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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Monsoon Planning

Phew – thank goodness Alea and I got our emergency supply shopping done this afternoon, in case we have another flood day tomorrow. Black olives, coffee, baguette, Pringles (regular and seaweed flavor), plenty of meat to grill, and 5 cases of Anker. Bring on the monsoon, baby!!!

Flood water preparation, baby!

Rain

We’ve been seeing clouds for the past few weeks, but yesterday the first drops fell. Monsoon is nowhere near officially starting, but Breck was able to “dance in the rain” (his words) for a few minutes at the end of the school day. After a crazy weekend filled with late nights /early mornings – coaches’ party and Quiz night – we might very well have seen the last of the outdoor parties. There are tons of things scheduled over our last 3 weeks in India, but it remains to be seen whether they can take place outside or inside!

(Just for the record, my prediction is for a heavy rainfall on the evening of the 8th grade ceremony – June 3rd – just as there has been every year that we’ve been in Bombay)

Chasing the monsoon

We had our last trip ever to the FRRO (YAY!!!) last weekend, and a co-worker at school asked that we try to get some pictures of ‘people in the rain, with slickers and stuff.’ I snapped a few photos out the van window, but A) it wasn’t always raining, B) we were often moving, and C) it was too dark when we came back (since our visit took more than 3 hours!).

Regardless, here are a few pictures of folks enjoying the tail end of monsoon season in Mumabi:

Sufferin’ through a cyclone

The winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and the locals are battening down the hatches. We are not supposed to get rain any time between October and May, so the torrential storms we’ve had are really unusual. I didn’t think too much about it, until I read the news today (oh boy): Cyclone Phyan – the first in 67 years – is smacking the area!

Seeings how we lived through an earthquake in the Himalayas just a few weeks ago, this is a pretty cool follow up to that natural event. Guess after last year’s horrific events around Thanksgiving, we consider flooding to be a welcome break.

And because I am such an astute and interested student of all things, I found myself wondering what in the world a cyclone was. As it turns out, cyclone is just another name for a hurricane or typhoon, or, as I like to refer to it, a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.

There’ll be a quiz on Friday – if the school is still open!

Workin’ at the car wash

Mumbai has a bit of a pollution problem, it is true. There are some piles of refuse scattered here and there, people’s trash (and human waste) can be found everywhere, and the great outdoors is often used as a communal garbage pit.

But that’s not to say that folks don’t take pride of ownership. I think most want to keep their motor vehicles clean, and we see evidence of that on our way to school in the morning.

There is one spot where, during the monsoon season, the sewer overflows with regularity. And, every time it does, we pass a lineup of cars and rickshaws parked, their owners scrubbing them down. In the backed up sewer water. Words fail me at this point.

Mumbai car wash

Musings from a soggy rickshaw

On the way home from volleyball practice this morning, my rickshaw got caught in a monsoon downpour and the ride took a bit longer than usual. I had a couple of random thoughts along the way (and some from other recent rides), and just figured I could string them all together into a post:

  • We – pretty much anyone who reads this – have life so good and take so much for granted. At an intersection, a girl came up begging, and when I gave her a half-full bottle of water, you would’ve thought she’d just won a grand prize. I suppose the combination of getting clean water to drink plus a bottle to add to the recycling collection was really noteworthy for her. Think about how much a half-liter bottle of water (that someone else has already drunk from) would mean to you…
  • It is funny to see what we spend our money on. A rickshaw in front of us had a brand new good-luck charm hanging from its rear bumper. Many vehicles buy these charms every week: they are nothing more than a string with some green peppers, a yellow lime, and a tiny chink of coal. I wonder what I spend my heard-earned wages on that makes other people shake their heads.
  • People sure seem to spit a lot here. I bet diseases like swine flu and tuberculosis wouldn’t spread so fast if that wasn’t the case.
  • Traffic doesn’t rely much on rules and policemen. When there are big jams, the most effective way to break them up (after everyone has honked for about 10 minutes and gotten no where) is to have private citizens get out of the cars and direct the traffic.
  • Rickshaw and taxi drivers use water from backed up sewers to wash their cars. On the same note, big trucks that have hauled manure are much more olfactorally potent when you are sitting next to them in a windowless vehicle.
  • Dogs that wear raincoats during monsoon usually are better fed and cared for than are the people walking them.
  • Sleeping on the streets usually involves lots of plastic during the monsoon.

Shaggy

No, not the Scooby Doo character, but rather the character of the post-monsoon growth. As the rains wind down, the city is pulling itself into the greenest hues of the entire year. Everywhere we look, grass is growing on fields that were dusty and rock-strewn last spring, the trees are full and hearty, and the plants look as strong as any we’d expect to see in a tropical zone.

But the moisture does have another side to it, as it encourages the growth of some not-so-desireable flora. We were warned to keep our closets open while we were gone, to prevent fungii from taking over our clothes. We did encounter a bit of mold on several items – we lost a pair of shoes, a bookbag,  and a wallet – but overall did ok. The most noticeable sign of the water’s effect around our home is actually on the outside of buildings all around us. There is an unavoidable black and green growth on many walls, giving the paint a mottled look – and causing much of it to bubble and warp off as well.

And that is where the title of this post originates. As we were coming home the other day, I was reminded of Breck’s description of Mumbai to his cousins over the summer: “Shaggy.” And with the long, hanging plant growth all over the ground and buildings, I can see his point. Shaggy – a great way to put it!

Elephanta Island and the Gateway of India

I write this on a soaking Sunday afternoon, as we hunker down under the onslaught of the monsoon. The rains should be finishing soon (in fact, they were done last year at this time), but today they are out in force. This evening is the final night in the Ganesh holiday, and I am curious as to how all the water will impact the immersion celebrations. Will the idols start ‘melting’ before they even reach the sea? We’ll have to find out later.

Thank goodness the scene was very different last Sunday. We had perfect weather for our trip to Elephanta Island: blue skies, a nice breeze, a little 10 minute downpour in the middle of the afternoon. I’m glad we didn’t go today!

The caves and associated sights (and events) provided us with a very pleasant day trip. We tried to get some shopping in as well, but came up short in that endeavor, as many places have been closing due to the Ganpati immersions. Oh well – next time! I did get down to Chor bazaar yesterday to pick up some stuff that will be delivered tomorrow, but that will have to wait for another post. For now, enjoy the pictures from Elephanta (and the Gateway of India).

Slip sliding away

Things you never consider before living in a place that has monsoons: after 8 months or so with no precipitation, the rains have a curious – though utterly predictable – effect on the roads here. That first little bit of moisture ‘brings up’ all the accumulated engine oil, axle grease, tire bits, and other assorted petroleum-based product debris that has accumulated on the asphalt. This creates a super slick skating rink on the surface over which all vehicles must pass.

There was the tiniest trace of a mist in the air this morning, and it made coming in to school a mess. Luckily our van driver is great and knew what was coming (and paid attention to the people on the side of the road waving at him to slow down), but coming over a hill we saw a dump truck that had slid completely around, a bus that skidded and shuddered from side to side as it was breaking, and several people walking motorcycles with freshly-broken side mirrors on them. Another teacher actually saw a motorcycle take a digger while going around a corner, but we just witnessed the aftermath.

There had hardly been enough precipitation to even qualify as ‘moisture,’ but the effects were certainly noticeable. I wonder what else will be in store as the weather patterns start to change. The news headlines this weekend were that the monsoon has hit Kerala (news story here), and Goa is starting to shut down as the rains approach. It won’t be too long now; the big question is whether it will start to pour here before we leave or not…

Breck meditating on the Kiara roof

Regardless of the rain’s plans, Breck intends on using every ounce of sunlight before we take off. He spent the afternoon soaking in the rays (while soaking in a tub) on the Kiara rooftop. What a fun way to enjoy the weather!

Morning clouds in Mumbai

Clouds over the Arabian SeaThe sun has been coming up earlier and earlier these days, as we move out of winter (or what passed as winter here) into summer. This morning, however, it actually seemed darker than it had in days past. Looking out the window, we figured out what it was – there were CLOUDS in the sky!!

Now, this might not seem like such a big deal, but there have basically been none since last September or October. Of course, I’m not counting clouds of vehicle exhaust, or clouds of smoke from burning garbage, or clouds of industrial pollution, or clouds of ravens feasting on refuse – I’m talking about fluffy white possibly-precipitation-loaded atmospheric phenomena. They mean the monsoons are on the way. While I’m not necessarily a huge fan of constant downpour and flooding streets, the rains are welcomed in the part of the world as a rejuvenating shot in the arm and much needed dust-settler.

And since we’ll be out of India for much of the rain time, I guess that makes the prospect easier to take. So stir up the cirrostratus and let the cumulus accumulate!