping is decidedly depressing. It’s hard to choose Christmas glitter when the weather has got you down in the dumps. Personally I prefer heavy rain and lightning to the mood-dropping uniformly gray skies, lightning is, after all, a mood lifter.
It’s also the time for endless home karaoke sessions and trying out new recipes for TET, the Vietnamese New Year early next year. I’m not sure which is worse, my neighbor’s dreadful yodeling or his wife’s newest attempt at squid sauce. Either way it makes writing articles like this one a nightmare rather than a police report.
Comfort food becomes a priority around these months – movie donuts, read-a-book chocolates, and decent steaks – while your boots are drying in a pub doorway. Hot dogs become my substitute for the glow of the sun and a warm breeze at the beach. Hamburgers become my defense against depression. Pizza is my medicine for grumpiness and annoying people.
But really…nah... it’s not cold...pfft! It’s all in my imagination (and yours...). I know for a fact that there’s sunshine 10,000 feet up above the clouds.
That thought alone will keep me sunny and feeling marvelous for the next three months.