Ah... the rains are coming to Hoi An! Yayyy! It’s time to throw out my old, smelly, half-torn raincoat or maybe to give it to my second dog, Lulu, to chew on; she’s running out of things in the house to destroy.
I love the summer rain. For a start, we’d die without rain! Did you know that less than two percent of the world’s water is fresh water? Much less than that actually falls on land since the world is mostly sea water! So yeah, it’s a relief when the rains come. It started for me on Friday last week during a miraculous free day at home while I was cooking the next week’s lessons. I’m still fascinated by the speed of storm formation in the tropics. The dogs and I were shuffling around the house sweating in the heat when suddenly the sky went dark – like those alien spaceships hovering over your home before they kill you. Huge, heavy cotton buds of cloud expanded upwards and the distant rumble of thunder told me the rain was not far away.
With some great expectation of lightning flashes and the roar of fat raindrops imminent, I checked the fridge for enough beer and set myself at the garden table to wait for the show. The darkness deepened, like the aliens getting ready to deploy their primary weapon and the crackling, unseen thunder grew louder.
With the pups asleep on my feet and the cold beer trickling down my throat, the show began. Lightning arced across the sky and then the deafening roar of the rain. My dogs raised their noses to the sky with half-closed eyes, savoring the smell of pure, fresh air that only a storm brings.
There’s nothing like watching nature’s action movies, your mind drifts away as the rain washes away thoughts of work, bills, money and problems. We all have our own little dreamy worlds to escape into during the rain, for me, it’s the past and thinking about life in Vietnam as I observe the puddles of water become a small lake in my garden. Why do I need yoga and meditation when I have the rain to calm and relax me?
However, Vietnam’s rain offers an adventurous side, too. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being totally soaked and drenched by warm rain while riding a motorbike, or just sitting on a chair in a small, warm pond in your local street drinking a beer while being pounded by heavy rain. It’s just plain fun!
Then there’s the scary side. By Monday night, the afternoon storm clouds grouped faster and bigger, stretching from the mountains to the coastline, the alien spaceships had just gotten much more dangerous.
Heading home from Da Nang to Hoi An, I was riding into a lightning storm with my highway lanes eerily deserted and lonely. With the storm looking ominous from Da Nang, the hair on my skin stood up and my mind was said to stop as I drove under gigantic fingers of thick, almost straight lightning bolts belting down around me. Weird when you can feel the world shake on a motorbike. I wondered if I would instantly melt if I was struck by lightning. As I crossed the provincial border into Quang Nam, the landscape became pitch black due to a power cut.
Now I couldn’t see much more than 10 meters in front of me – even worse, the high beam headlights of the trucks and buses heading towards me reduced my vision to about five meters. I prayed I wouldn’t hit a dog or worse, a drunk walking on the highway, which happens a lot late at night in the summer.
Only minutes from the pub for my night cap, a flicker – a reflection on metal – gave me the only warning that a piece of sheet metal roofing material was twisted and bent in front of me. It’s a good thing that dodging and weaving come naturally to me now as I whizzed pass. Arriving at the dimly lit hotel with one lonely portable electric emergency lamp on the bar, I sighed deeply as I took my first Larue beer and struggled to get my sodden raincoat off. I was reeling from the experience I’d just been through yet feeling even more strange, surrounded by digital nomads still texting home on smartphones: like fireflies floating on a dark lake. One fellow even had the modern equivalent of a miner’s light on his forehead reading a Kindle next to the pool! Yep, it’s time of the year to remember to update your stock of candles and lamps, cooking gas and canned food, and patch up that raincoat! Make sure you have enough dry towels at home and you’ve charged up the emergency lights! The rainy season might just be coming early this year! I can hear the farmers dancing in the fields already! So as we go to bed in the coming days, the pitter-patter of the rain will be splattering on the roof tiles and wiggling deep into our bed sheets, while our dogs curl up contently next to the bed – remember to savor the rain, not to hate it. Stand in it sometimes. Watch it when you have the chance. You and I wouldn’t be here without it.