Sunday, January 12, 2014

Springtime in Ubon

The feeling of springtime was something that I thought was unique to certain climates in the world, namely climates like the northeast US. Every spring in New England brings a sense of rejuvenation, hope, and excitement for more beautiful weather to come; it’s a mixing and meshing of feelings that’s hard to describe, but one that every New Englander knows well.

I’ve come to realize that I was wrong about the feeling of spring being unique to 4-season climates.  Last year, in Ubon, I didn’t feel spring. I think I missed it because I was still so new to Thailand and was not really looking for parallels to back home. This year—my second living abroad—has been different, in a really good way. I’ve become a whole lot more comfortable in my own skin, and all that blindingly shiny novelty of being in a new place and constantly experiencing new things has dulled down to a subtler glow. Because of this, I’ve begun to notice things—a lot of them—in climate and culture that are not so foreign after all.

One thing that I’ve been enjoying immensely since the end of October is the feeling of spring in the air. I used to define spring as the beautiful time of year when the weather begins to warm after a long winter, when the days grow longer, and when the color green starts to squeeze its way back into the world.

Spring in Thailand is different on the surface, but the underlying thing that truly makes spring is the same: the transformation from yucky, barely bearable weather to more comfortable, more beautiful weather. It is essentially a transformation of the out-of-doors from place if discomfort to a place of comfort, and one that draws you out of your indoor hiding places back into the light. In 4-season climates, this is the transformation from cold weather to warm weather. Here in Ubon, it’s the transformation from the hot, constantly wet rainy season to the beautiful, dry cool season.

Upon returning to Thailand from my travels to Cambodia and Vietnam in October, I was immediately hit by this change of weather, and the resulting change of feeling. Spring was in the air! No more rain meant no more wading and bicycling through flooded streets: opaque, brown soups of trash, dirt, and doggy doo on my way to work. Cooler days meant no more sweat-soaked shirts after 5 minutes of biking. Breezy, bordering-on-cold nights meant the opportunity to enjoy something seldom felt in Thailand: coziness (in the hot season, I don’t sleep with any cover at all—not even a sheet. Lately, I’ve been enjoying nights with a sheet and a blanket over that to keep me warm. What a wonderful thing!). I even did some spring-cleaning in light of all this springiness, sorting through clothing, getting rid of un-worn items, and scrubbing the ubiquitous rainy-season mold out of the nooks and crannies of my room.

The transformation has been rejuvenating, and has taught me a comforting lesson: that there are more similarities between home and abroad—between here and there—than initially meet the eye. They may be wrapped up in a different package, and may at first appear to be totally different, but inside they are just the same.