Paradise Lost

Turns out it’s not just hype that Kauai is the wettest place on earth. During our week here, we’ve consistently had heavy rains overnight. However, they usually end around 6AM. Not today. It’s 10:30AM, we’re supposed to be at the airport, and instead we’re in the Hanalei plaza. The bridge that lies between us and aircraft has been closed since 1AM, when the water level spiked to nine feet.

Statistically the Hanalei bridge reopens when the waters recede to about four and a half feet. We monitored the water level this morning from our B&B. Since conditions were looking better (water had receded to almost five feet) we attempted our airport run at 8:30AM. Unfortunately, the weather has not decided to cooperate, with the rains kicking back into high gear. The cop at the bridge told us “it will be at least a few hours…or possibly all day. I’m stuck here as well.” For now we’re rebooked on an afternoon flight, which buys us three more hours, but I’m dubious that we’ll be able to leave the north shore at all today.

Latest bridge status – notice the uptick from about 45 minutes ago just when things started to look promising

Live video footage from the scene of the storm

Hot Hot Hot

One of Lauren’s NGO co-workers has a pet phrase, “hot hot hot” (it’s always three “hot”s). It’s usually said with a smile, and can refer to eating really spicy food, handling hot chapattis (or other hot items), or the weather on extreme days.

While today’s forecast was revised downward from a brutal 46°C to a mere 42°C, I still managed to have a few “hot hot hot” experiences of my own:

  1. The lady at my favorite Thai food stand is getting familiar with my love of spicy food. Today she added spices for my noodles to the wok while she was frying them, rather than giving me the normal Thailand experience of “spice it yourself” noodles. Turns out that two scoops of pounded chilies in your noodles are much spicier when they’re added up-front to the frying pan! They were my first five-star-spice noodles in Thailand and they were delicious (though my tummy is still burning).
  2. This morning I heavily roasted a pound of peanuts, and after lunch I went through my normal peanut butter making process. However, it turns out that roasting peanuts for a half-hour not only makes them delicious, but also makes them harder to grind (they don’t release as much of their natural oils). When I was done, I almost burned my fingers wiping the extra peanut butter off of the grinder blade.

Green mango and homemade peanut butter
The extra-roasted and finely ground peanut butter came out looking like melted chocolate and the roasting gave the taste some distinct coffee overtones

When it Rains…

This evening we witnessed the first precipitation in town since we arrived back in February. I had heard from the locals that occasional storms do occur during the dry season, and tonight provided a taste of the monsoon. Our sliding glass door was buckling under the force of the winds, and some trees around our building blew down. Ten minutes later, the storm ended as abruptly as it began and the sun returned. We saw some of the resulting carnage around town, and in spite of the damage caused, one lady told me “I not bad, I happy! Too long with no rain!”

Shawn captured some of the crazy storm winds on video

Sign carnage
Notice the five foot K Bank sign on the sidewalk

More sign carnage
This guesthouse used to be called “Palm House”

After the rains cleared, the dry creek-beds were flowing with water again, and a ton of frogs came out from the woods and sewer pipes to serenade us

The Cruelest Month

I can imagine that even our most loyal readers are getting tired of reading about how hot it is here. We Seattleites never tire of discussing the weather, so indulge me for just one more post.

The past week was so cripplingly hot that no one in my office was able to get much work done. On a few days, I got emails from Kenny to the effect of, “everyone here is asleep, I’m going home to work in front of our A/C.” I didn’t feel much more useful sitting in front of our office fan as it blew hot air at me. My co-workers and I have started scheduling all of our meetings and working sessions early in the day because nobody expects anything to get done after lunch. To me, the paralysis caused by the heat seems like the true secret of why the Global South has not achieved the same level of economic development as the states of the Northern Hemisphere.

This weekend was similarly scorching. Kenny and I felt guilty about hiding out with our A/C instead of enjoying our beautiful valley, but we could never bear to be out and about for more than an hour or two (we did venture out for cappuccini, lunch, ice-cold smoothies, and a few errands). Taking a cue from my co-workers, we did engage in some nice pre-8am activities – we took a run around the lake yesterday, and this morning we climbed up to our local hill wat. Then we spent the rest of the day chilling in our igloo-like room, catching up on our photo backlog. Conveniently enough, this means that we’re all caught up on the photos we took this weekend. Here are a few:

Getting a photo of the lake wat

Kenny at the lake wat

The view from across the lake

The view of town from the hilltop. Today was a “clear” day for this area.

A lion guarding the wat

Hot or Not?

My memory of April 6, 2010 will be dominated by one thing: heat. The kind of heat that burns your nostrils when you breathe and dries your eyeballs to a standstill in their sockets.

Today's weatherThis morning I arrived at my NGO’s office at 8:45AM, just in time to run into my co-worker who was leaving for a staff meeting in Daniel’s village. I was told that meeting was to start at 10AM, everyone would be there for the day, and I should come. One small hitch – the village is about 20km away and AJWS has a policy banning motorbike rides for its volunteers (regardless of policy, there were already two riders on the outgoing motorbike). While I wasn’t expecting my morning bike ride to be any longer than five minutes, plans change.

The last time we biked to the village it took us about an hour and a half. My biking muscles are much better conditioned now, so I was hopeful that I’d arrive on time for the meeting. After a short stop for water and peanuts (a nice kosher for Passover snack), I was on my way. This time I made it in just over an hour, arriving just as the meeting began. I also arrived right after the motor-bikers, who had been heavily delayed by a huge felled tree that blocked the entire two-lane road.

During the meeting, the room got progressively hotter. Even the Asians were fanning themselves. The village had no electricity due to the aforementioned felled tree, and so our fans were kaput. Lauren just told me that she had fans today and all they did was blow hot air, so I guess we didn’t miss out too much.

At 3:30PM it was time to head back. The return route is easier and faster, with more overall downhill stretches. Not today. My return trip was close to 1.5 hours. The day’s heat was in full force, and without electricity none of the shops even had cold water. However, I was getting all sorts of encouragement from the locals – constant thumbs ups, smiles, and words of encouragement from motor-bikers and shop owners.

I arrived home exhausted, but proud of my journey and very happy that we have air conditioning at home. A cold shower never felt so good.

At least I won’t be doing that bike ride later this week. As a reminder for our American readers, 43°C = 109.4°F.


Burning Season

We had been warned that March-May was not a good time to be in northern Thailand, due to the combination of the extreme heat and the smoke that fills the air from the slash-and-burn agriculture practiced in these parts. Too bad AJWS didn’t get that memo. ;) Today was quite foggy and the air quality was particularly bad – I don’t know if it’s something about the combination of smoke and fog, but I was short of breath and even nauseous for much of the afternoon. Hopefully it won’t be like this every day for the next two months…


End of the Monsoon?

We had a fun rainy hike from Bhaktapur up to Changu Narayan, and then down the hill to Brahmakhel today (more on our adventure later). Now we’re enjoying some shelter from the downpour at the Saturday Cafe in Bodnath, a small Buddhist town near Kathmandu that we plan to use as our base for hikes over the next few days.

Checking the weather forecast, it looks like tomorrow will be quite a bit like today, so we may bypass our hike plans in favor of spending a quiet day in Bodnath. You may also notice that the forecast gets considerably better after tomorrow. :) The monsoon has come very late to Nepal this year (global warming?), but looks like it may end abruptly on Friday.