Thursday, 24 November 2011

Glasgow Dreamin'

It is a rainy, windy day in Scotland. The skies are filled with dense, thick, brooding clouds, and driving along the motorway this morning, we could see the wind turbines rotating with a velocity that was almost worrying. On my way to work, I give up and collapse my umbrella: the wind has rendered it useless and besides, I'm already drenched. The rain seems to be coming at me from every angle.

"Hello teacher," I hear someone mutter as I dodge a frozen puddle. Looking up, I see Gao, a boy I taught last semester.

"Beautiful weather, isn't it?" I say, grinning.

Gao gives me a What? look, then manages a grim smile. "This weather terrible," he says.

Poor Gao: when he arrived back in June, I knew he would have a hard time here. When I'd asked the class what they thought of Scotland so far, his answer gave me pause: "It is too cold and rainy! Everything is grey!" That was back when the roses were in full bloom; when the parks were full of late spring bulbs and flowering trees.

"You don't have rain in China?" I say, teasing him.

But Gao is in no mood to joke. "Not have rain like this," he mutters, gesturing at the glistening pavement, the shivering people huddled against the almost-gale-force winds, the sodden newspapers littering the bus shelters.

A sudden blast of wind knocks water off a telephone line onto the back of my neck. My feet and trouser legs are soaked, my hands are cold, and with my umbrella out of service, I'm pretty sure the books in my bag are getting wet too. But unlike Gao, I'm happy.

Why? Because I love rain. I used to think this was because I grew up in a place where it almost never rains, where the earth is parched and hot and dry. But the other day, I ran into a couple from Southern California who were sightseeing in Glasgow. "This is a great city, but it's awfully wet," the husband said, glancing around disapprovingly even though it was barely drizzling. After five days, they couldn't wait to get back to San Diego.

What's your favorite season here? people in Japan used to ask me. When I said it was the rainy season, they always thought I was joking. When they realized I wasn't, they thought I was crazy. "But it's so damp!" they used to protest. "Everything gets moldy!" And they were right. But mold seemed a small price to pay for the sound of rain drumming on the roof, spattering the lush greenery outside. If I ever got tired of wet laundry, I would remind myself of the misery of a long dry Southern California summer. I would remember flipping longingly through National Geographics as a kid, sighing at the photos of places like Macchu Picchu or the Amazon Rain Forest or rain-lashed rice paddies. What a contrast they made to parched earth and tumbleweed baking under a relentless sun. I think I must have been born with a love of rain: remembering my yearning for rain cured me every time.

Gao shivers and I wonder how he'll cope until February. Even hardcore lovers of Scotland have a tough time in the bitter winter months; even I start to pine for the mildness of a California winter, the sweet smell of orange blossoms and the crunch of eucalyptus leaves. A blast of wind hits us broadside and a bus whooshes past, spattering us with icy water. Winter in Scotland is proof positive that you can get too much of a good thing -- especially when you're walking to work or contemplating a week's worth of backed up laundry and no clothes drier.

But as long as my house doesn't flood, I know I'll keep singing in the rain -- and knowing that I'm living the dream.


Charles Gramlich said...

I love rain too. I thought it was because I grew up as a farmer's son and rain was life to us.

Lisa Shafer said...

I TOTALLY understand. And I think it really does have something to do with being raised in a desert. Yes, I love Utah, and I missed the snow while I lived in Scotland. But every single summer I spend baking in the misery of the heat of Utah (although this summer was pretty mild for us; we only had about 3 days of over 100 degree heat -- and it's usually more like the entire month of July that's like that), I miss Scotland. If I can ever lose enough weight that I feel like I won't shock all my old friends there (who remember me as a moderate weight instead of plump as a turkey), I'll come back and feel the rain.
In the meantime, you please enjoy it for me.

Kit said...

You settled in the right place!. i like being in South Africa - where you really do appreciate the rain because of the long hot summers. i don't think I did love the rain when I lived in England, but here I really do!

Lynne said...

I miss the cold weather. I get all excited about a cold snap in GA. People call me crazy and to bite my tongue. I really do miss the cold. I don't know if I'd like all the rain for 4 months, but I do love the cold and snow.

Postman said...

Rainy motion seconded.

Someday you're going to have to write me a book--or at least a really long e-mail--and explain to me how you managed to wangle living in all those different countries: immigration, visas, job-searching, paperwork, costs, and all that business. I'm getting sick of being so jealous of you that I could burst.

angryparsnip said...

I so understand.
Growing up in Tucson Arizona you learn the price of water and what a treasure rain is.
We only have the much need Winter rains late January early February and then our July/August monsoon season.

When I worked in KC Missouri I always was walking in the rain. They thought I was crazy.
I also love to hear the rain and go to sleep listening to it.
Not so sure about the freezing puddles with wind part that you seem to like so much.

I can't believe you liked the rainy season in Japan it is always too hot and humid and I never seem to get dry ever.

Your so funny, loved the story.

cheers, parsnip

Anonymous said...

Best purchase I've made this year has been a pair of Goretex walking shoes and an almost-Gortex rain parka. It has been outright freeing to be able to put on the shoes and walk right through puddles. I'm on the lookout for a serious umbrella now, one that's wide, sturdy, and lightweight. I'm thinking a golf umbrella with a titanium shaft.

I am reconciled to not finding this right away.

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- I love meeting fellow rain lovers, especially because we're so thin on the ground. My parents were, at points during their lives, farmers and fruit growers. When my father came to visit me in Japan, he was thrilled to find that it was raining -- until it struck him that his avocado trees could not be benefiting. I don't think he was a REAL rain lover.

Lisa -- You love Scotland, so you're bound to have a tolerance for rain at the very least, and good for you. Rain is the one thing everybody whines about here, but I reckon it keeps the faint of heart out of Scotland. As for snow, I wish you'd been here last year in Scotland -- you would not have missed it at all!

I'll happily enjoy Scotland for you, but I say to heck with the weight and take it off when you're here.

Kit -- In the decade-plus I've spent in the U.K., I could probably count the rain-loving Britons I've met on the fingers of one hand. But I've met hundreds of British expats in Cyprus who were delighted to be able to roast themselves pink under Mediterranean skies. I wished I could have swapped with them as a child -- all that weather mutually wasted and unappreciated.

Lynne -- I know just how you feel.
Snow and cold are better than heat because you can put on loads of clothes and feel warmer. When it's hot, NOTHING cools you off (unless you're prepared to spend a fortune on airconditioning) and it's impossible to sleep.

Postman -- I can tell you how to do this in a few sentences. Become a teacher -- it helps to get a degree or a credential -- and get some experience. If you then add a skill few other people have (such as being able to fly a plane), you'll be all the more employable, or at least interesting. When schools hire you, they take care of the visa issues. (Also, reconcile yourself to a crappy or non-existent pension -- it ain't all skittles and beer. ;o)

Parsnip -- Hooray for rain lovers! Maybe there is something about living in the desert that endears us to rain, but I've met so many ex-desert residents who pine for it -- I feel guilty for not missing it as much as they do. For the record, I HATE icy puddles and wind, but I grit my teeth and remind myself of Santa Ana winds scouring me with sand and then they don't seem so bad.

(And thank you for your kind words.)

AnneB -- Several people have sung the praises of Goretex walking shoes now, and that's it -- they're going on my list. Do they make Goretex shoes you can wear to work? I would buy three pairs. As for the umbrella, I have looked for something similar, but I doubt it exists. If you buy one that is lightweight, it's never sturdy enough to withstand the wind. In Japan, I had a collapsible parasol that doubled as a rain umbrella and was fairly light and sturdy. It lasted me for years and I wished I'd bought half a dozen more.

Anne M Leone said...

Wow. Really? I'm with the Gao on this one. I HATE the weather in the UK. I don't mind the cold. And I actually kind of like downpours, even more so when I'm inside. But the typical constant, drizzly, never-ending rain drives me insane. And of course, it never gets properly warm enough to dry me out. So I always feel wet.

But glad SOMEONE is enjoy the rain! ;)

Anne M Leone said...

Oops, that would be Gao, not The Gao. Must proofread!

Kim Ayres said...

In the same way I always knew I was born to be one of the idle rich, but my parents let me down, so I've always known I should be living in California, or at least the Mediterranean. Again, I blame my parents...

Chocolatesa said...

This post inspired me to go boot-shopping online and I found some I really liked! Not Goretex though, Sorels, they're waterproof AND rated for -40 degrees!

S said...

I feel a bit like this with the wet snow we get here. I don't mind it and when everyone is exclaiming over the cold or damp I think...there's a clothing solution for that. (and I walk lots so don't have to worry about driving in it) Besides it makes me appreciate the sun all that much more when it does come out.

Ruth Kelly said...

My daughter was in Ireland for two years and wrote about how she never felt really warm with all the rain. I love your blog.

Vijaya said...

Better you than me, Mary. I got so tired of the constant drizzle and gray of the Pacific NW even though I knew it was the reason for all that greenery. I'm loving the sunshine in SC. Don't miss the rain one bit. We do have hurricane season that brings amazing downpours.

Carolie said...

You and me both, Mary! Rainy season was my very favorite time of year in Sasebo!

Mary Witzl said...

Anne -- My husband agrees with you. He can't believe I like the weather here and prefer rain to California warmth. He was happiest during the years he was living in North Africa, where I would DIE from the heat.

(Gao, a real character, would LOVE to be known as 'The Gao'!)

Kim -- I feel as though California was wasted on me!

The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless you're in Scotland, yearning for any other place. The grass is ALWAYS greener in Scotland.

Chocolatesa -- Boots you can wear in -40 degree weather? I have GOT to get myself some new shoes! The ones I've got now leak in water in even moderate rain and cannot be worn in puddles.

S -- You make a very good point: I've never enjoyed the sun so much as I have here in Scotland, when its appearances are so rare that they're a real treat. In California, the sun can be a real bore.

Ruth -- Thank you for your kind words.

I long to go to Ireland; they say it's even rainier there than it is here, (although right now that's hard to imagine).

Vijaya -- If I ever had to move anywhere in the States, the Pacific Northwest would be high on my list. But I love the South too, and really enjoyed the sun in Florida. It's not so much the heat I don't like as the dryness. The humidity of Florida hardly bothered me at all.

Carolie -- I loved the rainy season best when I lived in Oita, in Kyushu. I was right next door to a temple, and I loved listening to the drumming of the rain on the tile roof.

Marcia said...

I think I'd have trouble with constant grayness and drizzle, but in general I don't mind rain. It only took me ONE summer of drought to declare that I'd never again complain about rain, and I've never forgotten that.

Angela Ackerman said...

I am so with you--I love the rain. In fact, I use a website to write to--Rainy mood. Have you heard of it?

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Pat said...

And my late American SIL used to say about the rain:
"That's why you Brits have such gorgeous skins."

Bish Denham said...

We would so love to hear rain on our roof here in Texas. We've had a bit, but not nearly enough to break the drought. I envy you.

Carole said...

I love rain and wind, but also sunshine and cloudy days. Even deep snow is my friend. But too much of any of them for a prolonged period of time is unsettling.