Sheltering In Place – In Florida

14484861_10154539848049618_3798888653102113882_nAlthough I lived in Bangladesh for two years, both of those years, the monsoons were not so bad (okay, one night it was awful, walking in the dark potholed street with flooded open sewers) but as Dhaka is located up the river, I didn’t get to experience the risks of coastal living. When I lived in Dhaka, the power went out on a frequent basis, but not for weather related reasons. In the U.S., I’ve experienced more power outages and flooding caused by weather and it looks like I will, again. Welcome to Florida in hurricane season.

I paid attention to the experts. I moved inland. Two days ahead. Then I bought food for ten days (I’m not quite sure why I thought chips and dip were essential foods, but maybe it counts as an activity as well?). Then I turned on the local news to watch the show.

This morning, I went out to check on the shopping frenzy at the local grocery store. It wasn’t a frenzy. Everyone was calm and shopping. Like any day at 11 a.m. (a note about price gouging: call the watchdog phone number if you see price gouging. It’s illegal to profiteer off of a situation like a hurricane. Sheesh.), just with hurricane shutters going up.

14563585_10154539848069618_2250615844766550418_nNow, I hope we don’t lose electricity. I have blogging to do!

Monsoon in Bogota

A few nights ago, I heard a strange sound through my open windows. It was the sound of monsoon rain. Before moving here, I was told that the weather in Bogota is the same every day. Always 60 F (15 C), cloudy with a chance of sun. Now that it’s October, I’m being told another story. In October, Bogota has a rainy season. Every day for a month, the rainstorms will last longer and may include thunder and wind gusts. And, the temperature drops a few degrees. But, I’m told that come December, the weather will be really nice again.A street in Candelaria, the old part of Bogota.

A street in Candelaria, the old part of Bogota.

This “cold” weather is perhaps the reason that soup is so popular here.

I wonder if there are monsoon weddings here?

Rickshaws in the Monsoon

Note the head protection.
Note the head protection.

And now for the weather. The monsoon arrived. When it rains, the rickshaws are still a popular form of transportation. The driver will often cover his hair in a plastic bag (banned as carrier bags two decades ago) and the passengers get a blue tarp to pull over their legs.

Double protection.
Double protection.

Six Seasons of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an alluvial delta with lots of water.
Bangladesh is an alluvial delta with lots of water. Umbrellas are for sun and rain.

Monsoon is only one of six seasons in Bangladesh. The following is how I would describe the seasons in Dhaka.

Spring (wear yellow on February 13 to mark spring!): February 13-April 14 (20-30 C = 70s and 80s F; humidity is 60 %) or “Hot with Mosquitoes and Why Am I Sweating in February?! Oh, Because It Is 90 F!”

Summer: April 14-June 15 (30-45 C = 90s and 100s F; humidity is 85 %) or “Hotter with Mosquitoes and Constant possibilities of Heat Stroke.”

Monsoon/Rainy Season: June 15-August 15 (30-40 C = 90s F; humidity is 95 %) or “Too Wet, Sweaty, and Hot for Hordes of Mosquitoes-Oddly Not As Hot As It Was.”

Autumn/Fall: August 15-October 15 (30-40 C = 90s F; humidity is 90 %) or “Hot and Dengue Mosquito Season.”

After-Autumn/Late-Fall: October 15-December 15 (20-30 C = 70s and 80s F; humidity is 80 %) or “Hot with Mosquitoes But It Is Almost Wedding Season.”

Winter: December 15-February 12 (15-30 C = 60s and up to the 90s F; humidity is 60 %) or “Wedding Season.” Which is still mosquito season.

A beautiful Bangladeshi bride.
A beautiful Bangladeshi bride during wedding season.

As the national costumes remain the same all year round, the men wear lungis and women wear sarees and shalwar kameeses, but in winter, they wrap a cloth like a shawl and a head wrap around their head. To a Bangladeshi 20 C is cold and in the winter when the temperature can drop to 10 C, there are deaths. The Bangladeshis also find warm weather pleasant since they are used to it. Most houses and apartments do not have heating and many have only one air conditioning unit.

In my experience of two monsoons, I have been surprised. In 2012, there was no monsoon. And in 2013, it has rained but not in the torrents that I expected. I have seen worse rain storms in Kuala Lumpur and Washington, DC.

The prevailing theme (you may have noticed) is that all throughout the year, there are mosquitoes and on any day, it can be 90 degrees! I have had heat stroke in December, February, and March, perhaps because I did not expect such hot weather in those months. The result has been a rather silly collection of sun hats.

Rickshaw in Monsoon Photo

In the long hot rasping breath before the monsoon, my mind turns once more to images of Bangladesh. Decades ago, the only impression I had of Bangladesh was monsoon rain and flooding. Now, I have met the man who took the rickshaw photo of my imaginings.

The photographer, Zahid "Badol", with his photo of boys playing in the mud.
The photographer, Zahid “Badol”, with his photo of boys playing in the mud.

Obviously, to my vivacious and educated Bangladeshi friends, this image is so passe. “Why must you foreigners have only such images in your heads?” To which I reply, “This is not a bad image.” I see the rickshaw puller in the monsoon flood and find it an image of tenacity and perseverance. Not a bad thing to be known for, wherever you are.

A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.
A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.

Prelude to the Monsoon

I have longed to experience the monsoon. I watch with great joy. It’s so wet that photos are hard to capture.

Monsoon.

I’m told that this is the end of the hot season. The monsoons have come early this year. The days are sunny and the temperature reaches only into the 90s F (35 Celsius). Every few days, the sky will darken, the winds whip the trees into a frenzy, and then the water descends from the sky in buckets.

Bucket list, indeed.