When the rain falls in Asia it plummets from the sky with purpose and drive. Perpendicular daggers strike the earth with great ferocity, saturating everything in their path. The sizzling equatorial sun can very quickly be replaced by monsoon downpours, and just as quickly re-appear an hour later to set beyond waters so calm that a storm then seems inconceivable. You can be cycling through impossibly beautiful countryside, getting sunburnt and dehydrated, oblivious to the black clouds building overhead, until minutes later those clouds tear apart with an angry roar, soaking you to the bone, and a torrent of muddy water floods down the track, forcing you to take shelter. This type of rain can last many unrelenting days, seemingly with the same speed and force with which it began. The noise is deafening against the tin roofs and whole towns can grind to a habitual halt as communities sit, watch and wait for it to pass. Water, here, is both friend and enemy; a vital ingredient for the flourishing rice industry and yet the cause of so many fatal floods. In this land you are in the hands of the elements.
A foolish traveller sets foot in Asia expecting eternal sunshine. A wise traveller sees the rain’s fortune and opportunity; perhaps a friendly shopkeeper offers you shelter in his home or a lady teaches you to weave baskets used for spiritual offerings, maybe you share a laugh with a child amused by your drenched clothes, or you discover that although the croak of a hundred frogs outside your window keeps you awake well into the night, it is also unexpectedly pacifying.
At the particular point I write this, the tides have turned on our small island. We have watched the most spectacular display of forked electrical drama in the distant sky, creeping ever-closer, and we’re now at the centre of a ferocious storm, with thunder booming directly overhead and vibrating through the soles of our feet. Vertical rain pounds the paradise around us. The charge of energy that runs through our bodies with each clap of thunder ignites a child-like excitement and an instinct to run outside and play in the wild weather, but our beloved beach front terrace is no longer elevated enough for us to observe the bay from because the gathering wind has generated waves so high they threaten to sweep us off the platform and into the blackness of the night sea. Walking a very short stretch of the sea wall tonight we were hit by a mass of foaming water, a drenching upsurge trying to suck us from solid ground. This small land mass offers such minimal protection in the high swell that surrounds it and I’m all too aware of our vulnerable position.
But, this is Asia: the morning will no doubt bring rays of ultra-violet promise for the day ahead, and this tempestuous weather will be a thing of distant dreams.