I’m calling this part 1, because I’m sure I will have more to say about the monsoons in the next 3-4 months.
Monsoons are something which didn’t affect my daily life back home and consequently I don’t know much about. But there are one of those things I wish I had paid more attention to in the advent of moving to another country i.e. the metric system. In my mind a monsoon was more like a typhoon or a hurricane, a huge storm that dumped tons of water and flooded things and then moved out of the area and you were left cleaning up the after-math, like a bad relationship. Really, a monsoon, and particularly the ones here in Nepal, are more like a season, like spring or fall, monsoon season. In normal years the monsoon starts mid-June and last till September. There are still several more week till mid-June, but evidenced by daily rains, sweltering humidity and moldy clothing, word on the street is that monsoon season may have already begun and this is not a normal year. Why am I not suprised?
In the past week I have learned all sorts of Nepali words that were previously not in my vocabulary; ‘umbrella’, ‘flood’, ‘boots’, and the conjugations for ‘rain has come’, ‘rain is coming’, ‘rain has gone’ and ‘it is raining’. Nepalis seem to have a sixth sense about approaching rain and always seem outfitted in the right gear. It is just me, the crazy bedeshi (foreigner) who always seem to be hanging laundry or heading out grocery shopping when the large monsoon bucket in the sky tips over, and I always seem to be outfitting our children in sweaty rain gear and knee-high Wellingtons when the humidity reaches, sitting in a sauna, proportions.
The daily rain is the primary feature of monsoon season, but the accompanying features of constant humidity and massive flooding are some things I didn’t pay attention to when they taught monsoon in school. I have never felt humidity like monsoon humidity in the dry, Northeast U.S. where we are from. Sure we had some humid summers, but we’d get a summer thunder-storm and the humidity would break. Here it seems the humidity doesn’t break and you walk around feeling as if you fingers are constantly pruned and when you stand up from a chair you are unsure as to whether or not you have wet your pants. The air temperature in not overly hot, which is nice in some respects, but it sometimes almost leaves you with the cold sweat of nausea feeling and you can’t decide whether to put on more clothes or take more off. All this humidity also creates a problem for drying clothing and the sneakers which our son continuously leaves outside. However, it does seem ideal for growing mushrooms in our attic which smells like my grandma’s lake house when we first open if for the season. It remains to be seen, how I shall function without climate control and feeling as if I’m living inside a mouth for 3-4 months.
The flooding is another aspect of monsoon I did not anticipate or know of. With the lack of paved surfaces and the further lack of proper drainage infrastructure in our town, all the water just goes with good old-fashioned gravity and heads down the hill. In its wake it leaves, washed out paths, piles of mud, rocks and trash along fences and houses and massive mud puddles. This not a problem for our 5-year-old, who has never met puddle he doesn’t like, but does create a problem for his mother who cannot wash muddy clothing each day, especially when it take two more days for it to dry. Our Didi also completely freaked me out the other day when she insisted I put a rubber seal along the bottom of our doors and ground floor windows. As the water floods the lower regions, all the snakes, spiders, rats and other vermin critters, will head up the hill to dry places to keep warm, ie. my livingroom and thus, the rubber sealing was promptly completed. When it is raining, even if you are entirely protected from the water coming down, it is the water coming up that can be hazardous.
For monsoon protection, Nepalis favor an umbrella and a pair of Crocs or flips flops. After several slippery, muddy face plants, our family is also outfitted in rain hats, coats and traction grabbing knee-high boots. Eventually I may be able to read the monsoon vibe and dress my children appropriately and maybe I’ll even acquire the shoulder shrug and ‘que garne (what to do?)’ attitude of the Nepalis toward monsoon. But for now I will wrap everyone up in water proofing, seal every crack and just deal with the giggles and stares at the hyper-active bedeshi mother during her first monsoon in Nepal.