Birthday Abroad

A couple of weeks ago we were driving past the local mall and I saw a big ‘Merry Christmas’ sign.  My first thought was, ‘well that’s a bit early’, but then I realised that in fact it’s a perfectly normal time to be advertising Christmas and in fact in the UK it starts a lot earlier.  The mistake I made was because the weather is so hot that it just doesn’t feel like it could possibly be getting close to Christmas.  In the UK it is quite common to have very nice weather as late as October and this year by all accounts was just such a year.  However, by the time it gets to my birthday on November 3rd, the weather is reliably miserable.  Here the weather on my birthday was lovely (although it’s gone back to being really hot again now).  The other Autumn landmarks for us are Halloween and Thanksgiving.  The idea that those events could come and go without the weather getting cold is really odd for me such that I am in denial that Christmas is approaching.  This also means that the time is flying without me realising it.  To me it still feels like the summer and not at all the start of winter.

We had a couple of weeks of slightly cooler weather around my birthday and by ‘cooler’ I mean 26 degrees Celsius and feeling like 26 degrees (79 in Fahrenheit).  The locals here start to genuinely feel cold when this happens which is also really strange.  At first you think they’re just making fun of you bu they’re not, they’re actually cold and are wearing shawls and jumpers!  This is not something that happens to expats though.  Even the lifers here don’t get ‘cold’, in this season.  I hope we get used to the heat but getting used to a hot winter could take some doing.

Last night we had an early Thanksgiving dinner with some friends here at the school as we’ll be away on a short break during actual Thanksgiving.  We had 7 for dinner and then one more arrived later on.  Up until now I haven’t felt that we have been able to really invite people over because our place just hasn’t been nice enough but a few things have come together of late to make it much more homey.  A few weeks ago we ordered a rug from one of the many interesting places that sell furniture but this one also does textiles.  What you don’t appreciate at first is that all the textiles are hand made.  We saw one rug that we liked and we asked if it was possible to have it in a different size.  I think we said 9ft by 7ft. The lady politely informed us that the maximum width is 5 feet because that is the width of the loom on which the carpet is made.  Normally we live in a world where everything is produced without our really thinking how the thing came into being or what processes may have been involved.  It is quite sobering and nice to live in a place where at least some of the items you can really see being made.  Anyway, along with the rug we have also recently bought a coffee table and a lamp but the thing that has really made the difference is that we have finally gotten around to putting up some pictures.  The maintenance guys at work gave me a drill bit and some screws and raw plugs.  Thankfully I shipped my drill and some other tools so with that we were able to do our first bit of DIY.  Normally, doing something like that would definitely get us close to divorce but this time we managed it pretty well and are really happy with the results.  Our place still has a long way to go but it’s really starting to feel like a home.

Yesterday was also the annual school fun fair.  One of the rides that turns up every year is a ferris wheel.  That sounds normal for a fun fair until you realise that this is a Burmese ferris wheel.  There is no power to the ferris wheel and instead it is turned by men who climb around on it using their weight to turn it.  You might think that this might be something like a hamster wheel but it isn’t at all like that.  There is no obvious place for the men to step so instead they are climbing on the structure in flip flops or just bare feet.  It is astonishing and looks incredibly dangerous.  This isn’t the one that was at our fair but look at this video from about 3 mins 50 in to see how crazy it is.

One last comment before I leave you is that I have finally seen my first snake.  I was at a bar on Friday night with about 7 other people.  Somebody had left the table and then a waitress rushed in looking quite alarmed and asking for me.  I assumed something had happened to our friend and rushed out to see if I could help only to discover that I had been summoned to view the snake that was in the ladies toilet.  It’s nice to know that our friends here already know me so well.  The snake was quite small and I think was a green tree viper.  The employee threw a small tea towel on it and then picked up the whole thing and carried it outside to a tree to release it.  Apparently they are poisonous.  Hopefully we’ll see more soon as when the seasons change is apparently the time to see them!


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