Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thailand Episode 5--Kind of Complaining About the Heat

I spoke too soon.

The reason I was coping so well with the heat was because it wasn't all that hot.

I mean, it was hot, but then it got REALLY hot.

Oppressively, overwhelmingly hot, so hot that I wanted to go out in the streets--well, no, maybe more like from our air-conditioned bedroom--and shout to the people of Thailand that they were all mixed up, and God never intended for people to actually live in this part of the world.  Thailand was meant to be the undisturbed haven of snakes, geckos, and spiders, and they should all move to Canada and settle in the vast unpopulated territories there.

And I would go back to Oregon, that happy land of moderate temperatures.

Despite the heat, we have been spending time with people and seeing the sights.  Saturday we went with the Barkman family to the MaeSa Elephant Camp, and yesterday the director's wife, Barb, took me and Jenny downtown to the garment district with its narrow noisy streets, fabric shops, clothing shops, coat-hanger shops, and a lot more.

Jenny and Amy leaving on an elephant ride.
Last year I always felt so wimpy before the onslaught of heat and felt that if I just didn't complain about it, I'd be ok.  But before we left home this time, Emily gave me a lecture that I need to be proactive in dealing with the heat, that it's ok to do specific things to help myself.  So I think of that often and when I get that panicky feeling, I think, ok.  First I get a drink.  Then I find water and wet down my sleeves.  And so on.  And on Sunday I left during the sermon to get some air and ice water.

Twice so far I got so hot I started seeing those shimmering ovals in front of my eyes and wasn't sure my foot would touch the ground when I took my next step, kind of like when you stand up too quickly and get light-headed, and it was strangely comforting to know that maybe I have an  actual biological intolerance for heat rather than just a low tolerance for misery.

While we were fabric shopping I was standing in front of one store when a definitely-Thai woman came by wearing--WHAT??!!--YES!!--an Oregon Ducks Rose Bowl 2010 sweatshirt!  I opened my mouth to stop her or something but she was gone before any words came out.

Worlds colliding, that's what it was.

We note that it was the middle of the day and about 100 degrees outside and beastly humid, with the sun shining hot.

And she was wearing a heavy sweatshirt.

I asked Barb about this.  It turns out the Thai women are just rabid about keeping their skin pale.  They not only wear sweatshirts on hot days, but I saw one woman with a hooded fur-trimmed jacket, with the hood up.  Barb said they sometimes wear gloves, too.

People who work outside often wear a straw hat with an attached hood made of cotton fabric.  It comes around the lower part of the face and has a big flap in the back to protect the neck.  It might actually be cooler than working in the sun unprotected, but it always looks claustrophobic to me.

I saw evidence of the obsession with pale skin the day I went shopping for sunscreen.  You can seriously find racks, displays, and even walls of creams and lotions that promise to whiten the skin.  I had a hard time finding sunscreen, which seems odd, but maybe they count on long sleeves rather than sunscreen.

The only possible "plus" about this is that the girls and I get compliments on our pale skin.

Otherwise, it seems downright abominable, that women are so desperate to be beautiful that they torture themselves in that way, in the most unnatural way possible for this climate.

Maybe kind of like American women, blessed with food all around, and even with age and babies, have to almost starve themselves into an artificial shape to be considered beautiful.


The worst thing about the heat is not the misery per se but the fact that it fogs the brain and it is SO HARD to get anything done.  I have to think deliberately about every step of even the most basic tasks--shampooing my hair, for instance.  Or washing dishes.  And then I have to slowly force myself to do this simple basic step, then the next thing, and then I realize I left the towel upstairs and have to slowly think through the process of going up. the. stairs. to. get. the. towel.

And here I was hoping to get sooooo much done in all my free time here.

YOU ARE TOTALLY NORMAL, said the two women I was talking to before church on Sunday.  They both went through the exact same fog, they said, and it lasted two months.  In fact, one of them said that she noticed that after the new pastor was here for two months, suddenly his prayers got longer.

Well, in a week we should be back in Oregon, and this summer when it's 85 degrees and the air is sharp and dry and you are complaining about the heat, I will just smile.  You wimp, you.

Here are a few pictures.  If you want to see more, go to my facebook album here:
Thailand 2013

Here's Jenny in the ocean of fabric.
Me trying to decide on one cheap fabric out of hundreds.
Our lovely children at the Night Safari statues which are beautiful but creepy.


  1. I think your observations about pale skin being valued in the Far East confirms what I've been thinking about in Poland: that fashion has probably never been kind to women. The tight corsets of 100 yrs ago, the claustrophobic get-ups in Thailand, the killer heels and exposed skin of this country, the starving themselves in the West--women suffer to be seen as beautiful. Hmmmm But what is beauty? Seems pretty capricious/arbitrary.

  2. I must have a biological intolerance to heat, as well. I've visited NY during all of my pregnancies and been miserable all 3 times. Thank you God for Oregon! And thank God that England, where we're moving this fall, is also moderate.

  3. Lisl n I didn't bother to walk around to the side of that elephant... we have a pic of us in front of the not-front of it. Oh dear. Why didn't they put it the right direction? I loved the birds at the night safari... have a huge amount of pictures of them. Sorry about the heat. :(

  4. I have the same problem with heat...it just makes me grumpy. I am reading this post while wearing my own Oregon sweatshirt...it is 56 and raining...I love Oregon:)