Saturday, November 15, 2008
Partly Cloudy Chance of Rain
“The first of November is the end of the rainy season and the beginning of clear skies and cool nights,” Markus said in a promising tone. It had been precipitating in Mae Sot for three unrelenting days. My usual ten minute bike ride to work in the mornings with an occasional rain peppering had turned into something of a ride of doom which inevitably left me showing up to work sopping. For three days it was the same; get soaked in the morning; show up to work pruned and damp; sit a puddle behind my computer underneath water weighted clothes until the end of the day. One of the downsides to traveling with nothing more than a daypack is dampness. Seeing in how it was Halloween night and Markus had completed building yet another playground for migrant schools in Mae Sot, spirits were high and the wet week was becoming a distant memory.
Halloween night felt a lot like Washington; dark and moist. It ended up raining so hard that night the golf-ball sized drops sounded like they might work through the tin roof of my guest house and start pelting me in the head.
I woke the next morning with two feet of standing water moating in the guest house. Naturally I thought there must be a drain clogged; no worries. Being landlocked for the past couple months without a pool or Puget Sound, I found myself aimlessly sloshing around in the front yard fascinated by the weight and density of the knee deep water. Somewhere in my early morning stupor I found myself near the entrance road leading out to Main Street. The block and a half road, cement fences on either side, was now a tributary to Main Street River that had taken over the town. From my knee deep vantage I was looking strait into the cross-section of a class II rapid where Main Street should have been. “Wow…Shit!” slipped out in a pre-pubescent quip. I began a zombie march of curiosity towards the flow.
Before reaching Main Street River Chi Chi, a Karen guy I play soccer with went floating by on a small piece of bath-tub shaped styro-foam. He glanced at me wearing the same smile that was smeared all over my face. The next 48-hours recreated those sensations from childhood when the power would go out and we’d play ‘hide and go seek’ and ‘flashlight tag’. The streets were boiling with people all giddy as kids at a fun fair.
The second of November I woke to blue-bird skies and a nice cool breeze, Markus was spot-on just a day late. It was a good thing the roads cleared because I’d been asked to sit in at a donor meeting. The meeting proved to be very insightful with expert reporting on the current situation in Burma and where funds are most needed. There were around sixty people at the meeting; I think I was one of two Americans.
As a side note:
I’m not sure if you heard the news, as the reporters have been neglecting to spin the campaign trail, but apparently the United States of America has a new President. His name is Barack.
On November 5th, the day the results reached Mae Sot the other American from the meeting went to Dave’s, a local hangout, to watch the returns. Around 10:39am during the umpteenth PowerPoint presentation I was doing my best to fight the gravity raising hell on my eye lids when all of a sudden the gal next to me from Australia got a text message from the other American. She jabbed me in the ribs and said, “looks like Obamas’ done it.”
At exactly 11:00am cell phones began to erupt in concert, the results were in. The meeting actually stopped and turned into a comment circle to share enthusiasm/pessimism/hope. It felt very different in that room as a stranger in a foreign land than it did when I was in New Zealand and the US’s involvement in Iraq was dominating headlines.
After the meeting I needed to go to Chiang Mai (6hrs North) to share notes with a Hussman representative. Also on the agenda was to outfit my new bike, the Iguana, with touring gear. Since then I have traveled 541 Kilometers by bike to make a half circle through the mountains of North-western Thailand, ending up back in Mae Sot. My work in Mae Sot is coming to a close with an invaluable experience weighing heavy on how I see my surroundings, both abroad and at home.